Experience inspires locals to create local faith-based addiction programs

Yampa Valley is home to faith-based treatment options seldom found in a rural community

Leilani Brooks went to treatment seven different times before she found a faith-based program in Arkansas that worked for her. When she moved to Steamboat Springs, she saw the lack of faith-based services and felt it was her calling to change that. Since then, she has started Come As You Are, a live-in, yearlong, free program for women in Steamboat Springs.

Throughout 14 years of dealing with addiction, Leilani Brooks said alcohol was always her constant choice. She was arrested multiple times. She dealt with depression and anxiety, and attempted suicide several times.

She went to clinical treatment seven times and tried to use medication-assisted treatment, but none of it worked for her.

“My addiction almost took everything from me,” Brooks said. “I was finally facing charges that my enablers couldn’t get me out of.”

About five years ago, Brooks attended a yearlong program in Arkansas called John 3:17. While she was raised in church, the program gave her a support system she’d never had before.

“It was undeserved love, undeserved trust, undeserved favor,” Brooks said. “That changed me, that unconditional love. … I had never experienced love like that.”

When she moved to Steamboat, Brooks realized there were no faith-based addiction treatment programs in the Yampa Valley, and she felt she was supposed to change that.

She started a program called Regeneration at Steamboat Christian Center, which is a weekly program that incorporates worship, community and talking through issues with peers. While a great program, Brooks said someone like her would have needed more.

Two years ago, Brooks opened Come As You Are, or CAYA, a live-in, yearlong, free program for women. Everything is spiritual-based, and residents do not use medication to treat their addiction.

For many of the women she helps, Brooks said the biggest issue is a lack of identity. What is special about CAYA to Brooks is the safety net and community of the house, with 10 women going through the program together, working for the same goals.

“They are able to support one another way better than I could ever,” Brooks said. “The peer support is huge.”

For Jeff Welton, it was the overdose death of his 24-year-old son Travis that got Welton involved in Regeneration and CAYA.

“He dies, and I just start thinking that I don’t want nobody to go through this, because this is horrible,” Welton said. “It is hard to explain the loss of a child, but it leaves a big empty hole in you.”

After his son’s death, Welton said he really connected with people working toward recovery and got passionate about supporting them.

“If you take the time out, and you value people with addiction, and you can help them get clean and sober, they turn into some of the most amazing people that are willing to pay it forward,” Welton said.

One of the first people Welton helped was Dwayne Wallace, who said he has struggled with addiction since he was 13, starting with marijuana. By 15, it was meth.

“My brothers and my oldest sister kind of raised us,” Wallace said. “They are all in addiction, too, so I grew up pretty rough.”

He left Routt County and Colorado for a while but moved back in 2013 to try to get off prescription painkillers. Instead, he started using meth, again.

“I just never knew how to get off of it, how to get away from it,” Wallace said.

He met his current wife because he was dealing drugs. She had her own mental health and addiction issues. They would fight a lot and were almost ready to split up when she found CAYA house.

“That is when it hit me, that I need to fix my life, because I didn’t want to lose another family because of this,” Wallace said.

Wallace tried a faith-based program in Denver but left after nine days. Welton reached out, asking Wallace to move in with him so he could support Wallace in his recovery. Welton said he has done the same with five other men in the past few years.

Now, he is working with Wallace and Bonnie Thompson, whose son is currently in a Wyoming prison because of addiction related crimes, to set up a faith-based sober living house in honor of Travis.

Travis House is now the only sober living option in the county, and men can stay for longer than at most treatment options, which Welton, Wallace and Thompson believe is key to giving people a better chance at recovery. The trio drove to Missouri to visit a potential program that Travis House could be modeled after, meeting with directors and the men in the house.

The program is a therapeutic community model, where each member of the house works to hold each other accountable. Welton said they filled out a lengthy application, were approved and set out to find a house in Steamboat.

A GoFundMe campaign to support Travis House reached its goal in a handful of days, and in early June, the house opened with four male residents. Welton said he hopes to open another larger house before the end of the year.

“The whole purpose of The Travis House is it grows them a sober community, so that when they finish the program, they have sober places, sober friends,” Welton said.

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