Entering the Talbot House, you’re usually greeted by a few small, good-natured dogs. One pup has a permanent home here, and the others are just visiting. Their owners are temporary residents – women in recovery from substance or alcohol addiction.
Formerly the Gardner-Simmons Home for Girls, the Talbot House is an inviting, traditional style home in a secluded green lot off McCullough Boulevard. I asked Caroline what she thought life would be like here before she arrived, and she laughed, “I thought it would be like a dormitory style, college sorority kind of thing”.
Caroline is the oldest resident and has lived there longer than the rest. She has completed other recovery programs over the years. Her trusted therapist in rehab had suggested the Talbot House for her, but she remembers not wanting to move. “Let me tell you, I was against it. I didn’t want to do any type of sober living, and it’s because I wanted my way. I filled out the application but didn’t know what to expect.”
But then she started to come around. “I was accepted after I called Ms. Becky about 7 times. Then she called me back and said, ‘Are you coming?’” When Caroline arrived, she says it gave her the structure and support she needed. At the start, things were rocky. “I’m set in my old ways! I didn’t know what a sober living home was about. But I knew what a rehab center was about. And I knew what transition was about. But I guess when you’re in recovery… I was most likely just scared of going to a place I didn’t know.”
Mississippi falls short in recovery services, especially for women. There are 30 to 90-day treatment programs, but Talbot House is the only transition program for women in North Mississippi. “At other places, it’s like once they send you out, another class comes in. But here, it’s not like that. Once they leave the Talbot House, these people still come back. It’s because of the way we’re treated here.”
She tells me the house hosts a meal and a guest speaker each week, and former residents still attend. They even volunteer, driving residents to their jobs, counseling sessions, and personal outings. Caroline is legally blind and unable to drive, but she gets to her job each day because of their help. The house also offers help with medication, basic household necessities, clothing, and other needs. In addition to sober living support, there are personal development opportunities including a fitness center with classes, a computer lab, and local volunteering outings.
Caroline says “It’s like a big family. We’re treated like adults. We have rules – simple rules, but we’re treated like humans. We’re not judged for our disease, for our drug of choice, or for what we’ve done in the past.”
Her life is much different today because of this program. She points out that unlike in other housing, here, she can even enjoy the companionship of her dog, Bandit.
Caroline says, “This was the best decision I ever made in my life. I want to be a part of the Talbot house as long as I can breathe because it has saved my life.” She paused a while and repeated, “It saved my life.”