April 2013

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live in a man's world Tom Meyer Giving young men struggling with addiction a needed respite By Ronnie Garrett Many years ago, a 16-year-old Madison teen began experimenting with marijuana, and within three months the drug had consumed his entire life. His parents, determined not to let their son's addiction affect his future, sent him to a therapeutic boarding school in Oregon. What followed was a recovery story fraught with the typical relapses and setbacks of addiction. But eventually this teen, Aaron Meyer, returned home—a mature, humble and peaceful soul, and a young man with a very specific vision for his future. His plan? To return to Oregon and attend the local community college, where he would live with friends in recovery, attend recovery meetings, and stay in touch with mentors. "My plan will work because no one else really understands what we go through," he told his parents. "We'll support each other the way guys in recovery do." But Aaron never got a chance to test his idea. Just days after his 18th birthday, Aaron headed out to help another young man in recovery who needed a ride to a job interview. Clean and sober, and just 2.8 miles from his home, Aaron lost control of his truck and died in a crash. As they wrestled with the loss of their son, Cathy and Tom Meyer recalled Aaron's plans for a recovery house and decided to create one themselves to help his legacy live on. They launched the Aaron J. Meyer Foundation, which eventually led to opening Aaron's House, a Madison-based halfway house for young men in recovery. But Tom Meyer is quick to clarify why this home was created. "I don't want anybody to think this is something we did to honor Aaron after his death," he says. "It is only because he lived that this exists, not because he died." Why did you want to open Aaron's House? After Aaron died, it would have been really easy to be angry, bitter and rage against the drug culture. But that would have only hurt myself and other people. We can't change the drug culture, but for those who want to get better we can take what we know and create something to help them. How do those coping with addiction benefit by living with others in recovery? Living with others who have seen the same things they've seen, and who deal with the same struggles, helps them make better decisions. It is very important to have a healthy place while you are learning to live without drugs as a crutch. How many young men can you help? Aaron's House can only house four people at a time. But each resident has a mom and a dad. They might have a stepmom and a stepdad. They have a brother, and they probably have a sister. They also have grandparents, aunts and uncles. All of these people are affected by their addiction. So if we help 25 young men, there are at least 250 people who are immediately impacted. What's next? Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the executive director of University Health Services, is talking with us about developing a recovery community for UW-Madison. Right now the university doesn't have anything organized for a student in recovery … that person who wants to do all the things a person in college does without getting inebriated. I believe there will eventually be university-based recovery housing for young men and women. Aaron's House will be the little mustard seed that grew into something else, and that would be perfectly fine with me. ••• Who is Aaron's House for? Young men in recovery from ages 18 to 26. 28 BRAVA Magazine What services are available? A mentor lives in the house. A director of residence services, who is an employee of Connections Counseling, is also available to provide support, lead group discussions and work through challenges. April 2013 How long do residents stay? Our policy says they can stay two years but there have been guys who have stayed longer to get the support they need. How can the community help? We run on donations and a few grants. Community members can make donations online at Photo by Bobbi Petersen Quick Questions with Meyer

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