By Anne Boatwright
On any day of the week, a tall, unassuming bald guy helps keep no fewer than 50 people on the path to sobriety.
Sandy Springs’ resident Trey Miller is the founder and executive director of LifeLine Atlanta, a nonprofit, sober living environment (what used to be called “halfway houses”) for men and women dedicated to long-term success in recovery from chemical addiction.
A former alcoholic and drug addict himself, Miller began his organization with just four beds in 2009. Today, nearly three years later, his small business has expanded to nine locations and 15 employees in Dunwoody and Doraville. He offers separate facilities for men and women, and constantly has waiting lists.
“I was given a second chance at life and finding a spiritual way of living,” he said.
And that’s not even his “day job.” He’s employed as an IT consultant and web designer.
Starting and successfully maintaining a niche business in a difficult economy has been no small task. With the help of his business partner Kim Hagler, the director of women’s programs and also a an ex-addict, Miller supervises resident managers and assistants to run the day-to-day operations.
“Working with LifeLine has given me the opportunity to discover how purposeful a life of helping people can truly be,” Hagler said. “It’s changed my perspective on who I am and how much healing power love has when working with addicts on their recovery paths.”
Some clients are transitioning from full-time, inpatient treatment back to their former lives while others, through various experiences, have simply acknowledged their inability to control their compulsions and have come for help. All are tasked with making complete life changes to get healthy.
The program is based on the guiding principles of the Twelve Steps established in Alcoholics Anonymous, the foundation for all Twelve Step addiction recovery programs. Each home is fully certified by two major accreditation bodies, and Miller and Hagler work together to create a spirit of community to build a peer support network, open communication with families, and even hold special events such as trips to ball games, parties (all alcohol-free of course) and even a graduation.
“Trey and I have been blessed with complementary sets of work, life and educational experience,” Hagler said. “That has enabled us to run a successful business as a partnership from its conception.”
At a time when many similar organizations are struggling financially, Miller’s biggest challenge is lack of space for his burgeoning business. Miller attributes the growth to numerous factors: family addiction; difficult home environments; hard times; or poor choices in handling the stresses of life, such as complicated relationships, career struggles, health problems or financial troubles.
One unique aspect of LifeLine is Miller and Hagler’s focus on creating a safe atmosphere in which they take a personal interest in clients, spending one-on-one time with each. Miller believes this is one of the keys to a successful sober living program. “Here, clients aren’t just a number,” he said.
LifeLine provides communication with client’s families who struggle with mixed emotions including resentment, frustration, fear, relief, cynicism and even hopelessness. Miller found the perfect person with experience and compassion to serve as the family liaison – his mother.
Reta Miller connects with families to provide hope for a healthier future, yet learn how to cope with current challenges. Trey Miller concludes, “I know that if it can work for someone who was as hopeless as me, it can work for anyone. This is real personal.”
For more information: www.lifelineatl.org