Herren Wellness’s Residential Substance Abuse Recovery Campus opens in Fauquier County
As an annual inspirational speaker at Fauquier County Public Schools, the name Chris Herren is a familiar one to our students. Since 2017, at the invitation of The PATH Foundation, the former NBA basketball player who has been in long term recovery from drug and alcohol abuse since August 1, 2008, has been sharing his story to our schools in an effort to promote recovery and wellness. Christy Connolly, president and CEO of PATH says of his first school presentation here, “We were just bowled over. We had him back to speak to more schools every year.”
Chris’s program, Herren Talks, started when he was asked to share his story of recovery at a local school in Massachusetts. He became a voice on the topic of substance use prevention and a wellness advocate. Sharing his story openly and honestly with students and other organizations nationally, he makes a huge impact.
In 2018, he took it a huge step further, opening Herren Wellness, a residential substance use, health, and wellness organization in his native New England. And in 2020, Herren Wellness opened their Twin Oaks campus in Fauquier County with the help of our community’s PATH Foundation.
Christy says, “While working with Chris, our staff and board had a chance to learn about his recovery center in Seekonk, Massachusetts. Several of us visited Herren Wellness, and we thought, this is a special place. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful local resource? So we wanted to help them get established here so it would benefit our community, which has been painfully short of residential recovery resources. Now, Twin Oaks offers scholarship opportunities to local residents in need in our service area, which includes Fauquier County. We feel fortunate to be able to help bring services like this to our community.”
Twin Oaks could be mistaken for a resort. The day I interviewed Chris was a gorgeous summer day-not hot and humid like it is so often here in August. We sat in Adirondack chairs around a fire pit in the shade of some huge trees. The facility and grounds exude peace, the views are gorgeous, and the property echoed with the sounds of splashing and children laughing in the nearby pool.
Kids, you might ask? Pool? Well, Herren Wellness is a very different kind of substance use recovery program.
Warrenton Lifestyle talked to Chris and here’s what he had to say.
At Herren Wellness, substance use is addressed, but as part of the whole person, encompassing nutrition, fitness and exercise, massage and yoga, sleep, mental health, and family.
Twin Oaks is not an island
Most residential treatment programs lock the door, so to speak, and keep the residents isolated from family and community. For so many years the family was forgotten and centers focused on the person struggling, not addressing the ripple effect of that struggle and how families were affected. This is the opposite of Herren Wellness’s vision. I don’t see that as being real life. I pride myself on the family component of this program. We have kids here all the time See, today we have two kids in the pool visiting their mom and the visits are not limited to 1 or 2 hours. Visits are individualized based on the needs of the family and guest. Their mom could be here for 3-6 months or more. In other centers they wouldn’t see their mom for that long and why should they bear that? So, it’s pretty special.
Out in the community
The guests also go out to support meetings in the community, in Culpeper, Rappahannock, Winchester, and Warrenton. The whole point of this model is that I don’t want it to be an island. We want to give guests the freedom and opportunity to network and be part of the community. We do a lot of outdoor activities and field trips-like spending the day in Georgetown- to get people out, to hopefully make the transition to normal life a little smoother.
A longer program
Most residential treatment programs are 28-day programs. I don’t know who came up with the numbers they use as standard: three days detox, 30 days treatment, and 90 days outpatient therapy. I don’t get it. Everyone’s different. At Herren Wellness, the average length of stay is 90 days, but it could be 80 days or 70 days or 115 days, or sometimes as much as six months. One gentleman even stayed at Herren Wellness’s location in Seekonk, MA, for two years. It was the first time he had found success, and he didn’t want to jeopardize that by leaving before he was ready. Our success is directly related to our engagement with our guests and it is higher than the national average. The only reason I can say that is that we are fortunate to have people here for that extended period of time. This gives our guests a better opportunity for long term recovery. They come out much stronger. For many people, the first three or four weeks is spent just getting comfortable in their surroundings and with the programs. They’re struggling emotionally. Once that settles and they find their footing, then you meet the real person inside and real healing can begin. In another program, they’d be leaving by the time that happens. They just aren’t given enough time.
We have 21 guests at a time. It’s really the right number. I’ve been told to expand to larger centers but I don’t think you can have as much impact. The 21 people who are here are going to get the attention they are worthy of. I think you can create something special with those numbers.
Alumni are welcome back any time, to stay, or to just drop in for a visit or a meeting. I just can’t wait for local alumni to be able to drive up the driveway here and play tennis or do yoga or have lunch with the guests. It’s like a landing spot for them if they’re feeling like they’re having a difficult time. The alumni community is very strong up at our center in Massachusetts, and I can’t wait for that to be established here. It just happened organically. We just kept inviting people back, and they kept coming. Sometimes they come back for a little support, and sometimes they come back to support the current guests too, by speaking or giving friendship. It’s like giving part of their recovery to someone else. We’re excited to have alumni nights, too. I think the alumni program is special and it’s like the heartbeat of the program.
But not everyone lives close, and I feel badly for alumni who feel the need for further support but are not able to come back. That’s why we’ve established such a great online presence, so they all stay connected. We have a very active social media. The other day, I just celebrated 13 years sober. I was in Massachusetts, but with technology we had people from all over the country zooming in to be part of it. We’ve created that platform for the people who came from all over the country to be here but don’t live close enough to come back.
Thoughts from Fauquier County Twin Oaks alumni
Seeking treatment was the most difficult and significant choice I have ever had to make. Thanks to Herren, it was also the best choice I have ever made. When I was asked to give my thoughts about my Herren experience, after much thought, two words come to mind that I think frame my time at Herren, and those are “home” and “family”. A fellow house member put it perfectly during one group session: “the relationships and bonds we form in here with each other transcend every other relationship in our lives. Even though I have only known most of you for a short time, I love you all like you’re my family.” He was spot on. The attachment, love, and appreciation I have for Herren and all the people there is impossible to describe in words. It’s like trying to explain the emotional magnitude of parenthood to someone who is not yet a parent – without the experience, you simply cannot do it.
I am very grateful for my time at Herren Wellness. I was stuck in a negative cycle of self-destructive behavior that was impacting my health, life and family. The setting, living arrangements and staff were great. Being local to the Warrenton area, it was such a blessing to have the ability to have my family visit on the weekends and be a part of the recovery process. The positive changes that I have learned at Herren Wellness have been instrumental in staying sober.
Herren Wellness came into my life at a time when I was really struggling. The entire staff gave compassion and support when I needed it the most. Although emotionally difficult at times, there was a level of comfort that the campus and community provided that allowed me to begin to recover. I am very thankful to the PATH Foundation and Herren Wellness for the opportunity to get my life back on track.
Anonymous, The Plains
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, these resources can help:
Herren Wellness: herrenwellness.com or 844-443-7736
Mental Health Association of Fauquier: fauquier-mha.org
PATH Community Link: pathcommunitylink.org
Spiritworks Foundation: spiritworksfoundation.org
Come As You Are Coalition: cayacoalition.org