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Robert was 15 when he started his love affair with alcohol - an affair that would take him in and out of jails, relationships and jobs. Three decades later, serving a six-month jail sentence for public intoxication, he decided to change.

"I realized that if I don't straighten out right now, sooner or later it will be too late," the bricklayer said. "I want to get to the point where I'm working steady and settled. Maybe I'll buy a home."He points to his heart. "To make it work, you've got to have it here."

With a judge's help, he traded his jail cell for a room in the Salvation Army's six-month Adult Rehabilitation Program, called ARP. Robert is one of 65 men enrolled in the program that puts them to work, re-establishes routines disrupted by addiction and lets them meet others who are trying to clean up their lives, led by counselors who have conquered their own addictions.

ARP is housed in the Salvation Army's main building, 252 S. 500 East. The program centers around Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program.

At the end of six substance-free months, ARP graduates receive a certificate. Some leave the facility, but most stay on and work for the Salvation Army.

Public relations director Al Kohler is a program graduate; so is Richard Dietrich, who raises money and tells bad jokes. In the middle of a campaign to raise $19,000 to purchase a used catering truck that can be "doing something good every night," he pauses to explain his past. "I used to be a drunk. And I was sort of penniless. But that's OK. The czar of Russia was Nicholas."

Participants agree to stay for the entire six months and to stay clean and sober, Kohler said. They have a curfew and their breath is tested for alcohol each time they return to the facility. The reward and punishment system is not unlike that for a youth at home. Clients earn a weekly "gratuity" that can be spent in the country store downstairs. The "allowance" goes up the longer one is in the program. If a participant messes up, his allowance can be cut or eliminated.

No one has to leave the program at the end of six months. "As long as you're sort of productive - which is the name of the game - you can stay," Dietrich said.

Time to readjust is important. Kohler and Dietrich agree that most people with a substance abuse problem learn to lie and manipulate. In recovery, they have to tell the truth. But it's hard to tell a boss that the 10-year gap in your work history comes from alcohol or drug abuse. Bosses are hesitant to take a chance.

"You have to learn to tell the truth," Dietrich said. "In recovery, there's a need for spiritual regeneration as well as physical and moral."

"There's nothing really hard about it," Robert said. "It wasn't hard for me to admit I had a problem. I know what I've lost through drinking and drugging. It was time to do something else."

For information about the program, call 322-1253.