The story of the opioid epidemic is too often one about a victim who falls into a cycle of addiction and despair and whose on-again, off-again struggle with drugs culminates in a somber notice in the obituary columns. The other side of the story is one of hope and the potential to overcome addiction, often with the help of others, as embodied in the remarkable work of a Utah organization that has gone to selfless and heroic lengths to help anyone who presents themselves with a commitment to get and stay clean.
The organization is called Building Beginnings, and its efforts, profiled in a recent article in the Deseret News, have assisted hundreds of people trying to break the bonds of drug dependency.
The aim of the outfit isn’t particularly unique, but its top-to-bottom approach to helping people through the early stages of recovery to full independence from substance abuse is inspirational. It began a little more than a year ago as the idea of a former addict who runs a small contracting business who, with the help of a partner — also a former addict — saw ways to use the business to help those struggling with addiction.
They witnessed firsthand the limitations of traditional therapy programs that often led victims through a revolving door between treatment and relapse. “The system was just set up to fail," says Ryan Hymas, one of the founders and leaders of the program. "They get out, relapse and come back in. It was just a cycle of relapse and people dying, and there didn't seem to be an end to it."
The organization does make sure its clients undergo regular therapy, which is viewed as an important component of the recovery process, but only part of the journey.
Crucial to success, according to Building Beginnings, is early help with things as basic as finding transportation to and from work, as well as short-term housing. The approach is remarkably casual. A person who comes to the company — or is found by the company among the ranks of homeless people — is taken in once they profess a commitment to stay off drugs. They are given jobs, usually in construction and landscaping positions, and are offered help getting to and from work and in finding temporary housing.
"I go pick up guys who are homeless," Hymas says. "They have no options anymore. If you have $0 in your pocket, how do you get on your feet?"
The program began with four employees a year ago and now has a workforce of more than 130. Though it's received little publicity, it has attracted a host of partners, including private companies that contract for its construction services, as well as nonprofits that assist in helping patrons receive proper treatment and other assistance.
The organization also talks about incorporating a spiritual but nondenominational approach in its work. "We pray and we work our butts off in this company, and that's how it works," Hymas says.
The Building Beginnings program offers more evidence that a “self-help” path to sobriety can work with proper outside nurturing and structure. What makes it exceptional is the level of compassion and commitment among those in the program who have offered their skills and opened their doors to people trapped in a place with few windows for escape, an approach all should emulate as they work toward healing the lives of anyone burdened by addiction.