From the windows of their apartments, Doug Archambault and Robin Blackcloud can see a view of Resurrection Bay to one side, and the mountains surrounding the town of Seward, Alaska, to the other. These views not only offer the two men a soothing reprieve from their daily work to stay sober, but also remind them there is beauty in life.
Archambault and Blackcloud are two of up to 20 residents of the SeaView Community Services Recovery Housing program. In 2021, Providence Alaska provided $46,453 for SeaView Community Services to expand treatment for substance use disorder, and the temporary housing is a result of that effort. At SeaView, individuals like Archambault and Blackcloud can lean on each other for support. With a safe, alcohol- and drug-free place to sleep, daily meetings, an on-site peer support and targeted counseling, the two men now see hope in their future.
“I lost my apartment, my job, my relationship fell apart, and my mental health was completely gone,” he said of his life just one year ago. “I was using alcohol and meth, and when I became homeless, I knew I needed help.”
Blackcloud was fortunate. He has family, and when he called his father for help, he got it. His father, who lives in Anchorage, got him into a detox program, and Blackcloud responded so positively, he qualified for SeaView’s housing assistance.
Archambault similarly hit rock bottom before finally hitting pause on his destructive lifestyle.
“I’ve probably been using a rainbow assortment of drugs for 20 or more years,” he said, “and heroin for 15 years. It seemed like however low I got, it didn’t matter.”
It wasn’t until he faced a long prison sentence that Archambault knew he needed a change if he was to live past 50.
“I decided to surrender to my best ideas, and this calm came over me,” he said. “The drugs, for so long, were my normal. I put in for 10 different treatments and decided that I wanted this feeling to be my new normal.”
Jeffery Neaves is SeaView’s behavioral health director and, with Carlton Robinson, assistant behavioral health director, works closely with the residents. While there, residents not only work on their recovery but also find work in the community and establish routines that point them toward independence.
“This is their first six-to-nine months of recovery, so they need that help, that support that comes from being available at all times,” Neaves said. “I’m an alcoholic in recovery myself, so this is familiar territory. We work as a team to provide the resources everyone needs to graduate from this Level 1 to a longer-term program of independence.”
Tommy Glanton, SeaView’s chief executive officer, said it is imperative to take a gradated approach to long-term recovery, which is why SeaView felt so strongly that secure housing is key. While detox programs might work short term, the minute people are inserted back in their old environment, the same triggers and challenges await them.
“We really want to see that continuum of care in our program, and get you into a safe and secure environment,” he said.
Blackcloud and Archambault – like many of the residents here – have bonded over their shared recoveries. Blackcloud said they find strength in hearing each other’s stories, knowing they are not alone. They spend time in group sessions sharing their experiences and accomplishments – both the good and the bad. They are encouraged to volunteer and find ways to help others.
“It is empowering to be able to help others,” Blackcloud said.
At first the two men joked about a brotherhood, but the more they talked, the more serious they become.
“Actually, it really is a brotherhood,” Archambault said. “Having a safe place to not have negative influences is so helpful. We are all on the same journey, and we get to hear little snippets of each other’s lives here. We are not alone.”
For Glanton, Neaves and Robinson, this is just what they like to hear. As Robinson said, “Recovery is an individualized journey.” And while each resident may have their own story of how they got where they are, they collectively are working to improve their lives together.
“This place gave me the opportunity to get my life back,” Blackcloud said. “It’s a promise to me and to my loved ones that I will get past this.”
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