News 12 at 11 o'clcock / Thursday, May 3, 2012
MILNER, Ga. -- She was a meth addict for 23 years. Around 15 months ago, she quit cold turkey, but she didn't do it alone. She had help from what could be the best kept secret when it comes to drug rehab.
Because it isn't drug rehab. It's the Potter's House.
The Potter's house is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Augusta.
It's in the quiet little town of Milner, Ga., in Lamar County, even though its P.O. Box address is Butts County.
If the walls of the Potter's House could talk, there would be a lot of pain in their voice. They'd echo things like: "I'm dead. Nobody cares. Not one person cares." "He beat me, and I allowed that to happen because I felt like I wasn't worth more than that." "I just kind of gave up. I was fixin' to kill myself. If I can't have my kids, I don't want to live."
This house knows hopelessness, but it also knows hope.
For the first time ever, they're opening the door so we can show you.
Linda will be your guide. We begin in her room, the house mom's room. Linda graduated from the Potter's House last August but stayed on to help other women like her.
"I have three grown girls, so I'm used to women," she said.
It's beautifully decorated and immaculate. It's also the most private room in the house. All the other rooms have multiple beds. This is the only bedroom with just one.
Linda's job as house mother is a busy one. More than a dozen women living under one roof takes some serious organization, and Linda handles all the logistics. For example, five women share one bathroom.
"You can only take 10-minute showers, so that's how we do it," Linda explained.
The house is usually full, and there always seems to be a waiting list. To come to the Potter's House, you first fill out an application and then have an interview. When invited to come live here, you make a seven-month commitment to change your life. The cost? Free.
Linda believes it's priceless.
"I'm 47 years old. I can't be playing around anymore with my life," she said.
Next stop on your tour is the Esther Room. This is where Linda and all the other women live when they first came to the Potter's House. This large room has 11 beds. It, too, is immaculate, and reminds you of a room in a sorority house. You can work your way up to more private rooms, but this is where everyone begins their journey.
Just a few steps down the hall, and you find yourself in the kitchen. When News 12 was there, it was a busy place as the women were getting ready for lunch. Meals are planned in advance. Two women are assigned to cook. Two others are responsible for cleaning up. The women eat in one of two shifts. It's an efficient system that's evolved slowly since the Potter's House was founded in 2000.
"There have been times when I'm sure these girls didn't have anything in their refrigerator," Linda said. "And I'm sure that was scary for them and their children."
On the other side of the house from the busy kitchen, there are two rooms with two more beds. They are also beautifully decorated and spotless. You earn living in these more private rooms by, for example, having a good attitude or helping with more chores.
There's another room downstairs known as the the pink room. The walls are pink as is the decor. Linda tells us it's one of the most popular rooms in the whole house. She also says the women form close bonds in these close quarters, and even though you might expect there to be friction from time to time, Linda says there isn't any.
"I've been here 15 months, and I've never seen a yelling match yet," she joked. "We don't have a lot of conflict. I'm serious."
The reason Linda and the rest of the women at the Potter's House end up here is also very serious. Linda used meth for 23 years.
"I just wouldn't give it up. I don't know what I was trying to hold on to out there."
Instead, Linda now knows meth was holding on to her.
"It controlled my life and destroyed my family. It destroyed me as a mother, as a daughter, as a friend," she said.
She believes coming to the Potter's House fixed that and says God fixed her.
"He just restored my soul. It's what he did. He changed my life."
Linda's life now has a lot of purpose and structure. She has to keep the Potter's House running by keeping everyone on a tight schedule. For example, they only have one washer and one dryer.
"A total of three can do laundry per day," she said.
The women also keep the house in great shape. It is always clean and neat. From the prayer room to the library to the pantry, that is stocked with all donated food, the women keep everything tidy. They learn to appreciate what they have, where they live and how nice the house is.
That's all part of the Potter's House experience. It's an experience that has been quietly saving women like Linda for 12 years, but now, the secret is out, and in a way, these walls are talking.
The woman who started the program is talking to 12 on Friday. We sit down with Cherrie Burdeshaw, a woman who admits she no clue she was slowly creating a program over the years that would work miracles. You can't deny her success rate. That's why some Augusta ministries and community leaders want to do the same.