DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — Addiction goes deeper than appearances. But how a recovering addict feels about her looks can sometimes hinder her path to a better life.
It’s an issue Paula Mays-Hall has witnessed first hand as the director of Open Door Recovery House in Marble Falls.
“When you’re trying to get off drugs, it’s tough,” she said. “And one of the things people don’t realize is their body really doesn’t want to get off this stuff for so many reasons. For someone on meth or a similar drug, their weight can be one of those problems.”
Open Door Recovery House is a faith-based, residential drug and alcohol recovery facility. It gives women a place to live while they battle their addictions. Along with a 12-step recovery process, Open Door also offers life and job skills development programs.
And with a 56-percent success rate, which is higher than the national average, Open Door seems to have found a path to recovery. But Mays-Hall and staff member Donna Meyn saw one component was missing: physical fitness.
“The women are dealing with a lot, but I don’t think they realize how important their (physical fitness) is to not just their health but (also) getting off drugs,” Meyn said. “It’s probably something we all don’t think about that much.”
Yet physical fitness can help a woman successfully break an addition and stay clean.
But neither Mays-Hall nor Meyn were fitness experts.
Fortunately, an angel dropped by in the fall of 2014. And Meyn, Mays-Hall and the “angel” all say God had a hand in that visit.
“I wasn’t looking for this,” said fitness trainer Wendy Armour. “I was actually looking for a place to hold classes.”
Armour called St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Marble Falls to inquire about space at the church in which to hold classes. But when the phone rang and Cindy Struchen picked up the phone, Armour’s question came out differently than she intended.
“What came out of my mouth was, ‘Do you know any women’s shelters in the area where I could teach fitness?’” Armour said.
Struchen connected her with Open Door Recovery House.
Armour knew nothing about the recovery facility, but one meeting with Mays-Hall changed all that. Armour was soon planning and leading fitness classes three times a week for the women at Open Door.
As a trainer Armour knows the effect working out can have on a person, but she witnessed a much deeper transformation in some of the women.
“When I first came to the recovery house, I didn’t know how important (fitness classes) would be,” Armour said. “But what happens is, when the women get off this stuff, one of the first things that happens is they gain weight.”
And with the women already struggling with serious issues, that weight gain can trigger a drastic response.
“How do they deal with that weight gain? Well, they go right back to using because (drugs or alcohol) kept it off before,” Armour said.
“For someone who isn’t struggling with addiction, it sounds silly to go right back to the thing that’s put you in this trouble,” she said. “But for these ladies, it’s really tough. So if they can lose the weight by using drugs again, many do just that.”
Armour, however, offered a different path. Sure it wasn’t a quick fix like the drugs, but the Open Door Recovery House women found it fit into the overall plan of breaking their addictions as well as developing good habits such as setting goals and working hard.
But there are bumps along the way.
“They don’t always want to do it,” Armour said with a laugh.
Meyn pointed out that when she picks up the women in the morning at the recovery house to take them to First United Methodist Church’s gym, they aren’t always ready to go.
“But since we’ve started this, they have a lot more energy throughout the day,” she said.
“You can see in their overall demeanor that physical fitness has really helped them,” Mays-Hall said. “The habits that are being formed help them throughout their lives.”
As much as she’s helping transform the lives of the Open Door women, Armour said she’s even experienced positive changes in her own life.
“I have learned what true unconditional love is,” Armour said. “To see how Paula and Donna just love these women, not for what they could become, but for who they are, right now, when they first come here. And then when the women learn how to give that love back — because for some of them, they’ve really never experienced this type of love and don’t know how to love like that — well, it’s a truly amazing experience.
“I just know this is what God wants me to do,” she said.
And Armour expanded the fitness program’s impact in May when she helped organize and chair the first Open Door Recovery 5K Walk/Run. First-time events like this don’t usually get a big draw, but on May 14, 65 people showed up.
“You know what? We’re just going to make it better next year,” Armour said. “We still have a lot of work here to do.”
Open Door Recovery House provides its services at no cost to the women. To do that, it relies on fundraisers and donations because the facility receives no state, local or federal government funding.
Go to opendoorrecovery.net for more information or to support its mission.