After more than 25 years of alcohol and drug addiction, local restaurateur Scottie Bowman began her nearly 19-year-long journey of sobriety that continues today.
For many years her goal has been to open a sober living house in Chattanooga, where she could help other women in recovery by offering them a temporary place to live in a supportive, positive environment as they get their lives back on track.
She fulfilled that goal earlier this year when construction was completed on The Launch Pad, a sober living house in downtown Chattanooga that opened its doors to its first residents in July.
"I believe in recovery," Bowman said. "I think alcohol and drug addiction costs us lives and money and community solidarity, and I think it's a good cause."
Bowman said she spent the first six months of her sobriety in a sober living house, where she was able to learn to live with other women, form relationships and find encouragement that helped her to stay sober. If she had chosen to move home after the 30 days she spent in in-patient treatment rather than into a sober living house, she probably would not have been successful in staying sober, she said.
"I just want to see other people succeed," Bowman said.
Among The Launch Pad's success stories is Ashley Harrison, who was one of the first eight women to move in and recently celebrated six months of sobriety.
Harrison said she's tried many times to get sober and has been through lots of substance abuse treatment programs, but none like The Launch Pad. One big difference is that residents of The Launch Pad have real-world responsibilities and are held accountable, she said.
The Launch Pad's residents are required to find work within their first month, at which time they start paying rent. They also must attend meetings and pass drug tests to verify that they are staying sober, and if they do not they are asked to leave.
"The other places kind of cut me off from the world," she said of other programs, adding that she previously slipped back into addiction once she went back home to her everyday life. "What The Launch Pad offers to me is putting me back into society slowly. This program is so different for me because I am just 30 minutes from home, and I'm still able to work and live in the house with these other women who are trying to get their lives back, get their children back."
Women are allowed to stay at The Launch Pad for up to two years, and Harrison said she plans to stay as long as it takes to get back on her feet.
With eight residents and a resident manager, the house is at capacity and receives daily calls from new people wanting to move in.
While Bowman said her original plan was to open one house, the enthusiasm of her board of directors has led her to dream even bigger. She has purchased seven adjacent lots on the same block as the existing home, where her goal is to build four more houses in the next five years. That would provide housing for 40 women in recovery and five resident managers, she said.
To raise funds to help support The Launch Pad's residents, recovery programs and future growth, members of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization's board of directors have agreed to match all donations up to $7,500 on Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1.
For a $500 donation — which supports a resident for one month — on Giving Tuesday, donors can receive a snow crab and shrimp boil for four from Scottie's on the River, one of Bowman's restaurants, that they can order and pick up whenever they choose.
The restaurant is also offering a variety of other specials on Giving Tuesday, when Bowman will donate 20% of its proceeds from 4-10 p.m. to support residents and sobriety-related programs at The Launch Pad.
In the 12 days leading up to the Giving Tuesday fundraiser, Bowman created a 12-video series, "Today is not a good day to die," based on her own recovery. To view the series, visit facebook.com/thelaunchpadchattanooga.
To learn more about The Launch Pad or to make a donation, visit thelaunchpadchattanooga.org or call 423-902-4822. Scottie's on the River is at 491 Riverfront Parkway and can be reached at 423-269-7487.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com or 423-757-6508. Follow her on Twitter @emcrisman.