Houses help people adjust to addiction free lives

2 men helping others fight alcohol and drug addictions in southern York County

Gordon Freireich Published 10:40 a.m. ET May 8, 2018 | Updated 8:08 a.m. ET May 9, 2018

Kerry Smeltzer thought his son Nathan, 18 months clean, was on the right path after several years of battling an opioid addiction. Then came the phone calls one day before Nathan was to graduate from drug treatment court. Chris Dunn, York Daily Record

(Photo: Submitted)

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Larry Seitz, 77, was in college when he became an alcoholic.  Harry Carnahan, 69, also was in college and drinking.

Larry says, “I didn’t know it at the time, but (alcohol) made my life unmanageable.  I couldn’t go anywhere without alcohol.  I had to drink every day.”  It took its toll; he dropped out of college after two and a half years.

Harry was able to complete college, earn a master’s degree, and become an elementary school educator in the York City School District.  His alcoholism was a constant battle.  “I tried to stop at age 54,” he says.  “Addiction was taking a toll on my marriage.”  When he and his wife separated “it solidified in my mind what I had to do.”

More: Why should I care about the heroin epidemic in York County?

Seven years ago, Larry Seitz opened a home where others addicted to alcohol or drugs could live while going through recovery.  Harry Carnahan was one of the first residents.  The date he moved in is imprinted on Harry’s memory:  Dec. 27, 2011.

Together – with Larry as owner and executive director, Harry as facilities manager, and along with Larry’s wife, Theresa – they have grown Just4Today Sober Living to six homes providing safe, supportive, and supervised residences for recovering addicts.

A 501(c)3, nonprofit organization, Just4Today Sober Living has four homes for men and two for women in Southern York County serving a total of 31 residents.

Larry’s definition of “addiction” is “a condition when you tend to abuse or overuse alcohol or drugs and you can’t become a productive member of society.”

He took over his father’s business and his “alcoholism ran it into the ground.”  He eventually realized he “needed help” and was referred to York Hospital’s Detoxification Unit and then he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  “I never relapsed,” he says, adding “I was lucky.”  He was driving a floral delivery truck when he decided what he really needed to do “was to help others.”

Harry calls Larry “a first timer” since was able to remain sober.  “I was a relapser.  It took me five times.”  He says becoming sober often takes coming to grips “with something that happens early in life that triggers addiction.”

The addicts are referred to Just4Today Sober Living from rehabilitation facilities, the prison system, their families, or themselves.  The residents are certainly not coddled.  There are 98 guidelines the residents must adhere to.  That includes finding employment (Just4Today will provide job transportation) and becoming responsible for themselves.

Following the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous program, there is a non-sectarian, but spiritual component to living in the homes; a recognition that there is a force stronger than one’s self.

Just4Today Sober Living works on a bare bones budget.  There are no salary expenses; Larry, Harry, and the other staffers are living on their pensions and/or Social Security.  Income is from fundraisers and sponsorships.  Expenses are the costs of leasing and operating the homes.

They are “trying to make it a six-month program” for the residents to settle into their addiction-free lives and find employment.  But there is no time limit; each resident is an individual and needs may vary.

Residents pay a $388 “entrance fee.”  That breaks down to:  $130 for the first month’s rent; $3 “house fee” to purchase house cleaning supplies and toiletries; $100 in-take and transportation fee; a $25 key deposit; and $130 in escrow, which is returned to the resident if he/she “successfully leaves the program without relapsing.”

The residences are certified by the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences and the National Alliance for Recovery Residences.  Both men are hopeful that recently signed legislation – Senate Bill 446 – will allow the state to funnel some money to recovery facilities, but that could be two years away.

Additional information on Just4Today Sober Living is available by contacting Larry Seitz at (717) 495-2674, Harry Carnahan at (717) 887-7906, or Theresa Seitz, who is in charge of the women’s residences, at (443) 623-1413.

Just4Today Sober Living states:  “It takes constant effort to gain sobriety and maintain it, but once change has taken place, this effort becomes second nature through practice, just as breathing is necessary for life.”

Larry Seitz and Harry Carnahan are offering a fresh breath of life, free of alcohol and drug addiction.

Gordon Freireich is a former editor of the York Sunday News. Email: gordon@newtongroup.com.