Barb Williamson, the president of recovery house network Way of Life, came to speak to our class last Thursday about her journey in recovery and she ended up opening a recovery house. Way of Life currently operates 13 recover houses in Philadelphia.

Williamson opened her first recovery house when she had just 14 months of her sobriety. Her passion for opening the house stemmed from her own experience living in a recovery house. She recalled 15 women living in bunk beds in a single bedroom at a recovery house she lived in and described the experience as “overwhelming.” Still, she credited living in a recovery house with providing her with a support network of people who understood her struggles with addiction and how she felt.

Williamson said that by living in a recovery house she grew up, found friends and discovered her self-worth. So, Williamson set out to provide the best possible living experience for people in recovery.

At first, treatment centers were wary to send people her way because of her short amount of time in recovery. But soon she offered one of the nicest recovery house experiences in the Lower Bucks County area. Williamson said her job is to provide people with a safe space so they can come recover from addictions.

She said the ideas of a bunch of “drug addicts” moving into a neighborhood can scare people. Williamson has encountered some issues with the city while setting up her recovery houses, but neighbors have shown up to court to vocalize they have no issue with the recovery houses being in their neighborhoods.

Something that stood out to me was when Williamson said that hate is heavier than love, so a lot of neighbors loved the recovery house community quietly, while others screamed their hatred for having the house in their community. To me, this perfectly illustrated the issue of stigmatizing people with addictions.