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Pushing Boundaries

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Foundation House in Maine takes recovery across international borders

Jim P. was standing in the streets of Varanasi, India, surrounded by thousands of people singing and dancing when a burst of brightly colored powder pelted him in the back. It took a second before he remembered that just four months prior his family had sat him down and told him it was time to get help for his addiction. Now, more than 7,000 miles away from his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Jim was celebrating Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors — and the last thing on his mind was getting high.

The festival was just one experience on a two-week spiritual journey throughout India that included whitewater rafting in the Himalayas, practicing yoga at sunrise with an Indian master, meditating under the Bodhi tree, and joining in a Bollywood dance flash mob.

“It ended up being one of the best experiences of the trip,” says Jim, 27. “For me to be able to go to India with a group of guys and experience it and have fun without drinking or doing drugs was something I never thought I’d be able to do.”

Jim was among nine residents, three alumni, five staff members, and three guests participating in the International Expedition Program at Foundation House, an extended care and sober living facility for young men in Portland, Maine. The international program, now in its third year, expands on Foundation House’s philosophy of broadening residents’ limited expectations of life in recovery.

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“The plan was always to take the Foundation House program outside U.S. borders,” says Patrick Babcock, founder and chief executive officer of Foundation House.

Whether it was hiking on a wilderness trip or cheering at a Red Sox game, the Foundation House staff realized early on that getting on the road challenged residents to move beyond boundaries, explore new parts of themselves, and regain a sense of normalcy.

chris_s_portrait-2“Most often, young men imagine a life of sobriety to be boring, lacking the adventure and thrill they were used to in a life of addiction,” Babcock says. “The Foundation House program is designed to consistently remove that stigma and introduce our residents to a life that surpasses their expectations and opens their minds to what a life of sobriety can be. There is no journey greater, and no experience more eye-opening, than traveling internationally.”

Trip of a Lifetime

Each international expedition is designed to reflect a central value and component of the Foundation House program.

During the inaugural expedition in 2013, the men followed the path of the 101st Airborne Division and their tour of duty throughout Europe, storming the beaches of Normandy, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Paris, and taking in the sights from the Eagle’s Nest high in the Bavarian Alps. The trip emphasized the core values of community and brotherhood and what is known at Foundation House as the Foxhole mentality.

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