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A ‘Step-Down’ House in Salisbury That’s A Cut Above

Rural Intelligence CommunityThe journey from alcoholism to altruism has brought Pete Hathaway back to the scene of the crime.  In 2004, when he moved from New York City to a 19th century Greek Revival mansion that he renovated on Main Street in Salisbury, CT, he had a grand, perhaps grandiose, vision. He would operate a “house gallery” and live surrounded by fine antiques and artwork—the type of things he knew all about as a twenty-year veteran of Sotheby’s—and every picture, chair and mirror would be for sale. “It was not a rational idea,” he says today of Ragamont House Antiques. “It was a classic example of alcoholic behavior. It was impulsive. I never really considered whether Salisbury was the right spot for such a high end antiques business.” He pauses for a beat. “It wasn’t.”

Rural Intelligence CommunityNow, after a long sojourn getting sober in Southern California, Hathaway has repurposed his gracious six-bedroom house. He has turned it into a “step-down” facility for recovering addicts like himself, who need a transitional place to live after 28 days of detox and rehab before they return to their trigger-rigged former lives. Called Enterprise New Life (ENL), Hathaway’s halfway house is for men only (primarily over 35) who are serious about sobriety and can afford to stay in a facility that has the amenities of a luxury inn such as exquisite meals (prepared by chef Bruce Young who used to be the executive chef at the exclusive Mashomack Preserve Club in Pine Plains) as well as daily maid service. “Making your own bed is not integral to staying sober,” says Hathaway. “But making sobriety your priority is—especially during the first 120 days.”

Rural Intelligence CommunityHathaway learned this the hard way. Although he was a hard-drinking bon vivant for more than two decades in Manhattan, his substance abuse did not become a problem until he moved to the country, which, apparently, was a shock to his system. He started having panic attacks for the first time in his life, so he went to see a well-regarded psychiatrist. “I described how I was feeling and she said, ‘Here, take this pill. Chew it so it goes straight to your bloodstream.’ In fifteen minutes, I felt completely calm. That was the beginning of the end.”

The doctor had given him Klonopin—a powerful anti-anxiety medication that can be addictive when mixed with alcohol. “She never even asked me if I drank,” Hathaway recalls. “I don’t want to blame my addiction on her, but I think that doctors over prescribe medication. She called herself a psychiatrist but she acted like a pharmacist. She never tried to get to the root of my panic attacks.”

Rural Intelligence CommunityWhile Klonopin and alcohol made him calm, they also caused him to behave uncharacteristically.  “I would cancel dinner plans at the last minute,” says the gregarious Hathaway. “I became more of a recluse. I would isolate and hibernate which is typical of addicts.” When cousins came to stay for a weekend while visiting their son at Berkshire School (where Hathaway boarded in the 1970s), they were shocked by their host’s behavior. “Apparently, I was slurring my words, taking three-hour naps in the afternoon, and moving furniture around in the middle of the night,” he says.  The cousins called Hathaway’s younger sister who immediately drove up from Long Island.  “It was a mini intervention,” he says. Within days, Hathaway was on a plane to Arizona, where he checked into Sierra Tucson for 30 days. He returned to Salisbury and managed to stay sober for five months.  “I relapsed on alcohol, not pills,” he says. “I now know I can not have a single drop.”

For his second rehab, he went to Hazelden in Minnesota, and after 30 days there he went to a step-down program called Sober Living By the Sea in Newport Beach, CA. He “immersed” himself in recovery. He rode his bike to AA meetings and volunteered at a soup kitchen. He stayed in Newport Beach for a year, because he could not find anyplace in the northeast that could offer him the support he needed to transition back to his own life, which is why he created ENL. “California might as well be another country,” he says. “I missed New England and New York City.”  (He missed his house and garden, above, too.)

Rural Intelligence CommunitySince his house had been an inn before he bought it, there would be no zoning issues involved in his turning it into the therapeutic facility he envisioned. ENL is a synthesis of Pete Hathaway’s past and present lives.  (“Isn’t it just like Pete to hire a chef before he hires anyone else?” says a friend who marvels at the cooking of Bruce Young, left, who moonlights as caterer.)  After refurnishing the house (“While I was in rehab, my sisters sold everything except for the curtains, family heirlooms and my artwork,” he says), Hathaway began devising a treatment program and hiring a behavioral therapist, Tom Plunkett, a counselor, Nick Collin,  and psychotherapist, Eileen Lawlor, to work with residents, who have daily group therapy by the fireplace in the sumptuous living room. ENL’s residents are encouraged to leave the house during the day to hike, ski or go to the gym. “Everyone who stays here has to go to at least one outside 12-step meeting a day,” says Hathaway, who usually starts his day at 7 a.m. with an AA meeting in Lakeville. “But they can’t stay out at night. We have a curfew.”

How does Hathaway feel about sharing what was once his luxurious private domain with strangers? “We help each other,” he says with equanimity.  “I am a good example to other men of getting your life together again, and they are a reminder to me of all that I have gone through and the importance of my sobriety. Together, we create a healing community.”

Enterprise New Life
Salisbury, CT; 860.596.0555

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 02/16/10 at 03:06 PM • Permalink