Freedom Life Compass serves as a bridge between active rehabilitation like you see when someone decides to get clean from drugs or alcohol – and when they are able to live fully independent lives.
The organization’s leadership hopes to open its Freedom House – a transitional halfway house on County Line Road just inside Walton County soon – the plan is to help recovering addicts – all women – make the transition from recovering drug user to empowered community members.
Stephanie Wedel wasn’t always the woman she is now.
Her father was a drug dealer. Her brother was in and out of jail. He battled IV drug use for 17 years.
Now – she takes her childhood pain and channels it into something beautiful: recovery for people who grew up like her.
“Every time I talk about this – about women who are homeless or who are struggling with addiction – I feel like everybody brushes it off,” Wedel said, “a lot of times; it’s not our choices, it’s our circumstances that end up making those choices. And once given the opportunity to choose the next right step, a lot of us will take it. But the stigma and the culture is that ‘oh, they got themselves in that boat.’ I didn’t ask to be raised in a home with a drug dealer for a father. A lot of these women are in situations like that.”
Wedel serves as the recovery pastor at Crosspoint Church. She helps people get out of the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction.
She also serves as the leader of Freedom Life Compass. Freedom Life Compass exists as a non-profit centered around moving people from recovery to independent living after breaking from their drug use.
The ministry serves as a transitional phase from rehab to reintegration with the rest of the world. As an example – think of a drug user as someone who tears a ligament playing a sport. They undergo surgery for the tear, that’s a rehab program. But they also need to engage in physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the tendon to their former strength. That’s the portion of recovery Freedom Life Compass serves.
Wedel says the need for a program like this is huge in this area – because it permanently severs the cycle of drug use by eliminating the return to a bad environment for people in recovery.
“One of the saddest stories and ways to put this into perspective is a girl that graduated from a rehab facility in Baker,” Wedel remembers. “Not two weeks after she went home, she was back on the street, using again, because she went back to the same situation she came out of, nothing changed. Except, she was held accountable for a year. If she were able to come here and work on getting a solid career plan set up and getting her into her own place, instead of going back to her mother’s house – we’re not solving the problem.”
Wedel’s own struggle with alcohol – as well as her family’s issues with illegal drugs motivated her to start Freedom Life Compass. The group plans to open the freedom house on County Line Road to provide a stepping stone that lasts between six to eighteen months for women who want to leave behind drugs, crime, and other vices – to make a go at a better future.
The house will require women to have at least six months of sobriety – which they can achieve in their rehab programs – before they can move in.
The program teaches job skills and allows employment, so women have alternatives to the life they left behind.
They’ll pay rent – which will go toward the $4,000 per month expenses to run the center. While they are there – some of their earnings will go toward a savings account which will be turned over to them when they graduate from the program. That money can then be used to make them independent of their past – by allowing them to rent a place to call their home and start their careers.
In the near term – the freedom house will exist out of the small building already on the campus. The goal of a fundraiser coming up at the end July is to provide funding to build micro homes for the women – so that they can have privacy and independence while they transition into their new lifestyle.
The initial facility should be up and running by October. The tiny homes component depends on funding. But, Wedel and the Freedom Life Compass organization hope to have that portion up and ready to help people by June of 2023.
If you are looking to escape addiction to drugs or alcohol in Niceville, Valparaiso, Eglin Air Force Base – or anywhere else in Okaloosa County, you can contact Freedom Life Compass here:
They provide help at every step of the process – from getting clean to empowering people to stay sober.