Recovery Soldiers provides second chance for those struggling with addiction

Recovery Soldiers may be one of many drug recovery programs in the region, but its uniqueness and passion for the work it does is evident perhaps most clearly in the organization’s president and founder, who based the program after his own experiences with addiction and loss.

Pastor and President of Recovery Soldiers Ministries Joshua Scalf said the nonprofit’s main purpose is not just to help drug addicts recover, but also to help change them completely, inside and out.

“We get inside the individual and the behavior,” Scalf said.

RSM started just about three years ago, on February 11, 2017. Since then, the organization has grown to the point where their main facility is almost tripling the space, both in square feet and the number of program participants.

The program has its roots in Scalf’s own experiences.

“I was a drug addict for 15 years,” he said. “It destroyed me completely.”

He later went to prison for four years. During that time, he said he turned his life around, found a stronger faith in God and Christianity and found a foundation stronger than his addiction. While that was going on, he said he was part of a group called the Iron Soldiers. Once he was out of prison, he said they needed a more fitting name. Hence, Recovery Soldiers.

When the program was in its infancy, he said he spent a lot of time reaching out to as much of the community as he could.

“I started speaking to local churches and schools,” Scalf said. “I would get phone calls from parents, and I would go to their homes.”

Now, RSM has its own main facility on Bristol Highway, complete with bunks, a worship area, classrooms and more.

Before someone struggling with addiction is admitted into the program, RSM screens the person and identifies whether the person wants help in the first place.

“We do a very thorough intake,” he said.

The program itself is faith-based; Scalf said he uses biblical principals to define why drug addiction is bad and how those struggling with it can find a way to remove “false layers” that mask the true problem.

“God teaches us we are created in his image,” Scalf said. “What we do is help them identify these false layers.”

Not every participant is going to be receptive to a religious approach, however. In cases like these, Scalf said he has contacts with other, secular resources to send people to, so they can still receive the help they need.

Currently, the program houses 30 participants on their main property, though they do not spend their days sitting in a chapel while Scalf throws Bible verses at them until they repent. RSM focuses on life application skills. Some days a participant is going to classes on parenting, financing or job skill training, while other days they may work with a contractor on a specific job. Both of these help participants build a foundation to fall back on once they graduate from the program, so they can live a successful life.

“We want to give these guys a good shot,” he said.

The program lasts for a full year, so some of the challenges RSM faces requires in-depth discussion with the participant in question.

“One of the challenges is denial,” Scalf said. “They might only be here because of a judge, or they do not believe they have a problem.”

One of their biggest goals, therefore, is to highlight to the participants there is, in fact, a problem.

“One of the things we say is ‘If you are not broken, you cannot be fixed,’” he said.

For those who do graduate, RSM offers an internship program, which runs for six months and gives participants the knowledge of how to minister to others about what they have experienced. Currently, the program has roughly seven interns.

The program has seen success and rapid growth over the past three years. What started out as a passion project for those in need has evolved into its own network. Dozens of pastors visit the facility regularly, and participants reach out to local churches every Sunday, both by telling their stories and highlighting the work RSM is doing in the community.

“It is the glory of God,” he said. “It is seeing that Bible coming to life.”

Of course, not everyone who goes through the whole year is truly ready to graduate from the program. Scalf said they monitor their behavior and mentalities regularly, and if a participant is not in a place to where they have truly worked to recover from their addiction, they work something out.

With the growth of RSM over the years, the organization is in the middle of a major expansion of their main complex, which they started around mid-July 2019. They are getting a larger worship place, more classrooms, a larger kitchen and more.

Above everything else, he said giving back and helping others is the reason he put RSM together in the first place.

“You heal yourself by healing others,” Scalf said. “That is my blessing.

RSM is located at 1180 Bristol Highway in Elizabethton. Those interested in volunteering or simply learning more information can call 423-518-1450. RSM holds a Redemption House service every Thursday evening for worship, and it also doubles as a chance for participants to connect with their families in a safe environment.

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