Refuge on the Ridge Helping Men Conquer Their Addictions
by James Coulter
Brian Flores hit a low point in his life six years ago. He got divorced. He lost custody of his kids. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol trying to drown his misery and pain. He went to jail, and after his release, found himself homeless and living on the street.
Flores tried a rehabilitation program in Lakeland, but he did not succeed. His mother informed him of another program in Lake Wales: Refuge on the Ridge. He became the first person enrolled in that program. He cleaned himself up, freed himself of his drug addiction and alcoholism, and mended his relationships with his family and God.
“They taught me how to deal with issues from my past,” Flores said. “They got me through a lot of issues that led me to go into drugs and alcohol, a lot of behavior patterns that allowed me to repair relationships with my family.”
As someone who had previously attempted a program and failed, his major challenge was trusting the process. He knew he stumbled and fell before, and he did not know if he would make it a second time around.
“The biggest challenges…was trusting in the process, sitting still, listening, just giving up control over my own life, giving it up to God, and trusting the counselors there,” he said. “When I started listening to what they were trying to teach and [not having to do] it my way, the lights started to come on. I was able to see what it was all about. I have shifted from it being all about me, [to learning how to serve others, and] get my priorities straight with the Lord and my family.”
Refuge on the Ridge in Lake Wales is a ten-month faith-based regeneration program for men. As their website states, their program is dedicated to “helping men find freedom from their addictions” within a secluded, safe environment “away from the day-to-day chaos and distractions” that will allow them to focus on their relationships with their family and with Jesus Christ.
Pastor Andy Blair, the program founder, says one of the reasons for the program’s success to its unique format. Most programs are just 30 to 60 days long, not long enough to get people clean of their addiction, Pastor Andy said. His participants remain in the program much longer, enough for them to overcome their addiction and mend their relationships. They also address the core problems that lead to addiction.
Jonathan Porter teaches the program’s inner healing class, which helps participants address the personal problems that led them to their addiction. Porter helps others overcome these obstacles as he once overcame his own to help battle his addiction.
Porter was addicted to meth, alcohol, and other substances for 20 years. In 2019, he went to a regeneration program at Dunklin Memorial Church in Okeechobee. He went through the initial program in ten months, then stayed an additional two years for servant leadership training and staff training.
He later met Pastor Andy, who invited him onboard to Refuge on the Ridge. Since 2021, he has helped others overcome their addiction the same way he was helped through a similar program. Overall, he owes the program’s success to God.
“That is why we have been so successful,” he said. “Because we based everything on a Biblical aspect. We prayed to open up a relationship with God and deal with the core issues and problems in life instead of dealing with only the addiction problem. That is why we have been so prosperous because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing in the same aspect.”
Relationships are another key factor behind the program. Rather than keep them isolated from family, Refuge on the Ridge encourages quality time with family members to help their loved ones overcome their struggles. “There is healing that can take place with their wives and kids,” Pastor Andy said. “Family recovery is extremely important to us, without them, it does not work.”
Pastor Andy knows from personal experience that these methods work. After all, they worked on him. After climbing the corporate ladder for 25 years, he found himself stumbling around 2006, and the fall left him broken physically, spiritually, mentally, and financially. He found himself led down a dark path, something which he considered inevitable considering his upbringing. “I personally was a Kentucky boy who came from a family of alcoholism,” he said. “In my family, you were either a preacher or a drunk. I’ve crossed both those bridges now.”
In August 2006, he found himself on a rehab plane from Texas to Florida to go to rehab. That plane trip would spark a desire to change, and the decision he made mid-life would change the trajectory of his life: “I told God that if he removed this alcohol and drug addiction from me, I would serve him the rest of my life.”
In 2012, Andy left the corporate world and started pursuing ministry full-time. He became a senior pastor in a Mississippi church in 2014. In 2017, he and his family moved to Lake Wales to become the Family Life Pastor at Highpoint Church. As someone who overcame addiction through his faith, he decided to help others do the same through a regeneration program. He worked out a deal to start Refuge on the Ridge at the former Chalet Suzzanne property, resigned from Highpoint in September 2020. and accepted their first participants in March 2021.
Currently, they have 16 men in their program with four graduates who have finished the program thus far. He hopes to provide additional transitional housing for graduates soon.Another unique aspect of the program is that Refuge on the Ridge asks each man for only $5,000 for the entire 10-month program, though anyone unable to afford it can still participate.Most rehabs cost patients between $15,000 – $20,000 per month per person.
“Most of the men in our program don’t have $5,000. People don’t come normally come into our program because their life is great—especially financially. That being said, we will never turn anybody away for not being able to afford our program,” Pastor Andy said. “We’re a ministry. We figure it costs the ministry about $12,000.00 a person for each man to go through the entire 10-month program, so you can do the math. The more guys we take into the program the more it costs us. We rely on the generosity of the people and families in the communities we serve. We are extremely grateful for all of the support we have received.”
As for what the future holds, Pastor Andy replied: “Whatever God wants, do we have more people there or do something else somewhere else, I have no clue. I am simply doing what God wants me to do and as long as I stay in that lane, we can continue to make an impact in this community.”
For more information on Refuge on the Ridge and how you can come alongside them, visit their website at: https://www.refugeontheridge.org or email Pastor Andy, at [email protected]