Rockdale Houses for Men and Women turns 40

Rockdale House for Women Executive Director Renee Kalb and Rockdale House for Men Executive Director Richard Strickland stand outside the women's house in Olde Town Conyers.

Rockdale House for Women Executive Director Renee Kalb and Rockdale House for Men Executive Director Richard Strickland stand outside the women's house in Olde Town Conyers.


Rockdale House for Women residents, from left, Bridget Haro and Eden Froyen, remove the dead buds from an angel trumpet flower in the new Tranquility Garden they designed and created in only three days on the grounds of the house.

CONYERS -- Renee Kalb knows that as an addiction counselor she won't be able to keep all of her clients sober for the rest of their lives. But that doesn't stop her from being dedicated to her job.

"I do it for the people who do make it," said Kalb, who for the past six years, has served as the executive director for the Rockdale House for Women, a long-term residential recovery program for women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The Rockdale House for Women and its companion location in Conyers, the Rockdale House for Men, celebrates 40 years of operation this month and the nonprofits invite the public to tour the facilities from 2 to 4 p.m. today.

Both programs operate out of homes in Olde Town Conyers, the House for Women at 995 Milstead Ave. and the House for Men at 1060 Scott St.

Kalb said she sent out 1,300 invitations to alumni of the houses, judges, drug courts, other recovery programs and businesses.

"It's just an opportunity for them to see the house and get an idea of what we do and also in appreciation for the people that help us," Kalb said.

One of the oldest nonprofits in Rockdale County, the Rockdale House recovery program is certified through the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Georgia Association of Recovery Residences, and partners with the Rockdale County DUI Court.

The Rockdale Houses accommodate between 10 to 12 people at a time who arrive at the facility either through court order or self-admittance.

"Everybody has to hit bottom and it could be a health issue or through the legal system. It's really just this helpless, hopeless feeling that I can't do this anymore," Kalb said.

Residents live at the houses between four months and one year. They follow a strict schedule -- arise at 6:30 a.m., eat breakfast, have a morning meditation, perform daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, and maintain the greenhouses and garden.

After lunch, the residents enter into classes on life skills, drug and alcohol education, relapse prevention, anger management and parenting. They also receive one-on-one counseling through the directors of the houses or other certified staff, and they attend 12-step programs.

"It's very intense," Kalb said.Kalb said the program views addiction to drugs and alcohol as a disease, such as diabetes, and treats it as such.

"What this program does is help people change their lifestyles," Kalb said.For the first month at the facility, residents are not allowed contact with anyone via phone, mail or visits.

"The first 30 days they need to stay focused on the problem. They are the problem, but they are also the solution," said Kalb. "We teach you that you can't change people, places and things, but you can change yourself."

Kalb knows firsthand about addiction.

"One thing about this program that is different is that everybody is in recovery," she said. "I went through the program 12 years ago, and it works."

The progress of a resident is evaluated after two months in the program and, if deemed ready, a resident may obtain part-time or full-time work outside the house.

Kalb said that everyone's reasons for wanting to obtain and maintain sobriety are different. Some might want simply to satisfy court orders, others may want to get sober for their children.

Either way, Kalb and other staff members focus on transforming the resident into a productive member of society.

"I believe in meeting them where they're at," she said.

To learn more, visit www.rockdalehouses.org.