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Irene Calocassides

Where There’s Smoke…

By April 22, 2015No Comments

Growing-HouseOn Friday, April 3, 2015 the staff at LC watched as the fire trucks pulled up across the street. Sirens blaring, the firemen jumped into action from the still-moving vehicle.They were the first responders to the first call made as the smoke poured out, signalling the danger within. The house directly across the street from Life Challenge had caught fire. When the fire trucks arrived, Brian Lovelace and John Richardson had just finished pounding on doors and calling into windows to see if anyone was inside. The house was empty, thank God. The firemen raced to connect their hoses. First one, then another fireplug failed. The firemen finally got the water running when the crew from Fox News suddenly came on the scene. Turns out, the house was a ‘growing house’ for marijuana.

From Marijuana to Heroin?
It would be easy to shrug off the significance of this one house sitting on a street tucked away in northwest Detroit. Pass it off as a slightly amusing irony that its leaded windows and brick face stare directly into the windows of Life Challenge, a residential program for people struggling with addiction. After all, it was just a couple of dozen marijuana plants. Not exactly a major drug ring, right? With the current social groundswell in many states for the legalization of marijuana, there seems to be a desensitization to the dangerous nature of smoking ‘pot’. At Life Challenge, we say marijuana is no joke. Call its use what you will (casual, recreational, social, medical), we know all too well that besides its own highly addictive and destructive nature, it also often leads to prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. Many of the tragic stories that eventually bring broken, desperate addicts to our doorstep start with that first, seemingly harmless step of smoking marijuana.

‘I went from smoking weed in the living room to doing hardcore drugs with random people all before age 20…
In the process, I lost myself, my friends, my family and most importantly my relationship with God.’
Cameron (current Life Challenge student)

A National Crisis
In a Department of Justice press release in March 2014, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the rise in overdose deaths from heroin and other prescription painkillers an ‘urgent public health crisis.’ Addiction to heroin and other opiates, including certain prescription painkillers, is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life–and all too often, with deadly results. Between 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent. Scientific studies, federal, state and local investigations, addiction treatment providers, and victims reveal that the cycle of heroin abuse commonly begins with prescription opiate abuse. The transition to, and increase in, heroin abuse is a sad but predictable symptom of the significant increase in prescription drug abuse seen over the past decade.

A State Crisis
The national drug crisis is echoed in the state of Michigan. Heroin overdose deaths in Michigan increased from 271 during the four-year period of 1999-2002 to 728 from 2010-2012, according to data compiled by the state health department. And admissions to publicly funded programs for heroin treatment doubled from about 6,500 in 2002 to 13,600 in 2013. “Heroin Use, Deaths On The Rise In Michigan” Detroit Free Press 4/5/14

Excerpt from the Michigan Drug Control Update
(A report reflecting significant trends, data and major issues relating to drugs in the State of Michigan)
– In 2009-2010 Michigan was one of the top ten states for rates in
past month illicit drug use among persons age 26 or older
– Approximately 10.37 percent of Michigan residents reported
past-month use of illicit drugs; the national average was 8.82 percent
– In 2009, the rate of drug-induced deaths in Michigan significantly exceeded the national average

A Local Answer
From teeming urban streets to isolated rural roads, the tentacles of addiction reach into every county in Southeastern Michigan. The following counties have been designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas by the Office of National Drug Control Policy: Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Genesee, Saginaw.

It is not by accident or coincidence that Life Challenge of Southeastern Michigan has its campuses in Wayne County (in Detroit since 1964) and Genesee County (Flint). We are strategically and intentionally located in these critical counties in Southeastern Michigan, to be directly on the front lines, helping men and women with drug, alcohol and other life-controlling addictions.

Life Challenge is directly affiliated with Teen Challenge USA, and our goal is more than addiction rehabilitation—helping men and women get clean and sober. We endeavor to help broken people turn from their self-destructive ways and put their faith in God. Our aim for all is new life in Christ. To that end, we offer a highly structured environment which emphasizes spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, and service (among other things) in the context of Christian community. At a secular clinic or drug rehab program, about 3% of clients will successfully get and stay sober. But at Life Challenge, success rates are dramatically different. One study found that 86% of those who completed our one-year residential program remained drug-free five years later.

Behind Closed Doors
That house across from Life Challenge looked fairly normal on the outside until its dangerous secrets were finally exposed. It is symbolic of how a life can be taken over from the inside out by addiction. It starts behind closed doors, behind lidded eyes. But the spiritual sin which is the root of all addiction, never lets its victim remain static. Darker and deeper it takes the one in its grip until, like that house, it all goes up in smoke and flames. That is when Life Challenge, like those first responders, comes rushing in to help.

Executive Director Jeff Bonzelaar, ‘We all know someone or know of someone who is affected by addiction within our circle of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors.’ In our state, our communities, in our everyday lives…addiction hits close to home. And so does Life Challenge.

Hope, help and healing through Jesus Christ is just a call or click away:
313.531.0111 or visit

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