John Lewis Sullivan was addicted to drugs at age 13, stealing to support his habit and generally making mischief of varying degrees. He’s since spent 18 of his 42 years in jail or in California’s prison system.
“I’d never been out a whole year until I decided to change my life,” Sullivan says. “Don and his program helped me.”
Don Troutman, a recovering alcoholic, is the founder of Clean & Sober Intentional Living, a communal-living program for people committed to a lifetime of sobriety. It’s the oldest and largest such community in Northern California, with 15 residences in Orangevale and Fair Oaks.
“After they leave treatment, a lot of people think they have it made,” says Troutman. “You get a guy detoxed and send him through treatment and then put him back into his old environment, and he’ll start using again. The expectation is that he is what he is, and everything he’s learned goes away.”
Troutman got into the recovery-home business in 1989 as a way to keep himself sober after his brother died of an overdose. He calls himself “Resident No. 1.” He currently has 130 men and women in his program, all determined to stay clean for life.
Rent ranges from $450 to $795 a month, and the average length of residency is two and a half years. The longest anyone has been in the program is 16 years, making Sullivan a relative newcomer.
“Last winter,” Sullivan says, “I was pretty much homeless, running the streets, stealing copper to supply my drug habit. I was living in a tent on the river, and I just said, ‘God, there’s got to be more than this.’ I hit my rock bottom. I didn’t want to do it no more. I was freezing cold, and I was getting the flu. I went and told my parole officer that I needed help.”
Sullivan was sent to an intensive drug-use modification program and afterward moved into a recovery home.
“The people in the house weren’t serious about their program. They were still drinking,” Sullivan says. “So I got a hold of Don Troutman and told him my situation.”
Sullivan now lives in one of the Clean & Sober Intentional Living homes during the week and spends weekends with his girlfriend, their 4-year-old son and his stepchildren. They go to church together on Sundays; they attend the kids’ sports activities as a family.
“I’m kind of living the dream now,” he says.
Through a parolee work program, Sullivan has landed a road abatement job with Caltrans.
“I’ll be working, making money and doing things right for once. It’s the beginning of a new life. It’s the first job I’ve had where I’ve had a chance to do it clean and sober. I used drugs to mask my feelings and to be somebody I wasn’t. I’ve put all of that behind me,” he says. “I’m happy to be me today.”
A twice-convicted felon, Ronita Iulio thought she had blown her last chance to salvage her life and family. After being released from prison in 2008, Iulio was anxious to reunite with her three children, but instead she faced an unsympathetic court that granted full custody to her ex-husband.