By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"I really don't know," Schleibaum says he told him. "I've got a good life here. I've got friends, and I can help these guys. Right now, I feel like I'm in the right place. We'll see where God takes me."
One day, Bobby Murphy needs off from work. After a life of hard living, he contracted Hepatitis C, and it went untreated for years while Murphy sang his anthem. His liver is in bad shape. Through Faith Farm, he has access to a doctor. So he gets a pass for an afternoon. The doctor tells him if he takes his medicine, he should be OK for a while.
When he comes back to the compound, he knows what's waiting. Frank Grisanty, the assistant director, has a Breathalyzer for him to blow into and a drug test. Murphy's urine is tested for several chemicals.
The test for marijuana comes up positive.
Grisanty looks at Murphy. "Have you been smoking weed, Bobby?"
"C'mon, Frank, I haven't smoked weed in 20 years." Murphy is tense.
The two men examine the test, which looks purple, a positive for pot.
Murphy knows what a positive test means.
Men here fall. About ten walk off every month. A few more are dismissed. One night in the dorm, a few people notice that a man named Brian is missing. "Where's Brian?" they ask each other somberly. When nobody's seen him by church on Sunday, there is less mention of him. A man asks, "What do you think happened to him?" and receives no response.
But they know.
Many of these men were successful professionals before addiction peeled apart their lives one relationship at a time. Former pharmacists, dentists, even former ministers show up at the gates of Faith Farm. Richard Rosendo, 60, director of the Fort Lauderdale compound, managed engineers for Lockheed before his drinking brought him to Faith Farm 11 years ago.
Rosendo says the secret at Faith Farm is healing the addict's "inner man." "Inside every drinker or junkie is a wound they may not even know they have," he says. "They're trying to heal themselves with alcohol or cocaine." His inner man was broken, he says, when he was raped at age 5 by a man he called Captain Jack. He says he only remembered the incident near the end of his first nine months at Faith Farm. He was suddenly overcome with emotion. "Even right now, as I think about it, I can still feel the warmth of his body as he... as he... as he had sex with me."
Rosendo oversees Faith Farm's Fort Lauderdale operation: the stores, the Omega programs, the dorm and kitchen, the church, the finances. When a man violates the rules and has to go, Rosendo is often the one who breaks the news. He is part father, part principal, part prison warden. He picks the movies and television shows the students can watch, which seldom have R ratings.
Faith Farm explains to incoming students that as they detox, they will be tired. After a few days of food, sleep, and work, they will feel better than they can remember feeling. The purpose of that first lesson is to explain to new students that they aren't cured just because they feel better and that they shouldn't leave. Subsequent classes cover anger management, smoking cessation, Bible lessons, and a "purpose-driven life," for which Rick Warren's book of the same name is the text.
Rosendo is optimistic about each man who enters the program, and he's proud the program averages only a few "walk-offs" a month. But he is also realistic about recovery: The overwhelming majority of attempts to stop using fail — as high as 97 percent, some say.
That's why any time a student leaves the compound for any reason, Rosendo has a Breathalyzer waiting upon his return and probably a drug test too. "I trust the men here," he says. "But I also know who I'm dealing with."
Each man is given one eight-hour pass every month. If they fall off the wagon, that's typically when it happens. Not many fail the tests when they get back; if someone decides to start using, they usually don't even try to get back in.
All students who leave must check in by the guard shack near the front of the compound. Most nights, that means they'll meet Shane Pullman, a 32-year-old from West Palm Beach. Pullman is another man in transition. Before he came to Faith Farm two years ago, he was on the streets, addicted to meth, he says. His drug of choice, though, was weed.
Pullman grew up in foster care. In his early 20s, he was in what he describes as a cult. He took joy in confronting the Christians he came across and "showing them the truth," he says. "Basically, I was doing the work of the adversary."
Soon, he was smoking $600 worth of pot every week, he says. At one point, he began growing his own in an apartment closet where he built an elaborate ventilation system to avoid detection. Getting, growing, and smoking pot was the only thing he cared about. "If someone says you can't be addicted to marijuana, they need to talk to me."