On a muggy evening in the outskirts of Clarksdale, Mississippi, fourteen-year-old Trey Lewis clutched his first bottle of alcohol. He never imagined the first sip would be the precipice of a vicious, downhill cycle that would nearly destroy his future. Or that one day, he’d draw on his harrowing experiences with alcohol and later drugs to launch the largest partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient program of its kind in Georgia—possibly the nation.
As CEO and founder of Good Landing Recovery, a center for alcohol and drug addicts, Lewis is an anomaly. Not only has he experienced the ruthless, viselike grip of abuse and addiction, but he’s also escaped from their clutches, becoming an unwavering force in extricating others from their lethal stronghold.
The Great Yet Challenging Days
Raised in the Bible Belt, Lewis attended church every Sunday with his family—although faith, at the time, felt little beyond a routine obligation. His paternal grandparents doted on him, the only child of their son, and he attended a private school where he had a voracious appetite for learning, making him an exceptional student.
His days were filled with his favorite hobby—sports of any and every kind—which he relished with a large group of friends. “I don’t think it’s possible to have a better childhood than I did,” he says. Despite this optimism, however, his story is far from perfect.
Shortly after Lewis’s birth, his mother started displaying bizarre symptoms. At first, the doctors chalked it up to postpartum depression, common in new mothers, but over time, the symptoms worsened, carrying with them a greater degree of severity and risk. Upon further examination, the doctors finally were able to aptly diagnose her: she was bipolar with psychosis.
By the time he was five, her condition spiraled into a full-blown illness that incapacitated her mind. Though he felt her love implicitly, it was apparent that his mom was helpless to her mind. Lewis’s paternal grandparents stepped in to care for him while his father grew resigned to the fact that hoping for her to one day resume her role as a guardian to Lewis was a far-fetched dream. This realization wasn’t an easy one to process. “I remember the doctor coming over and giving me a sedative because I couldn’t get it together knowing my mom was leaving,” he says.
From there, his mother’s condition only worsened as she began self-medicating her mental illness with drugs. Then, in 1994, with drugs in her system, things took a turn for the worse. His mom got into a lethal accident, killing a pedestrian and being imprisoned for vehicular homicide.
Thinking back to his first experience with alcohol, Lewis understands the overwhelming urge to self-medicate. “When I drank the first time, it started as a miracle cure to my underlying anxieties and social inhibitions,” says Lewis. But what he couldn’t have anticipated was the viselike hold the liquor would take on his life.
The Downward Spiral
For a while, Lewis managed to keep the booze or drugs from affecting his life. He remained a stellar student, gaining a full tennis scholarship to Brewton-Parker College in Georgia. Then, in the summer of senior year he made friends with illicit drugs. And everything changed. What started as a recreational and weekend pastime quickly became a daily fix. Soon Lewis was an IV drug addict who couldn’t stop. For nearly a decade, he transferred in and out of ten treatment centers, hoping to regroup his life. He’d make enough progress to pull it together for a semester at college only to relapse and have four horrible ones to follow, making for a turbulent college path. To defeat the cycle, he turned to the military, where many of the men he’d admired had served. Despite the drug abuse, Lewis had no felonies to his name, which proved a saving grace in gaining him acceptance to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Lewis was hopeful that new scenery and a strict military regimen would instill the discipline he lacked in turning his life around. However, he quickly realized that a change in landscape wasn’t enough to change him. Although in the military, he still loved a good party replete with alcohol and drugs.
Then the inevitable happened. Lewis was slapped with a DUI—the equivalent of a death blow in the military. Word spread like wildfire and at the front of the base, large posters screamed the announcement to passersby.
Then one night at an airmen’s event, he caught the attention of the Command Chief Master Sergeant. “I see leadership in your life, and I’d like to mentor you,” the sergeant told Lewis.
“I’m not sure you know who I am,” he told the Sergeant, shuffling his feet. “I’m the one who got that DUI.”
The Sergeant appeared unfazed, reassuring Lewis that the offer still held. For someone who was at life’s nadir, these words were a welcome salve to Lewis’s bruised perception of self-worth, sparking hope within him. Shortly after, he met a group of college-age professionals and staunch Christians who befriended him and taught him the meaning of living for God.
Letting God Lead the Way
Once he left the military, stronger and more confident, Lewis decided to foster his newfound love for the Lord by going on staff at a local church. Immediately, he was drawn to fractured people, the oppressed and the throwaways of society. Often, he’d find himself at homeless shelters, and the hidden nooks and crannies of the city where these forgotten souls were often cast. “My desire to see people encounter God became my spiritual gift mix,” says Lewis. Relishing his work, Lewis shifted to working for a company known for helping people establish churches.
In this new role, Lewis traveled the nation, training leaders and visionaries on the business administration, legal and revenue aspects of running a non-profit—essentially, everything he one day aspired to do.
By March 2017, the idea of a non-profit, faith-based drug and alcohol recovery center was already percolating in Lewis’s mind. But like every budding entrepreneur, his doubts outweighed his confidence. Then one day, a gentleman from one of the churches Lewis had worked with called, proposing an idea. As someone who helped launch businesses that committed to funding missions and ministries, he advised Lewis to go the for-profit route instead and contribute a certain percentage of revenue to fund missions, fulfilling his desire to both launch a business close to his heart while giving back to God.
Good Landing Recovery was born in July 2017. And then came pin drop silence. Two months passed, then three without any clients. Pretty soon, fall was around the bend, with doubt and apprehension crouching in closely behind. Finally, a hunting trip to Mississippi proved fruitful, winning the company its first client. By May the following year, business was booming—Good Landing Recovery had taken off.
A Fully Customizable Client Journey
The phrase “full medical clinical facility” can conjure myriad images. Some might envision a program crammed with two hours of bible study and a few hours in group therapy before it tapers off to something mundane, like six-hour painting sessions. However, things work differently at Good Landing Recovery. With its professional staff, including a former surgeon- turned-medical director, three nurse practitioners, and twelve master-level therapists, Good Landing Recovery has a competent staff combined with a customized plan of action for every individual who entrusts it with their recovery journey.
This tailored approach starts with extending varying levels of flexibility to accommodate nearly any client situation. “If the client wants to house with us, they can, or they can meet with us online, or they can come in person without housing here,” says Lewis. The company even works virtually with people from out of state.
And the program can be refined to each person’s needs. For instance, if an employee stays sober throughout the workday, but has trouble keeping dry after work, Good Recovery Landing can devise an evening-time accountability program through an outpatient level of care.
Clients also have control of their journey. If they come to the end of their allotted ninety or hundred-day treatment plan and feel they’re still not ready to immerse in the world, they can choose to stay for up to two years. Surprisingly, the center sees a huge draw to this program and a strong resistance from clients against prematurely aborting the process, which Lewis sees as a positive sign.
Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Kind of Recovery Center
In nearly four years, what started as one housing building unit and three staff now is a full-fledged operation supporting over 140 clients across 17 housing properties, making Good Landing Recovery the largest of its kind in at least the Southeast region, if not the entire country. And Lewis has remained true to his word, passing upwards of 25% of the center’s quarterly distributions to fund ministries and give back.
But there’s much more that makes Good Landing Recovery a unique advocate and ally.
For one, it works to erase the dark stigma surrounding the concept of treatment in people who’ve never attempted it before and those who’ve had a poor experience with prior treatment facilities. The campus is intentionally airy, friendly, warm and inviting, giving clients the illusion they’ve set foot in a temporary oasis versus a hospital or institution. The facility also shuns adopting dated processes to shake out addiction, instead leaning on methods proven to be life-giving and life-altering. Here, clients learn to create a long-term vision for their future, working in lockstep with staff who help them envision a life and goals beyond drugs and alcohol.
To take it a step further, the center hosts an open-public program called Recovery Church every Friday, which draws crowds from Athens to Atlanta and includes a full church service. “Friday night is the end of the week and usually when the wheels start falling off people’s recovery journey,” says Lewis. “We bring our best on Friday night to draw them in, have them engage and keep them going strong.”
Although it’s rooted in Christian values, Good Landing Recovery doesn’t discriminate in who it serves, be it people from different religious beliefs, backgrounds, nationalities or otherwise, making it a welcoming reprieve for all.
Moreover, it offers many programs catering to alcohol, drug and outpatient rehab as well as interventions, even working alongside businesses concerned for employees who may be in the midst of active addiction. Instead of severing relationships with talented, downtrodden employees, the center encourages business to advocate for treatment, which can help employees dust off the layers of addiction and defeat to shine their greatness. “We work successfully with tons of businesses that have these issues,” says Daniel Garner, Director of Marketing.
Perhaps the most prominent example of its passion to make a difference in the lives of anyone impacted by alcoholism, addiction and abuse—not just clients—is its podcast: The Comeback: Stories that Inspire, which reaches an audience of millions across the nation. The podcast airs new episodes every Wednesday, serving as a powerful resource for active addicts, those in recovery or even loved ones of addicts seeking hope and insight to offer help.
“In establishing the programs at Good Landing Recovery and their individual components, I considered the parts that were super effective in my own journey,” says Lewis. That, according to Lewis, includes having the right resources and staff on hand to treat a client both effectively and thoroughly.
“Typically with an alcoholic,” says Lewis. “You’ll be medicating an anxiety disorder. You can talk to them all day long, but if you can’t treat that disorder, you’ll be doing a major disservice.”
Effectively identifying behavioral disorders that can impede recovery is why the facility employs a staff psychiatrist. Other unique services they boast include case management, job services, a leadership development program and then of course leisurely activities, such as movies and bowling, to infuse some fun.
But the attention and games aren’t the only things that keep clients around. “Our sense of community is why so many people end up staying,” says Lewis. And spearheading the effort to cultivate and foster the ambiance of a close-knit village is Lewis himself. Although it may be atypical to see the CEO himself down in the trenches, at Good Landing Recovery, it’s the absolute norm. Lewis heads up Monday morning groups every week, and recovery groups on Friday nights. You’ll often see him walking the halls or engaging with clients. “I’m right there,” says Lewis. “I know what they’re going through. I’ve been there and I want to be visible to them as evidence that they can do this. That it’s possible—I’m living, breathing proof.”