Bob Carey: From broken soul to leading addicts through the recovery challenge

SEAFORD — At age 60, Bob Carey leans back in an executive chair from a second-floor administrative office perch at 3rd and North Street in Seaford — and smiles.

He’s a founder and executive director of Delmarva Teen Challenge, which through support and commitment has transformed what was once known as notorious Crack Alley into a faith-based rehabilitation haven for men on a mission to overcome demons of addiction.

Bob Carey, whose past was punctuated by alcohol and drug addiction, is the executive director of Delmarva Teen Challenge, a faith-based, comprehensive educational/counseling program in the recovery from addiction.

“We are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that wants to be a resource to anybody that needs our program services. And we’ll be able to win as we lock arms together,” said Mr. Carey. “I am just overwhelmed and driven to help people that are struggling with the destructive power of addiction. I eat it. I sleep it. I dream it: what can I do to help these folks that are bound up, chained up?”

Bob Carey knows all about the destructive power of addiction. His past has many chain links.

“I overdosed twice, once in Annapolis, and once here,” he said. “The one thing I didn’t know back then that I do now is that addiction always promises you one thing but delivers another. And it takes you a lot further than you ever wanted to go.”

In his mid-20s, he was roaming the streets, a homeless broken soul.

“I was found passed out with double pneumonia on Lombard and Pratt Street in Baltimore by a street evangelist, who took me to Mercy Hospital where I was admitted there to take care of the fever — a 105-106-degree temperature; double pneumonia,” said Mr. Carey. “When I got out of that he brought me to Annapolis, to the Annapolis shelter there. It was there a group of Christian people were volunteering and they kind of circled around me and encouraged me and were willing to walk with me and point me in the right direction.  But even then, I found myself trying to plan my own destiny, if you will.”

“I ended up again overdosed in the Annapolis hospital. After that someone suggested that I get out of state to get help and go to Teen Challenge. I had been in the different 30-day programs, the detoxes. I had worn out my welcome,” Mr. Carey said. “So, my addiction was inter-state. I ended up broken, up in Detroit, Michigan at a Teen Challenge training facility. Two months into that I had a genuine, a radical genuine touch from God in my heart. And life transformation came into my heart.”

Born in Milford in 1957, Mr. Carey was raised in Sussex and New Castle counties.

“I came from a broken family. I was raised here in Bridgeville with my grandparents, when my parents split up. I went to first grade at Woodbridge. Then I trekked on up — my parents got back to together — to Newark, Delaware,” said Mr. Carey.

He went to Sanford Prep in Hockessin Delaware, then transferred to Newark High School. “I graduated from Newark High School in 1975,” he said.

Life was looking good.

There were college courses. “I was pursuing a career with the DuPont chemical company. Actually, I landed a job at the Glasgow site — the biomedical division off of Rt. 896. I was there for close to 11 years,” he said.

It was there — not at DuPont, but outside of work — that he got involved with individuals that “were not living life to good purpose. So, I found myself wearing a white lab coat in the daytime and a black leather jacket at night.”

Alcohol and drugs became part of his so-called social drinking and drug scene.

“That led to a poor job performance. DuPont sent me twice to Hiddenbrook rehabilitation program. Because of my unwillingness in yielding to my personal issues the 30-day treatment program wasn’t enough. I ended up being terminated. And rightfully so from that career position,” said Mr. Carey. “From there my life spiraled down. I ended up on the streets of Baltimore, homeless, in and out of missions … panhandling and drinking four fifths of Thunderbird wine a day. I just carried my life’s belongings in a bag.”

“So, I experienced just the downward spiral of addiction and my addiction had alienated all of my family members,” said Mr. Carey. “They came to a place where they had to give me tough love, and say, ‘Bob, we just can’t continue enabling you.’ So that is where the phone numbers got cut off. I was left to my own poor choices and poor decisions.”

Mr. Carey and wife Cristina have three children. All are home-schooled education products. Oldest son Nathan and daughter Sarah are graduates of Summit International Bible College. Nathan is on staff at the school of ministry in Grantville, Pa.; Sarah has taken time off from college to help care for Mr. Carey’s wife, who is terminally ill with cancer.

Daniel, his youngest home-schooled son is graduating high school this year and will be going to Summit.

Sometime this year, possibly in the summer, Delmarva Teen Challenge plans to open its doors to Home of Hope — an extended residential program for women battling addiction that will fill a void in Sussex County and Delmarva. In principle it will mirror Teen Challenge’s men’s program in a mission to rehabilitate women, including expectant mothers and those with young children on a 90-acre campus east of Bridgeville. The campus includes two two-story dormitories, an administration/resident childcare building and a multi-purpose facility for chapel and group gatherings.

This week’s People to Meet: Bob Carey.

Your life revelation?

“I can remember it so vividly that I was just broken mentally and emotionally, sitting in chapel going through the classes. It was like a hammer hitting my heart and I just broke and I cried for at least two weeks straight, just with remorse of what I had become, having grown up on the 16th fairway of the Newark Country Club and the guilt and remorse of alienating my family and knowing just the carnage I had left from broken promises. I always had a desire to quit and to do the right thing, but I didn’t have the strength to do it. After that experience in Detroit I immediately wanted to say, ‘Yes’ to living life to good purpose.”

“I had many different things just break off me. I smoked cigarettes for 25 years; three packs a day for 25 years. I haven’t had a puff since then. Abuse of alcohol and drugs broke off me. Serving myself or creating my own transitional plan broke off me. I just came to the place of brokenness and surrender. I wanted to say ‘Yes’ to Christ, because I knew in spite of everything I had done in the past, he was there saying ‘I forgive you.’”

Opportunity’s knock?

“I soon came to realize that I had an opportunity for a new lifestyle. I ran as hard to embrace that as hard as I was running to get a drink or to use drugs. I continued to become more fulfilled and I felt like I had a life of purpose, freedom and job. I graduated the Teen Challenge program in Michigan and was asked to stay on. We lived there 13 years. When I graduated, I met my wife in church. We got married. We had three children.”

Bob Carey, left, with John Hollis during the recent tour of Delmarva Teen Challenge’s Home of Hope women’s center.

Delaware’s calling?

“We felt the call to come and help those that were under the destructive power of addiction. We felt the call to come back to Delaware. We came back in the fall of 2008. We purchased a home in Bridgeville, in town. I started here with three people here. Since that time over 200 men have graduated the 12-month program. We’ve put up a transitional home. We have put up this admin/educational center for men’s program. We started a thrift store industry with a 38,00 square-foot mega thrift store in Sussex Highway in Seaford. The purpose of that thrift store is for vocational training for our students that are past six months in our residential program and also to help underwrite the tuition costs of academic program and counseling services.”

Foundational pillars for Teen Challenge?

“We have 16 hours a week of focused classes or counseling hours. It’s over 800 hours of focused rehabilitation through academics. We have short-term and long-term goals that we work through. We believe in building character and virtue in an individual’s life. We hold them accountable. We are very structured and disciplined environmental, but there is a lot of grace and compassion as well.”

“Some of them that have graduated the program are on staff here. But some of them that are in the program after they get up to six months we put them over there (thrift store) after their classes to kind of start the discipline of responsibility; showing up for work, doing a task and working with people.”

“We believe that through the 12-month process that life transformation will happen, and they will no longer desire the previous addictions that brought them to us to begin with. Being in a structured, residential environment is paramount to freedom from addiction. Our program is total abstinence. We’re just one part of the vineyard but we are effective. We have the highest success rate in the world.

“There are 1,200 centers in 122 countries, over 30,000 residential beds. We have a documented 59-year, over 80-percent success rate. The state has a 60-percent recidivism rate. Also, we have many in our program that are court-ordered from the judges into our program. We are saving the state $30,000 to $40,000 a person.”

Help for women?

“The call to help addicted woman came as the result of the many phone calls, the street walkers that were coming up and down 3rd and North street. Many of these ladies were on probation or parole and couldn’t cross state lines. So, we couldn’t send them out to another Teen Challenge center. So, they were stuck in limbo. There was no long-term 12-to-15-month residential program in Delaware or on Delmarva. So, our board unanimously prayed and voted to pursue a Teen Challenge women’s program. It’s a gated community, with camera security.”

“It is a Teen Challenge women’s program where a mother will be able to enter to address her addiction issues and also be able to bring children under six. They will eat together, sleep together, but during the daytime there will be certain segments, windows of time where the child will be with our pre-school curriculum and the mother will be getting her recovery services We will be helping 30 to 35 women. Single women 18–19 above, pregnant women that are addicted.

“We’re looking to complete the capital project, the renovations and raise the first year’s annual operating expenses for staff and utilities and operations for running it. After we raise that then we will open, sometime this year.”

What do you do in your leisure time?

“I do like to golf. I like going up to Lancaster and antiquing. I like looking at old stuff. I love symphony music. I like theater. One of my favorite theaters is Sight and Sound up in Lancaster.”

Closing thoughts?

“My heart and DNA are to make available the same life transformation that I received to those here in Delaware that are in need. It’s all faith-based component. We are looking for great success here in the state of Delaware and on Delmarva.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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