Las Vegas sobriety center gives addicts a path to recovery

Updated January 2, 2018 - 2:58 pm

Jeff Iverson’s life changed when he woke up in a jail cell in Las Vegas on March 28, 2006.

It’s the date he’ll never forget, one that represents his first day of sobriety after more than a decade battling his methamphetamine addiction.

Iverson had been homeless, living on the streets of Las Vegas.

“At my best, I was couch-surfing,” he said.

To him, jail was the only chance to break free from the drug’s grasp.

“The day I woke up in jail was the day I made the decision,” Iverson said. “This was going to be the new chapter of my life.”

Fast-forward to December 2017. Iverson, now 43, clean and sober since that 2006 arrest, is sitting in an office at Freedom House Sober Living, which he founded in 2010 to help others find their path to addiction recovery. The organization is getting ready to celebrate its eighth year in operation.

The twin buildings are converted apartment complexes with 149 beds, and each has an interior courtyard with a pool, giving it a feel more like normal apartment living rather than addiction recovery. Residents must abide by the rules: no drugs or alcohol; go to recovery meetings, such as anger management or behavior modification; find a job, with staff help; follow the curfew.

The sober-living complex and its sister facility, Freedom Behavioral Health, sit in the shadow of the Strip in an impoverished neighborhood near Twain Avenue and Swenson Street.

Overcoming skepticism

Back when the facility was just an idea, Iverson said Clark County officials and even Las Vegas police were skeptical of the location, worried that inviting drug addicts to the area would bring only more problems to the troubled neighborhood.

But since then, Iverson said, more than 2,000 people have come through the doors of the Freedom House buildings.

Some residents are sent to Iverson by specialty courts, such as the drug or veterans courts. Others, including 48-year-old Curtis Arakawa, a current Freedom House resident, found their way to Iverson through homeless outreach programs.

Before coming to Freedom House in October, Arakawa had been living in the storm tunnel across from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the south end of the Strip.

The shelter of the tunnel offered a respite from sleeping in the open air on the streets, bouncing from park benches to restaurant patios between being strung out on methamphetamine and alcohol, he said.

Arakawa said he was skeptical when a homeless outreach advocate approached him about moving into Freedom House.

“I didn’t believe him,” he said. “But I was at the end of my rope. I was tired of riding that stupid carousel around and around with no progress. My life wasn’t getting any better.”

‘People here actually care’

Arakawa was nervous when he got to Freedom House’s sober living center. But his two-month stint is already paying dividends.

He’s been sober since he arrived at the end of October. And for the first time in three years, the former sushi chef has a full-time job, working for a company that recycles and repurposes cooking oil.

He credits the workers and his fellow residents for getting him on the clean path and said that for the first time in years, he’s found people who listen.

“They give a damn about what I’m saying instead of writing me off like other people in society,” Arakawa said. “People here actually care.”

By all accounts, Iverson had a normal childhood growing up in Las Vegas with his four brothers. But in junior high, he smoked cigarettes for the first time. Then he tried marijuana and alcohol.

By high school, he added cocaine to the mix. Nothing he tried killed him. He felt invincible. So with each new drug he tried, the next one with the stronger high became easier to jump to.

He never considered college, but he landed a gig at a financial services company that paid well and let him keep the drug-fueled lifestyle.

But by his early 20s, life was getting in the way of the party for Iverson.

He got fired, which led to him getting into a fistfight with a partner at the firm. The downward spiral continued, and he found himself cooking meth.

“Before I knew it, I was 25, completely strung out, completely unemployable,” he said.

Back then, he said, he wore his lifestyle like a badge of honor.

Getting a life back

Now, it’s part of his story, one he shares with Freedom House residents as a way to relate to their plights and their pitfalls and show them that recovery is always an option.

Those personal stories helped Joshua Markle break free of his addiction while at Freedom House years ago.

Markle, now 37, was an early client of Freedom House, coming to Iverson about six months after Freedom House opened, he recalled.

“I wanted to get sober. I just didn’t know how,” Markle said.

He’d known Iverson before coming to Freedom House and watched his path to sobriety. So he went, and Iverson persuaded Markle to move with his then-10-year-old daughter from their 3,000-square-foot house to a 500-square-foot apartment in Freedom House. Markle gave his old friend a full year’s commitment.

He would spend the next 18 months at Freedom House, and like rebuilding his life from the ground up.

Markle, like many others who have come through the doors of Freedom House, credits Iverson and his staff not only for helping him break his own 15-year addiction to drugs but also for giving him his life back, including his two daughters.

“It’s given me everything,” Markle said.

Contact Colton Lochhead at or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Meadows School founding kindergarten teacher retires after 34 years at the school
Linda Verbon, founder of the The Meadows School's kindergarten program and the first faculty member hired at the school, retired in the spring after 34 years at The Meadows. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Las Vegas police officer on being PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door
Las Vegas police officer David Anthony talks vegan lifestyle and how he feels about being voted PETA's sexiest Vegan next door from his home on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like