We had the good fortune of connecting with Carol Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carol, how has your background shaped the person you are today?

As I was pursuing my early career and raising my children, never could I have imagined addiction recovery would become a passion for me one day. It was about six years ago when I was sitting in a graduation ceremony for addiction treatment, when the speaker said to the graduates and their families, “This was not a day you planned to celebrate when you were raising your children. High School graduation? Yes. College graduation? Yes. But Addiction Treatment Graduation? We don’t plan for that.”

My own son — talented, gifted and kind — fell down the deep well of addiction. For eleven years, I had a front row seat, watching how addiction to drugs and alcohol wrecked in his life and my own. Through him, I met many wonderful people who battled addiction, and I learned addicts are trapped in a downward spiral with very few options. They have learned to self-medicate pain with drugs and/or alcohol and the way out is difficult, sometimes impossible.

Despite the U.S. government spending one trillion dollars on the War on Drugs, addiction treatment options are awful. Addiction is actually growing in our communities.

Those experiences — watching my son’s difficult battle — gave me enormous compassion for other people seeking help.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

With the exception of my first job, I have always worked in the nonprofit sector.

The reward of this work is the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. The challenge of this work is finding ways to not growing weary.

People are messy and nonprofits strive to have impact, often, with very limited resources. When I hear my young friends, who work for tech companies, talk about their big salaries and unlimited vacation, it’s baffling to me. Because the day-to-day of nonprofit work can be relentless.

And yet … That’s a big “and yet!” In the field of long-term, residential addiction treatment where I work, the stories of life change are nothing short of miraculous. Most of the guys we serve were planning their suicides right before they come to us. As a one-year program, we are definitely a last-ditch effort. We are a Hail Mary pass.

When the guys arrive, they look a mess. Some are crazy in how they talk — they have extremely distorted world views. They are angry. And then many, many of the men who complete our program are now living and thriving. They have become men of high character, in lovely marriages, with good jobs. Many of these men now have children.

There was a guy who came to us last year who could hardly make eye contact for his first 60 days. He had planned his death the day before he came to us. He stayed in our program for 18 months rather than a year, because he needed that long. But today he’s a photographer on assignment in Montana, shooting a documentary. He keeps posting these amazing photos of Montana’s beauty, and I keep thinking about how what he sees in the world has flipped by 180 degrees. Eighteen months ago, he thought life wasn’t worth living and now he photographs some of the most beautiful life in the world. That is worth the daily grind of working in the nonprofit sector.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There is no shortage of great things to see in Atlanta. I love that our city has so many different neighborhoods with different food scenes. Downtown Roswell and Alpharetta are both great places to hang out in the evenings. I recently toured Oak Cemetery in downtown Atlanta and that’s a must see for out-of-town visitors. The skyline view from there is incredible, plus it’s a “Who’s Who” of great Atlantans.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Mike Harden founded No Longer Bound back in 1991 as a way of rescuing addicts from addiction. From the beginning, he knew that trying to save men from addiction was a relentless and arduous task. It’s hard to raise general operating money for a non-profit, but it’s even harder to impact a person battling addiction. There were many days and many years when he didn’t know if he’d have the resources he needed. But passionately, he loved the men he served and fiercely, he believed their lives were worth saving.

I recently had the opportunity to interview him, and I was very moved by his tenacity and commitment to the men he served. Even as men resisted help, he remained committed. He was a Mother Theresa of sorts. What we do at No Longer Bound today is difficult, but it’s nothing compared to the difficult work Mike accomplished, standing up a fledgling nonprofit and growing No Longer Bound into what it is today.

Website: https://nolongerbound.com/

Instagram: @nolongerbound1

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolsmith2/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nolongerbound

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuYPnd3M_ijSehbJO6677Ig

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