Safety and Structure

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Heroin drove Eric to do things he never dreamed he would do: lie, steal, and even sleep in his car in the middle of winter. Anything just to get high. He started doing drugs in high school and knew he should stop; he just didn’t know how. Eric’s brother encouraged him to check out Serenity House (, a local substance abuse treatment center. Thanks to its unique alcohol and drug program, Eric is now clean, working full time and looking forward to building a career.

Safe Haven

Serenity House was established by Henry Tews in 1985 on an abandoned farm in Addison. A recovering alcoholic himself, Tews created a safe environment that allowed clients to work during the day and receive counseling in the evenings. What started as four-bedroom cottage has now grown into a residential program housing 32 men and 12 women. In addition to these facilities, Serenity House offers both adult and adolescent outpatient services, DUI programs, and seven recovery homes in Addison, Villa Park, and Naperville.

Mark Buschbacher has been serving as executive director for Serenity House for the past two years, after a successful 30-year career in the health care industry. Wanting to gain a better understanding of the disorder that affected his family, Buschbacher jumped at the opportunity to lead a program helping those recover from a life of substance abuse.

“What makes Serenity House so great is the combination of our halfway house and recovery home programs. Other agencies may have halfway houses or 30-day inpatient programs, but no one else in DuPage County has a combination halfway house/recovery program like we do,” Buschbacher says.

Many clients arrive at Serenity House without job or life skills. According
to Buschbacher, an important part of one’s recovery is the discipline and accountability that comes with having a job. If a client comes to Serenity House without a job, the staff helps them find one. Clients are required to work during the day and return to the halfway house by 5:30 p.m.

“Our founder Henry Tews believed strongly in having a community dinner. So every day at 6 p.m. we all sit down and eat together. Then at 7 p.m. clients participate in group and individual counseling. Recovery homes are very unique. Unless there is structure, supervision, and true accountably, you won’t have success,” he explains.

“When our alumni talk about their success at Serenity House, they point out the sense of community they felt starting at the dinner table and continuing in their group sessions. They also talk about being held accountable for washing their clothes, doing the dishes, and other chores—things that those of us who aren’t addicts take for granted.”

Buschbacher points out that while the organization has existed for only 34 years, Serenity House’s staff has an average tenure of 23 years.

“They’ve seen the various challenges our clients have gone through. It can be a tough environment,” he explains. When the organization first started, the average client age was 45 and alcohol was their substance of choice. Today the average client age is 33 and substances include heroin, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

Nevertheless, Serenity House has thousands of success stories, including that of recent resident Ashley, who credits the staff with teaching her to love herself again.

“There are times though when some of our best clients have become our biggest disappointments,” Buschbacher says of those who relapsed. “It can be a roller coaster, but our staff continues to put their hearts and souls into the job. They are truly an inspiration motivated by a strong sense of hope and the opportunity to change a life.”