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Helping People Recover from Addiction - One Client at a Time

Helping People Recover from Addiction - One Client at a Time

Shelley Poerio, President of Living Free Health and Fitness

Helping People Recover from Addiction – One Client at a Time

Did you know it can take over 90 days to change a habit? Depending on which expert you go to, the range can be anywhere from 66 to 254 days. Each person is unique and is going to progress differently. It’s not a one solution fits all situation. Influences on the amount of time it takes include different things such as the behavior, personality, and circumstances of the individual.

The goal of Living Free Health and Fitness

Shelley Poerio, President of Living Free Health and Fitness, knows what it takes to change behavior and has formed a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to help local Pahrump people recover from alcohol and/or drug abuse. She and her organization assist others in developing new habits which lead them on the road to recovery. The mission of this company is to “strengthen the resilience & self-efficacy of people facing addiction, mental health, and aging-related challenges.”

Shelley established the company in July 2013. According to her, “it’s estimated that 60% of people relapse before three months, but only 34% after a year. If a person stays in recovery for five years, the chance of relapse drops to 15%. The greatest indicator of success in recovery is length of time.”

How they help people recover from addiction

A licensed alcohol and drug counselor herself, Shelley does maintain a small private practice, but the Living Free organization does not provide treatment, per se. They have teamed up with a local firm, Focuslink Behavioral Health, LLC, which helps with referrals for related mental health and co-occurring services. Living Free Health and Fitness concentrates on providing resources and tools, and the linchpin of a real home where those fighting substance abuse can learn to take care of themselves and become self-sufficient with the structure and supervision such an environment provides.

Shelley is highly qualified to help others fight their way back to independence and freedom from addiction. In addition to her License as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor in the state of Nevada, she has a Masters of Professional Counseling from Liberty University, a BA in Communications from Stanford, and is a Certified Fitness Trainer. She has also earned the Master Addiction Counselor Credential from the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). She feels additionally qualified as she is in recovery herself and has been since September 5, 2001. “This gives my clients extra hope that they too can recover from this life debilitating condition,” says Shelley.

This non-profit public charity has no owners nor investors, so Shelley and her staff work strictly for their clients. Their sole purpose is to help these people get back on their feet, become active participants in the community and “live lifetimes of staying stopped.”

“Sober Living for Life”

Living Free recently acquired its first sober living house which plans to open in Spring 2018. Shelley and her team focus on the positive and celebrate successes with their clients. Their motto is “Stay Stopped” which is the hardest part of an addict’s recovery. The goal is for the clients to be ready to move out on their own in five to six months, but residents can stay in the house up to a year, however long it takes them to build the skills and confidence necessary to make that final step toward self-sufficiency.

The home provides a family-like, cohesive living environment, and the residents support and encourage each other. They are given the opportunity to be part of a family instead of a number in a court’s register. Educational courses, fitness training and activities, and nutrition programming and practicums are part of the sober living “curriculum.” “Treatment-equivalent-plus at a sober living price,” Shelley explains. “My goal has always been to democratize the availability of high-quality help.”  

And there are many expectations of the residents. They need to get a job (or be in school or do volunteer work), buy and cook their own food, and care for the home. There will be assigned duties and certain clinical requirements they must fulfill. Residents will have the chance to earn the House-leadership role (which will rotate over time). This opportunity is designed to give the clients a chance to acquire “management” skills and further develop the necessary personal responsibility and accountability required for successful reintegration into society.

The goal for the group is to have two homes by the end of April 2018, a third by the end of the year, each offering seven beds. Each house will have a garden in the yard where the residents will learn how to raise vegetables, herbs, and fruit for their own enjoyment. The focus on life skills and exploring personal interests and hobbies is a large part of healing and staying stopped.

Living Free’s “Sober Living for Life” program provides a high-quality experience and is looking for individuals who are serious about straightening out their lives and “staying stopped” for good. To predict there will be no relapses isn’t realistic. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. But the program is designed to help people who are ready and willing to be clean and sober.

Currently, there is no sober living facility in town available to women. Therefore, two of the first three homes will be offered for women.  After that, Shelley states they will listen to, and meet the needs of the community.

Why Pahrump?

When asked why she chose Pahrump to go forward with her dream, Shelley said what drew her here was the rural lifestyle. She’s lived in New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Detroit, and Baltimore. But she grew up in a rural Northern California town with a population of 3,000. She’s now ready to return to her childhood lifestyle roots.

From a business perspective, she feels the rural communities have been neglected, and most of the resources go to the metropolitan areas. Resources like Living Free should be available everywhere. Getting clean and sober doesn’t require a spa-like environment, personal chef, or view of the ocean. Living Free focuses on the basics. Recovering people need to relearn how to take care of to get sober and stay that way. Living Free’s programming gives them that opportunity.

Since her arrival in October 2017, Shelley has been working with other organizations within the Pahrump area. She’s been working with No to Abuse on education and counseling in the community and with NyE Communities Coalition for education on addiction. Shelley has also made in-roads outside of Pahrump through Pastor Timerson’s Beatty Community Church, as they need help in their town as well. The courseware and educational materials Living Free has developed are of great benefit to the community, schools, and parents.

How is the program funded?

As far as funding goes, tax-deductible cash donations can be made. They also accept gently-used household goods, furniture, clothing, and yard tools. Plants, railroad ties, and garden soil would be welcomed as well. To donate, you can go to In addition to private donations, they also raise money through the sales of educational courses, and they are starting to research possible grants. They are looking into the possibility of obtaining grants through Nevada’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency (SAPTA), from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and corporate and private foundations. Shelley and Living Free have applied to be the Nye County Recovery Specialist and Recovery Resource under Las Vegas-based Foundation for Recovery’s SAMHSA grant.

To meet their “public charity” mission, a lot of what they offer is pro bono. They offer classes at the detention center on addiction recovery. They’ve created psychoeducational groups and provide counseling to other outreach organizations and private practices. They’re working on providing fitness training and gym memberships to a subset of community members in recovery. And Living Free is focusing on a how to offer healthy diversionary activities for adolescents facing the temptations of drug use.

Prevention and early intervention for adults and adolescents are critical in fighting addiction whether it involves alcohol or drugs or both. Shelley and her team focus on living free from dependency and they are reaching throughout the community to help those in need.


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