In December 2022, The GateHouse celebrated its 50th year of offering people a meaningful path to recovery. As part of this celebration, we are spotlighting prominent staff, leaders, and alumni and sharing their stories of their time at The GateHouse.
This month, we’re featuring Judy Bohner, a former resident at The GateHouse who is celebrating 33 years of recovery this month.
Judy Came to The GateHouse Later in Life
Judy Bohner arrived at The GateHouse when she was 46 years old.
While she was certainly not old in a big-picture sense, she was entering the program later in life than most residents.
“I came with a long history of drinking and drug use,” she said. “Nearly 32 years.”
Judy had also already experienced many of life’s milestones, including becoming a parent and being married multiple times. She believed this life experience set her apart, and thus was skeptical of her fellow residents.
“I was going to show everyone how to do this,” she said.
She soon realized, however, that her hubris was keeping her from doing the actual work. When she was encouraged to actually look at herself and her own patterns, she began to recognize that perhaps she was not so above other people’s struggles.
“I had to look at myself honestly,” Judy said. “I started to see that everything I thought other people were doing wrong … I was actually doing myself.”
Bruce Caldwell Held Her Accountable
It was a former Executive Director of The GateHouse, Bruce Caldwell, who wound up playing a pivotal role in Judy’s recovery.
“He is the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said. “He believed in me while also calling me out on my stuff.”
For example, Judy came to The GateHouse with a history of false check scams. When she applied for a job during her time at The GateHouse, Bruce Caldwell called the employer and told them she would be a good hire, but to also keep an eye on her when it came to finances. It was this honest advocacy intertwined with strict accountability for her past actions that made a big difference in her life.
Judy got the job and wound up working there for 12 years.
The bond between the two continued well after Judy graduated from The GateHouse. She even became friends with Bruce’s wife. When Judy celebrated five years of sobriety, Bruce offered her a position on The GateHouse board.
“At a certain point, most people had written me off,” Judy said. “Not Bruce. Bruce became my family.”
The GateHouse Taught Judy How to Build a Life for Herself
Judy’s biggest takeaway from her time at The GateHouse is the independence she gained. She not only learned to be independent from drugs and alcohol, but also to build a life on her own.
“The GateHouse made me grow up,” she said.
When she first arrived, Judy was practically estranged from her family and had had multiple failed marriages. Her substance use disorder left her without a strong community or a sense of purpose. The consequences of this went well beyond her own situation.
“My children did not grow up with a real parent in their household,” Judy said.
Yet through her work at The GateHouse, Judy was able to start over.
“At 46, I learned to be responsible for myself,” she said. “I got both a job and an apartment.”
One of Judy’s most profound memories of her early recovery journey is the night before she left the program. That evening, her father passed away and her counselors at The GateHouse allowed her to go visit him one last time. Judy recalled how healing it was to see him.
“He had written me off a long time ago,” she said, “but now, he could pass peacefully because he knew that I was going to be okay.”
After leaving the GateHouse, Judy remarried but her husband soon passed away. She has now been a widow for 15 years and the independence she cultivated during recovery has been crucial to her building a fulfilling life on her own.
Today, Judy plays an active role in the Alcoholics Anonymous community and has served as a sponsor for 26 years.
“My AA home group has become my chosen family,” she said. And on May 28, Judy will be celebrating 33 years of sobriety with her chosen family.
Now 79 and living in Ocean City, MD, Judy said she is living her best life.
What’s the secret? Something she said she learned at The GateHouse.
“A sense of humor,” she said. “I learned to not take myself so seriously.”
The GateHouse is Central Pennsylvania’s leader in accredited addiction recovery care, recognizing the unique challenges individuals face on their journey to recovery. For 50 years, we have helped individuals in our community restore their lives and rediscover the strength of the human spirit.
We provide each client with a support system that helps them break the cycle of substance abuse disorder and put them on the path to recovery. The GateHouse is here for you, whether you need outpatient support, transitional living conditions, or resident treatment programs. Reach out to us today!