By Frank Lewis
Everyone who hangs out at The Counseling Center’s Club House at 2102 11th St. in Portsmouth has a story, mostly inspirational stories about recovery from addiction and Jim Altman, who was raised in the bottoms of Lucasville, manager of the Club House, is no exception.
“I was an addict and an alcoholic,” Altman said. “In 1995 I went through the Marsh House Treatment Center. I went there and got help. While I was in there I got a goal to help people like me and I pretty well stayed with that.”
Altman feels that gives him a special ability for his job.
“I think the people who have recovered and are in this field have a lot of empathy that other people can’t have,” Altman said. “I know how they feel, what they’re going through. Other people just can’t have that with education.”
The Club House is a special place with pool tables, computers to allow people to go online to search and apply for a job, big overstuffed recliners, and a bar that looks like any other bar except for one small detail – no alcohol.
Altman said the Club House is open 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A free breakfast is served on Sunday morning and anyone can come and enjoy the food and fellowship. Altman also cooks up lunches and dinners some evenings.
Gina Collinsworth, director of community relations and development for Compass Community Health and The Counseling Center, Inc., says the Club House catches people on both ends.
“People connect here in two ways or more,” Collinsworth said. “They either come here before they have found a way to get treatment and they can talk to Jim. He’s got his story to share, or they come here after they have been through treatment and it’s a way to have social time with people who also are like-minded. You don’t need to drink to have fun.”
Altman agrees fun does not have to be associated with drugs or alcohol.
“It’s a recovery club house for people to actually have a place to go where there is no drugs or alcohol,” Altman said. “It’s kind of a safe environment and they can come here and play games and enjoy themselves.”
Altman is inviting the public to a big 4th of July event called “the Boom Bash,” which will be held that day beginning at noon.
“It’s a cornhole tournament, a cookout, it’s like a big party,” Altman said. “It’s all free – everything – the food, the games. We’re giving trophies for the first three places in the cornhole tournament.”
Altman said the street will be blocked off and the party will begin at noon and will run through at least 6 p.m. and there will be inflatables for the children.
“It is open to the public and that gives opportunity to the recovering people too to meet the public,” Altman said. “A lot of people, even in the public, don’t even realize what recovery is and the people on the streets who are using, don’t think recovery works because all they see are the people who go back out. So this kind of gives them a hope.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.