Escape Addiction in Waveland provides “intensive” outpatient treatment for addictions.

Soon, founder Jarrod Bourgeois will be expanding his treatment program with the non-profit Freedom Lighthouse.

“I teach people these courses that I designed called Addiction 101, based off my own experience paired with schooling, 12 steps and my faith in God,” Bourgeois said. “We cover a lot of life skills, coping skills and I teach them about anger management, boundaries, anxiety, acceptance. We talk about goals, contentment versus happiness, judgements, ego, basically anything that can trip an addict up in their recoveries.”

Bourgeois said the goal is to build participants’ skills for a greater chance of success.

“I pair that up with God’s word,” he said. “I don’t want to overwhelm with that and often have to gently lead people to that.”

Bourgeois said the program also provides help for domestic violence and marriage counseling. Kecia Bilbo is also a counselor and Josh Hutchison serves as an apprentice.

Bourgeois’ own experience with addiction and faith inspired him to open the recovery center, he said.

Bourgeois is a Bay St. Louis native.

“I had a very loving family, very active childhood,” he said. “I played pretty much every sport. Always did well in school, good grades, book smart.”

Bourgeois said he got into drugs at a very young age.

“I hung out with my older brother and his friends a lot and wanted to be just like them,” he said. “They were three years older than me. And they would send me down to the store on my bicycle when I was seven years old and I would come back with cans of dip and cigarettes. And I was a hero. That’s where I developed my first mask of trying to impress other people and the older kids. I started smoking and dipping at seven years old. I started smoking pot at the same time. That was the start of it for me. I wouldn’t say that weed was the gateway for me at all. I think that the cigarettes and alcohol where I was knowingly harming my body led me to the next. By the time I was probably 11 years old, I was into hallucinogens, popping pills, and everything else. Shortly thereafter, harder drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamines, oxycontin. So it just snowballed for me and then I started drifting away from sports in high school completely. And drugs had completely taken me over by high school.”

Bourgeois said he did graduate high school and went to college, but “flunked out my first three semesters because I was just fully consumed with using drugs and selling them.”

“The amounts that I did, I didn’t think that my brain would ever recover from the damage that was done,” he said. “I was almost a vegetable at one point from the amount of drugs I had done. Just couldn’t string two words together, two thoughts together. I felt like I was dead inside. I lost my sense of humor.”

Bourgeois entered his first treatment facility at the age of 18.

“And I came out of there kind of a graduated drug addict,” he said. “I was there to avoid penitentiary time. I had already had five felonies stacked on me. The judge said ‘you can go to rehab or you can go to Parchman.’’’

Bourgeois said that he wasn’t ready after 30 days.

“I came out of there ready to shoot up,” he said. “So many people romanticizing using the needle in there, I started using it.”

He said that led to another few years of IV addiction filled with numerous more felonies and “deep, dark places.”

When he was 22, Bourgeois said, he reached out to his mom to find a recovery facility for him, which led him to the Sunrise Recovery Ranch in California.

“I finished with the 30 days, but I knew I was just scratching the surface there,” he said. “So I signed up for six more months of their sober living program in Newport Beach called Sober Living by the Sea. I was doing great there. I was serious about the 12 steps and working with a sponsors. I went to 120 meetings in 90 days. I was really into the program.”

Bourgeois said he also met his wife there.

Bourgeois said he remained clean for about 10 months after the completion of the program, when he relapsed.

“Each time I relapsed falling harder,” he said. “That’s how addiction always progresses. It always gets worse. The bottom has a trapdoor. I think true bottom is permanent incarceration, death, or loss of mind or bodily functions.”

Bourgeois said he found some of the drugs available in California to be “pure and clean.”

“It didn’t have all of the negative side effects,” he said. “And those negative side effects would keep me away from it for periods of time. This stuff didn’t have any of that. I could sleep on it, eat on it and it terrified me. I put it up and the next morning, is the first time I could ever say that I heard God’s voice. And I just heard it boldly, in this gentle and subtle whisper, but it was bold in my head. It said “flush it.” And I had never flushed any drugs before in my life. And I went and flushed it. And that’s when I had a spiritual awakening. I was consumed with this feeling of ecstasy just rolling through my body, just raw emotion. Tears just started streaming down my face and I didn’t even know why I was crying.”

Bourgeois said that after about 10 minutes, he stood at his counter staring down at his tiled floor.

“It was at that moment that I knew I was in the presence of God,” Bourgeois said. “When my tears came together and had dropped to the floor and my vision cleared up, the tile I was staring at, I saw Jesus clear as day. And there was no mistaking what I saw. I knew it in my heart when I saw it, it was just concrete fact. And I felt his arms come around me, hug me, and embrace me. I just never had anything comparable happen to me.”

Bourgeois said he immediately called his mom, who told him that “most people don’t have that in their lifetime. What are you going to do with it?”

Bourgeois said that, in the moment, he felt that “God put it on his heart” to start a treatment center.

However, Bourgeois said, he ran from God for another two years.

He said he moved back home and started manufacturing meth.

“I was running all over South Mississippi like a mad man,” he said. “It consumed me. I couldn’t really think about anything else besides making meth. The end result would have been shooting it. But the impulse to shoot it up had been replaced with making it at that point.”

However, one day, Bourgeois said he was arrested for “manufacturing and generating a hazardous waste.”

The judge revoked his bond.

“Thank God he did that,” he said. “That’s where the shift happened in me. I started hearing all these conversations. I was in there with 80 other meth cooks and they were all talking the same stupid conversations and it got nauseating.”

Bourgeois said during his time in jail, he started writing what would later became the courses for Escape Addiction.

He said he also started a Bible study.

After he got out, Bourgeois said, the birth of his first son also changed him.

“Seeing him born, I was sober and I started to shed that selfishness that all addicts have,” he said. “I saw that maybe this life wasn’t all about me anymore. It opened my eyes.”

He moved to Canada, where the family welcomed another son and daughter. Bourgeois said he also started playing hockey, boxing, and working out more.

“That’s what I needed in the beginning, I was fully consumed with exercise and sports up there,” he said. “It was a good and healthy addiction. I got to this place where I said I’m physically strong, but I’m still mentally, emotionally, and spiritually weak.”

So he enrolled in college to become an addiction counselor. After graduating, he started an internship with the Salvation Army and worked at the Lighthouse Shelter as a residential program facilitator and addiction counselor.

“I really just fell in love with the population, the work,” he said. “It really just cemented that it truly was my calling. But, I was still kind of lukewarm with my faith. I was trying, but I wasn’t trying with my whole heart with God.”

Soon after, the family moved to Florida where he worked at a methadone clinic as an addiction counselor.

“And God had me in there to open my eyes and see what these places are all about,” he said. “It’s no long term solution for anybody.”

While in Florida, Bourgeois said, he decided to further his education and pursue psychology and Biblical Studies degrees.

At the time, he said, he was still “lukewarm” with God, but then his cousin passed away, who was about the same age.

“We were like brothers, but he was fully into addiction just as long as I was,” he said. “But he lived the last 10 years of his life on the streets in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a really rough go for him. He was trying to get clean.”

Bourgeois’ cousin passed away from an overdose about three years ago.

“It was the toughest death I had dealt with,” he said. “But after I started coming out of grieving process, I already had the calling on what I needed to do, it was already on my mind to move back here and do what I needed to do, it was just all these fears that kept me from doing it. And God just used his death to light that fire under me and I moved back here.”

Bourgeois founded Escape Addiction, LLC in 2019, which has a number of recovery packages available at a low cost. And about eight months into that venture, he started working on Freedom Lighthouse.

Freedom Lighthouse, Bourgeois’ newest project, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit and will help participants through “transitional living,” which he said should last about six months to a year.

“It is very much secondary treatment,” he said.

Participants must have completed a drug and alcohol program prior to entering Freedom Lighthouse and have 30 days clean, Bourgeois said.

“Usually, people that are finishing up treatment that are serious about recovery, they don’t want to be turned back to themselves just yet, they want a little bit more accountability and that’s what we provide them,” he said. “It’s very structured, but they will have freedoms. But they will also have rules to abide by, things they need to do here. They’ll be working. The only way they can stay here and not work if they have the money, somebody sponsors them and they have a full-time college curriculum or some kind of technical training.”

Bourgeois added that volunteering will also be part of the curriculum.

Bourgeois said that Freedom Lighthouse is open to just males for secondary recovery. The program will not be open to sexual offenders.

The participants will live onsite in container homes, Bourgeois said. There are currently two containers on the property now and he hopes to add two, possibly three more. He said that there will be no more than 16 men at this particular site.

“We’re going to work our way slowly up to that,” he said. “We’re going to have four guys in the 40-footer and going to have a house parent that lives here full time with them and he’s going to have a smaller unit to himself.”

The Freedom Lighthouse will charge a 40 percent program fee, about 40 percent of their income, he said, which will cover the services and structure provided.

“That’s going to help sustain us, say we have a down year in donations,” he said. “It’s also going to help us grow this ministry bigger. God led us to these container homes. We also have about six people interested in buying one. So we’re going to be continuing to make these container homes and selling them.”

Program participants will also help construct the container homes, he added.

The men will also receive one-on-one counseling, Bible study groups, etc., Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois said that he works with local judges and law enforcement to determine who is eligible for the Freedom Lighthouse program.

Learn more about Escape Addiction, located at 9017 Hwy. 603, Waveland, at www.escapeaddiction.net.

For more information about Freedom Lighthouse, contact freedomlighthouseformen@gmail.com and Bourgeois at 228-342-6883.

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