If a golfer hits a bad drive off the first tee, they can ask for a mulligan. It’s a second chance, a do-over. Maybe it was bad luck or unusual circumstances that caused the error, but you get a chance to start again.
A do-over is what the men housed at the nonprofit Mulligan Sober Homes in Westminster are hoping for.
Eight residents there are recovering from addiction and striving to start anew, according to Brian McCall, who manages daily operations.
“It’s really just been about being here as support and just creating the environment in the house of like, we’re here to recover," McCall said. "We’re not just here to have a nice place to stay or have cheap rent or whatever — we’re here to get better.”
The Mulligan house is home to men who are clean and sober and trying to stay that way, according to McCall. He and local real estate agent Michael Griesser, who has also struggled with addiction, opened the house Nov. 1, 2019.
“Most of the guys come there and are trying to save the life that they have,” Griesser said.
How each of the men came to find Mulligan Sober Homes varies.
Joshua Sears met McCall at a Macklemore concert in Rhode Island, when the Mulligan house was just an idea.
McCall, also known in the recovery community as rapper B-RAiN, was there to perform at Recovery Fest 2018. He, like Sears, had struggled with addiction.
Sears says he survived abuse from his father. He saw his mother take her last breath after she was hospitalized with the flu. He was locked up for the first time at 15 years old. He used drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine over the course of 17 years.
When Sears met McCall, hanging out with friends in the parking lot before the concert, he was 90 days clean. Sears had no idea the man he just met was one of the artists performing in the concert.
McCall, who was about 10 years clean at that point, remembered how hard the early days were.
“I asked him where his tickets were, and he said he had nosebleed seats,” McCall said.
He offered Sears two VIP passes.
“He just looked at me like, ‘Yeah right,’ ” McCall said.
The two stayed in touch. Sears came to his performances in Connecticut and Baltimore, sold merchandise, and drove his tour bus across 15 cities, McCall said.
“I was a boy when I got clean, and he has taught me how to be a man,” Sears said of McCall.
About a year-and-a-half after meeting McCall, Sears moved into Mulligan Sober Homes.
“Without the support of the house, it’s hard to say where I would be at,” said Sears, now 30. “It’s a brotherhood.”
Sears moved in about two months before the official opening, helping to set up the rooms and furniture.
‘A great support’
The residents of Mulligan Sober Homes have expectations to follow.
They pay rent, they have chores, they even have a curfew. They attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, in addition to house meetings. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, they’ve attended meetings virtually.
In the first two weeks of a new resident’s stay, they are assigned a “buddy” who’s been living in the house for longer, McCall said. The buddy goes almost everywhere with the new resident to hold them accountable.
Above all, the men have to stay clean, and they’re tested randomly to ensure they aren’t using.
Although there are rules in place, the house isn’t without fun. Sears said they’ve had barbecues in the yard, played cornhole and invited friends to visit. They went snow tubing in the winter and have a hike planned for Memorial Day weekend. Sometimes they mow lawns for neighbors.
Griesser said residents can stay as long as they need to. McCall estimates they’ve had about 20 people come through since they opened. Two were asked to leave after relapsing, while others left when they were ready. They can house up to 10 people at a time.
For Harry Walker, 42, his connection with the other residents and McCall is a major part of his recovery.
“The guys that live here are a great support,” said Walker, an Eldersburg native.
Walker served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in the corporate world before his 20-year marriage ended, and then addiction came creeping back into his life.
“Basically, I was living out of my vehicle. Didn’t have anyone to turn to,” Walker said. “I probably would not be alive, where my addiction was taking me.”
Walker came to the Mulligan house after a stint at a treatment center in eastern Maryland.
One of the house rules is to secure a job within two weeks. But because Walker has a disability, he doesn’t work, so he contributes in other ways.
Walker drives those without licenses where they need to go, helping with grocery runs and errands. He’s a house leader, along with Sears.
“It’s a recovery of self program, but with the assistance of others,” Walker said. “The fellowship is really important in early recovery for people.”
Walker rooms with Allen Knight, who he jokes is his son; Walker’s a bit older than most of the others in the house. Knight is 30 and arrived to the Mulligan house in December, shortly after him.
“Seeing where Allen came from and where he is today is something that’s really rewarding to me,” Walker said.
Knight, previously of Hagerstown, came to the house from the Carroll County Detention Center and is currently going through drug treatment court.
“It’s kind of to the point in my life where … I get it together or I’m going to miss out seeing my kids grow up,” Knight said. “Life’s actually been really good ever since I moved in here.”
The day after moving into the Mulligan house, Knight said he failed a urinalysis test, which could have jeopardized his living situation.
Knight knew it was a false positive. He needed McCall to believe him.
“Nobody wants to believe an addict,” Knight said, but McCall heard him out.
Since then, Knight’s held two jobs while keeping clean. For someone who has struggled with addiction, he said it’s crucial to keep busy.
When the restaurant he was working at closed for a month because of the pandemic, Knight came to McCall. He needed something productive to do to keep other thoughts at bay. McCall helped him get a flooring job, and now that the restaurant is partially reopened, Knight is working both jobs.
“It’s nice to have somebody that has a lot of connections,” Knight said of McCall. “He’s always willing to lend that helping hand to see people succeed.”
Knight hopes to get a place of his own so he can care for his 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
“I don’t want my kids to grow up without a father,” he said. “I just want to show the community and the person that gave me a second chance I’m doing better.”
Knight said he found that opportunity through the recovery home.
“Mulligan in golf means second chance or do-over,” McCall said.
He and Griesser want to provide more chances. They hope to open a second recovery house.
“Unfortunately there’s a huge need for this,” Griesser said. “We’re happy to meet it.”
The national hotline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).