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In sober company: Business owner employs people in recovery; rents Academy of Music to show documentary about support options for addicts

  • Craig Stevens at his Hatfield home. A former addict who employs those in recovery at LandScapes, Stevens has rented out the Academy of Music to show the film “Generation Found,” which addresses how a network of support options for addicts can provide a long-term alternative to the “War on Drugs.” GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Craig Stevens, a former addict who employs those in recovery at Craig Stevens Landscapes, is shown May 11, 2017 at his Hatfield home. Stevens rented out the Academy of Music to show the film "Generation Found," which addresses how a network of support options for addicts can provide a long-term alternative to the "War on Drugs." —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Craig Stevens, a former addict who employs those in recovery at Craig Stevens Landscapes, is shown May 11, 2017 at his Hatfield home. Stevens rented out the Academy of Music to show the film "Generation Found," which addresses how a network of support options for addicts can provide a long-term alternative to the "War on Drugs." —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Stephen MacDonald establishes a border around a mountain laurel while working for Craig Stevens' firm Landscapes at a Northampton home on Monday, May 15, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Stephen MacDonald, right, and LandScapes owner Craig Stevens, load a planting for a Northampton home on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Stephen MacDonald, left, and Landscapes owner Craig Stevens unload a planting for a Northampton home. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Savanna Tufts, who works for Craig Stevens’ firm, LandScapes, maintains a planting at a Northampton home on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Stephen MacDonald establishes a border around a mountain laurel while working for Craig Stevens' firm Landscapes at a Northampton home on Monday, May 15, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@ecutts_HG
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Stephen MacDonald knows he could make more money if he went back to working as a roofer. But taking that job would likely cost him his sobriety.

“I don’t have the will power,” the 47-year-old Northampton native said.

Coolers of beer were common on roofing job sites, MacDonald explained, and it would only be a matter of time before he made the wrong choice. So he’s sticking it out as a landscaper for a Hatfield company that makes it a point to hire people like himself with drug and alcohol addictions. 

Surrounded by sober peers at a job site amongst the tightly manicured lawn and trim bushes and flowers on a recent afternoon last week, MacDonald and others in recovery say they have found a supportive environment in LandScapes, a Northampton design and build landscaping company owned by Craig Stevens.

“Being around other sober people was well worth it for me,” MacDonald said.

The company is hosting a free screening Thursday of the documentary “Generation Found” at the Academy of Music. The documentary takes a look at how the Houston, Texas, community came together to create a recovery support system for youth addiction.

About 80 percent of the employees at LandScapes are in recovery — a conscious choice by Stevens. Nearing his 17th year of sobriety, Stevens himself is in recovery.

“I’m the picture, which there is no picture, of an addict, an alcoholic, cocaine addict in recovery,” Stevens said from his Hatfield home. “My disease was very slow. My addiction was very slow to get a complete hold of me.”

For MacDonald, drinking opened up “doors for everything else.”

“For me, drinking lead to all kinds of really bad decision-making,” he recalled on the two-year anniversary of his sobriety.

After a 15-month incarceration, MacDonald didn’t immediately think of Stevens and a job with LandScapes even though his brother had worked for the company in the past.

After a prompting from his sponsor, MacDonald said he connected with Stevens and got his first day of work on a Friday and has been with the company ever since.

“I’m happy,” MacDonald said. “At 47 years old, I feel very blessed and grateful.”

MacDonald said he attributes his two years of sobriety to the job with LandScapes just as much as he does to Alcoholics Anonymous and the support he’s received from his family.

Open about his own history of drug and alcohol abuse, Stevens is less willing to give his age. Now in his 50s, he said slowly but surely, by the end of his 30s and early 40s, cocaine had completely taken over. He lost his house, threw away his business and went to rehab.

“I thought I was fine. The denial is so insidious that I didn’t even think I had a problem,” Stevens said. “I went to rehab to show them and I have no idea who them are … from there, I started this journey of recovery.”

More than a decade-and-a-half into his sobriety, Stevens has come up with his own system to hold his employees accountable.

Working for LandScapes means no cellphones, no texting and no smoking. Employees have to be on time, show up every day and stay sober. They also can’t leave the job site for lunch.

“What used to happen was a lot more subjective. I used to have to figure it out. I don’t want to be their therapist or their mentor, I want to be their boss,” Stevens said. “It’s strict but ... there is an awful lot of compassion.”

The rules aren’t for everyone and Stevens said some people don’t have a job for very long if “they really screw up.”

For 26-year-old Alan Nason, Stevens and the job at LandScapes helped him “out of a tight spot.”

While incarcerated, Stevens “became my mentor” and then became his boss, Nason said.

Upon his release last summer, the Holyoke man worked for Stevens for about a month before his relapse. Nason said he has history of alcohol and angel dust abuse. He has been sober for eight months.

Like MacDonald, Nason said he is extremely grateful for the sober environment – nobody goes out drinking after work or partying and no one is using drugs at work. Without the job, he said he “definitely wouldn’t be here” and would be on the street or in a “crappy” motel.

Stevens said a number of his employees have gone on to other companies and jobs and are, in his words, “kicking ass.” Some of those who have left the company and a few who are still with LandScapes are expected to speak before the film showing on Thursday.

Doors for the show will open at 6:30 p.m., with the program starting at 7 p.m.

“My message is stop pointing the finger at everybody else and look at yourself,” Stevens said. “This is a disease you need to give people a little bit of help on. I think there is a lot of success out there but people are so ready to point the finger.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.