A home for women: Bright Life House will be a sober house filling a need in Austin

Published 7:00 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

A new sober house being renovated in Austin has its owners hoping it will fill a gap for women recovering from addiction.

Lindsey Leif and David Breitbach are the founders behind Breit Leif LLC and are renovating what was formerly the Carlson Home assisted living facility located near Austin High School, transforming it into Bright Life House.

The goal is to give women a place to go as they transition from rehab back into the public.

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“It will be a sober living house for women, but we also want to incorporate more programs that kind of facilitate them as they are recovering,” Leif said during a break from work at Bright Life House on Thursday. “Not only just staying away from drugs and alcohol, but to find their way back to a better way of life.”

The home, once completed, falls nicely into the work the Mower County Opioid Advisory Committee is envisioning from area organizations as they work over the next 18 years to distribute money from a pair of nation-wide settlements against opioid manufacturers and distributors that allocated just over $2.1 million to the county to meet the needs and concerns of the opioid epidemic.

During its first public meeting, members of the panel laid out a number of strengths and weaknesses the county is facing in terms of substance abuse.

High among the weaknesses is the fact that there are no sober houses for women, no treatment for women or women with children and no adolescent treatment.

As Bright Life rises to meet that need, Breitbach and Leif hope the facility will not only meet the needs of recovering addicts, but consider the wellbeing of the whole person.

“How do you help yourself start creating the wisdom inside and being confident in yourself rather than trying to give your energy away to everybody?” said Breitbach, who owns his own self-care private practice in Viroqua, Wisconsin. “Helping these women come into their power so they can shine and at the same time relate to each other.”

Leif and Breitbach envision a home of up to 14 women at a time at any given moment and taking part in a structured program led by a house manager with the required peer recovery specialist certifications.

There will be mandated rules along with random drug testing on a regular basis.

“That’s what they need for the success of the other women,” Leif said.

To that end, the house will revolve around not only getting the individual clean and sober, but the group as a whole.

“While they are living here they will be supporting each other,” Breitbach said. “They will learn how to be there for others. In doing that you’ll find yourself even more.”

The pair also envision a variety of activities within the house ranging from in-house yoga, meditation and a workout area as well as activities outside the house that could be something as simple as visiting the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

“Teaching them what these different things they can do,” Leif said, adding later, “We’ll also do outings to parks to get them out. We’re providing services for people. It gives you that feeling inside that you’re helping something outside of yourself.”

Tear down work inside the home is being done primarily by Leif and Breitbach along with volunteers. Breitbach said they should know better when the house might be up and running within the next couple months, though they do have a loose target of June to begin settling women into the facility.

However, with Breitbach coming from Wisconsin and Leif, who is also a tax professional, looking at  the upcoming tax season, work will be tight so they are hoping to line up some outside help during that time to keep the project moving forward.

“Hopefully we’ll get some grant money,” Breitbach said. “It’s a huge house and to pay people to do all of this stuff would have been outrageous.”

In the meantime, both are seeing just how much this type of facility is wanted by the number of people who have volunteered to help.

“What I’ve found since starting this is how much the community is on board,” Leif said. “How many people have been affected by addictions whether it’s a family or friend or child … it affects not only the addict, but it affects everybody around them. It’s amazing how many people have shown up on our doorstep (to help).”

“This is exactly where we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to be doing and the fact we’re able to facilitate it,” she added. “Clearly a lot of people want to help.”

If you would like to help or volunteer time getting the house ready, people are encouraged to email info@brightlifehouse.com or call 507-222-8990. People can also visit the website, which should be up the next couple of days, at: www.brightlifehouse.com.