Salisbury Substance Abuse Community Center

The man who built the sliding partition

If you ever visit the Salisbury Substance Abuse Community Center (SSACC), notice the sliding partition that, when pulled shut, cuts the main hall in half. The carpentry is nicely done. It provides a real service by making the room twice as functional. It also saved a man’s life.

As Pat Boccia, one of the moving forces behind the Center tells it, the man who built the sliding partition was, no surprise, a carpenter. But he was also a recovering alcoholic struggling to stay sober.

As the man fought his addiction, he found that his life was coming apart at the seams. His wife told him she was leaving him, his business was falling apart, and because of his disastrous financial condition, he was on the point of losing everything, including possibly his life.

The parts of his life that he held most dear were being taken away from him. At this point, who wouldn’t have been tempted to take just one little solacing drink?

Just one. To ease the pain a little. Just to forget for a moment. To have a little inner peace.

The carpenter was tempted, but he was aware of something critically important because of his participation in a 12-Step Recovery Program at the Center. For a recovering alcoholic, one drink can rapidly turn into twenty drinks. One drink is too many and a thousand aren’t enough.

For a recovering alcoholic, that first drink is a giant step forward on the road to death. And it isn’t the 20th drink that kills you; it’s the first drink, because it’s that first drink that inevitably leads to countless more.

You don’t have to do it alone

Fortunately, that man didn’t have to face his temptation alone. With the support of his friends at the SSACC, he relied on the 12-Step Program, and he found was able to focus on an alternative to drinking.

That alternative was using his skills as a carpenter to build the partition. He worked on it with a mania, hardly pausing to take a breath, doing everything he could to focus on the job rather than on the despair he felt in his personal life.

At the end of the week two wonderful things happened. The job was finished and the unbearable temptation to drink was behind him.

Today, he credits the wall with saving his life. “It provided me with an alternative to drinking,” he tells everyone. It gave him back his life.

To Pat Boccia, the most important part of this story is that with the SSACC, “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Knowing the importance of support and fellowship, Boccia, along with some of his friends and mentors, decided back in 1987 that our area needed a place for people in recovery to get together. Boccia’s colleagues in this work included the late Carl Porter, J. Arthur DeHoff, Jr., Bill Birddell and several other concerned citizens in our area.


Renting a building and furnishing it was not an easy task, but the founders refused to be discouraged. Today their efforts have paid off, probably more than they dreamed. Initially, they said that if the Center could save one life, it all would be worth it.

Today, more than 800 people attend the various meetings each week and there are 35,000 visits in the course of a year. Those numbers include duplications because some people may come in as often as twice a day in their efforts to overcome alcohol or drug addictions.

The programs help not only people with substance abuse problems, but there are also support programs for their families or significant others. There are also programs specifically for teens and tots.

All day long, whether there’s a program or not, people are welcome to come in for a cup of coffee, maybe a game of cards, and the support of a caring community. To give an idea of the scope of this socializing, the Center’s second biggest expense in its $50,000 a year budget is the $600 monthly coffee bill.

Initially the founders felt that if they could save one life, it would be worth it. Today, no one can know how many lives the Center saved. The odds are that there are hundreds, if not thousands, who’ve been able to put their lives back together, thanks to the SSACC.

The Salisbury Substance Abuse Community Center is located at 501 Cross Street, just off Highway 13. For more information, call 410 749 9482.

Lewis Carman, the SSACC Director’s Wish List: Volunteers to answer the telephone and greet people Copier Calculator FAX Machine 6 lockers, 24 inches by 36 inches or larger, to hold supplies for the various meetings.

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