“They’re changing lives. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” Read Michael’s story


IMG 7643 scaled "They're changing lives. I've seen it with my own eyes." Read Michael's story
This 75 acres of stunning countryside is home to an extraordinary mission. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Tucked away off a backroad of Hayden, Alabama, there’s a gorgeous piece of land filled with pine trees and bright green rolling hills. It’s called Royal Pines, and it’s a place where lives get changed. I drove out to see it for myself and meet some of the men who live there. Come tag along.

Meet Michael

IMG 7648 scaled "They're changing lives. I've seen it with my own eyes." Read Michael's story
All participants work one-on-one with a certified counselor, in addition to the group programs. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

After getting the grand tour of the facility, I had the privilege of sitting down with Michael to hear his story. Michael is a native of Hueytown, Alabama; he was soft-spoken, generous with his time and incredibly kind.

We sat down in one of the offices on-site at Royal Pines, and Michael told me about his life outside of it. He’s a locksmith by trade, which is a stressful job, as you can imagine. Michael said that was a big contributor to his problem.

Royal Pines is an addiction recovery center, part of Jimmie Hale Mission. When I met him, 39-year-old Michael was in his 12th week of the program.

“I didn’t touch alcohol until I was 33 years old. My upbringing was great—I’ve had my own house, I have one son. I was doing everything right…

One day I just thought, ok, I’m going to try that. And then the next week, it’s like, I’m going to do that again. Then it just snowballs.”

Michael went through several attempts at sobriety before entering Royal Pines, none of which stuck. He knew it was time to make a change, but he also knew he couldn’t do it on his own.

“Everything in me said no, just get another drink. But in my mind I knew—I had to face this now.

When they called me and said they had a bed ready, I told them, ‘I’m ready.'”

Life at Royal Pines

IMG 7618 scaled "They're changing lives. I've seen it with my own eyes." Read Michael's story
Michael claims he’s one of the older guys at the facility, and it was easy to see he’s becoming somewhat of a mentor already. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Royal Pines has 40 beds at their facility in Hayden. Most of the time, every one of them is filled with men from all ages and walks of life. While walking around the facility, I was met with easy smiles and friendly greetings at every turn.

Residents participate in a 13 to 15-week program that utilizes a Christ-centered approach to overcoming life’s struggles. Their clinically-structured Active Recovery group process is unique, and it’s a huge part of what makes Royal Pines so successful.

“The structure this place gives is really important, but the biggest thing is the active recovery program. We have that 2 hours a day.

It’s like somebody wrote out the directions for life and put it right in front of you. We just have to fill in the blanks.”

In addition, each client works individually with a NAADAC certified counselor (National Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselors) throughout the process.

IMG 7612 "They're changing lives. I've seen it with my own eyes." Read Michael's story
Having a specific job to do each day gives structure and purpose that’s so important for recovery. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Michael talked a lot about how vital having structure is, especially for the younger men that may not have held full-time jobs before. Each resident is assigned different jobs to keep the place running—in Michael’s case, laundry.

Impact of a Lifetime

IMG 7637 scaled "They're changing lives. I've seen it with my own eyes." Read Michael's story
The rural, peaceful property plays an integral role in helping clients focus on recovery. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Royal Pines doesn’t stop at addiction recovery, however. They aim to give participants their lives back, which means preparing them to go be self-sufficient, productive citizens.

They provide individuals with a curriculum that includes adult basic education, GED preparation and workplace skill sets as well as training for accredited short-term certificates, industry-based certifications and collegiate enrollment.

“Coming here has truly been a life experience for me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world…

I’ve talked to a lot of guys here who have been through a lot of stuff… You will make lifelong friends here.”

Hearing Michael’s story was incredibly impactful on its own, but as I met other employees at the facility, I learned there was one thing many of them had in common, from the head cook to the maintenance man. They had all gone through the program themselves.

Royal Pines gives people their lives back, and so many of them turn right back around and donate or volunteer in the hopes they’ll help give someone the same gift they received.

“The people here are tremendous. They have a servant’s heart, and you can’t beat that…

I know that when I’m making money, some of it’s coming here.”

A Place Where Lives Get Changed

Royal Pines
When I visited, the crepe myrtles were in full bloom—it added to the feeling the whole place is filled with growth at every corner. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Jimmie Hale Mission has been serving the Birmingham community for over 75 years. Every facet of the Mission is focused on helping those who need it most—and not letting anything stand in the way.

The life-changing experience that happens at Royal Pines comes at no cost to participants, allowing them to focus solely on getting the help they need. Michael, and so many others, get their lives back because of donations as small as $5.

Give up something small and be a part of something huge. Donate to Royal Pines today.

“Anything you can do to help this organization—they do great work here, and I think they’re changing lives. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Not just my life, but some of the men that came here the same time I did—they’re completely different people now. That’s something worth giving toward.”

Something worth giving toward, indeed.

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Beth Cunningham
Beth Cunningham

A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.

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