Fighting Addiction
With Tradition

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Chances are you know someone who has been through a substance abuse program. Government statistics show nearly four million Americans seek professional treatment each year. Kim Riemland (reem land) takes us inside a treatment program in San Francisco that uniquely serves a certain population, with a high rate of success.

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(Locator: San Francisco)

Group therapy session: “My name is Brian, and I’m a drug addict.”

This circle of friends is here because of something they have in common.

Group therapy session: “I’m also an alcoholic, a drug addict.”

They’re all taking the first steps toward a life free of addiction.

Group therapy session: “This is the first place I’ve ever been that I’ve felt strong in spirit.”

But something else bonds them, too.

The Friendship House Healing Center – built with funding assistance from the United Methodist Church – is designed to meet the specific needs of Native Americans in recovery.

Celeste Fillmore/Friendship House Client: “I had two bottles of whiskey, and I got into the car with my three children and tried to drive home.”

Celeste says after her arrest, she was sent to another treatment program, but was kicked out. Then she came here.

Group therapy session: “Here, we’re all connected with one another. All different tribes.”

The Friendship House honors and nurtures the cultural heritage of its clients, and uses it for holistic healing – from the traditional ceremonies; to the sweat lodge out front; right down to the paint, tile and artwork.

(Nat sound of counseling session)

The culturally-based approach seems to work: Friendship House clients have less than half the relapse rate of the national average.

Celeste Fillmore/Friendship House Client: “I feel totally reconnected with myself as a proud woman, and I have also regained the ability to walk with my head held high.”

Celeste is on what she calls the red road of recovery – the right road for her.

Celeste Fillmore/Friendship House Client: “This is the good path to start finding your way in life again.”


After graduating from the treatment program, Celeste says she plans to be a “good, sober mom.” She also hopes to get her bachelor’s degree in political science so she can be instrumental in the leadership of her tribe, the Smith River tribe of California.

For more information about Friendship House, check out: or call 415-865-0964.

Also see: Housing investment helps Native Americans overcome addiction.