Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Recovery for Life Story


Giving hope to those who are hopelessly lost

by Tabitha Britt

Dr. Paul Hardy at right, with wife, Suzie

Dr. Paul Hardy at right, with wife, Suzie

In thick black-rimmed sunglasses, a plaid short-sleeve button-up and Levis, Dr. Paul Hardy, DMin, looks like your average biker. But underneath his tough-guy façade is the heart of a guardian angel.

“We really are in the life-changing business,” Dr. Hardy, who has been sober for 43 years now, says. “We’re not just providing a service; we’re providing a second chance.”

In 1998, Dr. Hardy and his wife, Suzie, committed to help others who are hurting, abused, or addicted. This promise is what ignited Dr. Hardy’s idea to open the Virginia Beach-based nonprofit recovery center, Recovery for Life. Using Dr. Hardy’s 12-step faith-based program, Recovery for Life has changed the lives of thousands who lost their way.

When Dr. Hardy was just 15 years old, a coworker at his after-school job invited him to smoke pot late after work one day. It soon became a daily habit. He looked to marijuana, mushrooms, and other gateway drugs to escape the bullies at high school. “I was an angry, depressed teen. Drugs made all my pain and troubles disappear for a time, only to return,” he recalls.

Soon his drug addiction turned into a part-time job and a major popularity booster. Being able to sell to the students in his high school gave young Paul a chance to hang out with the cool kids.

Eventually his extracurricular activities led to his expulsion from the Norfolk Christian Schools system, and to almost being kicked out of the house by his parents. Then, he got some marijuana that was laced with something, causing his mind to feel out of control beyond the experience of the THC. His epiphany manifested with a single prayer in which he cried out to God for peace and for clarity.

“I was lucky,” Dr. Hardy says. “My ‘rock bottom’ wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. A simple prayer changed everything for me.” With just one year of school left to go, the young man decided it was time to clean up his act. He attended Lake Taylor High School and successfully completed his high school education and set his sights on college.

Dr. Hardy left his hometown of Norfolk to study at Tennessee Temple University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. It was there that he met his future wife, Suzie. The two had almost immediate chemistry and ended up traveling together in hopes of giving others the gift of peace and understanding through the word of God. They worked as missionaries for 20 years, spending eight years in Spain and eight years in Mexico City, Mexico, helping to start churches.

When they returned to Virginia, Dr. Hardy became the director of counseling for Atlantic Shores Baptist Church in Virginia Beach for eight years. “I helped develop pastoral counseling and recovery programs. It was a wonderful experience, where we helped many people, and also trained many others to be peer workers.”

About a year into his time at Atlantic Shores, he and Suzie met a struggling husband and wife who had lost their jobs and were about to lose everything else, too. It was then that the Hardys knew they really needed to make a difference.

“I’ve gone through other rehab facilities
and tried to do it on my own...
...this is working.
Every single day, it’s working.”

—Zach K., patient

Recovery for Life opens its doors for people who are struggling with addiction, whether it be alcohol or drugs, marital issues, or compulsive disorders. Some of Dr. Hardy’s clients are as young as 16 years old. Sometimes law enforcement reaches out directly to Dr. Hardy; both the Navy Brig and the Department of Corrections have called on him in times of need.

“Every day at the center is different,” Dr. Hardy, who has a master’s degree in leadership and a Doctor of Ministry, says. “But in the mornings, I typically go through projects before assessing my clients.”

The couple on their Harley-Davidson trike

The couple on their Harley-Davidson trike

These projects include fundraisers, such as Recovery for Life’s annual banquet and silent auction. During this event, former clients share their stories and give a personal testimony detailing their time within Dr. Hardy’s program.

Dr. Hardy sees between four and five clients per day. He assesses each person before giving them a diagnosis and recovery plan. As every individual plan is different, each of Dr. Hardy’s patients receive a thorough contract detailing their treatment beforehand to ensure that they’re not only comfortable, but willing to go through with the recovery.

“This program is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Zach K., one of Dr. Hardy’s former clients says. “It saved my life. I was incarcerated for four months and thought about killing myself for the first time ever in my life. I got out, but was still broken inside. Recovery for Life has helped me dig deeper into myself to realize what the actual problems are,” Zach continues. “I’ve tried other things before. I’ve gone through other rehab facilities and tried to do it on my own, but nothing has worked. But this is working. Every single day, it’s working.”

Clients are required to pay for their treatment but fees are strictly income-based, so that everyone who needs help has access to the tools and resources they need to heal and move on with their lives.

“We have seven group treatment sessions per week,” Dr. Hardy says. “And on Tuesdays, we have a free meeting that is open to the public. Anyone can come.”

Those who aren’t comfortable with sharing have the option to just sit and listen, or to schedule a private one-on-one with Dr. Hardy.

In 2010, Dr. Hardy and his wife decided they wanted to do more, so together they founded Transition Homes for Hope — a program that provides safe houses for men and women struggling to fit back into society after being incarcerated and for women suffering from PTSD after becoming victims of sex trafficking. Of course, others are welcome, too.

“Recovery for Life and Transition Homes for Hope work hand-in-hand,” Dr. Hardy says. “Right now, we have three houses and 12 beds available. Two of the houses are men’s homes; the third is a women’s home. Everyone in the transition program is required to attend at least two sessions per week at Recovery for Life.”

In addition to helping his residents get back on their feet, Transition Homes for Hope points patients in the direction of potential employers who are willing to hire people with colorful pasts.

“We’ve helped many of our residents find a stable job,” Dr. Hardy affirms.

Dr. Hardy’s good work and dedication to his patients has gone beyond the doors of the recovery center and safe houses. Iron Horse Fellowship — a “blue jeans and T-shirt” biker church in Chesapeake, where everyone is welcome – was founded in 2016. Even Dr. Hardy rumbles his way into the parking lot on a candy apple red Harley-Davidson trike.

“Many of our clients love going to the Sunday service,” Dr. Hardy says. “People most often use substances because they are trying to fill the emptiness in their hearts that only God can fill.”
Another chance is possible, no matter what issues one faces.

Recovery for Life

228 N. Lynnhaven Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23452