Marsha Stone, the only female CEO in Austin’s recovery industry, speaks about her own addictions and the journey to sobriety.
By Danielle Ransom, Photos courtesy of Marsha Stone
Marsha Stone first entered the recovery industry through her own experiences with alcoholism. Despite being a single mother, Stone put herself through college and law school. For Stone, a lifelong high achiever, performing well academically and professionally had always been her modus operandi, but her struggle and eventual fall into alcoholism was a startling antithesis.
Stone was 29 years old when the drinking began, a habit she chalked up to the stress and demanding nature of her profession. As time passed, her reliance on alcohol increased, and she enrolled in a treatment program specifically for lawyers and doctors fighting alcohol addiction.
“I left sober, and I thought that all I needed to do to stay sober was to get sober,” Stone recalls.
Her childhood was marred by alcohol addiction, a disease that led to the death of two of her uncles.
“If [alcoholism]was discussed at all, it was discussed in terms of, ‘If your father wanted to, he could stop drinking. If your uncles cared about their families, they would stop drinking,’ ” Stone says. “And so, the message I got was one of disgust and contempt.”
When Stone relapsed in 2007, it was hard for her to cope with the reality of her situation, as she struggled to understand her addiction.
“By the time I was really understanding I needed treatment for alcohol, there was a lot of guilt and shame as a mother and as a student,” Stone says.
The height of her addiction came to a head after Stone lost her law license, temporary custody of her children and the financial security she had worked so hard to cultivate. Her lowest point had come, and Stone recognized that if she were to fully recover, she would have to surrender to someone else’s guidance.
Stone enrolled herself in a long-term treatment center, where she spent the next seven months in recovery. At the end, she came to Austin to reconcile with her husband, who was dealing with his own issues at drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center Mark Houston Recovery. After her husband completed his treatment, representatives at the recovery center asked Stone to start a women’s program that would mirror the men’s program.
She began mentoring women facing addiction, but soon realized this was her life’s calling and subsequently went back to school.
“I got into this field because I had such a profound experience with the last treatment I went to and started to understand addiction and recovery,” Stone says. “I was really intrigued by the whole process.”
When Houston died suddenly in 2010, she was promoted to CEO and brought the facility under her own management. She changed the name to BRC Recovery, which stands for Bringing Real Change, something Stone works to embody not only through her personal story, but also through the quality of care she provides to patients. Today, Stone is the only female CEO in Austin’s recovery industry.
“It takes the brain a long time to heal when it has been hijacked by drugs and chemicals,” Stone says. “People not only need time to heal emotionally [but also]spiritually.”
BRC Recovery is a clinically operated facility spread across 70 acres of land in Manor, Texas. Between its two onsite facilities and off-campus living communities, BRC has 185 beds for long-term treatment. The facility employs counselors, psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed chemical-dependency counselors and peer recovery-support specialists to work with patients through every step of the program. Amid a national opioid epidemic, Stone has noticed an increase in young people participating in recovery programs.
“One of the things that we’ve observed here over the past five years is that the median age of our residents has gotten younger and younger, while at the same time, the cases have become more clinically complicated,” Stone says.
Despite the strides BRC and other treatments facilities are making, Stone says there are nowhere near enough treatment centers, state-funded or private, to adequately address the crisis.
“I think one of the reasons [the epidemic]has reached such monstrous proportions is that there is so much stigma and shame associated with this disease, that it’s like the pendulum had to swing to epic proportions so that our society would wake up and come forward with some action,” Stone says.
Stone believes it will take coordinated efforts between the medical, legal and social-work communities before change is seen. Local communities and state government, not just the federal government, are vital in addressing social issues of this nature.
“The more that communities embrace the concept of recovery and the more opportunities and services that they provide for healing,” Stone says, “the better off our society is going to be.”