Our Founder

Susan Stader, MS, LPC, LCAS, CCS

A Love Story…

Although Susan Stader barely clears 5 feet, she casts a long shadow. Perhaps that’s because she never stands still. Always in motion, she constantly pushes herself and her clients to take the next step, the one that lead to transformation and growth. Susan’s career has been a series of these brave next steps on a healing path she discovered in her teens.

Like many teenagers, Susan had no idea what her life’s purpose was or how to find it. In fact, she seemed to be heading in the opposite direction – one that was taking a huge toll on her self-esteem. At age 15, Susan was enrolled in a therapeutic boarding school where she spent the next three years. This first step toward reclaiming her self-worth helped her discover her true calling.

Susan met a lot of mentors and friends that saw her potential and made sure she saw it too. With a combination of tough love and tireless encouragement, many helped her identify her values and boundaries and stay true to them – no matter what. They inspired her to dream bigger and to take the steps necessary to follow her dreams.

“Many showed me what true love looks like,” Susan shared, “and nurturing was the key to recovery for me.”

This lesson would prove invaluable as Susan went on to pursue her dream of helping others, working first as a Waldorf teacher at a therapeutic residential community for children with disabilities in Pennsylvania. Inspired by Waldorf founder Rudolph Steiner’s theories and their impact, Susan’s next step led her to England to study anthroposophical counseling at Emerson College.

Shortly after leaving England, Susan was invited to work at a therapeutic boarding school for teens in Arezzo, Italy. For three years, Susan supported students as a mental health and substance use counselor. Having come full circle, Susan’s life purpose crystallized. She knew she wanted to help others find freedom from addiction and other self-defeating patterns. This was no small dream, and she knew she’d need a lot more education to achieve it.

It took 10 years while raising two children, but Susan’s commitment didn’t waiver. Step by determined step, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in community counseling, and certifications in counseling and clinical addictions. After working in the field for only a few years, she took the biggest step of her career.

“I got a call from a colleague letting me know there were several residential recovery houses in Asheville with no one to run them,” Susan shared. The company managing the houses had gone out of business, leaving a critical shortage of housing at the time. She knew how important community was for long-term recovery. She witnessed it firsthand in the three therapeutic communities in which she’d lived and worked.

Susan believed destiny was calling, but this next step felt more like a giant leap of faith. She agreed to lease the houses and, shortly thereafter, Susan founded Next Step Recovery and welcomed the first residents. The transitional living program quickly filled with a long waiting list. That was 15 years ago. Since then, Next Step Recovery has helped well over 1,000 men reclaim their lives.

That’s right. Men. Susan runs a transitional living program and intensive outpatient program (IOP) for adult males in early recovery. The average length of stay for the transitional living program is 90 days, but some residents stay much longer to ensure they have the tools and skills needed for long-term sobriety.

“A male colleague once asked me to explain how a woman could run a men’s program,” Susan recalled. “I asked him to explain how men have run women’s health programs for centuries.”

This question has never been asked by program residents and staff who affectionately call Susan “Mama Bear,” referring to the loving and strong support she shares in equal measure.

“I probably have an advantage running a men’s program,” Susan acknowledged. “Nurturing is critical for healing trauma, but men have a hard time nurturing each other. They don’t know what to do with their trauma. More often than not, they don’t even realize they have it.”

Addiction can be devastating, affecting the individual and his family, friends, co-workers and community. Those in early recovery often experience a great deal of shame and guilt for what they’ve put others through. While recognizing the impact of addiction on others can motivate a desire to recover, getting stuck in guilt and shame can actually trigger relapse and other destructive behaviors.

“I wish more people understood that addiction is not a moral failing; it’s a disease,” Susan shared. “But it’s a disease that can have a good outcome with the right support, which includes accountability, education, structure, and a supportive community — all things we provide at Next Step Recovery.”

Residents in the transitional living community receive clinical support from licensed addictions professionals, individual case management, group counseling, relapse-prevention education, and weekly guided sober adventures. They are required to attend at least four 12-step meeting a week in addition to working, attending school or volunteering full time. Transportation and job search support helps residents re-establish their independence. And there is always someone to talk to on a tough day, someone who has been there before. Very quickly, residents realize that Next Step Recovery is more than a recovery program, it’s a family.

“I’ve been through several treatment programs and houses,” shared John, a program resident. “Next Step Recovery is different. Here, you really feel loved and cared for. I felt that from day one.” This sentiment is echoed time and time again when participants attend their IOP or house meeting for the first time or graduates send “love notes” to Susan and the staff to share how they are doing in recovery.

Addiction is a national epidemic with an estimated 40 million people aged 12 and older struggling with a substance use disorder. Last year, more than 100,000 people died from an accidental overdose, the highest number to date. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are an estimated 22 million people in recovery. Unfortunately, they don’t make the headlines, and that means the needs of those in recovery can get overlooked.

“Most of our residents and program participants come to us feeling spiritually bankrupt ,” Susan shared. “Addiction has taken virtually everything from them—their jobs, their relationships, their self-worth. It’s taken a toll on their families too.” Many residents have been through costly treatment programs and multiple relapses.

Research shows that highly structured transitional living programs like the one offered at Next Step Recovery increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety and, consequently, can save a lot of money and suffering in the long run. But it can be a challenge for those in early recovery to afford this kind of support, as insurance may cover IOPs but often doesn’t cover transitional living programs.

Susan is reluctant to turn anyone away who is in need, however, and is always looking for creative ways to keep costs down and provide financial assistance. Next Step Recovery is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit that relies on donations, grants, and resident fees to sustain its many programs and services.

To learn more about Next Step Recovery’s addiction treatment programs, visit nextsteprecovery.com and nsrofasheville.org to find out more.

A version of this story originally appeared in WNC Woman Magazine.

What They Say About Us

"Before coming to NSR of Asheville, my life was in tatters. I felt defeated. The first day I arrived and was swinging. I was so angry. I was lost, hurt, and confused. I was living in paralyzing fear; yet, this place, these people, accepted me... They have shown me that a new life is possible. The staff here helps me grow into a better man every day... I owe the person I am today to NSR of Asheville's guidance."

J.C., Beloved Client

"NSR of Asheville is a safe place with people I not only consider a great staff, but also have come to love as family. They treated me with love, compassion, and respect. They helped me see things I couldn't; helped me grow as a person and changed my perspective on many topics. The people at NSR of Asheville will forever hold a special place in my heart."

B.D., Beloved Resident

“This is the longest I have ever been clean and NSR of Asheville is the reason for that. It has provided me with a safe place to begin my recovery”

T.A., Beloved Resident

"I am so grateful for NSR of Asheville and all the staff members. This is definitely the place I needed to come after I got out of treatment. Here I got connected to the recovery community in Asheville and made some good friends here at the houses. They have not only taught me what I need to do to stay clean but I have learned so many life lessons while I was here. I will stay in contact with them because this place has given me my life back and for that I am so grateful!"

Z.A., Beloved Resident

"NSR of Asheville was exactly what I needed in the early stages of my recovery! I spent so many years of my life hiding behind a bottle, and I couldn’t take it anymore! Susan and her staff helped me to get back on my feet and start the process moving on and loving life without the use of alcohol or drugs. After my 3 months here, I chose to stay in Asheville and continue to work on my self, with their guidance. I couldn’t imagine my life today if I was still stuck in my old ways, Thank you NSR of Asheville!"

Z.B., Beloved Client

"You may have to leave family, friends and your old life behind as you start recovery. NSR of Asheville provides not only a home for you to start over, it gives you a spiritual cleansing. From the staff to my housemates, They has brought a new meaning to recovery. If you let them work with you, you'll find more than a recovery house, you'll find yourself again."

M.R.K., Beloved Resident

My son completed 3 months of sober living at NSR of Asheville, surrounded by kind, caring and compassionate staff, with all the skill sets required of true professionals to guide and assist him in living a productive, healthy , sober and happy life. He flourished and started to smile and enjoy life again during those three months. He now is starting to build a career for himself and is enjoying the normal things in life that had been missing for so many years. As a family we have been blessed to have been connected with NSR of Asheville. Thank you.

K.W., Family Member

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