For Lisa Teggert and Laurye Brunson, the welcome sign at the door of their home is more than a tagline. It’s a daily mission statement anchored in years of personal pain.
“When one door closes, ours opens,” says Teggert. “Our house is filled with anybody who needs help.”
Teggert and Brunson are co-founders of Door to Serenity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Mobile created to help people who have tried unsuccessfully to address the pain of living through substance-use disorder. Teggert began pondering the concept after experiencing the deaths of family and friends, some who were not able to find the door to serenity.
“I went to therapy and while I was there, I found out that if you are a lesbian you are asked to leave,” Teggert said. “That’s not fair because step one is the honesty principle and if you can’t be honest with who you are deep down inside, then how are you going to recover with everything else? So I always wanted to create this. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to do this.”
The dream became reality a few years later when Teggert was laid off from her job. She and Brunson, with the help of friends, started Door to Serenity in 2019 to provide for anyone needing help with recovery, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We want people to be able to enjoy the life of sobriety that we know is possible,” Brunson said. “We know it’s possible because we walk it every day. It’s not just something we read about or learned about. We walk it every day.”
Brunson and Teggert met in 2011 less than six months after Teggert acknowledged the disease of addiction in her own life.
“At that point I was drinking heavily,” Brunson said. “I didn’t think I was an alcoholic because I had stopped drinking for 25 years while I was raising my kids and in church, but as soon as I picked it up after 25 years of not drinking, it was like I had never put it down.”
Teggert helped Brunson resume sober living, a blessing Brunson was able to reciprocate a few years later when Teggert’s mother and sister passed away.
“I watched that take her legs out from under her and then I watched her walk the walk of sobriety,” Brunson said. “I watched her not let fear, not let the unknown, not let the pain, not let anything stop her. That is amazing to me. She teaches me a lot about dreaming and persistence every single day.”
Teggert said the help she received from Brunson and others to stay sober is what inspires her to help others in need.
“There’s a bond because we’ve been through peril with each other,” Teggert said. “To see their lives flourish after they leave is so cool.”
Thanks to donations, Door to Serenity offers clients 13 beds split between two houses in Mobile. Brunson said volunteers have helped fix and maintain the properties.
“We have people that have spent hours helping us replace fence boards and do the heavy, dirty lifting, like cleaning the house and cleaning the yard,” Brunson said. “Everybody’s contribution is valid and important to us being able to keep going.”
Door to Serenity received an Efficiency Forward grant in 2021 from the Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund, which was created in 1992 by Alabama Power. The ABC Trust provides energy savings assistance to low-income families and nonprofit organizations.
“We partner with a lot of great people and, now with Alabama Power, we’re forever grateful and humbled,” Teggert said. “It’s vital because we have a crisis going on. People are dying at an unbelievable rate, so we need the whole community to come together so not one more has to OD.”
So what’s next for Door to Serenity? Teggert said she wants to acquire more facilities to make room for those who need help but have no place to go.
“People are dying not being able to get a bed,” Teggert said. “They get into detox and after detox they have to go back into the same toxic environment or they have to go back to living on the streets. Could you imagine if we had that place open and it was thriving and nobody has to wait for a bed? I have pretty huge dreams.”
Brunson said those dreams, mixed with a fierce determination to overcome obstacles and conventional wisdom, is what makes their work successful.
“Everybody told Lisa at the beginning that you’ve got to guard your heart because otherwise you’re going to get close to people and they’re going to end up ripping your heart out,” Brunson said. “She can’t listen to that. She heard it, but she can’t do that. She leads with love. We absolutely adore the people that God sends to us, whether they’re with us for a week or for a year, we love them. I think that makes a difference. We get probably too emotionally involved, but we do because we love it.”
To learn more about Door to Serenity, visit doortoserenity.org or call 251-202-7235.