FRANKLIN — There's a little diner across the street from the Johnson County Courthouse that has been serving breaded tenderloins and biscuits and gravy for 71 years.
Faithful guests know they'll get top-notch bacon and eggs at Ann's Restaurant in downtown Franklin, but server Gilleon Borland said this place gives him much more than a steady paycheck.
"Let's just say without this place, I don't know if I would have made it," Borland said. "Without the programs that they run, I would not have survived."
Borland, 30, is among a strong contingent of people fighting substance abuse problems who have rebuilt their lives, in part, by working at Ann's Restaurant.
This busy, small-town diner is a nonprofit owned and operated by the Tara Treatment Center, an in-patient rehab facility located about eight miles south of the restaurant.
"I had burned all my bridges... I didn't have anywhere else to go," Borland said. "But they have these programs, right? You stay in Tara, you volunteer here at Ann's, you start looking for a job, which for me ended up being here."
People in recovery need more than counseling and support groups, Borland said. They need jobs.
Addicts lose employment and destroy personal relationships as they fall deeper into their disease, he said. Tara fixes that by giving folks a chance to prove that they can once again be responsible workers.
Tara's program starts with in-patient treatment that lasts about a month. Next, many enroll in a 90-day transitional program that provides intensive counseling and an apartment.
"You are able to start establishing yourself in Franklin," Borland said. "They help you get back on your feet and get going. And that was extremely helpful for me, and it has been for a lot of people."
Starting off in treatment, Borland and others say, folks often have a very difficult time finding work. Tara lets them "volunteer" at Ann's as a way prove they are reliable workers. In exchange, Tara gives them a discount on rent.
The restaurant becomes a stepping stone to another career.
Ann's Restaurant Manager Merika Crawley said the volunteers from Tara are in an unsteady period, still fighting to stay clean. The staff at the restaurant understand that and work hard to support them, she said.
"They're very good about not setting off any kind of triggers," Crawley said. "Because people who are in treatment, you know, the slightest thing can trigger them and can make them revert back into their old ways."
Borland said working at the restaurant provides some accountability too. People know if they start using again, someone at work is going to notice and report them to their counselors.
"Part of the process here is to support them and prevent a lot of the slips that happen in that first 60 to 90 days," Borland said.
Recovery isn't easy, Borland said, but working in a place like Ann's, a place where everyone knows what you're going through, helps keep you on the right path.
"When you get someone established in a community, then now there's all these people around them, so even if they do slip, you know, they can be picked back up," Borland said.
It's been more than five years since Borland's last drink of alcohol. He's still recovering and said he knows he can't touch booze again without possibly losing control.
But he's in a good place now.
"I'm at a point where I'm not trying anymore (to avoid alcohol)," he said. "It's been so hard for a long time, but I've practiced and can live my life in a different way and it's something that is not a part of my life."
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.
Where: 77 W. Monroe St., Franklin.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Tara Treatment Center
Where: 6231 S. U.S. 31, Franklin.
Contact: (800) 397-9978.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call 211 to connect with resources in your area or visit the Indiana Addiction Treatment website.