Whitewater's Sable House celebrates 25 years of promoting sobriety

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, August 18, 2014

WHITEWATER—Mary didn't have a lot of chances left when she arrived to live at Sable House.

She knew alcoholism was killing her.

She knew she couldn't beat the disease on her own.

She depends on the private transitional home for people recovering from alcohol and other drug abuse to provide a safe and drug-free environment.

“I've been struggling with relapse,” Mary said. “I need the extra accountability that I have here.”

The historic home with five stories and seven bedrooms sits among flowers and trees in downtown Whitewater. From its tranquil setting, a passerby would never know the struggles of those within.

Dan Sable has kept the doors open at the nonprofit home for 25 years. At age 80, he carries on the dream started by his late wife, Jean, but says the 1856 Starin Mansion is for sale.

“It's time for me to be winding down,” Sable said.

He hopes whoever buys the house will continue to provide transitional housing.

The house offers three rooms to people who have at least 30 days of sobriety and want to focus on recovery. The first and foremost rule of the home is a serious commitment to sobriety.

“We're filling a crack in the social network,” said John, Sable's assistant. “A lot of people who end up here have nowhere else to go. They need to get their bearings in life again.”

Both Mary and John asked to remain anonymous.

John explained that people coming out of recovery often have burned bridges behind them and don't have many living options.

“Their first job in life is to stay sober,” John said. “When they need a safe place, this is it.”

The area has few residential programs to help people in recovery.

“Money that used to be provided for supporting community-based recovery programs has been reduced drastically across the board,” Sable said.

Staying in the home costs $70 per week, and residents should have a source of income.

Sable House receives some money from the United Way of Jefferson and North Walworth Counties and private donations.

“I make up anything else,” Sable said.

He estimates it costs $20,000 to $25,000 annually to operate the home.

Clients are expected to attend three 12-step support meetings weekly. Four are held in the house.

The home offers no professional services, but many are available within walking distance.

The home does provide much-needed safety.

“No one ever has to worry about being judged about their past,” John said. “They also won't find wine in the refrigerator or someone on the couch drinking beer.”

Sable's late wife, Jean, founded the recovery house in 1989 after she realized she was an alcoholic. She educated herself about the disease and other drug abuse.
As she progressed in her recovery, she found lots of ignorance and denial about drug abuse.

Eventually, Jean wrote a play, “Please Remember Me,” recounting her true story about alcoholism. She performed it nationwide and in Japan before dying in 2008.

Today, Mary is among clients at Sable House who say Jean's spirit lives on through her husband.

“Dan just makes this place,” Mary said. “He is one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. His heart is really in what he does.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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