Mary's Place

By The Fix staff 08/25/15

Mary's Place is a women's retreat; a place to get away, to either be introduced to, or reintroduced to, the 12 steps. It's a place of fellowship and encouragement and it's affordable and personal. 

Mary's Place
Photo via
Location : Sewanee, TN
Phone : 615-454-7799
Price : $5,500 for 30 days; $4,500 for additional 30 days
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : No
Detox : Yes

"I got to a point where I didn't know what to do....Today I am hopeful instead of hopeless!" So says a recent alumna of Mary's Place. Located in the hills of Tennessee, Mary's Place is a recovery program for women. It is 12-step based, full of love and surprisingly affordable.

First of all, this is not your typical luxury rehab, so the price, amenities and routine reflect that. Mary's Place runs $5500 for a typical 30-day stay. During that time residents are exposed to the 12 steps, helped in other ways to a sober, healthy lifestyle, and guided toward healthy practices.

Daily routine at Mary's Place is something like: morning breakfast followed by a group meeting, prayer and meditation, then a break, lunch, an AA meeting, break time and individual time for step work, dinner, an evening meeting offsite, then some evening fellowship with the other residents. Saturday's a free day, but Sunday has optional church in the morning and family visits with a big family meal followed by an AA meeting in the evening. Mary's Place considers itself an intensive 12-step immersion program. The program here involves lots of 12-step meetings both on and off-site. So, if you're looking for a purely evidence-based rehab, or something with one on one counseling with licensed therapists, this might not be the place for you. Religion is offered here, as evidenced by the Sunday church-going option, but not required. Religion "is not pushed on people but they make it available for whoever wants a religious aspect on their road to recovery," one woman said, and another put it this way, "God or your Higher Power was emphasized. However, never shoved down my throat. I was very comfortable with it."

"There was the perfect amount of schedule and down time. It was great to get up in the morning, drink coffee with the other women and have a morning meditation outside," one respondent to a survey of recent alumni told us.

There are chores at Mary's Place, but nothing beyond keeping the place clean and taking care of your own messes. "The only chores I had was to keep my room and bathroom clean, put my dishes in the dishwasher and do my laundry." As one former resident put it, "We also work as a group to keep a clean, neat and loving place."

The demographics are not so varied since the place is for women only. However, one former resident did report, "I was there with a late 30s woman with serious drug and sex issues and another woman in her 70s with her denial of wine drinking." So, ages and backgrounds of residents do vary.

One great thing about Mary's place is that the client count is kept low. You may share a room, but there are no more than six residents in total at a time, so this can lead to some nice bonding and also no feeling of overcrowding. This fact probably lead to the high rating of the accommodations by our survey respondents to our survey. Staff to patient ratio is one to three, max, but often it's one to one.

The food situation is satisfying as well, according to our survey. Meals are prepared for residents, not by a professional chef, but by one of the two staff on duty at all times. However, women are encouraged to join in meal preparation as this can also be a form of therapy or at least leads to a sense of self-worth and community. The kitchen can be a place of fellowship. Dinners are eaten family style, all together, and most residents rated the meals as excellent. Snacks and coffee are also readily available, keeping health in mind. "The refrigerator was full of healthy snacks but there were also chips and popcorn in the cabinets to grab if you preferred something along those lines," one alum reported. Another woman proclaimed, "It was healthy. I actually lost weight!" Favorites in the food category range from veggie primavera spaghetti to meat loaf to salads. Beware, though, as one person listed "Mexican" as a least favorite and we've learned that rabbit is sometimes on the menu. It is, after all, Tennessee.

The scenery is beautiful at Mary's Place (not named after the owner, but after Mary Magdalene), being that it's nestled in the Tennessee hills, and Mary's Place makes plenty of use of that, offering opportunities in the mornings and weekends to hike on or off the property. "The retreat itself is on a beautiful spot of land in the mountains....The owner showed me the tranquil sites of the small town as well as the place she takes the residents for yoga and meditation," one former resident said. Yes, there are activities such as yoga, hiking, "site seeing, going out to eat...even foos ball was surprisingly awesome," a recent client declared. Evenings, after dinner and after evening AA meetings, are free time, usually filled with the women watching a movie or TV together.

You are not allowed to use personal electronics or cell phones at Mary's Place. It's not that kind of place, but there are phone calls allowed on Wednesdays and Sundays to one's family, or on an as-needed basis. They prefer you fellowship with your fellow residents. Another way to bond and to be of service is their tradition of baking goods to bring to AA meetings for snacks.

There are no doctors or full time therapists on staff at Mary's Place. This is a retreat. A place to get away, to either be introduced to, or reintroduced to, the 12 steps. It's a place of fellowship and encouragement. It's affordable and personal. All recent alumni in our survey have been able to stay sober so far. As one recent client put it, "I had the tools I needed to stay sober. Reconnecting with God and learning to trust Him for my sobriety has been the most important thing I learned while at Mary's Place."

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