Recovery Cafe Muncie is looking to reshape the conversation around addiction

A heart hangs from the lights at the Recovery Cafe Feb. 2. in Muncie, Indiana. RCM aids anyone in need of recovery from anything. Ella Howell, DN
A heart hangs from the lights at the Recovery Cafe Feb. 2. in Muncie, Indiana. RCM aids anyone in need of recovery from anything. Ella Howell, DN

Fred Timberlake often spends his days in downtown Muncie listening to the sound of trains driving past, or listening to the sound of water running down by the White River. 

Timberlake said he ended up in Muncie to be close to his family, though he hasn’t seen them in some time.

“I became homeless, still am, but my landlord got incarcerated,” he said. “Then where my stuff was, they got incarcerated. So, my clothes were locked up somewhere, and two friends and I had no place to go. It [was] getting cold and windy.”

The veteran was left with nothing but himself, something he embraced, calling himself  “a little bit of a loner.” He said he’s always been alone, traveling all around the United States throughout his life.

The familiarity of being alone kept Timberlake away from Recovery Cafe Muncie for a long time until Peer Recovery Coach Robert Flowers Jr. convinced him to step inside.

“I’ve experienced a lot in my life. I’ve been all over the place. Not the whole world, but the whole country,” Timberlake said. “But when people come into this place, you stay in this place — it magnetizes people … I found my family here.”

Timberlake is one of many members of the self-described “peer-based healing community of people in recovery,” according to the Recovery Cafe Facebook

The non-profit cafe opened in Muncie in 2021 for those looking to start or continue their recovery journey. Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each week, the cafe's doors are open with a consistent daily schedule

‘Coffee and connection’ begins at the cafe's opening, with free lunches offered at noon. At 1 p.m. there is a recovery circle, followed by recovery class and group clean-up before the cafe closes.

This predictability of consistent routine is a large part of why the cafe is successful for its members, most encountering poverty and homelessness. The cafe creates a sense of safety for members and can promote benefits in members' lives outside of the cafe. 

“We have outside activities too; a fundraiser dinner, a breakfast,” Timberlake said. “It’s just awesome, you know?”

RCM-6.jpg
A card promoting the Recovery Cafe's inclusion of people on the table Feb. 2 in Muncie, Ind. The Recovery Cafe Muncie supports people recovering from addiction of any kind. Ella Howell, DN

Timberlake said he’s grateful he walked into the doors of the cafe just over a year ago. Now, he spends his days around and inside the building, even when it’s not open. 

His self-described sense of community and gratitude has become a universal feeling among other Muncie and Recovery Cafe members, something that initially drew Lisa Roosien to the cafe. 

“I was just looking for a volunteer opportunity, to give back and feel connected,” Roosien said. “Shortly after I came here, I realized this place is really cool … I totally fell in love.”

Roosien initially chose to give back by volunteering, as she’s in recovery from substance use. However, she said that with each day spent at the cafe, she fell in love with it more.

Shortly after first arriving, a cafe manager position opened up, something Roosien took on part-time. Then, a year and a half later, she became the cafe's executive director. 

She said alongside the self-fulfillment, being able to help people grow in their recovery journey is what keeps her coming back to the cafe every day.

“I am able to see people have a light on in their eyes when they come here and realize, ‘you too?’” Roosien said. “They're not alone, they're not a bad person, they're not hopeless, they're not stuck [and] they don't have to figure all this out by themselves.”

Roosien has helped ensure this “light” effect is present in all new members by instilling a system of positions that members can earn, providing them with more responsibility in the cafe.
Each person who enters the cafe is a member but can become a Cafe Companion, then a Member Leader, a Senior Member Leader, and eventually, a Peer Recovery Coach. 

“The best moments of this job are when I get to talk to a member and ask if they are interested in considering becoming a Cafe Companion … All that nonsense that they were working with before is now flipped into an asset,” Roosien said. “We get to say, ‘We want you to welcome people, we want you to be the face of the cafe,’ which is really startling for some people.”

Flowers joined around the same time Roosien did and is well-known by staff and members alike. 

Timberlake is not the only member who credits Flowers as the reason they joined and everyone in and around the cafe seems to know him. 

Flowers said he has stayed at the cafe due to its continued initiative to grow and work with the guiding principles of recovery. 

“We got a lot of stories to tell. Stories that will surprise you, stories that will fuel,” Flowers said. “All of them can be stories of success.”

Intern and Ball State student Hannah Hairfield echoed Flowers and said she was drawn to the cafe because of these potential success stories. 

Hairfield's main role in the cafe is to be a safe person for members to talk to and to provide them with resources they might not have but need. She said being able to help members make sure they know they’re not alone has helped her feel as though she’s fulfilling her life's purpose.

“I wanted to be a police officer … And then my ex-husband passed away, and we have three children together,” she said. “I didn't want to risk my life, because my kids, they’d have neither one of their parents. I switched to social work because my main thing was that I wanted to help people.”

She said she loves being a safe and supportive person for those walking into the cafe. Hairfield also mentioned her time at the cafe has helped her become more grateful for her life. 

“My life hasn't been easy by any means, but I have a home, I have a car, I have running water [and] I have heat,” Hairfield said. “It just changes how you look at things.”

Hairfield said this recognition also helped her create an outlook on life that holds no prejudice.

“I don't sit here and judge people, I just see humans,” Hairfield said. “We're all just trying to get through this crazy thing we call life, and I just want to help because a lot of our members don't really have anyone.”

Roosien agreed with this idea and said people need one another and all need to work together to start “chipping away at the stigmatism surrounding recovery”. 

Additionally, she said it is important to recognize that everyone is just one step away from potentially getting into something that would lead them to a place like Recovery Cafe Muncie. 

“Those people have a story. There's a reason why they are where they're at, and it's very likely that their story's not done yet, but they need our help to get to a happy ending,” Roosien said. “They didn't have good choices available to them ... We're all human and we all work. We all got shit, we all have a story … not a single person has ever not made a bad mistake.”

Contact Trinity Rea via email at trinity.rea@bsu.edu or on X @thetrinityrea.

Comments