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One Eastern KY Woman's Mission to Help Recovering Addicts

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The phone rings at Living Clean, a drug recovery center just off Main Street in Manchester, Kentucky.

Kenna Smith, the founder of Living Clean, says just about every day it’s a person who is addicted on the other end of the phone looking for help.

But for Smith, it’s not just another stranger’s voice. She’s from Manchester and treats each person like their family or a friend.

“I know these people because they are me. And I know their motives. And I know what they're doing, what they won't do.”

The 47-year-old Smith can relate to people who are addicted. She says she spent the first 40 years of her life drowning in drug and alcohol abuse.

“I've been in about 30 or 40 treatment centers.” Smith says she started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at age eleven. Her mother had died, and she was adrift with how to deal with the loss. She was in and out of jail, cut off from family, and hopeless.

Finally, she reached the bottom when she suffered heart and lung problems. It was a wake-up call to sober up. She became clean on August 17th, 2017. 

Four years ago, with the help of a friend, Lisa Burton, Smith opened the first recovery home in Manchester for Living Clean. Burton says a lot of people doubted them, but Smith wasn’t going to be stopped.

“This is definitely her passion. She loves to help people. She's very determined, she will not give up like anything that goes on. If any of my coworkers say, you know, what about this? I'm like, don't worry about it, because Kenna’s not gonna stop until she gets through it or figures it out.”

Today Living Clean has four recovery homes, two for men and two for women, with a total of fifty beds. Smith says the men’s homes stay full. Many of the clients stay up to a year as they begin a new life.

Each day is organized with activities like group discussion. Tammy Jo Jackson, the Clinical Director at Living Clean, also takes the client’s journey personally.

“Personally, for me, it's a spiritual thing. Yeah, it's a beautiful thing, because I've been there. And I've also, you know, lost everything in my life over and over and over until one day it clicked. And now I've been in recovery for eight years, and I could not have dreamed that I would have the luck that I have. So, to see someone else get that and actually fight for their life. Like it makes me personally like, want to cry. It's the most beautiful thing you will ever witness to see someone come in, completely devastated, completely broken without anything. And I don't even mean material things but no hope, no love for themselves, no self-esteem, and then go from that to someone who has self-esteem, who holds themselves proud and, like just builds this beautiful life, rebuilds with their children and gets custody back.” 

Smith says they have helped thousands of people in the last four years.

“I feel like that somebody gave me a voice when I was recovering. I think I want to be their voice. And when, you know, a lot of people won't listen to them. Because, you know, they're not trustworthy right now. They're not whatever, but I want to be the one who stands up, be like, you know, we're going to stay here. They’ve got a right to leave and be responsible citizens.”

One of the clients, Emily Taylor says she’s in her fifth month of recovery at Living Clean.

“They have taught me a new way of love. I came from a small town. And the judge labeled me as hopeless. I was a drug dealers’ child, grew up in that atmosphere. I was rejected all my life until I come here. They have a saying they love you back to life here and that is real.”

Smith and Living Clean do not hide from their mission. The recovery center offices and one recovery home are located right off Main Street in Manchester. 

Smith says she feels grateful for how far she and Living Clean have come, but sometimes she needs a reminder.

“Sometimes when I forget, I start getting ungrateful and mean or, you know, smart off to my kids or my staff, I have sat back down, reflect where I was at seven years ago. And where I'm at today.”

Living Clean has sixteen employees, and Smith keeps them stay focused on moving forward. 

“It's my career. My passion goes hand in hand. I don't think I could do this without going through that. It's a spiritual thing. To me.”

More on their mission and facilities is at www.livingcleanllc.com

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Sam is a veteran broadcast journalist who is best known for his 34-year career as a News Anchor at WKYT-TV in Lexington. Sam retired from the CBS affiliate in 2021.
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