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How Dana Smith’s Diner Supports the Recovery Community

Dana Smith, who has been sober since 2007, shares how she came to open D’s Friendly Diner, where nearly all the employees are in recovery.

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Dana Smith: Hi Guideposts readers, my name’s Dana Teresa Smith. I’m the owner here at D’s Friendly Diner in Statesboro, Georgia. I’m a drug addict and alcoholic and my addiction started at the age of 29 years old. So it’s been many drugs. It’s been meth, crack cocaine, cocaine, and heroin.

I finally got sober in 2007. My drug addiction and alcoholism, it affected every part of my life. I lost my job. I lost my children. I became homeless for many years.

I was extremely willing to get sober, so I started Drug Court and that’s how I got introduced into the recovery program. Recovery is a lifelong process. The keys to getting sober were…building a relationship with God was first and foremost, and working the steps from AA, the 12 steps, and having a good support network with people in the program and my family.

I didn’t feel like I was worthy of a relationship with God because I did so many bad things out there in my addiction. Whenever I went into outpatient or inpatient, I started praying right away for some willingness and some faith, and it grew from there.

If anybody out there’s trying to get sober, just start by praying and keep an open mind. It’s definitely possible. It takes a lot of willingness and hard work and you’ve got to work on changing yourself from the inside out, and you can’t do that without God.
What led me to opening my restaurant, D’s Friendly Diner, is I was working at McDonalds. That was my very first job in sobriety, as a dishwasher. And I would walk home every day into the Shelter Plus program, and I would pass this place. It was called Mr. Omelette at the time.

And then finally I came in here one day and he gave me a waitress job. I worked here for, like, two years, and finally he decided to move across town to a bigger location. What brought me back here was that I missed all the customers that were here, all the regulars. So miraculously, it all came together for me.

Whenever I first opened up the restaurant, I was really, really hoping that I would get all my regulars back that were here at Mr. Omelette, and I’ve gotten all of them, plus some. A lot of these people on the wall, I’ve known them forever and we’ve become really close.

The customers really, really love us a lot because it’s like we’re just a tight-knit community here. They’re all very special to us and we genuinely love our customers.

It’s very important for me to hire people in recovery because I think we all deserve a second chance. All the people except for two people in here are in recovery, and we talk a lot about recovery throughout the day, and we cut up with each other. And also all the customers know our stories, too, so it’s like a really big, dysfunctional, loving family here.

We all love each other. We have a lot of group hugs, and we work really well together, and we hold each other accountable so we can lean on each other and be there for each other. It’s really special. Words can’t even describe it. It’s just really special.

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