Introducing the Passion Projects Initiative

At Green Hill, we believe that there is no one size fits all approach to treatment. A successful life in recovery, is one that is built on a foundation of purpose and meaning. Our residents must learn how to live a life without alcohol or drugs, and that is no small task. Finding what drives you is a meaningful step in recovery, and one of our staff members has brought a unique approach to this. 

Caleb Barnhart is a Program Facilitator and part of the marketing team. Caleb has found a deep passion for photography, and this hobby has helped keep him sober. Residents love Caleb’s passion and energy, and have been eager to learn from him. 

Upon seeing this, Caleb came up with a unique idea to start having residents work on a Passion Project that gives them an individualized purpose in recovery. Simply put, Caleb helps our residents find and cultivate their ‘thing’.  

Keep reading below as I ask some questions to Caleb about the Passion Project initiative he is developing at Green Hill. 


Jake: What is a passion project to you? 

Caleb: Passion Projects to me, are activities of creation that foster a feeling of being alive. It’s those moments when you realize you are gaining things back that addiction took away from you.

Jake: How did you get into photography? 

Caleb: My mother was a shutterbug, so we always had cameras around the house. I saw how important capturing moments was to her, and eventually I tried my hand at it. One I started taking creative portraits of other people I fell in love and never looked back. 

Jake: How has it helped your recovery? 

Caleb: In short, it’s my healthy obsession. Photography allows me to pour my impulsive tendencies into self expression. It allows me to connect with others, express myself artistically, focus on something productive, and (most importantly) create instead of consume. Photography is simply mindfulness that you can show others. 

Jake: Why do you want to share Passion Projects with our residents? 

Caleb: Photography was the first thing in my journey to sobriety that made me excited to be alive again. It became such a powerful tool against addiction, trauma, and mental illness that I wanted to share that feeling with others like myself. Obviously everyone isn’t interested in photography, but I thought we could “zoom out” (pun intended) the idea to awaken self expression in others through a variety of activities. 

I focused on the main benefits: connection, expression, and excitement. Passion!

Jake: How do you get a resident to let his guard down and start doing one of these? 

Caleb: Each resident is different. It starts with getting to know them on an intimate and vulnerable level. Ask a lot of questions and listen for the spark; that thing that makes their eyes light up when they talk about it. Whatever makes that spark happen is what I try to organize the Passion Project around, it’s different for each resident. 

Jake: Tell us a story about a Passion Project you have helped with at Green Hill? 

Caleb: I think one of my favorite Passion Projects was supporting two of our residents’ music production projects. I noticed that we had two residents that really enjoyed making the same type of music. After seeing them dedicate weeks of time to their DIY closet studio at Green Hill, I started to see music have the same effect on them that photography has for me.

I proposed the idea to take them to a professional music studio in Raleigh in order to take classes on how to professionally produce the songs that they had been working so hard on. We told the guys that if they met their phase requirements that they would be going to the studio when they phased up! The day we spent at the studio was one of my favorite days at Green Hill. It was extremely rewarding for my own sobriety, and I could see how much it meant to those residents. 

Jake: Do you feel like these projects help our residents in recovery? 

Caleb: Absolutely! I think that anytime you can make someone have an experience that makes them laugh and feel alive while sober, it takes them one step further away from their addiction. For me, if recovery wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. 

Jake: Any future ideas for Passion Projects? 

Caleb: Our future projects coming up will be a trip to Comic-Con for our residents who appreciate comic inspired media and games. The goal here will be to come up with a group cosplay idea. This is to help facilitate a sense of belonging to a community that is not defined by addiction, while simultaneously allowing the residents to actively participate in something that they normally just consume. 

NCSU has a tunnel called the “Free Expression Tunnel”, the plan is to take our artistically inclined residents to go create a graffiti piece (legally). Before leaving, I will prompt the residents with a theme or topic to base their piece on. After word we sit and process the decisions of why each resident made their piece and what it means to them. 

One of my bigger ideas is to teach the guys how to make a short road trip video. NC just opened up their first mountain roller coaster. The plan is to assign each resident a job for the video. Someone working a drone, a GoPro, iPhone, editing software, lighting, production, and being the subject. This allows the residents to not only learn the mechanics of media production, but also learn how to work as a team for a creative and engaging goal. It definitely doesn’t hurt that they get to fly down a mountain on a rollercoaster at the end of it. 

To learn more about Caleb, check out his Meet the Team profile