In the woods of New Canaan, Connecticut, a one-hour drive from the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan, an elegant mansion has found new life as a “halfway house” for Wall Street executives recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. Although, when it’s this exquisite, please call it a sober living residence.
The New Canaan mansion was built in 2003 to look like a century-old Shingle-style home from America’s Gilded Age, with turrets and gables galore. Before Laird came along to lease the home in January 2017, it had sat on the market for more than a year priced at $5 million with no takers.
Executives living in the New Canaan mansion can transition back to work after time in a treatment facility or spend their days walking the estate’s four acres of woods. It’s not a hospital, so there are no doctors or therapists, but residents have access to recovery coaches — the paid version of the sponsorship Alcoholics Anonymous has offered for free for more than eight decades.
The 8,000 square feet of interior – quadruple the size of the average American home — has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, an entryway with a grand staircase, a gym, a sauna, a golf simulator, a Need for Speed virtual reality driving game and a wine cellar that now stocks San Pelligrino — the Italian mineral water — rather than $10,000 bottles of Bordeaux.
“People want to recover in an environment that feels familiar and until we came along, that didn’t exist,” said Trey Laird, 47, founder and CEO of The Lighthouse, the company that operates the New Canaan property, housing 8 clients, and another mansion-turned-recovery-home in Darien, Connecticut, with the same amount of residents.
Laird, a former Wall Street investment banker, speaks from experience. He’s in recovery from an addiction to opioids that began when taking prescribed painkillers after an emergency appendectomy. When he left an in-patient addiction recovery program about a decade ago, Laird didn’t like his choices for transitional housing.
“I started Lighthouse because I didn’t have any place to go after treatment,” said Laird, former managing director at FBR & Co. and Piper Jaffray Cos. “I was told, `You won’t fit in, these are guys just coming out of prison or off the street — it’s not for you.’ Today, there’s an environment guys like me can feel comfortable in.”
So far, it is all guys. Lighthouse’s two facilities are for men only. However, the out-patient program is for both men and women, and Laird said he wants to offer transitional housing for women, as well.
“We’re looking to expand geographically as well as demographically,” said Laird.
Laird said about 70 percent of Lighthouse’s clients identify themselves as alcoholics and the rest are recovering from drug addition — typically a dependency on opioids that began as prescription painkillers. But, when you’re one, you can’t do the other and still stay sober, Laird said.
Some big names have transitioned through Lighthouse, Laird said — high-profile CEOs and other Wall Street celebrities. But, of course, he can’t even hint at who they are.
“Discretion is at the heart of everything we do,” Laird said.