DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Whitney Tower, 56, a scion of the Whitney, Vanderbilt and Drexel fortunes, squandered his trust fund and sold family treasures to support a $1,000-a-day heroin habit before landing in a tough-love facility near here seven years ago and never leaving. “If I went back to New York I’d be dead in two weeks,” he said.
In some ways Mr. Tower, who spent three decades in and out of treatment, remains a creature of his pedigree. He favors foppish linen suits and drops names of the fast crowd he once ran with.
But his social life these days is dinner at home with sober friends who have settled here in what experts consider the recovery capital of America. He is studying addiction counseling, and he works as an unpaid intern at a local drug treatment center.
Delray Beach, a funky outpost of sobriety between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, is the epicenter of the country’s largest and most vibrant recovery community, with scores of halfway houses, more than 5,000 people at 12-step meetings each week, recovery radio shows, a recovery motorcycle club and a coffeehouse that boasts its own therapy group.
Recovery communities are springing up outside the walls of rehab centers for alumni seeking the safety in numbers.