Second Chances

People know our group as the people “who are outside once a week feeding the homeless.” What many don’t realize is that the weekly outreaches or the holiday dinners we hold is such a fraction of the work we are doing to help aid in the recovery and support of addicts. The real magic happens after weekly Outreach. The real magic happens in the connections we have built, in the trips to the ER many in our group have made with those ready to get help, in the follow up calls and messages, in the support we offer. The real magic happens when those in need start to understand how much we care and we are not going anywhere.

My all-time favorite literary hero and greatest headmaster of all time, Albus Dumbledore, once said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the lights.” And that’s what our group strives to do -  remind those struggling with addiction to turn on the lights.

To give a bit more background on how we offer support I’m going to share with you the story of one of the men we have supported through his recovery journey and will continue to support. I’m not going to use his real name to respect his privacy, so I’ll call him Dave.

Dave started showing up at outreaches months ago. Karen quickly took an interest in him and vowed that he was going to be her project (that’s what Karen refers to those she helps - her “projects” and this woman does not stop until her project is complete.) Many in our group: Eric, Kim, Karen, Michelle, Kevin - spent hours talking to Dave - getting to know him better - getting to know his story and his struggles. They were offering him support. After burning a lot of bridges with his family, like so many addicts do, support wasn’t something he had from his own family and something he hadn’t had much of from anyone in recent years.

One day in late November while sitting at Karen’s shop, Dave decided he was ready to go to detox. (Today, he laughs and says he was “tricked”) Karen, Matt, Jordan, and Kim drove him to the ER and waited with him for nearly six hours until he was admitted into detox. Dave was emotional, scared, nervous, and ecstatic all at once.

Once Dave was secured in detox a group from The Change Initiative began working even more diligently on Dave’s case: getting his birth certificate, medical card, etc. We wanted to make sure he had everything he needed to help keep him off the streets. Birth certificate and IDs are one of the items that we often times find out people are in need of. Without either of these they can’t get housing, a job, or many other basic necessities.

Once Dave completed detox, which is a huge step in itself, one statistic states only 33% of addicts complete detox, he wanted to continue his journey to sobriety by entering a 28-day rehabilitation program. Only one major problem: there was four days between getting out of detox and getting into rehab. That’s where The Change Initiative stepped back in. Prior to Dave getting out of detox, Karen was able to secure him a bed in the men’s dorm at The Mission. Once he was out, he called Karen to let her know he was back in Clarksburg.  Now to keep him busy so he would have less of a chance giving into temptation.

Our group knew that he was getting out and would need to be occupied.  Karen (literally this woman has more energy than a two year old) asked if anyone could hang out with him on a Saturday because she had some things she needed to do. I volunteered my wife and I to pick him up from The Mission and hang out with him. I had never even met him, but all I needed to know is that he was someone who needed our support.

At first, Raina and I didn’t really know what we were going to do with him. I started spazzing, as I typically do when I’m not in control of a situation, and she suggested we take him to lunch, the movies, and the arcade. (I think the arcade was more for her) So, that’s what we did, and we had hands down, one of the most meaningful days of my life.

We picked up Dave around 11 am on Saturday from The Mission. We came prepared, Karen told us he liked Gatorade and rap music, so we showed up with rap music blaring, and Gatorade in the back seat for him. We made small talk on our way to lunch. Over lunch (Outback) we learned a lot about him - he is a trained HVAC tech, was in the Navy, has two sisters and a few nieces and nephews. We talked about music, movies, our favorite foods. It was a typical conversation friends would have over lunch. After lunch we meandered over to the mall. It was his first time ever visiting the Meadowbrook Mall, which seems like such an oddity to me. Before we went I said, “don’t get too excited about it.” He told me anything was better than what he could be doing right now. Touche.

We went to see The Mule, which was not my favorite Clint Eastwood movie, but Dave really seemed to enjoy it. That’s when he told us that this was the first time he had been to the movies in a few years. That blew my mind. A typical day of lunch and a movie meant so much more to him. Experiencing what most of us think of as day to day activities was something he hadn’t taken part in in years. He told us it was one of the best days he had in a long time.

After an entire day together we dropped him off at The Mission and he thanked us a million times. He said it was blowing his mind why strangers would do all this for him and how The Change Initiative felt more like family than his own. That’s when I really realized the work that our group was doing is not in vain. There are people who want help and need help but just need some support.

Over the next couple of days everyone in our group spent some time occupying Dave. And the day before Dave left for rehab Eric suggested that we have a going away dinner, so we did. Equipped with a good luck cake and all. Dave, though a bit shy, was beaming with gratefulness. He said over and over, “I can’t believe you guys are doing this for me.” We all hugged him as we left and told him how proud we were of him and that we would be here when he was finished with rehab. We sent him off with the items he needed: some jeans, sweats, plenty of sweets, and a carton of cigarettes.

The next morning, Karen drove him to rehab.

It was a few days before anyone could speak to him, but Eric spoke to him and he and Trista dropped off some cookies for him at rehab on Christmas day. Karen began speaking to him any chance she could get. And on the first family weekend Karen, Raina, and I went to visit him.

We spent the morning in group therapy (it broke my heart to see some people not having any support show up on Family Day, and it made me realize how much harder addiction would be to overcome if you had no one on your side) and the afternoon eating lunch and just talking. We have gone every Saturday for the past three weeks. And every Saturday I learn something more about addiction. (those group therapy sessions are legit)

Dave gets out of rehab this Tuesday.  We will be there to pick him up and the team will have a celebratory dinner with him that night. He now considers The Change Initiative his family and we are so lucky to have him as part of ours.

Once Dave gets out of rehab Karen and Katie have been able to secure him a place in Sober Living. He’s a bit nervous about this transition, but at the same time he feels confident and he says that’s due to the support he now has. A support he has never had before in his life.

Dave has been clean for over 30 days now. He has a long road ahead of him, but The Change Initiative will be there every step of the way, offering support however and whenever we can.

The Change Initiative has helped over 40 people get some form of assistance: housing, detox, or rehab. A few in our group have spent many a sleepless night in the ER with those who are ready to enter detox and start on the road to sobriety. We have provided transportation to the ER, road in ambulances with them, and been an advocate for them. Do most of the stories have as positive of an outcome as Dave’s has so far? No, but we are here when they are ready to try again. Addiction is a hard thing to overcome. And we understand a lot of addicts have burned a lot of bridges along the way, but we truly believe everyone deserves a second chance. And we will be here to provide them that second chance whenever they are ready - even if it’s their 100th second chance.

If you know someone struggling and needs help or you would like to help volunteer in our effort please shoot us a Facebook message.

- Tia

The Change Initiative WV