Letter from a Once Hopeless Man

The Letter from a Homeless and Hopeless Man series tried to make a few things clear:

1. No matter how “normal” and strong you are, addiction can rob you of every dignity and relation.
2.
Recovery is possible.
3. Life in recovery is better than you can imagine.

We are finishing the series with the following letter from an alumnus. His words capture the misery of addiction and the stepping stones to a sky high life in recovery.

Once a week, I’d have this haunting realization that everything was falling apart and I knew my life was doomed. After having this exhausting, depressing feeling week after week, I finally realized I couldn’t run or hide from it anymore. I called my sister in desperation — I wasn’t suicidal, but I just didn’t know what else to do. I needed somebody else to help me, and she was really the only one left.

My relationships with every family member were really strained. I hadn’t talked to anyone in months, and only turned to my sister to crash on her couch and get some money every so often.

When I called, her directions to me were simple. “Stay where you are. We’ll figure something out.”

I hung up and just laid on the floor until there was a knock on the door a few hours later. It was my dad. I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in 6 or 7 months.

Not much was said. “Grab what you need. We’re going to Raleigh to check you into treatment.”

He dropped me off at detox at Healing Transitions. This wasn’t a choice I made. There was no other option. I wasn’t given any information or asked if I wanted to accept help. Healing Transitions was Plan A and there was no other plan.

I was not sober when I arrived, yet was still experiencing a complete sense of hopelessness. Drugs no longer relieved that feeling. I’d get high and still could not escape reality.

The process was so uncomfortable. I had detoxed before, but always with other drugs. While sobering up, the entire program was explained to me. I thought it was silly, but I went with it — simply because there was no Plan B.

After being in detox for three or four days, I was still hurting. With the whole group of guys in the program, I’d walk downtown to go to a 12-step meeting, have lunch at the Soup Kitchen, attend another class then head back to the shelter at Healing Transitions.

I was committed to doing that day after day. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, but thought if I just stuck around a while, I’d get my life back together. At first, I wasn’t committed to sobriety, but committed to Healing Transitions. I’d do what they asked me to do.

When I left detox, I’d decided to never do heroin again. But the total absence from any mind-altering substance was not an acceptable lifestyle for me. So I went through the motions for a few weeks here, completely unhappy and miserable. After some time, I spiraled into a routine of drug abuse. I was sent back to the start — back to detox.

I eventually hit this moment when I was too broken and beaten to continue this lifestyle. Being homeless. Living my life going to places for food and shelter. I did that for too long, and much longer than I planned. I had woken up with a sincere heartfelt personal commitment to not live this way anymore. I didn’t want to keep living at this homeless shelter, or at any homeless shelter. I didn’t want to be dependent other people. I hated that so much. It killed everything — especially any level of self-esteem.

That feeling of total desperation and the realization of my inability to will myself out of the pain I was in were two necessary ingredients for lasting recovery. I then committed to more than Healing Transitions — I committed to my recovery.

Healing Transitions was a place that I could be safe and have no other responsibilities. I didn’t have to work, be around my family or take care of anything besides my recovery. I started to believe that if I worked the steps, that I wouldn’t have to sleep at any homeless shelter anymore. At that point, I wasn’t even striving for a job, a girlfriend, a car. I just wanted a bed that was my own.

This is a sober, safe place. That was important to my recovery. I was able to develop relationships with people who were as bad off as I was, as addicted as I was, and see them get better and their addictions relieved.

During my time here, I had experienced a profound change in the way I thought and experienced the world around me. Sanity had been restored. I had a psychic change by working the steps.

It’s been five years since I transitioned from Healing Transitions. When I left, I got a job at a music merchandising company downtown. I was totally unqualified for that, but the skills that I learned during my time here allowed me to be successful. I just worked and focused on my recovery for some time. I was really happy with doing that.

I was able to save some money and started doing things I had fantasized about. I traveled throughout Europe alone for a month. I became a licensed skydiver. I attained financial independence.

Some of the things I’ve experienced seem so outlandish. I did a solo skydive over the Swiss Alps. I remember distinctly thinking on my way down that I used to sleep at a homeless shelter. What an incredible tradeoff.

After going to Europe, I knew I wanted to do something where I could spend time outside and do something beneficial. I needed a career that would fulfill me and that would allow me to travel.

I wanted to do something with solar or wind energy, where I could work on the development of an alternate resource infrastructure. I decided to become an engineer. I knew nothing in that field. But with the skills I learned through AA and from being a part of Healing Transitions, I was able to start where I was at and not worry about next semester or two years down the road. I went from not knowing how to do long division to doing really well in school. From being totally incapable of turning in any assignments to having perfect attendance. By taking baby steps, all great things have come into my life.

I went from being a leech, a burden, being in constant need and really hurting the people who cared about me the most — to the extent that role models and family members all independently didn’t want anything to do with me. It takes a lot of hurt to get to that point.

All of those relationships have been restored, rebuilt and are now stronger than ever as a result of taking action and continuing to stay sober. I talk with my dad three times a week. We have a powerful relationship. I’m actually now a leader in my family. People ask me for help and guidance.

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at 919–838–9800. What do you have to lose?
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Healing Transitions is a non-profit organization designed to empower people who are homeless, underserved and suffer from substance use disorders transition to a fulfilling life. Over 76% of our graduates maintain stable recovery, housing and employment, resulting in a safer, more vibrant community. To learn more, visit www.healing-transitions.org.