Ken moved in a few weeks ago. He’s struggled- as have we all. Recently, his struggle has been pretty heavy. A storm of circumstances involving being laid off, a long relationship ending, and medical challenges drove him to relapse, and he found himself here.
He is working as hard as we’ve seen anyone work- going to therapy, AA, group work, praying every day… he has been trying hard. The above picture is Ken, in late February, throwing himself into the ocean to sob and pray. He prays to free him from the terrible shackles of addiction, for the strength to stand up a different man, and to take these horrible experiences and grow from them into the man he knows he can be. When he was offered the chance to share a little about his experience here, he was excited to make his story and perspective public, in the hopes that his transparency might benefit others. Here is what he wrote:
I’m not much of an experienced ‘blogger’ but when presented with the opportunity to publicly say something about the Friend’s House, I felt not only obligated but honored to be afforded said opportunity to pen my genuine thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
I haven’t been here for what some would say is a very long time, but I can say I’ve been made to feel like this is my home, and I have family here. Like most families there are bumps and turbulence along the way- but the general code, which is extremely well supported by staff, is one of respect and integrity. Got a problem? Let’s openly discuss it like gentlemen, together- air our grievances, and move on to bigger fish…. but with a mutual (usually deeper) respect for one another. Truth is, like in most families, grudges might be held, but the general aura of the house is one of peace and understanding. We are all different, all ‘messed up’, all come from different walks of life- but in this place? You’re a part of something real/tangible, and you’re safe. You’re supported, and yes, even loved.
With a bunch of degenerate, rough and tumble dudes, you say?
Have at it friends – say what you will. But to people in recovery, who almost always come from dysfunction and trauma, it’s not the worst thing in the world to be asked if you’d like a hug…. or told ‘hey, I love you man you’re a real decent & interesting guy’. That’s not for everybody, no….but for my money, first and foremost, it comes from the staff here, and it’s sincere as sincere gets… and it has a way of trickling down and helping others who might struggle with ‘walls’ just to let them down a hair once in a while, and accept kindness, affection, or just a little support. It’s my definition of a therapeutic environment.
For myself personally, it’s a difficult transition to make… a downgrade some would think (or I sometimes tell myself). I come from a background of human services and social work. I used to manage residential homes for adolescents with dual diagnosis- mental health, and substance abuse issues. But people falter, people get engulfed in painful things like self medicating with drugs and/or alcohol. Would I not be a hypocrite if what I practiced and preached for years to struggling these kids- did not apply to me? Am I above needing help? or better yet- can I believe that I deserve help? My point is not to gloat or suggest I have it figured it out more then the guy living in the next room next to me. The guy just out of jail and trying hard to rebuild his relationship with his son on a solid foundation. Which we are absolutely able to build here -if we want it. Just with a little help is all… sometimes a lot of help, and that’s ok too.
And I’ve seen the other sides- while supporting the kids I worked with I regularly watched them tragically shipped off to other places; homes, jails, or hospitals, or worse- cemeteries. I worked, at times, deeply involved in those ‘transitions’, and friends, let me tell you there are some bad, ugly places out there. Places that aren’t therapeutic and safe, healthy, or supportive- not ‘strength based,’ places that are just warehouses that break you down further instead of building you back up. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch a kid have to go to one of these places because he stole a pack of smokes, or lashed out at someone; but it broke his ‘conditions’ of probation or what have you.
The point? I feel utterly obligated to say the Friend’s House is the polar opposite, and the amazing gentlemen that are ‘employed’ here don’t seem like employees; they’re not here to collect a check for glorified babysitting. They’re here because they, too, have been broken. They, too, have tasted the barrel of a gun. They, too, have been hurt and damaged. They have a disease as common as cancer. Yet here they are here, day in, day out, giving back. Symbols of true recovery and that one can do it if one wants to work for it….Giving of themselves. Giving genuine and supportive care, space when necessary and yes icky gross ol’ love.
The world needs not a few, but a metric ton more of places like this and the people in it….and I am one blessed dude to be here, and extremely thankful to have the opportunity to let my walls down some, and admit that I need help too- and that I deserve it. That I’m a good man that just needs a little stable footing to get back on the right path that I once walked, and absolutely deserve again.
So all in all? This place sucks. Yup, It sucks about as much as Disney World to a guy (with a damaged inner child like so many of us swimming the seas of this marvel that we call earth) ….a decent guy like myself that just needs a hand, and some open hearts, and doors to get back up, dust myself off and stand firmly, and proudly, on my own two feet again.
A few months ago I was broken, completely hopeless, and tasting gun metal too. Because of places like this, I intend to stand up again.
There needs to be more places like this, and people need to get involved. You need to stand —- up and help. It’s done for coronavirus, it’s done for cancer; we are people who have a disease that deserves no less care than those monstrosities that consume millions- just as this one consumes millions of us who are stricken with it.
May all Ken’s prayers be answered, and may we all continue to de-stigmatize the incredible, life-changing, messy work of becoming healthier and more whole people.