Friday, April 8th, 2011
“For years, I didn’t believe I had a problem with alcohol. I was eight when I started drinking and it wasn’t no big deal. In Mississippi, we get started young. My family did it and they got me doing it. Back home, you didn’t need a reason to celebrate to drink, you just drank.
“I was drunk or high for most of my life. I even managed to make it through the Army without dropping my addictions. I started in tanks and then went to be a chef. The whole time, I managed to keep my addictions from people. Once I got out, I was away from all of that discipline and free to party all of the time. I regret that during that period I lost touch with all of my family including my wife, daughter, and granddaughter.
“When things got bad with my family, I ran away from my problems and came to Washington. Here, I didn’t have a steady job and eventually became homeless. I lived under the bridge on New York Avenue with two other Army guys. Because we were veterans, we knew how to survive. We made a shelter and even had a TV and DVD that ran on batteries. We had food stamps and used to cook things on a barbecue. Sometimes, the Metro drivers would even throw food from the train to us when they passed by.
“When I got my hands on some money, I would party hard. I would drink a fifth of liquor, three 40′s, and two fifths of wine. During my alcoholic phase, I thought that was real living, but I was just barely surviving. Now, I am doing some real living because nice people helped me to turn my life around. The kind folks at the NoMa BID and the Gospel Rescue Ministries helped me to realize that there was an alternative to my drinking.
“Those wonderful people taught me how to live. They helped me to get sober, get a job, get an apartment, and reconnect with my family. Now, I have worked my way up to being a clean team supervisor. I have a crew of 13-15 people working for me and now I make $15 an hour. God has also blessed me with a nice apartment. I am so proud of my place and everything that goes into it is new. Nothing is second hand. For me, only the best. When I used to party, I gave it 100%. I don’t do that anymore, but still give everything my 100%. That’s why my place is immaculate. You would think a woman lived there because I keep it so spotless.
“My story may be a little rough to some people, but I hope that they can still hear my message: there is hope. Because you are homeless doesn’t mean you are hopeless. I frequently go back to the New York Avenue bridge, where I used to live, because I want to stay humbled and grounded. I need to remember that I am always one drink away from being back there. But, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be there ever again.
“Now, I just live a normal life. I go to work and then come home. I may see a friend or watch a movie and that is fine by me. I think I partied enough for a lot of people. I thank God for bringing me back to the other side. Now, I can fully live and be an asset to society. I am so glad for that.”
Learn more about the state of homelessness in DC in the 2010 Count of Homeless Persons in Metropolitan Washington. Support Gospel Rescue Ministries here.