Substance abuse had been a part of his life since he was a child. Between his mental health and addiction, things had come to a head and he went to treatment. In 2017, John was staying with his brother. He relapsed and fell back into the cycle again; due to this, he was asked to leave. His sister-in-law pointed him to the Friendship House.
His first stay here was early in 2018, but struggled to maintain his sobriety. He lived in a tent for 6 months, and commented on being grateful for the summer weather. He was unsheltered off and on. Staying on couches sometimes left him at a place where he relied on others who had taken advantage of his vulnerable situation. He knew he had to leave. Again, John came to the Friendship House.
He claims he was a mess while using and camping. Mental illness was detrimental to his state of wellness and John is very aware he came off incoherent to most people. Those who were close and patient were able to get through and connect with him. One of those people had Kristie Kaaland, the Men’s House Manager of 11.5 years.
“Kristie will absolutely do anything in her power if she can see you have gratitude and are genuine," said John. He credits her support as a major factor in his turnaround, as well as having a safe place to stay. He claims he would never have found employment had he not been able to have his most basic needs met at the Friendship House. Employment can feel out of reach without sleep, a shower, clean clothing and something to eat.
By spring of 2019, John had moved on to an Oxford house, a clean and sober shared living space for those in recovery. 6 months after that he was in a home of his own, along with his partner. He is back to roasting coffee again, this time with Fidalgo Coffee Roasters. He “Absolutely loves it” there.
When asked what he needed to succeed his very quick answer was going to meetings to maintain sobriety, even if it is inconsistent at first. “a lot of people come in and out for a while, which is what I did” “the thing is, even with people who come in and out, they are able to get 6 months here, 8 months there” He stated earnestly. “It opened my eyes to who I am and what my patterns are,” said John in reference for being accountable for his habits. “I’m not here because my brother kicked me out. I am here because I was stealing from my brother and getting loaded”.
Being an unsheltered person is an overwhelming experience. Trying to make leaps and bounds to change your life through various organizations, programs, support groups, and counseling can be dizzying on top of struggling to get your most basic needs met. When asked what he wishes he could tell the public in regards to the unsheltered people in the community, he shared “A lot of people, their view on homeless folks, is that they are 100% homeless because they can't stop using drugs, but I think a lot of folks get high because they are homeless”
“I had a great job, I could support myself” –when using, but “It’s a cycle that is really difficult to get out of” We are beyond proud of him for breaking that cycle.
John’s hopes to volunteer his time at the friendship house as a way to support others trying to better their lives. In one of his support groups, he found himself sponsoring someone who was in a similar situation to his own. His advice to others going through a similar path is to work hard, be focused, be grateful, have grace, and you will succeed.
Author Rayna Huitt, Office Associate
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