Travails, Triumph, and the Power of Community
One of our exemplary former clients–someone we will refer to as Louie to protect his privacy—ascribes his success to a few select individuals who encouraged him throughout his journey.
Louie was born in Chicago to a family with connections to the Mob. In his formative years, he suffered abuse and serious trauma from his grandfather and, separately, his mother. As he grew older, his grandfather began to teach him how to make a lucrative living through commercial burglary. At the age of 13, Louie ran away from home and started using methamphetamine. From that point forward, he became increasingly involved in a criminal lifestyle. During the various stages of his recidivism, the longest he stayed out of prison was 11 months. While he found solace in working as a GED clerk and teaching literacy to other inmates in prison, he was necessarily pulled into illegal activities by inmates who would have otherwise threatened his safety.
Based on Louie’s history of substance abuse, relapse, and recidivism, many in our society would have written him off as a lost cause in the early stages of his adversity. Despite difficult odds, Louie still found crucial support in the form of a few personal advocates. The last parole officer that Louie worked with saw his potential and encouraged him to move to San Francisco to escape the dregs of Los Angeles. Next, Louie found a staff at the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SFPDP), whom Louie convinced to take a chance on him. Through the services at SFPDP, Louie found harm reduction programs and connected with a PTSD therapist who provided him with the knowledge and wherewithal to identify, label, and address past traumas. On top of an ongoing relationship with the PTSD therapist, Louie continues to meet with a case manager at SFPDP, who has witnessed firsthand Louie drive to attain the skills necessary to fulfill his professional ambitions.
None of this is to say Louie’s relationships with his advocates streamlined him to sobriety and stability. Even after moving to San Francisco, he relapsed and faced temptations to return to his past lifestyle choices. While, at times, Louie’s progress was incremental, his eventual successes speak for themselves. He has been 7 years without alcohol and 10 years without drugs. When thinking back on the trials and tribulations of maintaining sobriety, Louie discussed resisting drinking to the point that all of the beer in his fridge went stale. He is five credits away from getting his Drug and Alcohol Counselor Certification with the short-term goal of becoming a Peer Advocate, where he would be forming relationships with high-needs populations, making outreach efforts, and making plans for short- and long-term client success. In the longer term, Louie wants to become a Case Manager and attain a Master’s Degree. To quote someone close to Louie who encouraged him to pursue further education despite being older than his classmates: “You’re going to be 65 anyway, you might as well be 65 with a Master’s Degree.”
One of the many things that makes Louie’s story remarkable is that he has the drive to channel his lived experiences in a constructive way. Given his ability to turn his life around, he acknowledges the positive impact he can have on others.
Louie’s story demonstrates the fortitude of human spirit. We are proud to have worked with him and look forward to what lies ahead.