Overcoming Addiction to Start Life Anew

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In December 2013, Michael Jones, 52, of Chicago’s South Loop, was determined to put his drinking behind him and start a new life. It was a long and dark road that led him to the doors of The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center looking for help.

Growing up, Jones was a social drinker – an occasional drink during a hot day or a few drinks at a party. Not a problem, he thought. But soon his drinking grew out of control and started to cause problems in his marriage. In 2008, Jones’s wife left him, tired of waiting for him to address the nearly two decades of substance abuse. By 2009, he was homeless. He moved from house to house and in and out of various homeless shelters. “The last place I lived was a roach and bed-bug-infested apartment,” said Jones. “But it was right across the street from the liquor store, so it was alright with me.”

Things changed when he was attacked while getting off the elevator to his apartment. Jones was hit in the head with a gun and robbed of the few dollars he had. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I knew it was time to make a change.” Jones was in the hospital for a week, his recovery made more difficult due to congestive heart failure and heavy substance abuse. His doctor referred him to The Salvation Army for alcohol rehabilitation treatment.

Through Harbor Light’s intensive outpatient program, Jones learned to identify the triggers of his substance abuse, developed coping mechanisms and became a productive member of the community. He admits he wasn’t comfortable at the beginning. “It was a challenge to follow the rules, but ultimately we need structure in our lives.”

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As he worked through the program and attended the counseling sessions, Jones became more comfortable with who he was. But the process wasn’t easy. “Patience was the hardest thing to learn,” he said. “I wanted everything to happen right away. I wanted to put my family back together – to have my kids back in my life, right then and there.”

As part of the treatment process, clients are encouraged to work. But due to health issues, Jones was unable to hold a full-time job, so he enrolled in Harbor Light’s Transitional Jobs program. He learned money management, computer and other office skills. He also received referrals to other organizations that provide affordable housing and other supports.

Jones recently moved into his new apartment and secured a part-time job. In his spare time, he takes classes at a local community center and volunteers. He is also working to reconnect with his family and be active in his children’s and grandchildren’s lives. “I’ve talked to my kids and was recently invited to a family party,” Jones said. “It was so wonderful.”

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