First of all, thank you for being here for us. I know I appreciate it and all of the guys at the house really appreciate it. It’s really amazing, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I have a very long complicated history of addiction and alcoholism, and I’m certainly not going to bore you all with the details of that, but I can just say that from a very young age I was one of those weird kids. I got along with everybody because I was really good at sports, and that’s the only reason I didn’t get stuck in the trash can while all of my friends did. I got to watch all the jocks put people in the trash and the horrendous things they do in junior high school. They would leave me alone because I was the little guy, but I could play football and baseball really well. So that was kind of interesting, so it made me seem like I was a “popular kid” but I really wasn’t, I was really weird and having a hard. I really thought that everyone else didn’t-I thought that everyone was having an easy time with life. I found out later that that’s not necessarily true, but it kind of stayed with me my whole life.
And so when I drank alcohol, and I eventually tried drugs, it changed me. It made me feel like I was a part of the world. Like, ‘oh wow, I can talk to girls! Maybe I am cool…!’ It was literally the answer to all of my problems. I really had no idea where it was going to take me. So I’m not going to get into my numbers here, but I was a chronic relapser for many, many years. And I’ve got some experience with Heartland House throughout the years this isn’t my first time there; however, it’s been a lot different for me.
The last time I was here was about 3 and a half years ago and, I came back thinking I really needed help bad. The VA was once again helping me out, I am a veteran, and they’ve always had my back. So they like to send us to the Heartland House, they have a special contract with them, which is really cool. So I went in there and I started to really listen to what was being said to me, which I hadn’t done before.
I started doing some things and it really started working for me. I stayed there for ten months and while I was there I finished my Bachelor’s degree-finally! (applause) It was 2013, and I went to work in the recovery field. I got my Bachelor’s in Psychology and I studied alcohol and drugs.
Long story short, I didn’t stay sober. I went two years. I know what happened now, I did not get connected with the spiritual program, which is I need for recovery. I do belong to an anonymous program and I do work the 12 steps. What happened was I moved back out again, it was bad. I desperately needed help. I was in an apartment in Linda Vista because I have housing through the VA. I just kept telling myself that I wanted to get sober, but I didn’t want to go to the program.
Now, meanwhile I had met Robert Cook, and LaFitte the Program Manager, knew me, and I think they were pretty much desperately trying to get me to come in there! We made two plans and Daniel didn’t show up because Daniel was drinking again. And I just got to this point where I realized that I didn’t think Heartland House would allow me back in. I got to a point where I got a couple of days sober and I knew I had another day or two until I would start drinking again. I was dying in that apartment.
I got in contact with the VA and LaFitte and Robert, and you know what? They really welcomed me in with open arms. I was really afraid they going to say “Sorry Daniel, we tried to get you in here for 3-6 months now, your chance is over.” They were not like that at all. That was really something to me because I had been through so many programs in the past that told me “Daniel we love you, but we can’t help you.” So I thought for sure that’s what I was going to hear from them. It was a big deal for me.
I went into this program with a new attitude. All I can say is this: there’s a new direction in the program than there was in the past. It was a great program in the past, but I think it is an outstanding program now. I talked to the director a lot and I talked to the Program Manager, LaFitte, my counselor, and they have just bent over backward for me. They have given me every opportunity to be in a safe place where you learn to live recovery. And if I didn’t have that, I don’t think I wouldn’t have been able to get back out into 12 step programs for recovery in the outside world, get a sponsor, which I do have, and start working the steps.
This is not meant to be religious in any way, although I have no problem with religion, but for the first time in my life I was able to go through my steps (I’m on my 4th step right now, for those of you that know about the steps), and I was able to connect with, what I believe is, the creator of the universe. That’s the first time that I’ve ever done that. I really didn’t think there was anything. Through the 12 step program and Heartland House, I’ve been able to find a spiritual connection, and meaning and purpose in my life.
My recovery right now, I’m coming up on 6 months sober, I wish I could take all the credit for it, but I really can’t. My recovery right now is so completely different than it’s ever been. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the Heartland House, I don’t think I’d be here. I don’t think I’d be alive. Wow, I don’t even know what to say, you know? Of all of the programs that I’ve gone through in the past, I always wanted to graduate them, but I rarely made it through them. I’ve also wanted that connection with them, that integrity, that connection with something. I never had it because I always relapsed or left the program.
This time, my hope is to be a part of the Heartland House in some way-I’ll figure out something! To be active with the house, to be an active alumnus. So for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve got that program, this house that saved my life, and now I can turn around and give back to them.
It’s difficult for me to describe in words because I never had that feeling before. This is new, this is really new for me. I just really thank you all again for being here and supporting us. Seriously, there was no other house on the block that was going to take Daniel. Thank you.Thank you, Robert.