In Their Own Words...
I am writing this to give thanks and recognition to Recover road.
I was at the end of three years of attempted sobriety. I had considered myself "fixed" the last time I came out of rehab and I could not have been more wrong. I had gone to allot of meetings in the beginning but that was mostly to tell people how fixed I was and how I really did not need to be there. I spent the next three years putting together a few 30 days here and there and trying to stay sober but was mostly using. Finally I got fired from another job and ended up holed up in another crappy hotel for seven days. With no food or sleep I was at the end of my rope. I was afraid I was going to die. I was terrified the cops would bust down the door any minute and was also wishing they would. My daughter who was four at the time called and left me a message, she was singing "if your happy and you know it clap your hands". I was not happy, I was under the bed of a crappy hotel room clenching my crack pipe completely terrified that the whole world was out to get me. I knew things had to change so I ran back to rehab.
I entered rehab on Feburary 21, 2007. I was to stay there for two weeks. Towards the end of that two weeks I realized I needed to try something different and one of the counselors mentioned that I might try a recovery house. This seemed like it might be a good idea. I began to look into the house in the area and took a few tours and was not encouraged what I saw. Lock on the food cupboards lock on the refrigerators, 3 men to a room, pay phones and other things that made them feel less than homey. At this point i cared enough about my sobriety that if thats where i needed to be thats where I would go. Fortunately I met a man named Cam Stockwell. He was getting ready to open a new recovery house called Recovery Road. He had a vision of a house where a man could have pride in his surroundings. If you have pride in where you live you can begin to have pride in yourself he told me. He took me to a nicely redone house on the northeast side of the city. The house had no furniture and no refrigerator, but it did have a future. I would be the first resident of Recovery Road a badge of honor I wear proudly today. I spent the first night sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag and was kept company by a clock radio Cam brought for me. Over the next few weeks as furniture, beds a refrigerator and all the other furnishings arrived it started to become a home.
Why Am I Here?
Grand Rapids, MI
It was a lovely summer day in early August when my girlfriend Bec found me. I was in my usual idyllic spot near the river. On my usual park bench. Life, joggers, children and bicycles passing me by. The guys would sometimes visit me briefly on their way to the party store. They’d joke about how they were all going to chip in and get a little brass plaque for my bench. Just my name on it, “Burt”. I’d dig a fresh 40 out of my bag and pass it around. We’d spend some time talking about my summer house near the river. How peaceful it was and the advantages of it’s location. It had a great view, 5-0 couldn’t roll up on it without being seen, it was a short stroll to an actual bathroom with toilet paper. Considering everything, it was a perfect spot for a homeless, drunken bum to while away the hours of a day.
However, that lovely, sunny summer day, when Bec found me, wasn’t really my best day on earth. She hardly recognized me. My face was swollen, I had 3 broken ribs after falling down the embankment at the river. I was half dead from dehydration and exposure. Drinking fifth after fifth and passing out in the sun for days on end will do that ‘ya know. Once again Bec got my worthless ass to the hospital. Once again, she pulled some strings and got me into detox and residential treatment at Turning Point.
It was a familiar pattern. Down and out, drunk and homeless again. Time to sober up and clean up in treatment again. Vow never to do it again. Start going to AA meetings again. It was a familiar pattern, again.
When I sobered up and cleaned up, I realized that nothing I had done in the past 25 years had broken that cycle. I was never going to be able to change that pattern. Nothing I could do, would ever change the way things were going to happen. I was unable to stop drinking on my own. I was unable to stop wanting to drink on my own. There and then I had this moment of complete honesty with myself. I had a moment of clarity. I needed help. I finally set aside my pride and self-centered ego and asked God for help. For the first time in my life I prayed. In that moment of resignation, desperation and shame, I surrendered. My mantra used to be “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up!”. When I gave up, I won. What God gave me was the 12-Steps of the AA Program and a recovery house called Recovery Road.
The purpose of the Steps was to change me. The purpose of the Recovery Road house was to give me a place to learn and practice those steps. I needed a sober, structured environment where I would be held accountable for my behavior. I got that and more here at the house.
The first thing I learned at the house was personal responsibility. I was expected and required to do my own dishes, do my own laundry, cook my own food, turn off lights when no longer being used, share in the household chores, make my bed, keep my room clean, pick up after myself, smoke only in the garage, not wear a path in the front lawn by cutting across to the front door, the list was endless (sigh). It took a few months, but through the endless patience and persistence of the guys in the house, I learned. They taught me about personal responsibility. The frequent voltage increases to my shock collar may have helped also - lol.
The second thing I learned was that the house was a perfect place to apply the new found principles I was learning in the AA program. Honesty, integrity and humility go a long way when living in a house full of addicts like myself. I could certainly see how a lack of those principles harmed relationships and made my life miserable. As I worked the Steps of AA there was ample opportunity to apply the 3rd Step. That’s the one where Burt doesn’t get his own way all the time. As a matter of fact, Burt shouldn’t get his own way ever. That character defect of self-centeredness was old addict behavior. “I want what I want and I want it now!”, wasn’t gonna fly in this house.
As I progressed in the Program, I saw opportunities to share my experience, strength and hope with new guys coming into the house. I saw them making the same mistakes I had made in my life. If they only listened to me and did what I told them to do, their lives would get better. Right. After several months of building frustration, anger and resentments, I learned what acceptance was all about. There’s a good reason the Serenity Prayer is said at the beginning of each and every AA meeting. It’s a wonder they didn’t kick my stupid ass out of the house. I did realize that people learn through the pain of making their own mistakes. When the pain becomes great enough, we become willing to change. In this instance, I learned that my expectation of how reality should be was the source of most, if not all, of my problems relating to people.
Recovery Road and the two houses I’ve lived in are a constant source of opportunity for me to grow. To build new, good habits. To learn to live in recovery. To begin to live life on life’s terms. This house has been, is now and will continue to be, and essential part of my recovery.
Recovery Road Saved My Life
This story begins 10 years ago when my struggle with alcoholism began. My life was suddenly on a downward spiral. I was losing jobs, alienating family and friends, refusing to take responsibility of any kind. As I struggled I went from rehab to rehab. There have been 7 at this point. I also was a patient 9 different times in the hospitals mental ward. Two of these visits were the direct result of suicide attempts. Nothing seemed to help. I was even a guest at the local jail on 4 different occasions. I bounced in and out of AA. Was hired and fired from jobs. I became increasingly isolated from everyone and everything. I was at the point about 3 years ago where I was living back with my mother. The drunk I had become was taking its toll on her. It was finally decided that I had to leave and find somewhere to go. I moved to Grand Rapids and was in the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation program. I successfully completed that program. Upon leaving after 6 months.... the very night I left I was drunk. This drunk lasted 10 days and came close to killing me. I was rescued by friends and taken to Turning point, a local rehab. After 3 weeks there it was approaching my discharge date. My counselor mentioned to me if I had ever heard of recovery housing. I had not. In 10 years of struggling... this was the first i knew of it. I toured 5 different homes and was incredibly impressed by a house called Recovery Road. I discharged from Turning Point and moved in. I spent 6 very happy months there. I remained sober and became more involved with AA and the recovery community. About this time I made the decision to move to my own apartment. Within 2 days I was back to full blown drinking. 6 weeks into this I was beaten senseless in an alley downtown Grand Rapids. My nose was broken, money and watch gone. I somehow crawled back to my apartment after coming to. I laid there in a pool of blood for 2 days. When I finally woke up I called 911. The paramedics took me to the hospital. I spent 6 days in intensive care. I was a mess. Now having to decide on a living arrangement.... I knew living alone was not an option..... my only thought was of Recovery Road. After several months of recuperation at my mothers I moved back. That was on March 27, 2010. I am clean and sober. My life is becoming so much better. This house provides the daily structure and accountability that I need right now in my life. I have assumed the role of "house manager" as well. I am feeling good about myself and I am beginning to really live a life of sobriety. My future plans are to become more involved within the larger grand rapids recovery community and provide any knowledge and help I can. I would like to stay on at Recovery road as it is truly the ONLY place I want to be right now. I owe my life to this organization... and especially to Cameron Stockwell..... he has guided me and challenged me to become a stronger person. I would recommend this fine organization to anyone without hesitation.
What’s going on my friend? Sorry to hear about your circumstances. I don’t really know what to say other than it has been painful to watch your trip unfold since last summer. It’s a real drag to see the constant flow of pics of you and I in the left side of the page on Facebook. You and I were having a good run of shows we were doing a lot of traveling and the thing I notice most of all about the pics of you from that time frame is the absolute glow of happiness on your face. I just had a pic of you pop up from hippie hoedown and you were just seemingly on fire with happiness. A few weeks short of a year later and things have changed quite a bit.
I am not trying to beat you up I am trying to portray how great those times with you were and how much of a joy it was for me to watch your joy. I miss that.
Anyway not sure what you have going on and what you are looking at as far as a sentence, But I wanted to write you and let you know that now as in the past you are heavy on my mind. I no longer wonder where you are, but I do wonder how you are doing. How are you doing brother? I pray that you are doing ok under the circumstances.
When I look at the situation I see it as possibly GOD doing for us what we could not do for our self. On my first try at sobriety I struggled for three years and towards the end of that time I was arrested in my truck in Gary IN. It was one of the lowest points of my life to be handcuffed in the back of a cruiser watching my truck being hooked up to a tow truck to be impounded. I had just talked to my boss two hours earlier, I told him I was on time and the load would be there as expected. It didn’t work out that way. Over the next 28 days that I was locked up I watched out the tiny cell window as little children came to the jail to see their fathers and mothers. I swore to myself that I would never use again. I was convinced that my life was going to change and I would stop at nothing to make that change in my life. No one would come get me my family was convinced that I was in the best place I could be. They had enough of my lies, enough of my apologies and enough of my empty promises.
When I got out I was determined to change, and was convinced I would. Well it didn’t work out to well. I got home in time for thanksgiving and a couple of weeks later got another driving job and I was once again off to the races. Only this time I was on a very fast downward spiral. I only kept the job for about a month before I was fired. After being fired and kicked out of my truck I convinced a co worker to give me a ride to a hotel in the Heights. When I arrived I paid for a week at the hotel and called my guy. For the next 7 days I went though no less than an 8ball a day of rock. I wasn’t eating I wasn’t sleeping and I was absolutely out of my mind. I was praying that the police would and wouldn’t bust down the door I was praying for someone to rescue me.
As I lay hiding under the bed completely terrified feeling like I would surely die my Daughter called me. I was far too gone to answer the phone but she left a message for me. I pressed one on my phone to check my message and there she was, my little girl of four years old was singing “if your happy and you know it clap your hands”. I was not clapping, I was not happy. My life was a disaster and I felt like I wanted to die.
As I type this letter to you now, my eyes are filling with tears and my blood is tingling. That moment, that message saved my life. I had no use for myself but I could see someone that did. There was a little girl that needed a Dad and I was the only one she had. I had a new aspiration for changes in my life. For now I would press forth and make efforts not for me but for my daughter. This would have to do for now.
After a few months sober I knew it was time to make it about me. It was time to have some self-worth and time to develop a feeling that I was “worth it”. As I struggled to do this I shared it in a meeting. I shared that I was having a hard time making it about me. I shared that I was currently doing it for my daughter but I wanted that to change. After the meeting an old timer approached me and and asked me exactly what I was struggling with. I told him I couldn’t figure out how to make it about me and that I was just doing it so I could be a better dad to my daughter. “so what you are telling me is you are trying to stay sober and change your life so you can be a better dad to your daughter?” He asked. “yes” I said. “hmmm sounds like you are doing it for yourself to me” He said. WOW I had never thought of it like that. I was doing for myself. I was doing it so I could be a good dad. You never know what very simple statement that someone might say at a meeting that could totally change your life.
Well GOD willing on the 21st of this month that will have been about four years ago. I would never have dreamed of the things happening in my life. I now have custody of my daughter, I am going to school full time and am working at an internship in the field I am going to school for. At the internship that was only supposed to last until the end of 2010, I was just asked to stay for at least another six months.
Good news brother, I am positive if a full on crack head like myself can do it I know you can.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
I love you Brother. I hope that when you get out that someday we will dance together again. I look forward to that time but I can wait. Take the time to sit still awhile and take care of yourself and all the joys of life will be yours. Write back if you can it’s a good way to use up some time. Talk to you soon my friend.
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.
With Love and Prayers,