When David arrived at Harvest House, he was at his rock bottom. Facing prison time due to his long history with substance abuse, this was his last chance to make his life right. He did that by telling himself that no matter what, he was not going to use any mind-altering substances again.
This holiday season, we’d like to share with you David’s story of life after the Navy, and how he learned to find belonging and never give up on himself, no matter what.
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, David recalls always trying to fit in; he never felt like he belonged. “I grew up in a lot of chaos at home. At an early age, I adopted a distorted definition of love because of my biological father’s abuse. I’ve learned that most of us just want to feel different, but we don’t know how, so we look for other things to fill those holes.” At the age of 18 with dreams of finding freedom in California, David joined the Navy. He was young and impressionable, so he went along with peer pressure and started to drink.
During his service, David was hit by a drunk driver in a serious, life-threatening accident that left him in a coma for a month and in the hospital for one year. He lost a kidney, had a tear in his heart, suffered a skull fracture, and he broke his hand, hip, and collarbone. “I was in excruciating pain so I had access to hundreds of pain pills with absolutely no oversight. When I got out of the service, I tried so hard to stop taking the pain meds, but I couldn’t.”
After his honorable discharge at age 22, David had no direction, and his drinking and drug use led him to serious legal problems. A judge recommended he seek help. At the age of 30, David got sober and stayed that way for 13 years. He met and married the love of his life, started a successful home improvement business, and had a stable home life.
Then one day, he walked into a hotel room where people were doing the exact thing he didn’t want to do, but he did it anyway. He spent the next 14 years abusing drugs and alcohol.
This time, he was a functional user. His business and home life were thriving, and he was financially successful. Over time though, he saw a slow decline. “Instead of using after a long day of work, I found myself using in the morning, and then throughout the day.”
Longing to Belong
Three years ago, things took a turn for the worst. His marriage and business began to suffer. He found himself in bouts of homelessness, divorced, and bankrupt. One night, he decided to drive home after drinking at a party. The police tried to pull him over, but he decided to run. After an awful police chase, David was at the end of the road and facing serious jail time.
David’s sister, a graduate of the Harvest House Freedom program and staff member, reached out and said that we could help. Director of Program Services Jim Rouches advocated for him in court, earning him an opportunity to complete his sentence at Harvest House in lieu of jail time.
David greatly appreciates the supportive healthcare he received from the VA, but he credits his body’s ability to bounce back to his decision to take his health into his own hands, with the help of Harvest House. He purposely surrounded himself with positive people and experiences and learned how to love himself deeper.
After 13 months in the Freedom program, David now lives in his own home and has a promising career at Publix Supermarkets. “Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s a difference between fitting in and belonging. At Harvest House, I belong. At work, I belong. At church, I belong. In recovery, I belong. I don’t try to fit in anymore. I’m myself.”
No Matter What
David believes that in order to keep what he has, he has to give it away. He hosts 12-step meetings at First Step of Sarasota every Monday, he led 12-step meetings at Harvest House, and he’s created No Matter What bracelets to spread his message to everyone he meets. “Nothing in my life is going to get better by me using, so I’m a member of the No Matter What club. I do something for my recovery every day. I start my day in prayer. I help someone every day. I’m thankful every day, no matter what.”
Harvest House is one of the largest supportive housing providers in the Sarasota-Manatee region, with over 400 beds across 9 campuses and 25 affordable rentals serving young adults, families, veterans, and men and women recovering from substance abuse. We offer supportive housing for 20 veterans who have struggled with emotional trauma, incarceration, and/or substance abuse. Veteran supportive housing is set in a therapeutic community including recovery and life-skills classes, case management, and homebound services.
Please consider making a gift in honor of a Veteran you love to support a Veteran in need.