Raeford standing inside with white shirt and name tagBefore I came to Healing Transitions, my life was screwed up because of drugs and alcohol. My using caused me to go to prison for a little while. Then, even after I got out, I kept using. I just didn’t know how to stop.


The night I went to Healing Transitions is one I’ll always remember. It was a cold, December night back in 2001, and I had made up my mind that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I called the Raleigh Police Department and told them that I couldn’t stop using and needed help. Thankfully, they came and picked me up, and took me to an alcohol treatment center near WakeMed. One of the on-duty staff members said they didn’t have an available bed that night. However, they told me that I could go to Healing Transitions, known then as The Healing Place, and that they’d take me in.
Now, I’m a Raleigh-native, and I had no idea that this place existed.


So, the RPD officer brought me to Healing Transitions and dropped me off at the detox center. That was on December 18th. Since it was so close to Christmas, I didn’t want to stay. I told the person working in detox that I wanted to be with my family and friends for the holidays. He replied that the best thing I could give my family for Christmas is the gift of being clean and sober. So I decided to stay for another night, but I told myself that the next day would be my last.


My plan for the next day was to get up in the morning, trudge with the guys to attend a class, then leave after the class was over. But while I was sitting in that class, I had a realization. It felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Where are you going? You’ve burnt every bridge that you have. Nobody wants you around because you cause problems every time you get to drinking. You have nowhere to go.” After the class was over, instead of leaving to be with my family, I decided to stay a little while longer.


After about three months of being in the recovery program, I made my mind up that this was something I was going to do. I’ve never finished anything in my life, but I decided that I would complete this recovery program. And on September 3, 2002, I became the 85th person to complete the program. After finishing, I signed up to be a peer mentor and helped teach classes to the new participants. I was near the end of my second term as a peer mentor when Chris Budnick, now the Executive Director, asked if I would like to work at Healing Transitions. I said I would love to, and started working part-time before being hired on full-time.


Ever since I made that decision during class to stay in the program, life in recovery has been incredible. I would never want to live my life any other way. What I learned while going through the program are lessons that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I’m so grateful for the classes where I learned that because of this disease, if I go back out and use again even once, I’ll wind up right back where I was 19 years ago. The recovery program also taught me how to help other people. Because before I came here, I wasn’t interested in helping another person unless I was getting something out of it. But now I know how to truly care for another person.


What I didn’t realize as I stepped onto the men’s campus on December 18, 2001 is that I would be a part of this place for decades to come. For the last 13 years, I have been working full-time in the overnight shelter. The guys in the shelter know that they can come up and ask me about recovery. We can talk about recovery all night long if they want to. I love giving back and helping the next person the same way I was helped when I was here.


My favorite part of working in the shelter is getting to see people transform right in front of my eyes. I love watching how people grow as they go through the program and learn about this disease. Many times, when a person first gets here, they aren’t intending to stay here. They see the shelter as a place that will keep them warm through the night. But then something happens. They might see someone they used to run on the streets with, and see the change that person has made through the program. Or they might talk to an alumni about their experience in recovery, and it makes them want to give this program a try.


I’ve been at Healing Transitions from its early days, and the impact that I’ve seen this place make in the community over the last 20 years has been huge. One of the biggest impacts Healing Transitions has had is how it has helped keep people out of jails and hospitals. I’ve also noticed how the community has felt safer because of the work Healing Transitions and its partners have done.


When people go through this recovery program, their lives are completely turned around. Healing Transitions has saved my life, and in my 20 years of service here, I’ve seen the program save so many more lives. When I’m at a Transition Ceremony and a Silver Chipper mentions how I helped them through the program, it’s a wonderful feeling. I hope I can touch more lives and help everyone who comes here.