As we approach Veterans Day, we celebrate not only the bravery and sacrifice of those who have served our country, but also their remarkable journeys of resilience and recovery. Russell Wooley’s journey to healing is thanks, in part, to his time spent at Healing Transitions.
His commitment to recovery shines bright as a beacon of hope for all who enter our doors through the detox program. As the Assistant Detox Coordinator at Healing Transitions, Russell lives out his Recovery Life as a positive influence for others who are beginning their recovery journey. He just celebrated five years of service to Healing Transitions in September 2023, and we couldn’t be more grateful!
Russell’s life before Healing Transitions was characterized by chaos, addiction, and criminal activity. He openly admits that he had no dreams or goals, living each day in a haze of drugs and alcohol. His past was filled with reckless behavior, stealing, and a lack of purpose.
In dire need of direction, Russell joined the Army in 1979 and served three years. He then served seven years in the Marine Corps to go overseas. A decade of service gave Russell discipline and purpose in the military that he still draws on today.
But his time in the armed forces was not without challenges. Russell had always been a heavy drinker, but things escalated and he became a ‘blackout’ drinker in the Marines. When he was no longer serving in the military, he fell into an addiction spiral more severely, depending on drugs and alcohol to get through each day. In 1992, he attended several rehabilitation programs, but nothing seemed to work.
Russell’s pivotal moment came when he found himself homeless, sleeping on a mat in a shelter.
“Something happened about two o’clock one morning, and I walked in the bathroom, the third mirror from the left, and I looked in the mirror and tears rolled down my eyes. And the man in the mirror said, “You can’t live like this anymore.” That was it.”
When he showed up at Healing Transitions, he got connected to other veterans who also had challenges adapting to civilian life. Many of the veterans he encountered were struggling with PTSD as well as addiction. At this point in his journey, Russell admits his mindset was bleak – “Either I will go back to prison, or I’ll be out there drinking and drugging.”
Thankfully, his experience at Healing Transitions was different from the other rehabilitation programs he’d attended in the past.
“Since 1992, I’ve been in 26 rehabs. Healing Transitions stands out the most to me. And it’s not because I completed this program, or that I even work here. It’s because this is the only program that gives you the chance to take time out of your life to get it together. They are the only people who ask ‘How can we help you?’”
For many veterans who struggle with addiction, the experiences they had in the military tie to their recovery in unexpected ways. Russell’s experience at Healing Transitions not only allowed him to break free from addiction but also heal from mental health struggles as well.
When asked about his recovery journey he shares, “The military comes back to me because it gives me the discipline that I’ve lost while I was out there drinking and drugging. And in recovery you get to get that back. A lot of my military experiences tie into recovery. I didn’t even think it would go hand in hand, but it does. Recovery doesn’t just mean not drinking and drugging, it means you recover from everything. You recover from your attitude, you recover from your mental health issues, you recover your purpose.”
In addition to helping our guests in detox, Russell is also dedicated to advocating for veterans. He encourages veterans in need of help to get a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) who can help be a liaison to the government to assist in getting healthcare and other free services.
When asked what he’d like to remind people of on Veterans Day, Russell shares, “It’s not about wearing a pretty uniform. It’s about protecting our country and everything we believe in. So I suggest to all the community to continue to support veterans. When you see one, acknowledge them. Whether they served, whether they got an honorable discharge or a dishonorable discharge, whatever the case may be. Regardless, this man, or woman, chose to put their life on the line.”
Thank you for your service to our country and to Healing Transitions, Russell. Your work is impacting lives every day, and we are grateful for you!