“Absolutely lost and alone, completely succumbed to a life of corruption, darkness, and despair is where this story should start. My life had completely fallen apart. I had no self-confidence, and it was visible in all my mannerisms as I clawed my way into any circle that would accept me. No direction other than the next high and where and when I was going to get it. Getting it would be a daily violation of laws and moral standards that I would break without thinking twice.  That was OK because other than an immense catalog of character defects, there was almost nothing in my heart, though a small piece of myself still cried out for help and change. It was that small piece of myself that cried out to whatever God or creator may exist, begging him to either change my life or let me die. I’ve overdosed seven times and thought that surely this next one would do the trick if I could muster the strength to get it over with.

I cried out to God one day to give me a sign, show me a way out, and that this isn’t the only way of life I’m ever going to know.  Later that day, when darkness fell and the rain came down heavier than usual, he answered my prayers in the form of a young police officer that pulled me over. I was going down a road I never use because the bridge flooded out on my usual route. He pulled me over for an expired tag and was about to let me go when he mentioned I was on probation. What was I on probation for?  “Well, possession of methamphetamine, sir,” He replied, and “since you are on probation, I need to take a quick look at the vehicle, then you can be on your way.”  A part of me cried out for help, and I just spoke without thinking. “Sir, the drugs are in the center console in a cellophane wrapper.”  The officer’s eyes lit up with surprise.

It was done, I was going to jail on a new charge, and my running and gunning days were finally over. Now comes detox inside a jail cell, and the call to my father filling him with absolute grief, breaking his heart all over again. Then came the unbearable anxiety of wondering what prison would be like. Then COVID hit, ensuring I would have plenty of time to sit, think and sober up. My mind was made up regardless; I had had enough of that old life.  God continued to work, sending me people who would give me my first NA book and AA books and cellmates that would sit and talk to me about these things. My curiosity and interest were ignited, and I wanted the chance to try this book of mysterious healing for addicts I had discovered. While I was locked up, how could I know what I was doing was right and practice it?

God would gift me with yet another divine intervention six months later. My father had been speaking regularly to a counselor named Tony at The Extension. In one fell swoop, I was suddenly spared from prison by this man who had come to interview me on a webcam in jail. After the interview, my life began a journey that I would later define as an absolute miracle. I was released into the custody of The Extension. Tony was one of the first faces I saw; an extremely charismatic and cheerful man who got me settled in. Then, it was resident after resident, coming through and welcoming me home, making sure I was OK, and introducing themselves as if they really wanted to get to know me.

My quarantine mate and I would step outside and talk about the energy in this place. These people were walking around all happy and connected. What was this place? What was going on, and most importantly, I wondered what it would take to be like that, look like that, and talk like that?  Did this place have a magic cure-all?

I would soon learn that the things I saw and heard were genuine and that this place would teach me things no other place on earth could have possibly taught me. Immediately, I was given the cure, The 12 step program. But the cure required work on my part, an open-minded willingness on all levels.  On some levels, I was quick to submit, but on many, it would be a gradual and growing change that only time could facilitate.

My first counselor Cody helped me realize so much more was wrong with me than I thought, and he helped guide me in methods to address these issues one after the other. Sometimes gently, sometimes with a good kick in the pants (not literally). Before long, I had a sponsor, someone whose sole purpose was to help me rid myself of the many character defects I had by effectively and adequately working the steps. My sponsor and I would go through each step, growing more and more with each one.

Through the step work, the counseling, the discipline, and the social atmosphere of The Extension, I can mark in a timeline specific points where there was nothing less than a significant spiritual awakening inside of myself. My behaviors, my talk, everything about me changed. The largest of which was when I was in phase two and Tony became my counselor.  I had been working the steps, listening to the advice, and it just happened. One day I realized it was OK to be me; I didn’t have to stress and worry anymore because I didn’t have to be the one to construct and control everything in my life. A new and better life was happening and would continue to happen if I would let it.

For the remainder of my time in the program, I would have the experience of learning and growing with the Director of the program, Mr. Jordan. I learn something from almost every conversation with him. My counselor Bruce also continues to fine-tune me in preparation for the next stage of my life. I’m staying on the ball and feeling centered and strong in my faith and what I’m doing.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to be a houseman over phase 2. I work with fellow residents and staff, running meetings, handling issues, and growing into the new ad amazing person I am becoming- someone who exudes positivity and laughter and who can recognize the blessings in each day. When things are hard, or I want to stress, I have God who will happily take the monsters I have battled and keep them away.  I let him control things; I don’t need to anymore.  I have real friends who are happy to see me each day, laugh with me, and are there for me regardless of what’s happening.

I have my family back. My father is proud of me and is no longer ashamed and worried about my sudden death somewhere lost on the streets. I have a brother who loves to talk to me, calls me for advice, and recognizes me as a brother despite my absence for so long.  I have a car I’ve dreamed of owning, it’s paid for in full, and no one can take it from me. I have a new personality and style and way about myself that attracts others in recovery in an increasing network of people I have.

The best of all is this incredible place that houses me as if in a secure shell, allowing me to grow and change; with the help of every resident and staff member. These counselors, and staff members, are teachers, guides, and now my friends. I don’t live in fear anymore; heroin and meth are no longer my gods. I can look in the mirror and smile and laugh because I am happy with what I see.

I have begun a career path to help others, giving me happiness beyond words every day. I’m excited about my future. And if it weren’t for this place, I would not be who I am today. There is a message written on the wall in the dining hall, “It’s a God Thing.” When I first came in, it was hard to understand it, but that message is the utmost best description of The Extension. God works and speaks through the residents and members of staff.  This place will forever be a second home for me as it has given me so much. My level of gratitude will never be fully expressed in words, only in the actions of what I do next.”                                                                                      – R.W.