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Bobby G., Recovery Management

April 4, 2011

“If it weren’t for HAS,” states Bobby G., “I wouldn’t be here today.” Bobby, now sober for two years, drank for forty and had been in and out of treatment several times, but he came to HAS’s Recovery Management program at a particularly difficult point in his life: “I was alone, I was homeless, and I wanted to die. And if it hadn’t been for my peer support specialist at HAS, I would be dead.”

Bobby had already overcome serious challenges prior to coming to HAS. Abused as a child, he received little formal schooling. At seventeen, following the death of his mother, Bobby left home—alone—for Chicago. He eventually found a welcoming place in the city’s gay community, where he remains active. He worked for several years as a bartender, cook, and caterer, and he met the man who would become his partner of twenty-five years.

Bobby drank throughout his time in Chicago, but his alcohol use became pronounced when the restaurant where he worked closed and he subsisted on unemployment benefits while he cared for his partner, who had become ill. “I was isolated for a few years,” Bobby recalls, “and it wasn’t good for me.” He drank, in part, to get out of the house. “I used to get a bottle and just go walking with it so I wouldn’t have to take it home,” he remembers, “then I’d wake up outside, covered in bruises, and not remember how I got them. I was a mean drunk.” Five years later, Bobby’s partner died. “That,” he says, “is when I really got started with the drinking.” Still out of work, Bobby was evicted for failing to pay the rent. “That’s what it took to get me ready to stop,” he says. “I’d hit bottom. I had nowhere to go.” In desperation, he called Jose, his peer support specialist in the HAS Recovery Management Program, and told him he needed to go to a residential treatment center.

Jose found him a bed that night, but it was the follow-up care he received that he credits with his recovery: “HAS isn’t like some places that just get you in and out. They help you get what you need to stay sober.” Bobby’s peer support specialist enrolled him in adult education classes and helped him find an apartment. And he checks in frequently, “just to see how I’m doing.” “Sometimes that’s what makes the difference,” Bobby adds, “just having someone care enough to go get a cup of coffee with you.” Bobby also believes that HAS’s embrace of diversity was important to his recovery. “I’d never really been open about being gay in treatment,” he admits. “I felt accepted at HAS, so I opened up. Now I can talk about who I am anywhere.”

Now Bobby’s life is radically different than it was two years ago. He still has health problems related to his alcohol abuse, but his health is improving, and he requires progressively less medication. “I’m not going to undo forty years of drinking overnight,” he explains, “but I’m getting there.” Bobby feels that the major difference, however, is psychological. “I’ll never be the way I was before again,” he states. “I love life now.” Recovery Management has taught Bobby to deal with the emotional and physical stresses that used to trigger a relapse. “I’m a nicer person now,” he says. “I used to yell a lot. I got mad fast. Now, I think. And I pray.”

Bobby has also become increasingly active at the Center on Halsted, where he attends church weekly and works with senior citizens. “I’m trying to give back,” he states. He has learned to take it one day at a time and to respect his own limits, but he is making plans for the future. He hopes to do more volunteer work, and plans to volunteer at a Chicago soup kitchen this winter. He is also looking for a part-time job as a caterer or cook. He still takes time, though, to reflect on his progress and express his gratitude for the people who have helped him along the way: “The journey has been incredible, and I thank God for it every day.”