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I'm in the Right Place: Scott's Chance at a Sober Father's Day

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Scott woke up one morning on a couch, sick with one of his worst hangovers ever and realized he’d had enough. He’d ridden past Guiding Light every day on the bus and never gave the nonprofit a second thought – until it popped into his head to make the call.

/Doug Pancy

Scott lost his mother a month into his Recovery program at Guiding Light, a loss so deep it would have sent the “old” him running for a six pack.

“The support of the men here held me together and made me grow up,” Scott recalls. “The way I would handle tragedy in the past would be to go out and get drunk. But I’m 55, and I’ve had enough. It’s time to grow up.

“I was in the right place when this happened.”

It took Scott nearly four decades to find his way to 255 Division Ave. S., leaving a path littered with divorces, failed jobs, DUIs and domestic violence charges. The Grand Rapids native – “born and raised” – dropped out of Kenowa Hills High School when he was 16, heading straight to work once a summer job showed him the allure of a paycheck.

While his friends hit the books, Scott started drinking after his shift tending plants at a local  greenhouse. His friends drifted away, on to college and relationships and careers, and he drifted from job to job – body shops, a lumber yard, lots of factories. The drinking increased – from casual to necessity – and so did his absences.

“I would drink a 12- or 18-pack a night,” he remembers. “Alcohol was always the reason for me getting fired.

“I dabbled with liquor, but I could see that was a problem since I’d get violent. I can be pretty mean when I’m drunk.”

Scott doesn’t like to talk about the “bad parts” of those early years. His first marriage gave him a daughter but the relationship ended after three years because of his drinking.

His second marriage lasted longer – 13 years – and gave him a daughter and a son. Scott spent three-and-a-half years sober after a stint in a recovery program helped him set aside the beer, but old habits die hard – and the drinking took a real toll on his new family.

“The worst impact was on my son, who grew up without me in the household,” Scott says. “Instead of it being a weekend or after work thing, my drinking got to the point where it became more and more.

“I started floating around, going to temp services to get a job and then working for a couple of weeks. I started drinking my paychecks away, drinking nonstop for a few weeks before losing my job, going back to the temp agency and starting again.”

Scott woke up one morning on a couch, sick with one of his worst hangovers ever and realized he’d had enough. He’d ridden past Guiding Light every day on the bus and never gave the nonprofit a second thought – until it popped into his head to make the call.

“The early days in the program were a blessing,” Scott says. “I knew I needed help, and I couldn’t do it on my way. Guiding Light has the counselors and therapists right here. The community of guys is right here.

“The support network is unbelievable. I knew I was in the right place.”

 Known on the streets as “no-joke recovery,” Guiding Light provides a four- to six-month residential program that helps men build a life worth staying sober for. The nonprofit’s successful formula combines evidence-based practices, life coaching, therapy, support groups, spiritual direction and resources that works to replace the chaos of day-in-day-out addiction with a proactive, extensive, all-encompassing and healthy routine.

This resonates with Scott, who was reintroduced to the church by his life coach, Esther. Scott wasn’t raised in a faith tradition, and an earlier faith-based recovery program had seen him relapse.

“I’m getting back into spirituality, and I am grateful for that,” Scotts notes. “The spiritual side of life is offered to you here at Guiding Light. The guys either accept it and realize that’s how you learn things – or they don’t want what’s offered and they leave.

“Those who chose to stay are a phenomenal group of guys.”

With the support of his peers, Scott is preparing to complete the Foundations phase of Guiding Light’s Recovery program and move to Iron House. These sober-living apartments provide a safe and secure environment in a residential area outside the inner city, offering men like Scott extra support while they work on their sobriety.

“The guys at Iron House are serious about their recovery and their program,” Scott notes. “That’s what I want and need. It all comes down to accountability. In the future, I might not need as much – but for right now, this is a step in the right direction. I need this if I want to remain where I am in my life.”

Scott is in a pretty good place, he says. Guiding Light gave him a job working in building maintenance. He’s working through his program, attending support group meetings and “taking care of me first.”

He’s also rebuilding the relationship with his son. With the encouragement of Esther, Scott took his son out bowling a few weeks ago and it has quickly become their favorite way to spend time together.   

Scott is looking forward to spending Father’s day with his son – the first one sober in years.

“I’m overwhelmed,” he says, tearing up a bit. “I’m so grateful for so many things, especially to those who donate to Guiding Light. The support offered, the network in place, the life coaches and counseling – everything Guiding Light offers is phenomenal.

“None of it would happen without the donors. They are the key to the success of this whole thing – and I am very grateful. Things are looking up for me.”

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