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Putting the Pieces Back Together: Derek Achieves a Year of Sobriety

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

Through Guiding Light's programming, 27-year-old Derek recently achieved a milestone in his journey in sobriety.

/Guiding Light

About Guiding Light

Founded in 1929 as the West Fulton St. Mission, Guiding Light has grown into a robust recovery and re-engagement community designed to help those living at society’s margins fulfill their God-given potential. The nonprofit has been building on a near century of compassion and celebrated 90 years of serving Grand Rapids in 2019. Through its Back to Work, Recovery and Iron House programs, Guiding Light works with men struggling with addiction and homelessness to return to society. Since 2017, Guiding Light has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, which underscores our commitment to accountability and transparency. For more information, visit

Derek is 27-years-old and a recent client of Guiding Light’s Recovery program. He works full-time and lives at our sober-living apartments called Iron house. This past year-and-a-half, Derek has been in recovery after years of severe alcoholism and drug addiction.

“About 18 months ago, I was a broken person in pretty much all aspects of my life,” he said. “I was financially broken, my self-image was broken, I was spiritually broken. I didn’t have love for myself or anyone else.”

Derek recently had a chance to put his name on the wall of sobriety at Guiding Light, which signifies he has successfully completed the Recovery program, achieved a year of sobriety and is well on his way to long-term recovery.

You could describe Derek’s journey in sobriety over the past year as a process of transformation. It has been an arduous undertaking to have the will and determination to pick up the pieces of his past and to foster the willingness to make a new life for himself.

Derek recently shared: “The Japanese have an art form called Kintsugi. What they do is they take broken pottery and they mend it with gold epoxy. I feel like that’s what this program has really done, and still is continuing to do for me.

“I’m not completely mended, but I’m putting those pieces back together with the help of Guiding Light. It’s really been a wonderful journey for me, going through this process.”

Derek’s outgoing personality left a strong impression on his peers and the Guiding Light staff. Case Manager Seth Velderman recalled how Derek’s positive energy and lightheartedness sharply contrasted with how serious he was in regards to his recovery.

“When I think of Derek, what comes to mind is someone who really wanted to work the program,” Velderman said. “When I think about his recovery, I think of someone who took it very seriously, but didn’t lose the good parts of their personality. Derek kept the best of both worlds.

“He was able to work and to be very honest, blunt and transparent about character defects. But he was still able to make sobriety fun and make it his own. I admire Derek and think he has a wonderful life ahead of him that he’ll enjoy.”

While at Guiding Light, Derek found well-paying employment at a local cabinet production firm and was recently promoted to a supervisory position. His relationship with others, his physical well-being and his spiritual condition are healthier than ever. It is a blessing that men like Derek, who come into Guiding Light at such a low point, are given the opportunity to turn things around with so much life left to live.

Addiction is a struggle laden with the weight of life or death consequences. While we believe every man who comes through our doors is worthy of God’s grace, it truly is heartening to see young men like Derek come to Guiding Light before it is too late.

It is crucial that men struggling with addiction in our community have an accessible place to go when they need help. The only costs for men to stay at Guiding Light are their honesty and willingness to change. Without the tireless devotion and generosity of donors, volunteers and advocates, stories like Derek’s would not be possible.

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