You have to meet Charles to believe he’s real. Brimming with gratitude about his own recovery, he reaches out to others on a daily basis. It is just plain inspiring. Charles was not always that way.
He grew up in Detroit, and his childhood was a colorful one. His discovery of alcohol and eventually cocaine grew over the years into a painful and unrelenting addiction. Charles spent years in bondage to addiction, but sought help as a young man. He had some success staying clean, but mostly stumbled in and out of sobriety. He tried again and again to find recovery.
He was always able to keep a job, but it was a major effort. Eventually, with all his paychecks going for crack and booze, Charles became homeless. He spent each summer night sleeping in his car, his life growing more hopeless each day. “Why can’t I stay sober?” he cried.
When he walked up to the Dawn Farm Detox, he was really broken, physically sick and desperate. I met him in 1998, shortly after he arrived. Charles needed a safe, supportive place to live. Charles was a member of the very first group of homeless men who entered the Chapin Street House. His life was transformed there.
“I had spent years in the struggle to beat my addiction, but always tried to do it alone. But these people came to me without judging me, with real compassion-and they just won me over.” Charles embraced his new way of life. He lived in this transitional house, worked at his job, paid his bills and went to 12-step groups. He stopped merely attending the meetings—he joined the recovering community.
“Something happened to me deep inside. I wasn’t just sober. I got my life back-and so much more.” One year after he arrived, Charles became the House Manager at 112 Chapin. Eighteen months after that he was the coordinator of the entire Chapin Street Project. Today he is an exceptional member of Dawn Farm’s staff.
In partnership with Ann Arbor businesses, Charles helped pilot “Loose Change for Real Change,” a special outreach program to meet addicts and alcoholics on the streets. The relationships he has built have helped dozens of men and women rise out of addiction and homelessness.
“If I had predicted my life today I would have sold myself short,” he says. “Recovery is making a man out of me today—responsible, accountable, and with the privilege to be of help to others.”
His advice to others thinking of getting help? “If you want it, if you’re willing, we’ll meet you halfway. We’ll help you believe in yourself again.”