Another story from a former resident showing hope restored and the spirit of service coming alive.
For years, drug-addiction has deprived me of a productive life and robbed me from my integrity. However, 2016 has been a phenomenal year for me so far…
I grew up a loner, being the only gay kid around, I was introverted and reclusive. I found acceptance from my peers through alcohol and drugs. I felt drugs helped me to socialize and fit in. Social drug-use escalated into a daily affair and before I knew it I became dependent on drugs for everything. I got to the point where I didn’t care about anything else but using, getting high became the main reason for me to get up each day. The lack of caution resulted in severe repercussions for my reckless lifestyle. I was diagnosed with HIV and found myself in and out of the penal system. At thirty-six, a judge sentenced me to serve a year at George Bailey Detention Facility.
Upon release, I entered a residential treatment program. Stepping Stone of San Diego saved my life. It is a program that caters to the LGBT community and specialize in the recovery of addicts living with HIV. There I realized my self-worth and discovered my ambitious spirit. I stuck to the guidelines of my treatment plan and with the help of my drug counselor, therapist, peers and staff I was able to make great progress in my recovery. In the beginning I was hesitant about dealing with my HIV status, I walked around with shame and didn’t want to think about it. Nevertheless, I was living with HIV, I might as well start adhering to a medication regimen and adopt a healthier lifestyle, free of drugs and alcohol.
Since successfully completing the program, opportunity has presented itself to me in more ways than I can believe. I am currently a second year undergraduate student at San Diego City College. I have selected a career in Behavioral Science, specializing in Alcohol and Other Drugs Studies, because I feel my life experiences can help understand others who continue to struggle with the disease of addiction. It is important to me to stay connected with Stepping Stone, I volunteer weekly and serve on the alumni board as liaison to the residents and staff there. Helping others in recovery (who may also be living with HIV/AIDS) is a what I am passionate about. My continuous involvement with Stepping Stone allows me to build a great rapport with current residents which lends a hand to an open and honest conversation in the weekly groups that I facilitate.
My participation in the HIV and recovery community has not gone unnoticed. I was honored when Stepping Stone nominated me and The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation selected me to be a part of the team to represent San Diego in Washington DC at this year’s annual AIDSWatch. Advocating for the issues that affect the lives and families of those living with HIV/AIDS, I was glad to lend my voice to the cause and put a face to the solution. Thanks to Stepping Stone I have earned my integrity back and look forward to a very bright future. They’ve allowed me to discover my potential and provide a platform to promote health through sobriety. I can only hope that my story will inspire someone who feels like there is no hope. -A.M.