Daniel R. is a former client of CRW’s Pride Site residential program and a current client of Project Contact Outpatient. After a long recovery journey, Daniel has now been sober since March 2020, and has been splitting his time between his day job and volunteering at CRW’s Community Food Program. For this issue of our newsletter, he generously shared some reflections on his experience.
How did you first come to CRW?
I’m not from New York City, I’m actually from Rhode Island. I was living in Pittsburgh and my habit was way out of control, doing 30 bags of fentanyl a day. One of my brothers knew the owner of Elev8 so they came and dropped me off there in Red Hook Brooklyn. I went to Elev8 for detox and while I was there Covid-19 hit, that was March of 2020. Ended up staying there for longer than I should have because of the virus. Then a counselor there and I started looking at places to go. CRW popped up and that’s where I ended up going. I got there July 8, 2020, and really worked it.
At CRW I got my mind back and I got my body back. I was very fortunate to get some wonderful counselors: Beth Deutchman, Christian McKenna, and Adrian Giebel. These three women listened to me and helped me in different ways. Some were more clinical, one was spiritual. I just really had a connection there, that’s what it’s all about for me. I’m a pretty social guy and I started to realize if I get disconnected, I’m in trouble. CRW helped me get more connected. When I left residential, I stayed in the outpatient program. I have a couple of people that I call there, I got introduced to the neighborhood and the meetings.
The beautiful thing about CRW, if I think about my journey, it was a reconnection to myself and to society. I realized a lot about my addiction…I just trusted the process and this time I really worked at it. I was able to stay there for a long time—I stayed for longer than most—but I knew that I needed more time because I hadn’t developed a full connection. I went to talk to the director and he allowed me to stay there some extra time. I was able to stay [in Pride Site Residential] for a year, until August 2021. They they allowed me a little more time because I wasn’t cemented yet with a permanent job and a place to go, and I knew if I just walked out without all my ducks in a row, that would have been trouble. During that time I got a job through CRW and I got connected to ACE Vocational which is another wonderful program.
I took advantage of what was offered to me while they offered it and used it to get myself better, because I’m struggling with a 30 year addiction. I was a working addict. I was a fisherman and lobster fisherman, but I mainly got money from plastering in the union. They used to pay me by the day in cash and that was the cycle.
Tell us about your experience volunteering at the food pantry and what that’s been like for you?
Now it’s a part of my life. I started doing it while I was still in Pride Site. I would go help and then when I left I continued it. It just so happened they do it on Tuesday and Wednesday and that’s my weekend. It’s a part of me keeping busy and having a purpose. Getting to know the folks there better and doing some service work has become another part of my recovery. It’s all about me staying focused. For me I have to be guided, I have to wake up in the morning and have a purpose. Now that I’m talking to you, I’m realizing how it’s all a big circle for me. I know if I maintain what I’m doing and stay out of my own way and out of my head, I’ll be good—I really believe that. Going to do the pantry, and actually feeling a bit of an obligation to it now, it just keeps me rolling.
What’s your favorite part of of doing it?
My favorite part of doing it is the connection to the volunteers. I get the most satisfaction from showing up there and seeing some happy faces. I also feel like giving back, I get satisfaction knowing that we are helping out people that are food insecure. But I really don’t go, “Oh I’m going so much good.” It’s just kind of a normal thing. I don’t feel as if I’m doing anything special. It’s just a part of what goes on in life, some people need extra help and I got help when I needed it.
Another great part of my recovery was Back on My Feet. What I love about them is you get back what you give. If you do certain things they help you out. When I was in CRW inpatient, a volunteer would come and run or walk with us in the morning. You had to be down there 5:30 am and it was twice a week. What they did is—which I think is the best way to help people—you got to put some skin in the game and show that you have a willingness and then we’ll help you out. That philosophy really resonates with me. Back On My Feet has been another huge part of my recovery. We do a Zoom link up every week and chat and get updates. I’m realizing that those are the things that I’m blessed and grateful for.
What’s your experience been like with Samara as a counselor in the outpatient program?
Samara is great; she fulfills a spiritual side of recovery. Samara’s an art therapist so she comes up with some unique ways to deal with issues and she’s a good spirit, very helpful. Samara is there for me. I’ve leaned on her a couple of times. I’m on the medically assisted treatment program and for me, it’s the best. I need that as part of my recovery. Samara helps me out with that and she’s always there for me. I really enjoy her.
What advice would you give people who are going through what you went through?
The advice I would give people in recovery is to recognize what is available to you in the city of New York. Take advantage of it but be grateful for it. You have to be grateful and realize that it could just take one little turn of the economy and this is the first thing they’ll cut, so you have to take advantage of what the City is trying to do. I would say the main thing is to get involved with a program and put yourself out there to what they’re offering. Show up to the groups because when you just lay there like some people did and not participate, that’s a recipe for disaster. There were lots of times I didn’t want to do it but that’s when I always made myself do it even more.
I would also say get involved, keep busy, stay connected. NA and AA are always a part big part of people’s recovery, it’s a part of mine. I think if people just realize that the help is there, no one’s going to force you to go, it depends on how much you really want to get clean. You’ve got to stick with it. There were times I thought the whole world was going to fall apart. I thought to myself “I’m not going have anywhere to live, I’m not going to have a job, I blew up my life.”
Now I’m just humbly sweeping the streets for ACE now. I sweep areas of sidewalks and empty the cans on the corner. So that’s another part of my recovery, I feel as if I’m helping the city that helped me. The old me would be like, “You’re way better than this.” They even offered me a bigger position and I turned it down because I would be in a truck. I want to keep moving and I like being out and doing this—it’s therapeutic actually. I really feel it. I feel as if this job is giving something back to the city.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
Something just came to mind. Me agreeing to do this [interview] was another example of putting yourself out there. By doing this with you, it’s helped me re-think all the blessings and good things that have come. By doing this interview I feel more grateful today.