(This blog was first posted on my blogspot at addiction.com)
This morning my friend Archie sent me a very special email, announcing that he and his wife, Liz, just signed papers for their first house. New-home ownership is a thrill for anyone, but especially so for Archie — such a scenario would’ve once been impossible for him.
Archie used to be a street addict. He was also a career criminal, known to every police officer in central Oregon. Arrested 57 times in Deschutes County on drug possession charges, property crimes, ID theft and more, he racked up 87 drug-related felony charges. Archie was incarcerated repeatedly, and spent many of his 15 years of active addiction in prison.
Archie was the kind of person I once would’ve crossed the street to avoid. With cold, dark eyes, prison “tats” on both arms and a wool beanie pulled down low, he would’ve frightened me. There was no one like Archie in my life. I simply didn’t know people like him, nor did I want to. But now I’m proud to call him “friend.”
Ten years ago, Archie lived in a broken down car and everything he owned was stashed in a worn and tattered duffel bag. He had no friends and his family had written him off along the way. They called the police whenever Archie came near them.
Yet all of this changed when he walked out of an Oregon prison in January 2007. With $16 in his pocket and a borrowed bicycle as his sole source of transportation, Archie started a new life. He attended daily 12-step meetings. He found sober housing at an Oxford House. He kept putting one foot in front of the other, and each day became better than the one before. Over time, and he says “by God’s grace,” Archie’s obsession to use drugs was lifted.
Archie changed everything. He made new friends — sober friends. He secured a minimum-wage job despite his criminal history. And he didn’t “pick up” no matter what.
Next came cleaning up the wreckage of his past. In order to reclaim a valid driver’s license, Archie paid the State of Oregon $18,973 in $280 increments over a period of five years. Once he could drive again, he bought a used truck for $500. And at age 44, he enrolled at the local college.
Archie graduated with honors and a degree in addiction studies. He’s now an addiction counselor working with troubled youth and we sit together on the board of directors of the Meth Action Coalition. He married Liz, a juvenile probation officer, and his best man was the police officer who nearly shot him in a foot chase years ago.
Archie is proud that he now has a debit card “with his own name on it.” With a hard-won credit score of 750 and a $6,000 down payment, a real estate loan became possible for him.
My friend is soon to celebrate 10 years without a drink or a drug. “What a beautiful day to be clean,” he says. “I get to wake up this morning and do what I want to do, not what the disease of addiction wants me to do. I get a chance to participate not only in my life, but my family’s life as well.” Such is the miracle of recovery.