I grew up with two deaf parents in tough times in Somerville, MA. As a teenager, I was constantly getting into trouble; stealing cars and drinking too much. I grew up very quickly on the streets. When I went into the military, I grew up the other way; I became a man. While in the military, I became injured. A flying rock hit me in the head and landed me in the hospital for two months. That was the path that started me on my life-long battle with pain medication. Due to my addiction issues, my wife and I got a divorce. I went into a rehab program and was free from drugs and alcohol for 12 and a half years. I remarried and had my own business for 8 years. Unfortunately, I had no real skills with managing people. Had I learned management skills, I probably would still have the business today, but instead I closed my business and started working for a well-known heating company. Within a month of working there, I got injured. I fell on a patch of ice and tore my rotator cuff. Then I fell again before my surgery and broke my leg, reinjured my back, and messed up my neck & shoulder. After my surgeries, I was receiving some of my medication from the VA, and some from my primary provider. To simplify things, I decided to switch everything over to the VA. After switching, my lawyer told me that because I was on worker’s comp, I had to provide receipts from my primary provider for my medication. I asked my primary care provider for the pain meds, and tried to notify the VA that I no longer needed it through them. In this confusion, I ended up receiving two prescriptions from two different doctors; both places didn’t like it and shut me off. I had to do something for the pain, so I started buying pain meds on the streets. The easiest thing to get was heroin, so that’s what I started to use. It is embarrassing; but it’s what happened. I wanted to get off the heroin earlier than I did, but feel that the stigma associated with doing heroin prevented me from getting help. After a year, I’d spent more than $160,000 on drugs and motels and ended up with nothing left. I came down to the VA and asked for help. They connected me with the Haven, for a place to stay; and the methadone clinic in Lebanon for my pain management.

I’ve never even been in a shelter before. I’m blessed and very thankful to be here. I think in the future I’ll have the opportunity to give back to the Haven. Right now I’ve got some financial issues that I’ve got to resolve. The next couple of months will be a bumpy ride, but I’m getting there. The Getting Ahead class has been an eye-opening experience. I realized how much money I spend on a daily basis. I used to buy cigarettes, gum, eat out, etc. Now before I buy things, I think ‘wait a minute, do I need this?’. The class has taught me to focus my time on being productive, not to beat myself up, and to think about my future.

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