Jim's Story - "Long Ride to Freedom"
“When I was a kid, I looked forward to doing what I wanted to do when I got older. I grew up in the projects in the late 60's and early 70's. My mother, who raised me, was actually my aunt. She was a very special lady with strong Christian values that she taught me. As a teenager I started smoking cigarettes and weed. Later I started using alcohol and any drugs that were available. That seemed to be the thing to do. Well, my mother passed away when I was 17. Being on my own, I quit school, got a job, and an apartment. I did pretty much what I wanted to do. I worked a couple years steady and then decided it was time to really party.I rented a house with five guys living there with no jobs and collecting welfare. There were all kinds of young women coming around with money, buying food, alcohol, and drugs, looking for a place to party. That lasted about two years. I had met my ex-wife while living there and was seeing her steady. She was still in high school and living at home. I was living where ever I laid down (doing what I wanted to do). When she graduated, I decided I needed to get things together.
In 1980, I got a job and we got an apartment. I was drinking heavily and smoking a lot of weed and anything else that was around. But, I managed to keep that job for 11 years. In ‘91, she wanted to go her own way. I was bummed out. I made the decision to do some traveling on my Harley motorcycle. I told my boss I wanted to take a leave of absence. I took my retirement money I had built up and hit the road.
From then on I was homeless. I rode around the US until I ran out of money which didn’t take long. I went on an 8 year binge. I worked enough to survive, but never sobered up. I was an alcoholic and drug addict. I sold my bike in ’98 and left Pennsylvania on a bus bound for Hollywood, FL . I figured I would live on that money till it ran out and take things from there. Well, the money didn't last long. I did some day labor off and on to get some beer money. When I couldn't work, I panhandled. I got into a rut that I couldn't get out of. I was tired of it and couldn't seem to do anything about it. I tried detox at the hospital, but they cut me loose and I was right back on the streets, but worse off than before. The last time (3rd time) I went to detox, they kept me a little longer.”
“A lady asked me if I ever considered getting clean and sober. I told her I wanted to, but I felt the only way was to enter a program. A man came by the next day and told me about a life skills program that was in-house for 8 months. He told me if I was serious about it, there would be a car to pick me up the next day. The biggest decision of my life turned out to be the best. I told myself I would give it a year (clean and sober). I was picked up the next day and taken to Broward Outreach Center. What a trip, I kept telling myself - one year. Well, from the day I made that decision, it kept getting better and easier.
I worked while I was there and saved some money. I then went to school and got my CDL license. I always wanted to drive trucks but knew I couldn't with my alcohol dependency. I stayed at BOC for 9-1/2 months. The day I left, I got on a bus to Tenn. for a truck driving job. That was good therapy, being responsible for the truck and having to deliver the loads on time. I lived in the truck and made good money.
I bought a piece of land in north Florida while I was on the road. I drove for 2 years and took some time off to clear the land and get a well and septic tank. I bought an old trailer and decided to try finding work around there. I worked a few low paying jobs and applied and for a job with a more solid future. I ended up getting that job. It's been 7 years since BOC. I wrote my goals when I started there. The last thing I sold was that Harley, so that was the first thing I wanted back. I changed my priorities and got a home first. I am happy to say I did get that 2007 Harley. Its been a long ride to freedom. It's nice to know that there are people who really care and would like to give anyone the opportunity to experience a changed life. Thanks to everyone at Broward Outreach Center for helping me.”