It was nearly a year ago that Anthony sat across from me in Street Bean’s Belltown coffee shop. That day, he was just shy of the 60-day mark into his seventh journey toward sobriety in just 23 years, but he was optimistic about the future.
He’d been on the streets since his mid-teens, raised by two parents who struggled with the demons of addiction that then made a home in their son. His father taught Anthony to smoke marijuana at age eight. By 18, Anthony was homeless, addicted to heroin, and had a criminal record, not because he was a bad kid – but because he simply didn’t know a different life to live.
“I never thought I’d be anything other than an addict. That’s what I saw my family doing, so that’s what I thought I would do.”
But that was a year ago.
Today, Anthony is a familiar face around New Horizons, though his role here has shifted significantly since he’s been around.
When he first came to New Horizons, he attended Drop-In and worked with a case manager for a while, until he was hired as a facilities apprentice and later as a Street Bean apprentice.
Apprentices are guaranteed a space in The Nest, our 12-bed transitional shelter, so once he was hired at Street Bean, Anthony would be stably housed and employed for the first time in a long time for at least six months.
During those six months, he excelled in every way.
He was such a standout that, after his apprenticeship was finished, Street Bean hired him as a full-time employee. He received transitional housing with the help of his case manager while faithfully attending weekly drug court appointments and daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
And thankfully, none of his dedication has returned empty.
Today, quite some time after he told me that there was a time in his life he didn’t think he’d ever go 24 hours without using, Anthony is a week away from his one-year anniversary of sobriety.
After a shift of work recently, he reflected on the milestone at my desk.
“I made it to 24. That’s amazing. I should’ve died – not because I want to, you know, but because what I was doing was so dangerous – way before 24. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but reflecting on where I used to be compared to where I am now keeps me going. I never want to go back to where I used to be.”
Not only is he nearly one-year sober, but Anthony is stably housed, a handful of court appointments away from a having his criminal record wiped clean, and is just past another one-year anniversary: his employment with Street Bean.
“I’ve never had a job for that long,” he said with a small grin and chuckle, slinging his backpack over his shoulder, the grin lingering as he gave a signature nod and headed out the door.
We’re grateful to have played a supportive role in Anthony’s journey off the streets – not just that we have been able to offer housing, case management, and job training along the way, but also that we’ve had the joy of befriending this young man who has overcome so many seemingly impossible obstacles to get to the place he is now.
We’re fortunate that, at least for today, that place continues to be with us at Street Bean and New Horizons.