Exodus: My Story of Freedom
Frank Miller is a St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence Alumni and former employee of the HOME Page Café. In addition to volunteering in his community, Frank has recently competed a certification as a Network Cable Specialist and is continuing to seek competitive employment.
I wanted to write this story about myself to give thanks to everyone in the Project HOME community and directly to all those who give their time, donations, and energy behind the scenes and who might wonder if this war to end homelessness is actually working. I’ll allow the readers to act as judge. In 2007 I was really having problems.
I was in my fourth year of relapse, mourning the death of a family member and basically going nowhere fast. I had to make some choices. In my past struggles with substances I successfully earned an eight-year chip for being a “dry drunk.” I did no 12 Step work, though, and since I still didn’t know what was wrong with myself, it was only a matter of time until active substance abuse again. In March of 2007 I suffered again with the death of another family member who was a fellow veteran, he Air Force, I Navy. I really admired his intelligence, and he had showed me the true meaning of “unconditional love.” I promised my mother that I refused to allow her to return to her God with her son unable to assist the family. Right then I decided to get myself help. I used my Veterans benefits and admitted myself into the V.A. Medical Center in Lebanon where I received 90 days of inpatient treatment.
Upon completion I reached another crossroad where I was still in danger from relapse: I could return to the neighborhood I just escaped from or “try something different.” I had two options, Impact Services for homeless veterans, or Project HOME’s St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence. I had done the military thing before, so my choice was simple. St. Elizabeth’s was the best thing that ever happened to me. Finally I was able to really see the effects of physical, mental, and substance abuse. When I first got there, my plan was to stay just a few months and get back to work. I don’t know how I did it but I had successfully completed computer tech school while using, and I worked in the field, but things began to happen around me at the residence.
First I was introduced to a case manager who was kind and told me that I would be OK and that whatever I wanted to do Project HOME would support me. (Thanks, H.H.!)
I quickly learned the routine and began working on securing housing and employment. Addiction is strange, and sometimes it returns. I watched the men struggle, and I had to rethink my plan, because whenever God returned one of our men back to us after a bad choice I would wait maybe a week later and quietly ask him graphic questions about his adventures, what drove them, the quality of the substance, and most important, women – because in at least 85 percent of those men willing to talk to me, they stated that “being lonely for female contact” is what triggered their bad choices, while some of the men were just not ready.
It wasn’t easy watching guys that I formed relationships with struggle, and they would always say they “messed up” and beat themselves up. I listened to their stories in group, and another case manager would explain the difference between mistakes and choices, and he used to always tell us all to slow down and “Stay in Position,” and the importance of the 12 steps. This is what made me stay until I was ready, and eventually I received what I came there for: FREEDOM. (Thanks, A.H.!)
I remained at St. Elizabeth’s for 21 months, and during that time I greeted many returnees – one returned four times before I departed. I did everything I needed to do to rise as a positive resident. In the beginning, I struggled something terrible, but through my higher power I made it through. With the assistance of my guide I began my quest of the "Dreaded 12 Steps" through which I learned what was really wrong: I was angry about my life. In outpatient treatment I got help and learned that all my problems were in any mirror I choose to look into. It was hard facing myself because when I really saw me I didn’t like the angry, selfish, self-centered, finger-pointing, poor me that looked back.
I continued working on preparing myself for leaving; I secured part-time employment with Project HOME and went to school for food services training where I became a line cook with a Servsafe certification. At that time I felt somewhat ready to venture out.
I was once again at a crossroad: I had a job but no housing, so I moved to Hope Haven, a Project HOME transitional housing facility close to the recovery residence. This is the final stage in securing freedom, but you must stay focused or you will fall victim to the many traps that lay in store for whoever leaves their tools that teach them to take small steps, live only in the day, and to accept life on its own terms. I finally understood that I control every event in my life, that I have the power to remove myself when I feel weak, and most important to accept everyone and everything “as is.” LIVE LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS! Don’t get mad if someone steals something from you if you surround yourself with thieves, and learn to accept the word NO! Hope Haven was an education in control. There I was free to choose any path I wanted, and I watched the men fall for the same reasons they fell everywhere else – bad choices!
I was introduced to another social worker who assisted me in securing housing; it’s simple, employment, follow rule book, stay substance free, and in seven months I was handed the keys to my new one-bedroom apartment in the University City section of the city. With my new apartment came responsibility and management.
Right at that time, my part-time job ended, so now I was faced with idle time. I had income, so I needed something to do, so I found out that with housing I could take a training course free of charge, and once again by being in position I was assisted with transportation the entire time I was in school. I completed a course in telecommunications where I became a Network Cabling Specialist with a Fiber Optics Certification. Well, this is my story. This past April I obtained four years of sobriety.
During this time I’ve learned about myself and I can only judge myself. Some days are very hard, I lost a parent during this process, I met a few new friends and lost a lot of old ones. When I returned to my old neighborhood I was the only person who changed. So remember, don’t expect anything, make your own path, and no means no!
In closing, I want to once again from the bottom of my heart thank everyone who remains anonymous and who give freely to help men like me who fell on hard times. Your donations small or large are being used to help us. It’s working. Sister Mary is an effective battalion commander, and I admire everything Project HOME stands for. Thank you.