Courage and Recovery: Bob Ealey's Story
In the Philadelphia neighborhood where Robert (Bob) Ealey grew up, the only men who had fine clothing and money to spend were drug dealers. This was magnetic to a young teenager. Bob dropped out of high school after 11th grade and began substance abuse at age 18. Even though he was using, he was able to hold down a job at the City of Philadelphia’s Sanitation Department. for six years. Eventually, though, his addiction lost him his job.
He was twenty-four and homeless. Theft was his main source of income. He was in and out of Holmesburg Prison until the authorities required that he complete his GED or be sent to the state prison. He completed his GED at the prison school. On release, he continued with the thefts and was imprisoned at the State Prison from 1982 to 1989. Ultimately, the prison would parole him only if he went to live with his parents, who had relocated to South Carolina.
At first, Bob’s stint in South Carolina helped him to stabilize. He secured work as a stock room manager, working for seven years until the store closed. He then worked eight years for the Granite Mill Textile firm. He married a Philadelphia woman who lived with him in South Carolina, but because she was homesick, they returned to Philadelphia.
He fell in with old contacts and began abusing drugs. He was arrested in six months, and spent one year in prison. He worked small jobs, still abusing drugs; and survived being stabbed in the heart. “I decided I was no good at theft so I started selling drugs to support my habit.” His life continued its checkered pattern of incarceration, and he and his wife separated.
Desperate, Bob realized he needed long term treatment. He sought help at the Self-Help Movement, and in that program, earned Safe Serve and OSHA-supported Work Place Safety Certificates. On completion, he needed to secure housing. He learned about Project HOME and began living at St. Elizabeth’s Residence for Recovery. With nudging from his case manager, he became involved in the Project HOME Advocacy Program and the Resident Advisory Board. “I didn’t know how or what to do, and didn’t want to learn,” he says. “But I knew I needed to make a big change.”
Staff persons Alexis Pugh and Tanisha Clanton gave a presentation on Project HOME’s Employment Services Apprenticeships and suggested Bob register. He resisted getting involved and tried to stall. Today, Bob attributes the turn-around in his life to the internship and all the help he received through that program and his other Project HOME involvements. He did his internship as a janitor at Ray’s Home, a Project HOME residence. On graduation, he was hired by Project HOME as part-time receptionist. He received three job offers from outside companies but decided to stay close to his support services to maintain his sobriety. His goal was to live on his own.
Realizing that he could not afford to pay his rent, Bob was helped by Employment Services to find a second part-time job as support staff at St. Elizabeth’s. He is still working, and in addition he is taking steps toward developing capacities and gaining certification to provide support to others persons struggling with addiction.
Last Christmas, Bob organized a gathering of several Project HOME alumni to contribute time and effort toward collecting foods and gifts for needy families for the holidays. “My two part-time jobs are enough to pay my bills and buy Christmas presents,” he said.
Today, Bob Ealey presents himself as a man satisfied with his life, and we are grateful to have this story of courage and recovery as part of the Project HOME community.