Javier walked through the doors of Guiding Light on October 17th, 2018 a broken man. Years of drinking and drug addiction had led him away from his family, his relationship with God, and from his home in southern California. He spoke very little English when he arrived, and recalled that words and concepts like vulnerability, willingness, and openness were not a part of his vocabulary. “My pride and ego were saying, ‘a Mexican like me, a person like me can’t be in this place. I didn’t know anything about humility,” he said. Today, he has been sober for over two years, has a well paying job, his own apartment at Iron House, Guiding Light’s sober living apartments in Kentwood, a relationship with God, and a new-found respect for the value of community and friendship without bias or judgement.
Very early in his time at Guiding Light Recovery, Javier recalled one of the biggest moments for him personally, where he began to notice a powerful shift in his mindset and how he related to others. “The biggest change for me happened…I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this,” he went on. “The gay community…I never had a problem with the gay community, I always had respect for that and I had worked around them my whole life…but I never had a friend that was gay.” Javier recalled that it was two gay men in the Recovery program that were the first ones, as he was struggling to crawl out of one of the darkest times of his life, to make him feel welcome. “When I was in the program, it was Kenzie and Jacob…they were the first ones that approached me, and they gave me a hug, and I was okay with that. I never thought that I was going to change and say that that was fine with me. It made me think, you know, what was my problem back in the day? That did change my life a lot, that was the beginning of my change, that was a big deal in my early sobriety.”
At Guiding Light, we do not presume those that come to our doors to be Christian, but it is our hope that we are Christian towards them and welcome them in the same manner that each of us has been welcomed through Jesus Christ into the heart of God. A hard truth about substance-abuse is that it does not discriminate. Addiction draws no distinction based upon race, class, gender, status, religion, or sexual orientation, it affects everyone the same. At Guiding Light, we follow a similar philosophy, and foster a culture of inclusivity, openness, and tolerance for all men that truly want help, no matter what. Javier’s story is but one example of how the culture of the Guiding Light Recovery program can break down these artificial barriers and social constructs that have for so long divided us as a society. At Guiding Light, we learn to view each other as human beings, all equally created in God’s image, first and foremost. For Javier, learning that he was accepted as a friend immediately for who he was by another man that, under different circumstances, he may have had difficulty accepting himself, was a huge first step for him on his journey in sobriety. A cornerstone of the personal change we try to facilitate at Guiding Light is to create an environment where men feel safe to open up and become vulnerable not only with themselves, but with others. In order to get to, and begin to understand, the issues at the root of their addiction, men need to become honest with themselves, with God, and with each other about who they really are. This is impossible if they are not in a place where they feel truly accepted as a human being, someone who has value and is worthy of a better life and God’s love.
Javier’s story is just one of many that happens here every day, where men learn to embrace community and peer-support as a means to move forward and live up to their God-given potential. The only cost for men to become accepted in the Guiding Light Recovery program is their willingness to change and commitment to living a different way. Our clients have access to professional and holistic treatment and care from therapists, spiritual directors, and life coaches. It costs roughly $300 a day to house, feed, and teach our clients how a life in sobriety is possible, and we could not do it without you. You are the reason we see miracles happen here every day. It truly is a miracle that a man like Javier can live the life he does today, a life of freedom, joy, happiness, and sobriety. From all of us at Guiding Light, clients and staff alike, thank you so much for all that you do, God bless.
THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST HAS BECOME A NEW PERSON. THE OLD LIFE IS GONE; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17