On March 1st, Guiding Light Recovery alumni Shawn, Andy, Allen, Ryan, Mike, Doug P. and Doug Z. had a chance to formally celebrate reaching one year of sobriety. Before the COVID-19 pandemic events like this were a regular occurrence at our Heartside facility. It has been over two years since we have been able to hold this ceremony, and it means a lot not just for the men, but for all of us at Guiding Light, that we can start getting back to a “new normal.”
Not only is it inspiring for everyone to see successful stories of recovery, but it is also a huge morale boost for current clients, who are just beginning the same journey these seven men embarked upon over a year ago. Recovery Program Director Brian Elve opened the ceremony, speaking to the important role these men play in being an inspiration to the program. “Where there is hope, there is life. Where there is life, there is possibility. And where there is possibility, change can occur, and these men represent that change,” he said. “These men faced the challenges of change, they also took on the responsibility of this journey to be the hope for the men in the program. Trust me, they get tired of hearing my voice, they get tired of hearing the voices of other staff. These men are an example of what determination and commitment to change can look like.”
After each man spoke, they were all invited to nail their plaques on our “wall of sobriety,” which contains the name of all former Recovery program clients that have made it over a year of continuous sobriety. Tonight was a big step for these seven former clients who, at one time, were completely broken by addiction and standing at the doors of Guiding Light asking for help. These are men who were willing to truly say goodbye to their past lives, not allowing it to define them, and took to heart the suggestions and instructions of the Guiding Light Recovery program. The vast majority of Americans struggling with substance-abuse issues do not ask for help, and for those that do, few make it very far (in fact, 33% is an optimistic figure.) For those that are truly serious and prepared to make a change, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here. 78% of men that come through our Recovery program, find employment, and move to Iron House achieve long-term sobriety. Having the privilege to put your name on the wall is not only a huge personal achievement and benchmark of success for a man personally, it is a shining example for current clients that there is hope. All of the men on the wall today were, at one point or another, in the exact same spot as the men living in Guiding Light right now. There is a way out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of life in recovery, and the wall is a symbol of this.
When it comes to tackling the issues of rising substance-abuse and homelessness among Grand Rapids men head on, our track record speaks for itself. Guiding Light’s mission in our community is one that is worth investing in, and one that we take very seriously. Since we began celebrating our client’s achievement of reaching one-year of continuous sobriety, a total of 80 men have put their names on the wall. Today more than ever, it is important to be able to provide a safe place for men to get off the streets and out of the chaos of life in active addiction. To all our donors, volunteers, and advocates, it is important to note that none of this would be possible without your support. From all of us at Guiding Light, clients and staff alike, God bless and thank you for all that you do.
 Dennis, M. L., Foss, M. A., & Scott, C. K. (2007). An eight-year perspective on the relationship between the duration of abstinence and other aspects of recovery. Evaluation review, 31(6), 585–612. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193841X07307771