On January 17th, 2023, Guiding Light Recovery alumni Kyle, Tyler, Pat, Eric, Nick, Dennys, Scott and Kenan had a chance to formally celebrate reaching one year of sobriety. These men made the decision to stay through the four-month Guiding Light Recovery program, find work, and move to Iron House, our sober/transitional living apartments in Kentwood. Not only is it inspiring for everyone in the community 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 eight men embarked upon over a year ago. Executive Director Brian Elve opened the ceremony, speaking to the important role these men play in being an inspiration to the program. Reaching a decision to come here is not one that any man comes to easily. It is often a joke told around the halls at Guiding Light that nobody every arrives at our doors on a winning streak.
“It’s difficult for me to think about what needs to be said about these men,” Brian said. “And one thing that comes to mind is the idea of willingness. As you know these guys’ lives weren’t going so well, and its scary to know what to do when that’s going on. And you can imagine someone coming to you with this idea of coming to Guiding Light, in the Heartside district, at 255 South Division…you can imagine that some people get a little leery at the prospect of doing that. I want to say that the first step for these men coming to that door that you all walked through tonight really was their first step into willingness.”
Joining The Wall
Each of the men were introduced by their life coaches Jacob Passerman and Mike Ryan, who are also graduates of the program. 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 eight 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.
Guiding Light is Hope
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. 76% 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 100 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