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“Being Here Gave Me That ‘Sky is the Limit’ Attitude”

Big Plans

Parris has big plans: Get his driver’s license back. Go to barber school. Get back into the music industry. See the world. Fulfill his responsibilities as a father and a son.

Not too long ago, those ambitions would have been nothing more than dreams. Drug addiction had left his life “in a shambles.” But since he arrived at Guiding Light? “Being here gave me that ‘the sky is the limit’ attitude.”

It’s been a long road since Parris moved from Saginaw to Grand Rapids five years ago. He was looking for work, but also found trouble – the same kind that landed him in prison by the age of 22. “I got involved with the same type of people, got right back into the cocaine use. Losing jobs.I went to selling all my belongings, my car, all my appliances. And I saw it start to affect my children’s lives when I wasn’t there, when they needed me the most. Wasn’t there for birthdays, holidays, wasn’t able to provide. They noticed these things, and that hurt me the most – that and for my mom to find out, seeing the pain she went through.”

“Enough is Enough”

He got to the point where “enough was enough” and he reached out for help at Guiding Light. He remembers the specific date – January 19 – just as he remembers what he found here: “A lot of structure. A lot of love. Acceptance, wisdom, knowledge. This place made me stand for something. It helped me not only find sobriety but also find myself as a person who I really am, my purpose in life.”

It has not always been easy for someone who always thought he could handle his problems on his own. He had to put his pride aside so he could accept help as part of the Guiding Light 

community. But now he wakes up every day thinking, “I’m a step closer to achieving my goals. It’s another day that I have to work on myself.”

Some of those goals are very specific. He wants to save money and earn the privilege of driving again. He envisions one day owning 

his own barbershop after improving on his self-taught barbering he learned and practiced after watching his father cut hair. He’d like to revive the rap career he discarded, maybe by managing other performers. “I definitely want to travel the world – the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Africa, The Netherlands.” The travel interest comes naturally to someone who grew up in West Germany, where his father was stationed in the Air Force. “Being at Guiding Light definitely opened my mind up more to want to explore the world.You know, you have to push yourself. You never know your full potential if you’re not willing to push yourself to that limit.”

That includes pushing himself physically. He was talking about his ambitions after an energetic round of cross-fit training, running the stairs to Belknap Hill in Grand Rapids. Exercise and fitness are important parts of the program at Guiding Light Recovery, and Parris has seen the results. At age 40, he says he is as healthy as he has been in his life. He arrived at Guiding Light weighing 168 pounds and now is a muscular 203. That emphasis on fitness extends to mind and spirit.

Growing Mentally, Physically, and Spiritually

“Before I came here, I was taking my higher power for granted, only connecting in my time of need rather than in day-to-day life. Since I connected with my higher power, and I’m showing him gratitude, he’s been opening new doors, opportunities every day.”

Parris said his experience also has shown him what it really means to be a father. He does not want his 8-year-old son or 12-year-old daughter to experience the same mistakes and hardships he did. “Guiding Light has taught me responsibility and how to have structure and how to set goals. All these things are something I want to influence my kids to do.”

The most important thing he wants people to understand about him? “I mean, know about hitting rock bottom, then being able to kind of like climb back. I’ve been through a lot, but I’ve found how to have overall happiness again.”


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