Guiding LIght yellow 95th anniversary logo

“It’s All on Me at the End of the Day”

Tim during a cognitive behavioral therapy during his stay at Guiding Light

Tim spent nine years in federal prison. It’s taken a while, but he now knows exactly who to blame for spending a quarter of his life behind bars.

“It’s no one else’s fault but my own. I chose to sell the drugs. I chose to start doing the drugs. I did not choose to stop doing the drugs. So that can’t be the justice system’s fault and that can’t be my friends’ fault. It’s all on me at the end of the day.”

Tim is describing one of the core values at Guiding Light Recovery, the need to Live at Cause by recognizing we are not victims of our circumstances. The men in our recovery program come to understand, as Tim does, that true transformation is founded on a willingness to take charge of their own lives.

“Now I can definitely see where my choices have directly affected the position that I ended up in in life. I have power over me — no one else does. And that works both ways. No one has power over me, and I don’t have any power over anyone else.”

That’s not to say Tim didn’t face tough circumstances. His father died when Tim was just 23. He soon developed an opiate addiction and “it’s not been a fun ride” since. Prison separated him from his two children, while also failing to solve his addiction. It was easier to find drugs behind bars than on the outside — and he says the prison treatment programs aren’t taken seriously.

Still, when he finished his sentence, life was going pretty good for six months, until it all fell apart again. A positive drug test landed him in jail, where he faced a return to prison. Then his lawyer had “the magnificent idea” that he enroll in Guiding Light Recovery. The judge agreed.

When he arrived, he found a night-and-day difference to prison.

“I’ve seen that everyone here seems to care, and they all really want the same thing. I think I’m unique in the aspect that I’m the only one facing going back to jail if I’m unsuccessful in the program. But everyone here just wants to live a different life. They’re tired of the addiction, they’re tired of chasing that next high and losing everything they have.”

“I was originally only supposed to stay for the four months of the Foundations phase. And, you know, after I got here and I learned about what comes after that, what you could possibly do, I decided that that was probably the best thing for me to do.”

That includes finding work, which Tim has done, and preparing to move to Guiding Light’s Iron House community. These two-bedroom apartments provide a safe and sober community for men who complete the full recovery program. While at Iron House, they work full-time, pay rent, help with property maintenance, and participate in support groups and community meetings as they build a new life.

Tim was one of the many real success stories we featured in our 2023 billboard campaign
Tim was one of the many real success stories we featured in our 2023 billboard campaign

For Tim, building a new life includes plans for going back to school and taking other steps to invest in a better future.

“I’d like to afford my kids an opportunity to have a place to grow up and a place for my grandchildren to grow up and for me to teach them some of the things that I’ve learned in my life. Making the hard decisions now and doing the hard stuff now is going to be worth it in the end. Later on, it’s not going to be so hard, because I already did all the hard stuff.”

Tim talks about the camaraderie and friendships he has developed at Guiding Light, including with the support he receives from a life coach who went through the program himself.

“I had felt for a long time, basically since my dad died, that there was no one else out there who cared about me, which I now know is not true.”

Reflecting on his experience, Tim describes Guiding Light this way: “It’s a safe space for you to figure out what’s going on with you and how you can change, so you can have a more positive outlook and be more productive and actually have a life worth living.”

What Tim is describing is another value for Guiding Light: waking up to the gift of life God has given us.

“You know, It’s the best gift I never realized that I had already.”


Receive a quarterly newsletter by U.S. Mail

Newsletter Mail Signup


Receive our e-mailed bi-monthly stories and updates

Email Signup