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“There were no excuses, no more blaming anyone”

When Garrick first heard about Guiding Light Recovery as an option to stay out of jail, it sounded like a great idea — until he heard about the long-term commitment. “I was like, ‘Four months? Forget that.’ I hung up and started calling everywhere else,” he said. “But nobody else could get me out of jail.”

Looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened to him. It was the “gift of desperation”, familiar to anyone whose addiction has taken them to the inevitable point where they are out of options. “I definitely would’ve just done some 30-day program, and gone right back to using,” said Garrick, who had no choice but to call Guiding Light back.

Because this program is 100% funded by donors, there is no time limit to recovery. And little did Garrick know, but four months would turn into seven, followed by a move to Guiding Light’s sober living community, Iron House. “If you had told me seven months at the start, I might have just ridden it out in jail. But yeah, that was really big — the time they give you really does help. A shorter timeframe does not end well.” Garrick speaks from experience. His first attempt at recovery, one of the short-term insurance-based programs, came after he fell into heavy drug use while in college.

This was during the pandemic, with tests conducted online, and Garrick remembers little of his last two years of school. He said he spent most of his time “getting high and playing video games all day.” The only way he can piece together what happened during that time was looking through old emails. He’s embarrassed by the excuses he offered for missing tests or not completing projects. “Just all this victim, crybaby stuff. I’m reading that and thinking, ‘Man, 20-year-old me was weak.’”

His first stint in rehab didn’t change that. But he found quite a contrast at Guiding Light. “This program was much more upfront about saying, ‘You’ve got to change your ways or it’s going to get much worse.’ They’re very big on the responsibility aspect here. It’s all on you. There were no excuses, no blaming anyone, no one else’s fault.” The best part about being “translucently honest with yourself” at Guiding Light is being surrounded by a community that also will hold you accountable, Garrick said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Don’t lie to yourself.’ But it’s also just so easy to start fooling yourself without realizing it. That’s where that community ties in. You can’t really lie to yourself without getting called out by six people, and that helps a lot. I mean, you live with the same 30 guys for months and you get to know everyone really well.”

Now 23, Garrick is happier about his life than his perspective on his 20-year-old self. This includes his relationship with his family. “I mean, no one wants to see their son, their older brother, go through all that. And yeah, I was just a wreck during those years. Any family thing I showed up for, I was falling asleep standing up, and just could not form a coherent sentence.” Today he sees himself as more competent in life, and has a newfound relationship with God and his new self. “The addiction part was pretty bad. The recovery part has been great. That feels great.”

Now Garrick is working in downtown Grand Rapids, living at Iron House, and has plans to hike the Appalachian Trail next year. He’s thinking about moving out West someday. Not too long ago, these would have been impossible ambitions for him. “Yeah, I thought I was way too far gone, I thought there was no chance for me to change. However that played out between jail and rehab, eventually it worked. I really did not want to change when I started this. But now I know anyone can change.”


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