What is Guiding Light?

Guiding Light rehab and recovery clients share their stories and their gratitude to the donors while sharing their stories and how they came to find Guiding Light rehab services in Grand Rapids.

Guiding Light is a 100% donor-funded non-profit that provides substance abuse treatment, accountable living, and transformation to men (and now women) and no financial cost to them. This would not be possible without the support of people like our donors, thank you!

One Year Celebration | May 2023

In May 2023, Guiding Light Recovery alumni Dennis, Craig, Jalen, Dylan, Jeff, and Brian 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 six men embarked upon over a year ago. Watch their celebration here.

Welcome to Iron House

Clients of Guiding Light Recovery (a free, 4-month substance abuse treatment program) in downtown Grand Rapids, upon graduating the program are given the opportunity to move to Iron House. Iron House consists of 5 buildings of 2-bedroom apartments and houses over 40 Guiding Light men. Today, we welcome Chaz and Jerry as they make the next step in their sobriety journey.

Blessing Esther’s House

Over the past year, Guiding Light has reflected on how best to serve the needs of our changing community, and we are excited to announce plans to expand our life-saving recovery program to include the women of Grand Rapids. To achieve this, we purchased two homes in November 2022 that will serve as recovery housing exclusively for sixteen women. These new sober living homes are named after Karen and Esther, who have been Spiritual Directors for the Guiding Light Recovery program since 2009. In January 2023 guests, Executive Director Brian Elve, and Esther gathered in the dining room of Esther’s House to formally bless the home.

One Year Celebration | January 2023

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.

2022 Christmas Community Meals

Thank you to all of our volunteers, donors, and sponsors for making our 2022 annual community meal a success.

Guiding Light is Different Because They Live It | Tyler’s Story

Years of addiction brought Tyler nothing but overdoses, suicide attempts, and hopelessness. At the end of his rope he decided to try something different…

Your Donations Save Families | Kenan’s Story

Kenan is 30 years old, a husband, and a father of two. He came to Guiding Light after struggling for years with chronic alcoholism and on the verge of losing everything. After spending over 9 months under the Guiding Light umbrella, either in our intensive in-patient rehabilitation program or our sober living apartments at Iron House, Kenan has gotten his life back. This is but one small story of how your donations directly contributed to the preservation of a loving family and the restoration of a good man.

Small Changes | Victor’s Story

Victor has been sober for four years. Regardless, he came to Guiding Light seeking help 4 months ago after a severe mental health crisis during which he was “laid in bed for a period of 18 days” and was seriously considering suicide. He once described himself as “lost in my own mind,” but today the Guiding Light Recovery program has given him the spiritual, mental, and physical jolt he needed to find his true self again.

Celebrating One Year of Sobriety at Guiding Light

On June 7th 2022, six former clients of Guiding Light Recovery marked their one-year sobriety anniversary by nailing their names on the wall at 255 Division Avenue. Congratulations guys, it does get better and we do recover.

Spiritual Direction at Guiding Light

One of the reasons that Guiding Light Recovery stands out from other substance-abuse treatment programs is the emphasis we place on developing one’s spirituality in sobriety.

Damon’s Journey From Utter Desperation to a New Life Filled With Faith, Hope

At one point in his life, Damon Whitmore was on top of the world, living in a gorgeous home on five acres alongside a beautiful wife and daughter with two nice cars, a pair of adorable dogs and money in the bank, enjoying his role of partner in a successful law firm. In the next, he was alone and jobless, hardly a dollar to his name, his wife and daughter out of the picture, and awakening every morning “resolved to drink myself to death.”

Living and Learning that ‘No Man is an Island’

Dennys is 27 years old. He came to Guiding Light on the recommendation of his mother’s pastor in November of 2021. Despite his age, he had a long and troubled past of alcoholism, cocaine abuse, physical altercations, and jail time by the time he walked through our doors.

Long-Term Recovery at Guiding Light: Jeremy’s Story

Jeremy came through the doors of Guiding Light over 5 years ago with “a quarter” to his name. Today he is self-sufficient, responsible, and has built a life for himself that is worth staying sober for. The investment you have made in him as an individual has had a ripple effect of positivity throughout our community as a whole. Getting men like Jeremy off their feet and standing tall is good for all of us, thank you for making this possible.

Donnie: Challenged by a Life of Love, Loss, and Redemption

Donnie came to Guiding Light in September of 2021 after finding himself in a hospital bed in Three Rivers Michigan with no recollection of how he got there. At the time he was consuming a fifth or more of vodka a day, which he had taken up after the death of his wife and his mother within the span of three months. Today he has been sober for six months, has a well-paying job and his own apartment. “I’m in a good place now,” he says. “Guiding Light really did save my life, and I am not kidding you one bit.”

Donors and Partners Help Feed West Michigan

In 2021 Guiding Light worked with several local non-profit organizations, food pantries, and churches to distribute 415,868 meals throughout West Michigan. As an organization we are centered at the crossroads of private, non-profit, and community-based entities. We are uniquely situated to collaborate and make sure that donated goods of all sorts are able to get into the hands of those that need it most.

Guiding Light Doesn’t Cure You, It Changes Your Thinking: DJ’s Journey in Recovery

DJ found himself at the doors of Guiding Light in May of 2021 after deciding he didn’t want his lifelong struggle with alcoholism to put him in an early grave. When someone suggested Guiding Light he was confused, wondering what a “homeless shelter” had to do with him getting sober. But with little to no options he decided to try our Recovery program. Today, DJ has a new understanding and respect for himself, and a life that is worth staying sober for.

It’s About Changing You

Mike came to Guiding Light in January 2021 after two decades of sinking deeper into the bottle before he was found near death from his drug and alcohol abuse. He was drawn to the discipline and structure of our “no-joke” Recovery program after leaving the Marines and has now found a fellowship that he has long been searching for.

Life at Guiding Light Recovery

Ever wonder what rehab is like? Guiding Light Recovery is a professional, holistic, and “no-joke” substance abuse treatment program provided to men at no financial cost. The only price is their willingness, open-mindedness, and sincere desire to change.

We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded

Jason has been caught in the vicious cycle of alcoholism, homelessness, and instability for years. After coming to Guiding Light in 2011, he continued to suffer following a relapse but found himself at our doors again ten years later. He was surprised to be welcomed back and to be provided with the long-term solutions he needed to get sober and to become financially, physically, and spiritually secure again.

I Can’t Make this Decision for You : Andy’s Journey in Recovery

Andy has spent the majority of his adult life as an alcoholic. Bouncing back and forth around the country as a golf professional couldn’t help him escape the fact that he couldn’t live a functioning and meaningful existence. After several trips to the emergency room and multiple failed attempts to get help, Andy found himself at the end of his rope. During his last hospitalization due to complications arising from his decades of chronic alcoholism, a nurse told him that he “had to go somewhere” and that he “didn’t have a choice.” Andy found himself at the doors of Guiding Light over nine months ago and is experiencing today something that has seemingly forever eluded him; a happy, healthy, dignified, and fulfilling life.

From Fear to Gratitude, Michael Shares His Recovery Journey

Michael’s addiction started out with a prescription he received for pain pills. He tried to cold-turkey quit a couple of times on his own but couldn’t make it past five days because he would get so sick. By January 2021 he was spending $500/week on heroin and he was regularly missing days of work because of the withdrawals. He eventually found himself homeless and was looking for a way out of the cycle of addiction that brought him to his knees. He heard about the Guiding Light Recovery program while detoxing at a local clinic and decided it was time to do something different.

Guiding Light Helps Tim Build a Sober Life After Losing It All

Tim has been struggling with alcoholism for decades. Despite managing to stay sober for 8 years, through which he achieved the dream of “the house and the picket fence” he found himself drinking again after the economy crashed. For years after, Tim would struggle with his addiction as he lost everything. Tim found himself at Guiding Light in April 2021. “I really get tough love here. There are people pushing you to face the issues you have. I came in here lying to myself about a lot of things. At Guiding Light, they help you see the truth. They help you change virtually everything. Nobody here is afraid to show you what that truth is.”

People Rely on Me Here: Guiding Light Recovery Gives Gabe Hope for the Future

When he found himself in downward spiral of addiction, Gabe cried out to God, and Guiding Light shone to him like a beacon. After going through Guiding Light’s Recovery program, the 28-year-old has newfound hope for his future, and the opportunity to find his independence.

David’s Story: Part Two

“The most important person in my life is still with me today – that’s my daughter, every day the bond is growing stronger. For a while there, I thought I would lose her.” David came to Guiding Light in December of 2020 “downright scared” and desperately seeking any way he could get out of having to face the demons of addiction that had plagued him for so long.

David’s Story: Part One

David is a veteran, a father, and has been struggling with alcoholism and addiction issues for decades. He didn’t realize he had a problem until his daughter was born, and fought for years to keep his demons in check. During the COVID-19 lockdown David found himself completely out of control and at a breaking point. After a suicide attempt his daughter confronted him about his drinking. It was at this moment that David decided he finally had enough and called Guiding Light…

Lectio Divina in Hessel

Today the men of Guiding Light attended Lection Divina, a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. The United Presbyterian Church in Hessel, Michigan has been gracious enough to allow the men to use their 200 year old chapel to find serenity and spiritual contemplation during their stay.

Guiding Light Travels to Hessel

Today, men of Guiding Light are traveling to Hessel, Michigan for a 3-day retreat in cabins that were generously provided by Guiding Light donors Becky and Perry K. This is a time for the men to get out in nature and to take time to contemplate their spiritual condition and journey in sobriety. It is a welcome reprieve to be out of the noise of downtown Grand Rapids and into a more serene environment up here. Thank you for making opportunities like this a possibility.

Happy Mother’s Day from Guiding Light

This Mother’s Day, Barb isn’t focused on getting flowers or candy or even a card. It’s enough that her son Mark is alive, a gift that five years ago seemed nearly out of reach. Today, Mark is sober, living in a supportive environment and employed at Guiding Light with an eye on a future he hopes includes the opportunity to continue helping men like himself – men who escaped death and got more of their share of second chances. Barb is counting her blessings as someone who realizes she could have spent this upcoming Mother’s Day whispering what-ifs to a stone in a graveyard.

Centering Prayer

“I think with alcoholism and addiction we can talk about science, and we can talk about spirituality.” Esther Yff-Prins has been volunteering at Guiding Light as a Spiritual Director for men in the Recovery program for ten years. “There have been all these recent scientific studies on the neuroplasticity of the brain, and the one thing that has been shown to heal and make a brain more pliable is quiet.” Every Friday at 9am Esther meets with the men for Centering Prayer, a 20 minute time of meditation, contemplation, and reflection.

Thank You for Investing in Men Like Tom

Tom has been a client at Guiding Light for three months. He is married and a father of five children, all between the ages of 18-25. Tom found his way to Guiding Light after losing a job he had held on to for over 20 years and numerous failed attempts at sobriety through various short-term stays in detox facilities. He came to a point where he realized he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and decided he needed a long-term solution to his decades long struggle with alcoholism.

Mine is a Life Worth Living Again: Javier’s Journey in Recovery

Javier left his home in South Central LA and came to Grand Rapids disgraced after getting into a physical fight with his brother. He quickly found himself hospitalized for complications arising from his alcoholism. He came to Guiding Light in October, 2018, denying that he had a problem. Since then he has found sobriety, a job, his own apartment at Iron House, a renewed relationship with God and his family, and a life worth living again.

Freezing to Death: Keith’s Story

With nowhere left to go, Keith remembers going through severe alcohol withdrawals while simultaneously “freezing to death” in the Michigan winter. By the grace of God he managed to get himself a bed at a detox facility in Grand Rapids and a one-way to ticket to the Guiding Light Recovery program.

Allen’s Story: Part Two

Allen was accepted into Guiding Light Recovery in June of 2020. From there he began the long and difficult journey of physical, mental, and spiritual healing from his decades of life in active addiction.

Allen’s Story: Part One

Allen has spent the last 30 years of his life living in addiction to drugs and alcohol. He came to Guiding Light in June of 2020 after a failed suicide attempt, when he looked up at the sky and said to God.” Alright you win, I’m going to go get some help.” This is his story.

I Was Living in Dope Houses

Hank came to Guiding Light after he was kicked out of another mission for using heroin. Watch his story and see where he is today.