Christopher, 41, will graduate June 17 from the year-long program at Adult & Teen Challenge Ohio Valley.
The Youngstown native, who spent most of his life in Florida, plans to either return to his home in Florida where he worked for 23 years as an electrician, or stay with family in the Youngstown area until he gets on his feet. He’s also considering staying at ATCOV before transitioning out on his own.
“I’m just going to set myself up so that no matter where I go, I have a support group and a support network,” Christopher said. “That’s the primary thing I need to make sure is in place.”
His path to recovery, ATCOV and Jesus took a lot of twists and turns. “I fell down this real bad road and my wife’s and my marriage was kind of deteriorating — it wasn’t kind of, it was. It kind of put me into a bad depression.” He’s battled depression since he was a kid.
His wife kicked him out and he started to spiral downward. He had been using cocaine, methamphetamines and alcohol for at least 10 years. “I started using twice as much as I was before and I was drinking more,” Christopher said. “I was homeless and sick and she saw me one day and she cried and she begged me to come here.”
His aunt used to work at an ATCOV center in another city and she had been trying to get him to enter the program for years. They convinced him to come, but it was through God that he was really persuaded to go. It was the best decision he could have made.
“My life is different now because now the fog has been lifted that drugs had covered up and that had put like a veil over my eyes — I didn’t think that I had a problem,” Christopher said.
His life is changed now through Jesus Christ.
“It gave me the new determination and a new purpose to want to live,” he said. “And to realize what I thought was helping me was destroying me further. It’s hard to see when you’re in the midst of it.”
Christopher was using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. He was hurting every single day. He was hurt from his childhood. His father died a week before Christopher’s first birthday and his mother was a drug user and a prostitute who abandoned him.
“I carried a lot of that with me for a lot of years,” he said. “When I used, my peers and my friends used and I liked my peers and they made me feel good.”
He experimented with alcohol and drugs with his friends when he was a teenager, but his childhood trauma affected and exacerbated his drug use. He was more susceptible to it.
“I played Russian roulette and the next thing you know, I’m addicted without even knowing it,” Christopher said. “It was time for a change.”
Now that he’s made those changes, he’s hoping for reconciliation with his wife.
“I’m very hopeful that things are going to be restored, but even if they’re not, we’re going to have a good relationship.”
After graduation, Christopher wants to transition from his work as an electrician to working with solar panels and he plans to take his Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant certification.
“And use it for ministry, not to make money, but to help out in church and get my chemical dependency certificate where I can actually be a counselor and not be an assistant,” he said, adding that will allow him to help others who struggle with addiction.