With God next to me

When addicts enter the Harbor Light Complex for the first time, I remind them that, throughout their recovery, they will never be alone. I will be there for them, but more importantly, God will be there for them.

I tell them, “People can suddenly leave your life. You might feel like you’ve let them down, or they may even push you away when you extend your hand. But even when you feel like the world has given up on you, God will be standing next to you, at all times, just as He has stood next to me.”

When I was only 12 years old, my stepfather died of an overdose. As I watched him lose his life to addiction, I told myself, that life of drug use, that pain to myself and others… that will never be me.

The painful losses

When I was 26, I had a job as a hospital nursing assistant, work that I valued and enjoyed. But an injury left me sidelined. That was when painkillers became part of my daily routine. This led to my own addiction, conflicts with the law, and probation. 

At the time, I was living with my Uncle Richard. I was trying my best to help him in his old age, while hiding the struggles of my addiction. When he passed away, I was lucky to be in the Lorain, Ohio, Salvation Army recovery program. It helped me deal with the pain of losing the only person I felt really believed in me.

Thinking of all the times I had let Uncle Richard down made me want to do better. In recovery, they always say to do it for yourself, not for others. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to show him that I could be the person he wanted me to be, because I knew he was still with me.

The Salvation Army’s Pickup, Assessment, Shelter, and Services (PASS) Program at the Harbor Light Complex in Cleveland had helped me find a home during my early days of recovery. But when I returned for help once again, I suffered another devastating loss.

Adam, my younger brother, had dealt with pain for most of his life. He was born with a cleft palate and, at an early age, had multiple surgeries. At six years old, he took Vicoden for the pain of a broken arm suffered during a pool accident.

Well into his teens, he continued to take the drug to relieve any difficulty he felt. He was always able to find pills, because my mother took the same medicine. His addiction got him thrown in prison for five years.

Many times, I asked him to get the help he needed. I made the arrangements to have rooms ready for both of us at the Harbor Light Complex, and even packed a bag for him. I hoped that we would face our addictions and difficulties together. But the day my mother drove me to the Harbor Light Complex, he refused to even get in the car with us or to say goodbye to me.

Months later, Adam died of an overdose. He was another person whom I cared deeply about but who died, even as I tried to reach out to help him.

I then suffered a relapse.

The missing piece

I had to rely on something more than the people in front of me. I had my counselors and my own desire to get clean, but I was still missing that piece to complete the puzzle. Without it, the urge to use drugs would come back.

I made a conscious choice to live my life for God rather than just for myself or for others. He was that puzzle piece; a perfect fit, but missing from my life. People may fail you, or you might feel like you have failed them, but God will never fail you or judge you for your mistakes.

With God next to me, I’m taking everything back that my addiction took from me. I’m ready for life once again, and I am ready to help others with their journey to recovery.

In Ecclesiastes 4: 9–11, the Lord states the importance of being there for others in their time of need. We must all extend a hand to people suffering from addiction. Just as I pray to God for my continued recovery and health, I also pray that He continues to guide me to souls who suffer from addiction as I once did.

—Antonio Boyette is an adherent at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex in Cleveland, Ohio

interview by Hugo Bravo

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