“Being a father and a husband is something that, for a long time, I didn’t think I would ever be able to achieve. I was lost in addiction to methamphetamines for 18 years. Addiction is not a place that you want to have a family and I’m really grateful that I wasn’t a father or husband at that time. But I always wanted to be a family man. I just thought it was unattainable. This picture means so much to me because I am able to be a dad and a husband and a member of my community and someone who can actually help others. My role as director of Safe Families is to help families that are struggling to get their feet underneath them. I come to them, not out of a place of judgment or with a heavy hand, but out of a place of understanding and love and compassion. I want to help them achieve what I’ve been able to achieve. I want to pass on what was given to me, the hope for a better life.
It is a blessing to see families reunited with their children and to see them thriving. I love that I am able to witness that. And it gives me the energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other because some days are really hard. You get really hard news when you’re dealing with people with addiction and mental health struggles. There’s a lot of bad news that you hear, especially in winter. You have a lot of worry for a lot of people out there. You know you can’t save any one person. They are the ones that have to do better and put in that work themselves. You can just give them so many tools to use. Sometimes the outcomes aren’t what you want, but when you see the good outcomes, that’s when it gives you that energy to keep doing what you’re doing.
I want to give people hope that there is a way out, there is a light at the end of that tunnel. If somebody had said to me, ‘Hey, Andy. You know, if you get clean and do all these right things in your life, you’ll be able to become the director of a program and have a family, a son and a wife, and not have to look over your shoulder any longer.’ I would have said, ‘You’re lying, that’s not achievable.’ Recovering from addiction was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s been the most rewarding thing at the same time. My son gets to live a life free of ever seeing his dad in active addiction. My wife will never see me loaded. She never knew me in my active addiction, but I don’t hide my past from her. I’m willing to talk to anybody about that past. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve since then. I get to live a life I never would have dreamed possible. Now I live like every day is a miracle. And it’s such an amazing thing.
Recently I listened to a meeting about our homeless problem. There are a lot of words used to describe our homeless population and, you know, a decade ago, that was me. I was untrustworthy. I was in and out of jail. I had my own home, but I was choosing to live out of a pickup up in the mountains because I was in such a miserable place. I was suicidal. I was in a very dark, dark place, and if it wasn’t for law enforcement and probation, I wouldn’t have made it. If it wasn’t for them saying, you have to go to treatment, you have to do this, I wouldn’t have taken that first step. It took so many people working together to help me find my way out of it: law enforcement, probation, the courts, New Directions, The Compassion Center, the 12 Step community, and members of our churches. For many homeless people, there’s not someone to help and they’re not going to rise above where they are, unless somebody is there to help them make that choice. It breaks my heart because these are people that I know, people that they drag out the river and people who get hit by the train, people that overdose. Sometimes we forget that these are actual people, they are sons and daughters of our community.
I’ve had opportunities to work elsewhere where I could make more money, but this is my home. It’s a great place to raise your kids and to live as part of a community. I wouldn’t leave for any amount of money because this is my home, this is where I have roots. I want to help the people that are hurting here and help this community. I love Baker and I want to see Baker become a better place. I know we can do that. I have faith that our community can do that.”
Safe Families for Children works alongside parents in crisis by providing short-term care for their children. Their goal is to keep kids safe and families intact. Once a parent’s life has stabilized and the home environment is healthy, they work with parents to reunite their family as soon as possible. For more information, contact (541)523-9845, Safe-Families.org, firstname.lastname@example.org