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Jorge V., Residence
As a young man, Jorge V. vowed never to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. He had seen the effects of drinking and drug use on his stepfather, an alcoholic, and he hated it. While many of his peers became involved with gangs and crime, Jorge was active in the local Boys and Girls club and engaged himself in community service, volunteering as a Big Brother to local youth.
After high school, Jorge enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago—where the trouble he had worked so hard to avoid caught up with him. He joined a fraternity, and began drinking heavily—as did many of his new friends. It gradually became apparent to Jorge, however, that his drinking differed from that of his classmates. “They grew out of it as they matured,” he explains. “I didn’t.”
Jorge left college after his sophomore year; he had become a father and wanted to support his newborn son. He soon became a manager at the warehouse where he found a job, but still felt as though he were “falling behind.” His drinking progressed; he drank more often, and stopped going to bars or socializing. “I was self-medicating,” he states.
The mother of Jorge’s sons left, unable to tolerate his drinking, but Jorge continued to support his family financially. He began working in the construction industry, where he advanced rapidly. Despite his success, however, and what he describes as “dry periods” lasting as long as six months, Jorge’s alcohol abuse was becoming more severe. Looking back, he says, he recognizes several “character defects”—anger, perfectionism, a tendency to self-criticism—that made true recovery an impossibility.
His drinking was also beginning to have consequences. His binges could last as long as two weeks: “I used to be outside the liquor store at 7:00 AM, waiting for it to open” he says. He found himself in dangerous situations, sleeping on park benches and crossing busy streets against traffic. He accumulated two DUIs. And the physical effects of his alcohol use were becoming serious: he was hospitalized more than once with acute pancreatitis.
When Jorge finally accepted that he had to stop drinking, he asked to be admitted to the Residence at HAS after he completed his stay at treatment. “Actually,” he says, “I begged them to let me in.” Jorge knew about the program from a friend, an alumni who was successful in his recovery and recommended it to other Spanish-speaking men who wanted to get sober. “I really needed to get away from the things of the world for awhile and work on myself,” he states. “It was a good fit.”
At the Residence, Jorge says, he has been able to consider the root causes of his drinking in a way he never had before. “I needed to examine my resentments, my anger,” he admits. “It’s been a haven, a place to regroup and meditate on who I am.” One of the program’s important strengths, Jorge believes, is its well-rounded approach. It addresses residents’ quality of life as a whole, offering instruction in everything from nutrition to budgeting: “all the tools we need not just to stay sober, but to live well.”
He also feels that he has benefited from working closely with the other residents, and from HAS’s culturally competent approach. “I see people come in here and grow,” he says. “You can see the light bulb go off when they understand something new. They get over their machismo and are willing to change.”
Jorge is intrigued by the Cognitive Behavioral approach applied at HAS and is studying the theory on his own; he is considering returning to college and completing his degree in counseling psychology. He also hopes to return to his involvement in volunteer work, putting his construction expertise to work with Habitat for Humanity. In the meantime, however, he plans to make the most of his time at the Residence and proceed through the HAS Transitional Housing Program and into outpatient therapy. “I have everything I need today,” he states. “I’m where I need to be.”