The Story of Robert F.

I was a client at the house from mid-September, 2010 until mid-January, 2011. Before I go into more of what actually happens during a person's stay there, I should explain how I came about ever getting there in the first place. Without this knowledge, I feel you could never fathom the depth of the miracles I have witnessed among the men there, and the ones bestowed upon myself.

I arrived at the Clem House via an alcohol and drug treatment program at the Chillicothe V.A. Hospital -- something over the last few decades which had become habitual in itself to me and my family. Not so much a trip to the V.A. hospital, but trips to many detox units and rehabs, then later, jails, prisons, and state hospitals.

To make it worse, I was married to someone who loved me, but had to constantly babysit me, and I left it to her to try and keep some normalacy to our lives.

My alcholism and herion addiction had made me homeless many times. I have slept in cars, vacant houses, and even on cardboard in parks. I've even eaten out of dumpsters.

Through all of this and more, I had tried many times to get clean and sober. I got out of those rehabs with some knowledge of my desease. I had even attended AA in prison for years. But always I had the same result; I'd usually be drinking or getting high -- days, maybe weeks, or even a month or two later. I'd get my family's hopes up, then leave my wife there to pick-up the pieces when I'd start using again. Every single attempt always started with the same old promises that this time would be my last.

Unfortunately, my wife never got a chance to live free of the hell I put her through for 22 years. She died of cancer. Me -- I couldn't stay home one full day with her while she was sick without using.

After her death, my drinking and using escalated to the point that I lost everything, and I ended up in the Chillicothe V.A. I remember sitting there telling the treatment team I would be fine going back to a town where I had no hope of putting my life back together, feeling so low for letting my wife and daughter down in the worst way I could imagine.

I was at the crossroads -- not wanting to use, but not knowing how not to -- feeling hopeless, and like my life was over. And I didn't care.

Then one of those miracles happened. My caseworker pulled me aside and told me about the John W. Clem House. I still to this day don't know why I said yes, but before I knew it, I was off to some place I'd never heard of, where I knew no one.

I walked into the Clem House feeling the way I just shared: I had no hope, and I had no idea how to live clean and sober. I was welcomed there warmly, and they helped me carry in my glad trash bag luggage, stuffed full of all that I had left in the world.

I was sure once they found out about me I would be shunned. But this turned out not to be the case, and I was amazed at how many former clients, and others folks from the recovery community, came by to share hope and tell me it was all going to be ok.

I started out going to morning meetings where I learned I wasn't the worst of the worst, nor the best of the best. I slowly began to become part of the family there.

By helping out aaround the house 15 or 30 minutes a day, we kept it clean and got food on the table. (I'm warninging you now, you will gain wieght at The Clem!) I was encouraged to get a 12 Step sponsor, and work the steps.The live-in house manager -- a miracle himself -- was always around to help us get through any problems.

You have your meeting you must make, but the biggest thing is they teach you and help you through the process of living sober. I learned to do things and have fun; how to live life without drugs and alcohol; and to be a giver and not a taker. For me, it was about manning-up and being responseable for my own recovery in a safe and tolerant enviroment where people truly care.

Four months later, I moved out of the Clem house and into my own place here in Athens. I came to love this town, and the Clem House, so I stayed. I can't adequately explain in words how profound the experience of my stay. It's really something you have to live to believe.

Oh yeah, I have more than one year clean and sober now, and by doing it one day at a time, I pray many more. That is my experience. What's yours going to be?

-- Robert F.