“The most important thing is that I wanted change.”
Cornell is 57 and lucky to be alive.
He got into drugs by smoking weed when he was just 13 years old; as he got older he moved onto harder things. His parents both did drugs, not that Cornell uses that as an excuse; but he recognizes that it was his environment that helped shape who he is.
That’s why he’s determined to change his environment now.
Cornell has been coming to Thrive DC since it opened in Columbia Heights, almost 10 years ago. He’s been homeless for even longer than that, bouncing between family members, shelters, and sleeping outside during the summer.
He wanted to live with family members, but didn’t for two reasons: he didn’t want to expose his nieces and nephews to his lifestyle, and his family wouldn’t put up with his drugs and joblessness.
“They didn’t put me in this position; I put myself in this position. I respect what they’re doing. I don’t want to be a burden, and I’m trying to change that.”
But things didn’t start changing until he joined Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse group.
There he met Gabriel Fabre, the Substance Abuse Counselor. Gabriel accepted Cornell for who he was without judgment, but never stopped encouraging him to be better. And eventually, it was that combination of acceptance and encouragement that got through to him.
However, it still took months for Cornell to be ready for sobriety; before this he had lived in a fog for years, and was nervous about what it would mean to make a clean break from everything. Cornell had a long relationship with drugs and couldn’t envision life without them.
In fact, the first time Thrive DC offered him a chance at rehab he turned it down.
Finally, though, he was just too tired.
“I’d sit in the park and watch life go by. When I finally made the choice to go to rehab I remember thinking:
‘I’m too old for this. Do I want to be this way until I die?’”
The second time Cornell had the chance for rehab he was bound and determined to make it happen. He called the facility for three days straight to make sure he could get in as quickly as possible.
“I thought: ‘I’m helping myself and people are helping me. This is an opportunity I just can’t pass up.’”
Cornell graduated from his drug program January 4th, just in time for the New Year. For the first time in a long time he can think clearly. And since he’s been out, Cornell has been going to every meeting he can find, at Thrive and outside Thrive, to keep himself focused and away from the life he’s known for 44 years.
“I thank God for allowing me to reach 57. I’m still young enough for a second chance, to get a job and put a roof over my head.”
Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse Program
Our Substance Abuse Program is available in both English and Spanish. Along with educational presentations about the effects of substance abuse, it also offers a safe place for people with addiction to talk about their struggles with a supportive community.