As told to and written by
Ms. Karen Sharp, Alcoholism Counselor,
BRC’s Substance Abuse Service Center
This is a short story about a man who came from pain to gain. Gain not of riches or of beauty, but instead of a special power. He found the power he thought he never had. The kind of power I allude to is the kind of power a man has when he finds himself.
The man I will describe to you spent thirteen years of his life in an orphanage, where he was left at the age of five. After leaving the orphanage and not having a family to call his own he began to create his own. This man found that in the arms of thieves, murderers and liars, he fit right in. They all had something in common. The common thread was the need to be a part of something that they had never experienced before–a family.
For the next 35 years, as described to me, this man’s life could be compared to a tumbleweed. He married, though for a short time, and had two children whom he now realizes he loves more than he ever thought he could love anyone. This man found himself at the time he met me, ready to make a change in his life. He was dependent on many different substances at different times in his life. He says it was the only way he knew how to cope with the pain of his abandonment and the lack of love he so longed for.
This man said he made many attempts, after being arrested for one thing after another, or one fight after another, to answer the always-nagging question: is this all there is? Is this all I’m going to do with my life? In fact this man came to a place where he would accept that this is where he would be and this is where he would die.
But he told me that he realized, after going to jail for the last time, that he had something to live for and that was himself. Shortly thereafter we met. By this time he was living at BRC’s Palace Employment Shelter, where he still lives now. There, he made a practice of taking advantage of all the resources that were available to him. He made an effort to make himself available for any positive event that may have been available at the time.
This man, amidst the revelation that he wanted to live, found out that he had a heart problem. His doctors told him that two of his arteries were blocked and he’d have to have them shunted to allow the blood to flow. At the time this occurred he found out his best chance to recover and give himself a fighting chance at living a healthier life was to quit smoking cigarettes, so he did. The medical procedure was a success and he began looking for work. There was nothing that could keep him from doing what he thought was important for him to live the best life he knew how and to be as productive as he possibly could. He began to build the relationships with his family he abandoned so many years ago. He started working on the first real job he says he ever had. This man attends church and is a powerful example to everyone he comes in contact with. He finds love and good in others even when they don’t find it in themselves. This man is now allowing others to converse with him about the story of his life, which he says has helped him more than it could have helped anyone else.
He has had some setbacks, including an application for housing that went unaddressed for several months, but he was undaunted. He began working with someone to get that application posted at the Section 8 offices. He finally got his voucher and after working on his job for seven months, asked his boss for a short leave to concentrate on housing. To date, no matter what obstacle this man has been faced with he faces it as a challenge to overcome.
This man I have been talking about is Mr. Angel Salas.