Many of our clients have walked a hard road before reaching our program doors. Here they share their personal stories about the lives they were living, the programs that helped them, and how they want to give back to the world.
Aloha House, Inc.
“I didn’t start drinking until I was a senior in high school, and following graduation, I drank a lot that summer. Once I turned 21 I was into the club scene. I used to DJ at functions, and at clubs, and I used cocaine in the club scene, and some ecstasy.
“I had a seizure one time, from doing cocaine all night, and again the next day, and that’s how my family found out. Because I couldn’t hide the cocaine from them, I couldn’t do that anymore, so I stared doing ice. Then it just took over.
“I was first incarcerated at the end of 2005. That started the cycle of in and out. It just escalated from there. Of course you come out clean. But then I got into dealing drugs, and using again, which lead to another conviction. This led me to drug court. I finished drug court, but I went back a second time, after I started using again. I did many years in prison, and this is eventually what brought me to Aloha House.
“There were times when I was using substances when I would wake up and realize I have to use to keep going; I’d need to use so much just to be ‘normal.’ In active addiction, when you’re in it, you’re blinded, and you think everything is ok. But in my addiction, I created my own prison. I’m thankful to Aloha House for giving me the freedom to live my best life.
“The biggest impact Aloha House had in my life is they invested in my wellbeing and my growth, and gave me a chance. They believed in me, and now, three years later, I’m a program coordinator.
“Working at Aloha House is a daily reminder of where I’ve been and where I could still be, if I didn’t get help. And it helps me give back. Just by my presence here, a lot of people say, if Adam can do it, I can do it too.”
“I was a party person. I liked drinking, then I got hooked into cocaine and then crystal meth. Eventually I stopped, and I was clean for seven years. Then I got into a motorcycle accident, and I was prescribed pain pills, and I got hooked on those. From there, things got really bad, everything spiraled downward, and eventually I ended up homeless. After an incident where I caused a lot of pain for my family, I entered the Aloha House Residential Treatment program on Valentine’s Day, 2019. I stayed for 45 days.
“After that I moved to the Sober Living Program, where I participated in intensive classes, group and individual counseling sessions. Now I have a car, home, job, money in my account. This is all thanks to the team at Residential, plus the support I’ve gotten from the Sober Living Program, and all that they have done for me.
“The biggest impact this program has made is not just from the classes and the techniques, but the staff supporting us. Many of them have been through what I’ve been through, so they understand. And those that are not in recovery themselves, have the “street smarts” it takes to understand us. That’s what I relied on the most. After participating in this program, I am interested in working in the recovery field, so I can continue to be in a supportive environment and give back what I can to others who need help.”
“I don’t want to kill myself anymore, I’m getting on with life. It’s working, it is.”
Over twenty years ago, while driving through Kihei, Russell had an asthma attack, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and hit a bicyclist. The bicyclist was injured and later died. Russell suffered tremendous guilt and remorse after the incident.
“I went to prison for five years; I wanted to, I felt I owed it to his family. After I got out, I wish I could say I stayed clean and sober, but it didn’t happen. I went on a journey for a while. I had to stop my head from talking; the thinking will kill you. I had to do something to shut it off. That’s why I used drugs. But I’ve be clean for five years now.
“Some people will make it, and some people won’t, this is a very mean, mean disease.”
Russell participated in Aloha House’s medically monitored detox treatment, and eventually received substance use treatment. Today he continues to receive case management and counseling support.
“I’m grateful, and I owe a lot to this program. You guys saved my life. I can’t say enough how much you’ve made a difference, from the counselors to the case manager I worked with.
“I don’t want to kill myself anymore, I’m getting on with life. It’s working, it is.”
Russell is a participant in Aloha House’s Behavioral Case Management Program
“I was born and raised on Maui, and my father was an alcoholic. I’m the middle child; for some reason the middle child seems to get the hardest time. My father used to beat me and my brother up, and I seemed to get the most cracks. But I still love my father.
“I think I started using because I wanted to, and because I could. My parents divorced in 7th grade. After that I decided to stay with my grandma. She raised me for the next 5-6 years. I was a hard head. I was drinking, smoking weed. I got into ice my senior year of high school. Over time I just did ice and drinking, then just ice.
“I spend time in jail 2012 and 2016-18 and both times I went into treatment as part of my probation, so I wouldn’t have to go back jail. When I went to treatment the first time, I was renting a studio on my friend’s property. I would use and sell drugs there. When I went into treatment, my friend told me, ‘don’t worry, I’ll hold your place for you, you can come back when you get out.’ So after residential treatment, I went back to the same spot, same place, people, and things. In treatment they tell you, to stay in recovery, ‘change your place, your people and your things.’ But I didn’t listen. I saw my old friends, in my same old place, and my old habits came back.
“I believe in 2nd chances; I called intake at Aloha House, and they told me to come back that Wednesday. I stayed in residential treatment for 45 days, then requested an extension for another month. This time, after residential treatment, I went straight to the Sober Living Program. Structure was really important for me. My first time out of treatment, I thought I was strong enough to do it, but I couldn’t do it on my own.
“I made 1 year sober on Sept 12, 2020.
“In the past, instead of dealing with life on life’s terms, I wanted to numb everything and use drugs. Your problems aren’t going anywhere, you can either deal with your problems now, or later.
“Now I have a totally different life, all of my friends are in recovery. My sober support is strong. Now all I do is go to work and come home. I work as a HVAC installer. I have money in the bank. Any emergencies that come up, I can take care of it. I get a flat tire, I can get a new one the same day. I love that. I’m comfortable.
“I can afford to get my own place, but right now the support is what I need. Knowing that I need to leave one day, is more motivation for me to focus on myself. I need to keep my head strong, so that I can still handle life on life’s terms, sober. Whenever I have a bad day or I get a trigger, I call up my old roommate. We keep each other safe. Without Aloha House I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Kaeo continues to work as a HVAC installer. He says, “My boss has supported me through all my ups and downs over the years, and now I can pay him back by working hard, and with a clear mind.”
“When I was growing up, I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd. That’s when I started getting into trouble, and I went to prison. I was in and out of prison for 17 and a half years. When I got out and I was on parole, I was still using and partying, not caring about my family.
“I couldn’t stop smoking crystal meth, even from inside, and whenever I got out. In fact I got another 10 years while I was in prison, from smuggling in drugs because I wanted to get high.
“I did drugs because I was living in pain, pain from being hurt in relationships, and I was tired of being hurt. I chose drugs over my pain.
“After spending most of my adult life in prison, I was still on parole, and I went to Molokai, to try to work things out with my child’s mom. But I didn’t know how to handle the relationship, or how to handle “being normal,” now that I was out of prison.
“I went on a crystal meth binge for two weeks; then I turned myself in to my parole officer. I told him I needed help. I was tired. Tired of life. Just so tired. He transferred me to Maui, and he put me in Aloha House.
“I’ve been clean 1 ½ years. It’s the longest I’ve ever been out of prison. I still fight my demons every day.
“Since I’ve been in this program, and the aftercare program, I am so grateful. If it wasn’t for this structure I wouldn’t be here now, I would be in prison or smoking drugs. But now, I just have a normal life. Going to work, taking care of the house, cleaning the yard. I’ve never been “normal” my whole life, until the last year and a half. The more I stay within the structure and rules, the more I can stay in recovery.
“After 17 and a half years of being in and out of prison, and doing drugs the whole time, my friends who knew me from before can’t believe it. They keep asking, “How is he doing it?”
“When I tried to enter treatment before, I thought I was better than that – I thought I never need your guys help, I never believe in your guys programs in the beginning. I can do this on my own. But no, you can’t. As an addict, or alcoholic, you need help. That the only way you can make it in life. I want to be normal.
“I love my job. It’s all because I’m clean that I’m working and in this position. Today, I am blessed.”
James works as the on-site manager at a condominium complex. He and his former Sober Living Program roommate, Kaeo, continue to provide sober support for each other.
“I would estimate that at least 75% of the people I knew back then are dead now.”
“I was born in California to a Dutch mother and a Portuguese father. My mother was straight from Holland, my father was from Oahu. They divorced when I was one, and my mother remarried when I was four. We lived in a nice suburban community. My childhood was relatively trauma-free, I played softball and I was in mentally gifted programs starting in second grade.”
When I was 14, my mom and stepdad’s marriage began to break up. This coincided with the fact that we just moved to a new neighborhood, where the kids in my high school were a little faster-paced than where we lived before. Many parents were into 1980’s type drug use; they’d smoke a joint, snort a little coke. Their kids were in a different caliber, they had a lot more autonomy that I had been raised with, and often they were home alone.
“I was offered marijuana for months and I declined, but when my stepdad moved out, my resistance to peer offerings went down. My use was not trauma based, it was experimental. At this time in the early 80s drugs from the big cities were moving into the suburbs. Social experimentation was on the rise.
“I found out quickly that I was not the type of person who did just a little bit, I was the person who did too much right off the top. If we drank, I was the girl who drank so much she got alcohol poisoning; if we did marijuana, I smoked so much that I couldn’t remember the concert we went to. If we did cocaine, I was the one who did as much as I could get. Looking back now, I can see that I have an addictive gene. I later learned my great grandfather on my maternal side was a raging alcoholic, and grandparents on my paternal side were substance users.
“Over the course of the next 25 years, my life with addiction spiraled, ending in homelessness and incarceration. When I was finally incarcerated on Maui, the stipulations were that I would serve one year, or be accepted into a treatment program. Aloha House was in its early experimentation phases of long-term treatment and working with judiciary clients. I was a guinea pig to see if the program could adequately provide services for someone like me, considered a “worst case scenario” chronic user. They felt the chances of my rehabilitation were minimal at best.
“After four months at Maui Community Correctional Center, I went to Aloha House the day before Thanksgiving for my intake. From the first day, I felt safe, and heard. Aloha House provided access to twelve step meetings and daily groups that were helpful and interesting to me. I was very invested in changing my life because I was not raised to be an addict or homeless. I did everything they said and more. My goal was to be class valedictorian. I did three months in residential treatment, then I was mandated to Intensive Outpatient Treatment and six months in aftercare. I spent the whole time at the Aloha House property. I had a huge treatment team, made up of the probation staff, Care Hawaii, and Aloha House, with six people supporting my treatment.
“Together they provided a safe place for me to work through my addiction and my legal challenges. This allowed me to get off probation two years early. Aloha House saved my life; there’s never any doubt about the impact the organization had on my wellbeing; they saved me from myself.
“I totally bought in to my new life. I’ve never relapsed. I truly believe that the full year with Aloha House is what made it happen, it’s what I needed. Anything short of that and I would have relapsed.
“Before entering this program I was an incorrigible and maniacal member of society.
“If I wasn’t in this program I would be dead already. My husband would have killed me, or I would have killed myself. I would estimate that at least 75% of the people I knew back then are dead now.”
Michele serves as the Program Director for Maui Youth & Family Services, a partner agency of Aloha House. Her hope for the future is to continue to be a pro-social role model for other addicts and alcoholics struggling for recovery.