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"I'd Rather Not Have a Dad" Chaz's Rock Bottom and Redemption at Guiding Light

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Chaz’s rock bottom was a message from his 13-year-old son. “My son would say I was like a rollercoaster ride, up-and-down and in-and-out,” the veteran and recovering cocaine addict said. “My oldest son asked, ‘are you gonna be in or out?"

/Doug Pancy

“My son would say I was like a rollercoaster ride, up-and-down and in-and-out,” the veteran and recovering cocaine addict said. “My oldest son said, ‘I’d rather not have a dad than have one that’s going to be in-and-out. You going to be in or you going to be out?’” The thought of losing his two sons, aged 13 and 10, is what ignited the spark for Chaz to want to make a change. He and the boys’ mother separated when the boys were young, but maintained joint custody of the kids. After years of dealing with Chaz’s drug abuse, his kids and their mother had enough. He had already been selling cocaine to pay his bills as he went to school for Cisco Security administration and computer programming. Despite abusing alcohol – repeatedly getting blackout drunk – Chaz was a self-proclaimed functioning alcoholic. When he started using cocaine this started what he describes as a ‘slow death.’ “As long as I’m paying bills and I still have joint custody of my kids, I’m thinking ‘Oh, I can do a little cocaine when they go to sleep and drink a little bit,” he recalls. “But then I was getting to the point where my friends are meth addicts and I’m starting to snort that as well. And then I was facing homelessness. That was when I hit what you basically would call rock bottom.” The thought of never seeing his sons again is what finally pushed Chaz make a real change. He has had stints of sobriety over the years, but never by choice. It was always just part of his punishment for running into the law. Get sober, get off probation, get back to using. “This time I’m like, ‘OK – my sons. I have to raise these guys to be men and I have to become an example.’” When Chaz knew it was time to get his life back on track, he did what a lot of people would do. He called his mom. “I had been hiding from her for six months, I wouldn’t answer her calls,” Chaz recalls. “But when I finally got to that point where I hit that rock bottom, I just thought ‘Man, I need to call my mom.’”

Within minutes, Chaz’s mother had a list of 30 different rehab facilities in the area. Guiding Light just happened to be the second one she called. “I believe God led her to do that. I’ve always been in tune with God, but I was never willing to let Him totally take over in my life. But at that time, I was getting to that point where I’m realizing my way is going to lead me to death.” Chaz has never lied to his kids about his addiction, but they had never seen his efforts amount to any lasting change. “They didn’t believe me when I told them I was leaving [for rehab], and naturally so, as I hadn’t given them anything to believe in. Once I finally did it and I was in the Guiding Light van, I had to send them a picture so they knew it was for real this time.” Chaz understands that his recovery is also a spiritual journey. He knows that he can always rely on his faith when he’s tempted to give up, leave Guiding Light and start using again. “They don’t lock us in here. We have to be willing to give up our way of living. We are dedicated to living our lives differently. I can walk out that door whenever I want. So, to stay here is a very difficult thing to do. And it is really just letting go of my will and the thinking that I can do this on my own. That has to go.”

While his family waits for him in Muskegon, Chaz is part of another family at Guiding Light. It starts with his Life Coach and Spiritual Director, the people he’s working closest with on his journey. And then there’s the new group of friends inside the walls at Guiding Light, the men who are walking on similar paths on their road to recovery. “When you get here, it takes guys a minute. You’re skeptical because you’re not used to this kind of love, but once you start to embrace it, it is amazing. Everybody just gives in to it. I don’t think the donors and staff could possibly understand what they mean to us. It’s not every day you get this kind of grace. You don’t get this kind of mercy. You don’t get this kind of love. I am more than thankful.” These days Chaz has plenty to be thankful for. He’s thankful that the mother of his children never took his kids away when she could have. He’s thankful for his kids believing in him. And he’s thankful for the men and women who help make Guiding Light what it is: a place for men to turn their lives around. “This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve never been in a situation where I actually wanted to be sober. I figure if I stay sober today, I can stay sober the rest of my life. And that’s why I’m going to do it every day.” Chaz’s shares how thankful he is for his sons: “It’s amazing to know that they forgive me because there’s a lot of guys like me who don’t get that same forgiveness. I feel like I’m super blessed.”

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