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Peter Albertini Spotlights Home and Faith in Recovery

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Peter Albertini knows the concept of home is central to the success of Guiding Light’s Recovery program – as is a commitment to faith.

/Guiding Light

Peter Albertini’s service on the board of Guiding Light comes at the intersection of housing, recovery and grace.

The New York real estate broker was the trailing spouse when he and his wife, Christine, moved to Grand Rapids in 1992 for her opportunity to lead an entrepreneurial company within Steelcase. After stints in the Army and then in advertising, Albertini had landed on real estate, selling condos and townhouses in New York City – a portable career he could transition to West Michigan when the couple moved. Albertini remembers being struck by the absence of those experiencing homelessness when touring the city that first time with a real estate agent. His guide waved away his concern breezily, noting, “Oh, we don’t have any homeless here” – and Albertini realized certain worlds don’t intersect in Grand Rapids. The couple bought a house and set about making West Michigan their home. He joined the team at Westdale Realty, which was the largest residential real estate agency at the time. They adopted two children from Kazakhstan. He enrolled at Aquinas College, earning a degree in theology. And Albertini volunteered, serving on more nonprofit boards than he can easily recall. About seven years ago, he met a Guiding Light board member while serving on the board of the Alano Club, a Grand Rapids nonprofit that supports addiction recovery, and accepted the invitation for a tour. “We lived in Heritage Hill, and I drove by all the time, but I really didn’t know what Guiding Light was about,” Albertini recalled. “I went down there, and we had a talk – he told me, ‘We need people like you on the board,’ so I joined.”

At that point, Albertini had been sober for 36 years, a decision made during his earlier career in advertising. He credits a friend in New York for inviting him to his first support group meeting, where he “found the light” and decided to quit drinking. The mission of Guiding Light particularly resonates with Albertini, who has served the organization in several roles, including on the executive board and as general secretary. He has been active with the development committee, helping with the real estate acquisitions that would allow for the expansion of its sober living community, Iron House. “Alcoholism and addiction do not discriminate,” Albertini notes. “Addiction reaches into every part of the community and every part of any family. It’s chronic and progressive. Unless you intercept it and continue to do the work, you don’t recover. “I saw that Guiding Light had a history and a mission, and a number of people who were committed to keeping it supported and successful. Recovery is their forte. Their ambition is not just to get people into an environment where they can get and stay sober, but to actualize a lifestyle and help them identify a path so they can continue that journey successfully.”

Key to that success, Albertini realizes, is having a safe place to call home, a job to provide financial support and a sense of faith to serve as your compass. “If you have no credit or have gone through bankruptcy and have bad credit, you can’t do anything – you can’t get a car, find an apartment or land a job,” Albertini says. “Guiding Light helps men find a spiritual path that allows them to walk through their lives and be responsible. The Recovery program enables them to develop some savings, pay off debts and work to establish a credit history by paying rent. They’re able to continue to find their way through the larger community of those in recovery.”

Men in Recovery spend the first four to six months in an intensive residential program that combines evidence-based practices, life-coaching, therapy, support groups, spiritual direction and other resources needed to help them build a life worth staying sober for. “You immediately join a family when you come to Guiding Light,” Albertini says. “You all know you are in the same point in the arc of your recovery. You’ve mostly bottomed out. You’re stripped of all designations. Right then and right there, you are all equals.”

Guiding Light’s program is free of charge to participants, who are expected to commit their full time and attention to their recovery. Men in the program attend group and individual therapy sessions with a licensed counselor specializing in addiction. They also have weekly sessions with a life coach and a spiritual director, as well as daily personal contact with outside community support groups who are all committed to their recovery. Men who complete the Foundations portion of the program have the option to move to Iron House, a sober-living apartment setting that provides a safe and secure environment in a residential area outside the inner city.

Albertini knows the concept of home is central to the success of Guiding Light’s Recovery program – as is a commitment to faith. “Home is important for a recovering alcoholic,” he says. “To not have some place to go at every level when you are looking for support, advice and a relationship with God is just devastating. Guiding Light gives you that first sense of home and that first sense of community. “Guiding Light has done more than just help people get sober. It’s given them a place where they can develop their own spiritual path. It has raised their consciousness – and the consciousness of the community. Alcoholism is more than a disease. It’s an opportunity for people to dig down and find their own capacity to have a spiritual connection.”


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