Alexander West had lived in cars, abandoned buildings, and he had labeled himself “a liar, a thief, unworthy.” He had used drugs and alcohol for decades before entering the SABER program in 2014. SABER was his third attempt at recovery and he credits the program with changing his life. He eventually came to understand the very first message he received there: ‘that might be what you have done, but that is not who you are.’ He came to realize that he was not “a liar or a thief” and he was certainly a person of worth.
Before SABER, Alexander said he always had hope for recovery, but he never thought all of the steps or treatment recommendations applied to him. He thought if he just did some of them he would get better, ‘get a job and it will be alright.’ But it never was. And he did not want to go to SABER. A man from Salvation Army who he deeply respected suggested it and he refused. Time passed and when he came to a crossroads, his mentor again suggested the program and although he did not see the reasoning, because of his trust for this man, he agreed. The main reason he did not want to go turned out to be the most important time of his treatment.
In SABER, men are not permitted to work for the first ninety days, and Alexander did not like to be without work. Those first ninety days he began working with a therapist to get to the root cause of his drinking and drug use. The childhood loss of his mother at age seven and his father just a couple of years later led to a pain that he had never really understood or dealt with. In SABER this therapy, combined with classes he took with his fellow SABER mates helped him make real changes in his life. The classes, he explains provide real strategies for dealing with the real world and the outpatient nature gave him plenty of time to practice what he learned because he was out in the community just about every day. When he arrived at the bus-stop to find drinking, he had new skills and tools of recovery to apply.
Alexander provides great testimony to the recreation/wellness requirement of the program as well. He says it gave him purpose and helped to create a structure for his life. In those first ninety days of treatment he also learned discipline, ‘first by compliance, then by conforming—realizing I’m in agreement – these are things I need to be doing!’ In other words, he first did things because he did not want to be penalized in the program, but later he realized these rules and actions were all in place to make each SABER mate a well-rounded, healthy person.
Alexander did well in the program and quickly found work in the second phase of treatment. After working for six months and completing nine months of treatment with rent-free housing, Alexander was eligible for reduced-rent housing. And he swears one of the things he looked forward to most was paying his rent. He had more than earned that moment of ‘ah’ when he came home.
Today, Alexander is a counselor at Rebound, Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Christian residential drug and alcohol recovery program. He did an internship there to complete his Human Service Substance Abuse Counseling degree, but after just three weeks as an intern, they hired him fulltime. We can imagine that he is one of the most inspirational counselors many will meet in the program. He says he shares many of the techniques he learned at SABER with the participants and he reminds them of the same thing he first heard, ‘that might be what you’ve done, but that’s not who you are.’