Lonnie came to the Shepherd's House November 15, 2000 to begin a long-term transitional program of recovery from drugs and alcohol. His first words upon admission were, "I just want to learn how to live." Lonnie had a number of suicide attempts and drug overdoses, not to mention a couple run ins with the police. He had lost his family and contact with his children. He says, "I just did not care about them or anyone else, I was hopeless. I thought to myself, I have come to the end of my misery, I was either going to stop or I was going to die, something had to give." He recalls vividly one night standing on a bridge crying out to God or anyone to just help him or let him die. He says, "God was listening, because the next day I entered detox." He entered a detoxification center in Ashland, Kentucky. From there he entered a 30-day residential program in Frankfort called BETA, where he learned a lot about himself. For one, he found out that he was not bipolar and did not need to continue taking medications prescribed for him by doctors for that condition. Lonnie was now 28 years old and had been using drugs since he was nine.
Needs Met by the Program
Lonnie's needs began to be met in a number of ways. He knew that after graduating from the BETA program in Frankfort he could not yet go home. He did know that his problems were drug and alcohol related but he was unsure of how to live without them. After all, he had been using both most of his life. He had no idea how he should feel, act, or even live. He could not even do simple tasks like getting up and going to work. He had drawn disability from the time he was 18 and did not know what it meant to be responsible for himself. But he recalled his therapist telling him about a place called the Shepherd's House, that it was a halfway house for men just like him. So he left BETA and entered the Shepherd's House.
For the first time in many, many years he was able to achieve 90 days of clean and sober living. This was a milestone for Lonnie. It also gave him hope for the future. He recalls his first day at Shepherd's House and how he felt so scared, yet the staff and other clients made him feel welcome. He sensed something about the house and the staff that made him feel at safe and at home.
One need that was met was finding employment, and through employment gaining a sense of responsibility, and learning accountability to someone other than himself. Lonnie was quickly connected with a vocational rehabilitation counselor and referred to a program designed to work with those who had little or no employment skills. He began to gain confidence in himself and an ability to speak what was on his heart and mind openly with his counselor and peers. Lonnie was beginning to blossom as a flower that had long been in hibernation. His stress level dropped dramatically and he was learning to be patient and wait for things to happen rather than trying to make them happen all at once. These were needs that were being met in relatively short period of time. These were needs that many, even those without substance problems fail to ever realize during a lifetime.
As previously mentioned, Lonnie had already overcome the need for psychotropic medications to help him function. He had beaten the obstacle of timidity. He had overcome the self-defeating thinking, as well as the stress that created a desire to self-medicate by way of drugs and alcohol. And most of all, he was able to get off disability and become gainfully employed.
Demonstration of Courage
Lonnie really never saw himself as a courageous person, but he was now learning that he could speak his feelings and thoughts without fear of being ridiculed and laughed at. He learned to express his feelings in individual sessions with his therapist. He was able to accept uncomfortable feelings without having to defer to chemical substances to dull them. He realized he no longer needed to hide his feelings or cover them up with alcohol and drugs. He gained enough courage after a period of rehabilitative employment to venture out and seek more challenging jobs where he could earn additional income to meet his own needs as well as those of his family.
Impact on Others
Lonnie learned through his counseling, his 12-step meetings, his sponsor and his peers, that he was not the only one who experienced the struggles and bondage of addiction. He was learning that he could have an influence upon others who struggled with the same issues as he. Lonnie began mending his broken relationship with his children, two of which he had not spent any time with from the time they were born. Up until now, Lonnie says, he could not even hold a conversation with the children's mothers. Today, his children are part of his life. He is able to spend time with them every other weekend and he states, "They have become such a blessing in my life. It's amazing just how far I have come thanks to the Shepherd's House program."
Lonnie remains very active in the community through his participation in 12-step meetings. He takes these meetings into the local jails and works with inmates whose involvement with alcohol and drugs has directly or indirectly been responsible for their incarceration. Here he is able to speak to a captive audience and encourage them to seek help while there and also upon their release so that they do not have to continue that same pattern of living.
Ways Lonnie is "Giving Back" to the Agency and Community
Lonnie began giving back to the community after a very short time at the Shepherd's House. He became a taxpayer, a valuable employee to his employer, and became a responsible father to his children and a monetary value cannot be compared to the value of their mental health and welfare. Lonnie is also able to contribute to the community by not further burdening the system of the need for public assistance or mental health services. Lonnie has given and continues to give to the agency through his service as resident house manager for the three-quarter-way house where he not only monitors the coming and going of clients, but offers valuable and insightful counseling to those who are in the very same place he once was not that long ago. These clients then in turn are able to become contributors to the community through their growth and maturity and sustained sobriety. What more could you ask of an organization. It is only our desire that we could accommodate more and increase the prospects for turning lives around on the order of one Lonnie Ramey.