The Alamo Addiction Recovery Center on Petersburg’s South Market Street has been helping local addicts find a better way to live for over 40 years.
There it is! I look up ahead and see the historic house I’ve been looking for. It’s called the “ALAMO” but I’m not sure why. I find a spot to park my car on the busy city street. Walking towards the ALAMO house, I look up at its mid-1800’s architecture. Pretty cool, you know, but definitely showing its age. I knock on the door and hear voices inside. In a moment, a polite gentleman answers the door and welcomes me in. This is Lorenzo Jackson – he’s the Residential House Coordinator.
Lorenzo leads me over to a large table, and we take a seat. I ask him to tell me about the ALAMO (turns out AL-A-MO is shorthand for “Alcohol and More”). He tells me it’s a residential treatment facility that offers counseling, life skills development, and transitional housing for alcoholics and addicts who have a sincere desire to stop drinking and abusing drugs. I ask him how’d he get into this line of work and his response quickly grabs my full attention.
“I smoked crack cocaine for 22 years. I started free-basing in the 80’s and was drinking right along with it. One night in 2009, I found myself in a motel with a fifth of gin and an 8-ball of cocaine. That night I sat on that bed shedding real tears ‘cause I didn’t want to drink or smoke crack anymore but I just couldn’t stop. In desperation, I found the little pocket bible in the hotel nightstand and opened it to Psalms 23, my favorite verse. I repeated that verse all night while I was drinkin’ that gin and smokin’ that crack. The next morning when it was all gone, I called my sister and told her I just can’t do this no more.” He tells me that he lost his marriage, job, home and dignity during those years of substance abuse. He definitely knows what it’s like to be homeless, wandering the streets, alone and lost to the world.
Lorenzo Jackson, Alamo’s Residential House Coordinator, greets all visitors with a smile and a helpful attitude.
The strange thing is, he’s smiling the whole time he’s telling me his very troubling story.
On June 16, 2009, Lorenzo attended his first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Over the last 10 years, he’s learned a new way of living. With the help of the Alamo Addiction Recovery Center, a 12 Step recovery program, his counselors and his sponsors, he has regained his soul and self-worth. He’s learned about his disease, acceptance, and how to live one day at a time. And he’s learned how to help others who are living the life he was living.
Now, after 10 years of sobriety and behavioral education and training, he’s a certified Peer Recovery Specialist and Recovery Coach. He lives and works at Alamo where he coordinates the day-to-day activities in the transitional residential facility which helps 6-8 male residents live a more structured life free from substance abuse and focused on helping themselves and their housemates. “We do our chores, vent on each other, and we keep each other sober.” says Lorenzo. The men also work outside of Alamo and pay weekly rent during the 3-9 months of their stay.
Jacob Kellam, Case Manager at Alamo Recovery Center, works with residents and clients to find employment, learn life skills, and find a new way to live.
Lorenzo leads by example often chairing AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings at Alamo. He also helps others outside of Alamo who are still sick and suffering. As part of the 12 Step Program, he takes a message of hope and healing to jails, prisons and other institutions. He tells me, “It helps me remember where I came from. See, I was an inmate just 12 years ago – now I go [to jail] voluntarily. I tell ‘em, not only do you never have to take another drink or drug but you never have to come back to jail as an inmate… but it begins with you. AA teaches us that to keep what sobriety we’ve got, we need to give it away to others. I get as much from them as they get from me.”
Lorenzo is also trained to coach and counsel people with complex disorders like schizophrenia, manic depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. He sees people with these disorders frequently in his line of work, and he knows how to help them help themselves – when to give them an ear or when to give them feedback and direction.
In the Tri-Cities region, like many areas of our state and country, there’s no shortage of people sinking deep into the illness of addiction and thinking there’s no other way to live – no way out. They’re consumed with the desperation, denial, anger, resentment, and other mental, emotional and physical manifestations that come along with the illness. John Randolph Foundation knows the challenges of creating healthy communities at both the individual and community levels. JRF believes it’s important to invest in qualified peer counselors like Lorenzo. He’s someone who can understand and relate to those who are suffering. And through well-managed facilities like The Alamo Recovery Center, people can get helpful treatment for their substance-related problems thereby tackling the substance abuse epidemic facing our communities today.
Lorenzo wants those still suffering to know, “There is a better life, a better way to live!” He’s had a life of chronic substance abuse, devastating family losses, debilitating financial and medical challenges but he hasn’t seen a need to drink alcohol or take drugs since finding that better way of life. He found that “the problem” was himself, and he only needed to reach out for help.
Help for “the problem” is available at the Alamo Addiction Recovery Center.
Oh, and one more thing. Did I mention that Lorenzo’s blind? Yep, he is. He lost his sight to glaucoma in 2013, only 4 years into his recovery. He can see colors and shadows but he can’t see faces. He can’t even see his own face in a mirror. But I can. And he’s smiling. Lorenzo’s smile is shining, and his face is glowing with the freedom and happiness that comes with finding a new way to live – clean and sober – joyous and carefree!Tags: Addiction, Alamo Recovery Center, Alcoholics Anonymous, Grants, Narcotics Anonymous, Opiate epidemic, Opioid epidemic, Petersburg, Riverside Regional Jail, Substance abuse
This post was written by Ken Newman