“I went toward a bad group because those were the people that accepted me,” he says. Drugs became a substitute for real friendships.
He started drinking, popping pills, cooking meth and shooting heroin. He was homeless for a while when his parents kicked him out of the house. “I would just be wandering the streets of Lima at all hours of the night,” he says, “Until I found somewhere, chilled, sat down, fell asleep in an alley.”
By age 19, Charlie was serving a three-year sentence in prison on a burglary charge. That’s where he stopped using drugs. He spent the last five months of his sentence in a community-based correctional facility where he took classes and completed group work to learn about addiction. The lessons stuck.
“I started telling people, ‘I want to be a probation officer,’ and everybody knocked it,” he says. “They were like, ‘You can’t do that, you’re a felon.’ I said, ‘Check it out, I’m going to do something.’ “
One year later, he started working as a peer recovery coach, using his own experiences to help other people stay in recovery.
Charlie is one of five peer recovery coaches at Coleman Professional Services in Lima, and at age 25, he is by far the youngest. Each coach works with about 20 clients to help remove some of the impediments, big and small, to living a drug-free life. Some clients may need help learning to socialize without drugs or getting a ride to their recovery meetings. Others, like 52-year-old Anna Hershey, need more constant support.
“I texted you last night. I know it was late but I needed someone to talk to right away,” she tells Charlie when they meet in Coleman’s parking lot the week before Thanksgiving. She’d argued with her boyfriend the night before, and anger is usually a …