It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success;
they often succeed through failures.
Since we opened our doors, 59 adults have called Frederick Place home not once but twice. Eight adults have returned hoping the third time will be the charm. The reasons people return vary. Most walk out our door feeling like they succeeded. They found the job, the home, the life they had always wanted. Unfortunately, there it is that thing called life that throws curve balls in the form of relapse, job loss, eviction, divorce, legal trouble, poor money management, and a multitude of individualized reasons. They inquire again, many filled with shame, in hopes they may return. Some are told they cannot return to Frederick Place because they haven’t been gone a year. When someone has been gone a year they often end up with goals and rules that we have designed just for them. We have had residents who have completely trashed their room. Those individuals have frequent room checks and understand that a can of soda or a mere potato chip in their room/dorm area is grounds for dismissal. The alcoholic or addict who relapsed and had their stay terminated may receive frequent and random breathalyzers and drug tests, belongings searched at any time, and room searches. Those who were asked to leave for multiple rule violations or for being disrespectful know that one incident of disrespect will send them packing. We have begun discussing return requests as a group and to be honest, there are residents not one of us wants to return. However, it isn’t about us. It isn’t about what they did to us or the home we treasure as if it was our own, it is about what we did for them while they were here the first or second and even third time. I am blessed to have had to return to treatment not once or twice but six times. If I had been denied treatment in Ashland in 2006, I can guarantee I would not be writing to all of you right now. They could have told me I could not return because I relapsed after they had spent so much time and energy trying to help me, but they did not. Don’t get me wrong, there are infractions that allow one to be denied entry into treatment, but they are not denied because they didn’t manage to stay sober. Following that mindset makes it easier to agree to allow one back a second time. If they repeat the behavior that caused their exit from Frederick Place the first or second time, there is not a guarantee they can return a third time. They first must write a pretty convincing “petition to return” letter to Fearless Leader. After the letter has arrived, a decision is made with everyone’s input. We are in the business of giving a hand up, so it is rare we say no.
Now having explained all that, I have to go further down the road and let you know that there is always an exception to our rules. In this case that exception has a name, and his name is Ed Cover. Ed was with us three times, and not once was he given conditions or special rules upon return. He did have to petition Fearless Leader in order to come back a third time, but if I remember right, it was simply the question, “Can Ed Cover return a third time?” He had been a model resident the first two times so giving him a third chance was an easy decision.
The first time I met Ed was in June of 2012. He walked up to me and said, “Hi, my name is Ed, and this is my imaginary friend Duh.” Huh? I warily shook his hand and introduced myself. Within minutes he decided his imaginary friend’s name was Freddy. Alrighty then. My concerns about Ed’s sanity evaporated the more I talked to him. Ed had graduated from Koinonia and tried staying with friends but felt his sobriety was threatened. Ed stayed with us for 39 days before moving into his own place. He inquired a second time in December of 2013. He had been sober for 18 months and had been doing so well he thought he was strong enough he could move in with his significant other. Unfortunately, she continued to use, and Ed felt he was on the edge of a relapse. It was obvious that Ed’s decision had not been an easy one. The twinkle was out of his eyes and his sense of humor was almost nonexistent. Fourteen days after he arrived, he received a call from his in-laws. They had asked him to return to the home to care for the kids because their mother was in the hospital. Ed is one of the most codependent people I know, so I was not at all surprised to learn he transitioned from a self-preservation role to a rescuer role. Fast forward to 2018. Ed had a significant relapse and inquired for a third time while he was in the hospital. Prior to the hospital he had been in jail. Ed had a significant amount of emotional baggage he packed and brought to Frederick Place. He felt guilty, sad, and ashamed. Ed felt his drug use had influenced the people in his life who were trapped in the seemingly endless cycle of sobriety and relapse also. What did he use? In Ed’s words he “was a garbage can but preferred coke, meth and heroin. I did whatever I could to not have to deal with my underlying issues. If I could escape reality I did.”
Ed did very well the third time he called Frederick Place home. He got back on his meds, stayed sober and quickly got a job close to the town where his daughter lived. He continued to stress about his significant other but did his best to take off his crown of codependency and put himself first. Ed finally realized he could not make her quit using; she had to do that on her own. He vowed to support her if and when she was clean but not if she was using. Yet another extremely difficult decision for Ed.
With high hopes Ed took a leap of faith and left us on September 19, 2018. Ed was no longer his own worst enemy that left him shackled and drawn to the badlands of his past. Better days soon arrived, and he began pondering what livin’ in the future would be like. Ed began working on a dream and will soon be a recovery coach. He begins classes to become a substance abuse counselor in the spring. Ed’s significant other has also since seen the light of day and is no longer on rocky ground. They have both been in recovery for a year and plan to marry soon. Together they have started new meetings and spoken in front of a large crowd in Green Bay. They are living proof that it is possible to breakaway the chains of addiction and move towards the promised land.
Ed and I walked the same path for a total of 74 days, yet I feel like I’ve known him all my life. It is safe to say that anyone who meets Ed with never forget him. He’s funny as hell, caring, insightful and loyal, and almost as handsome as Bruce Springsteen. There is a quality about him that I just can’t put into words. He’s just got it. I do know that sometimes something comes along, and you know it's for sure the only one. Yes indeed, the mold was broken the day Ed was born.
Congrats to you on your sobriety and upcoming marriage, my friend. Thank you for continuing to be a part of my life.
P.S. I honored Ed’s love of Springsteen by interspersing Bruce references throughout this writing. I KNOW Ed will find them all. Can you?