Through our Bridges to Recovery Initiative, we work directly with people experiencing homelessness and provide them with a pathway to a better life. This work on the frontlines of recovery is at the core of who we are and helps us fulfill our mission of strengthening our communities through ensuring every person knows that they are loved. We sat down with Dustin to discuss his journey and he shared with us his experience with homelessness and his struggles with substance use. 

What was your life like growing up?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas with my father and brother. My brother, Justin, was mentally and physically handicapped and passed away shortly before is birthday in September of 2002. I had a really hard time dealing with this and my addiction progressed. He’s a big part of the reason why I decided to get sober now.

Tell us about your substance use history.

I started smoking weed at the age of seven and in my teenage years I began using cocaine, crack, and heroin. My first arrest happened when I was 25 for heroin possession. I was sent to jail for six months and released on probation under the condition that I go to treatment for substance use. I relapsed after treatment and my addiction brought me from my home in Dallas to Los Angeles where I became homeless and my addiction got worse. I’ve had five people die from overdoses right in front of me along with a lot of other bad stuff happen and that just led to me drinking and using more because I did not know how to cope with those things.

How did you begin your journey at CLARE|MATRIX?

I was tired of being homeless and not knowing where I was going to be able to take a shower or when I would be able to eat again. I want my family back. I’m working on rebuilding a relationship with my father. I want to be in a better place so that when I go back to visit my family they will be happy to see me instead of having to prepare themselves to see me. Pan-handling for change and sleeping on the concrete is no way to live life. Also, my brother’s birthday and anniversary of his passing are this month and he is a big part of the reason why I pushed myself to do better; to honor him.

What is your life like now?

My life today is amazing and adventurous. It’s an adventure for me finding myself and figuring out who I am sober. It’s a struggle sometimes, but I am learning how to deal with my emotions and talk through the way I feel instead of letting drug and alcohol use speak for me.

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in your recovery?

I’ve learned to not be scared and have courage to speak up when I have something to say. I know now that people are here if I need to ask for help. I’ve made friendships that have taught me how to value and care about other people. At first, it was all about me and what I wanted, but now I value what people bring to my life and what I can contribute to theirs. I’m not perfect and I’m still broken in some ways, but I’ve learned to be at peace with that one day at a time.