In celebration of our 50th anniversary, each month we will be sharing a story that highlights one of our programs or treatment populations. Here is Hamilton’s story, a resident of the Leadership Center for transitional-age men.
“Six months ago, if you had told me I’d be going to college, I would have called you a liar.” When Hamilton, 24, came to Odyssey House, he was homeless and doing anything he could to get more heroin. But after a near-fatal overdose, he made a decision to turn his life around.
Born to heroin-addicted parents, Hamilton started using marijuana and drinking at age 12. “I always felt different from the other kids growing up and was searching for an escape from my reality,” he says. By age 14, he was in his first treatment program. Hamilton spent the rest of his adolescence cycling through juvenile detention and treatment programs.
He was 18 when he tried heroin for the first time. “From that day until the day I entered Odyssey House, it completely controlled my life. Everything I did was to get more heroin.” After being arrested in New Hampshire, his father bailed him out under one condition: that he get help. Hamilton agreed but didn’t take it too seriously. Before entering treatment, he went out to get high one last time, overdosed, and was revived by naloxone.
After his near death experience, Hamilton realized he’d been given another chance and decided to commit to treatment. He struggled in the beginning, but after a few weeks of attending group meetings and one-on-one sessions with his counselor, he began to understand the depth of his drug problem. “The staff at Odyssey House believed in me until I could believe in myself,” he says.
In treatment, Hamilton has rebuilt a number of relationships with his loved ones. The guidance and support of his father, in recovery himself since Hamilton was six years old, has been particularly invaluable. “He’s been through what I’m going through, and he doesn’t judge me.”
Seeing the positive effects of recovery in his life motivates Hamilton to push himself further. A cross-country runner growing up, Hamilton joined the Run for Your Life team and is planning to run the NYC Marathon this year. “I feel free when I run,” he says. “It improves my mood, and it’s great to get out and meet people in the other programs and share our experiences.”
Hamilton also earned his high school equivalency diploma and enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He plans to study human services. “I was given a second chance and I feel it’s my duty to help kids like me get their second chance. Without Odyssey House, none of this would be possible and I am forever grateful.”