Willie at table 1 (800x547)Willie moved into his CASA apartment this spring.  “I’m very content,” he says.  “And I love my apartment.  It’s beautiful!  Everything…the walls, the floors, the cabinets, the bedroom, the bathroom.  Everyone who comes to see it says it’s amazing.”

Moving into his own apartment wasn’t just about having a place to live for Willie.  The apartment represents his return to the world.  Willie has been sober for 2 years and 5 months after many years of addiction.  He even quit smoking cigarettes.  “I feel 100% better,” he smiles.

Willie graduated from a shelter program and transitional housing program for men with drug and alcohol addiction, and his application with CASA was approved just in time.  “Not knowing when I was going to move and who I was going to be around…I was fearful of where I might have to go,” he remembers.  “My time was up at the transitional housing and then I received a letter in the mail from CASA saying I’d been selected.  It was a miracle.” Willie lives in a CASA development dedicated to veterans, and this is important to him:  “Veterans have a bond, always, and I just like being around veterans.”

Willie was born in New Jersey and served in the military for four years.  Afterward, Willie joined his father in the family business, a supermarket.  His father died after a difficult illness, and the family sold the store. “My life slowly went off course,” Willie says.  “I used a lot, I drank and drugged a lot, for years after that.”  Willie’s mother died a few years later after a brief battle with cancer.  “I took care of her until she passed,” he says.  By then, Willie says, “I was addicted to drugs and alcohol.  And then I became homeless.”

Wille wavered between using and sobriety for decades.  He was clean for as many as seven years at a time, but when things got stressful, “I fell back onto drinking and drugs.”  Eventually, Willie made his way to the VA clinic in Durham and asked for help.  The clinic connected him to the recovery program and CASA’s Supportive Housing application.

Willie will be 52 years old this summer, and he reflects on how different life is for him now.  The first couple of nights in his apartment “were different,” he remembers. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I thought I’d fall asleep so peaceful, but I was up half the night.  I was nervous because I hadn’t been alone in quite a while…but now it’s good.  It’s good because it allows me to think and focus on me….now I meditate and I rest easy.”  Willie sleeps through the night now.  “I can definitely see a big improvement, because I’m content,” he explains.  “I’m totally content.”

Willie mentors three men who are also in recovery.  “The best thing I can offer is that I tell them every day to just every day make a gratitude list,” he explains.  Willie has a long gratitude list, including grandchildren and his good health.  But, he says, “I’m just mainly grateful for who I am today.  It’s not so much of what I have, it’s just who I am.  I’m good now, and everything’s like it should be.”