Success Story

Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell Success Story

“Alcohol was all over the place… It was how we socialized and blew off steam,” recalls Gary Caldwell of his first tour of duty with the Marines. Masking his alcohol abuse by maintaining a clean-cut appearance didn’t last long for Gary —the image he worked to build began to crumble during his second tour of duty. After coming in late and smelling of alcohol, Gary’s superiors warned him to get help. “I thought I could handle it on my own,” he says. “I halfheartedly tried one A.A. meeting but left early and never returned.”

Alcohol fueled violent behavior, and eventually, his rank was stripped. “I returned to the United States during the height of the crack epidemic, humiliated and a full-blown alcoholic. I got hooked on crack very fast and began using it every day—I even wrote bad checks to get money for drugs. When the military police found out about the bad checks, I was court marshaled.”

Gary’s mother helped him find work, but his drinking and drug use worsened and he was fired after his employer found out he was living at the office. Gary was officially homeless. “I would do day jobs just to get money [for drugs], and when that money ran out, I would shoplift. It was truly a cycle for me: jail and the streets, jail and the streets.”

During another stint in jail, Gary realized he was killing himself. “If I was going to have a chance at reclaiming my life, I would need some real help—and not just with my drug and alcohol problem. I heard lots of stories about guys who would get out of prison only to have door after door slammed in their faces when they went looking for a job.”

While researching programs that would help him find work, Gary discovered Ready, Willing & Able and signed up to attend a presentation. “The gentleman w ho came to talk to us [said things that] sounded different than what I had heard before. He spoke with respect and understanding, but also because of the work-based program he described. They told me that if I worked hard, stayed clean, and followed the rules, they would do several things for me: 1) Pick me up on the day of my release, 2) Immediately give me paid transitional work, 3) Make sure that I got a permanent job a few months later, and 4) Give me lifetime assistance if I ever needed help again.”

Gary couldn’t help being skeptical: “I had heard a lot of promises in my life. It all sounded good, but they would have to do more than just talk. Imagine my surprise when there was a Ready, Willing & Able van waiting for me when I walked through the prison gate.” Pushing the bucket was tough at first, but he came to love his route. “I learned how to handle disagreements, how to important it is to stand up and do what is right even when nobody else is watching, and finally, what it feels like when people keep their promises.”

Four months later, Gary was accepted into the Pest at Rest program; he then found a permanent job and passed the state licensing exam on his first try—missing only nine questions out of 100. “Things are great for me today,” he says. “I love my job and have my own car and route. My relationship with my mother has never been better. I don’t wonder anymore about whether I’ll fall back into drugs and alcohol. Today, I use the lessons I learned from The Doe Fund, and as each day passes, I get stronger and surer of my accomplishments. Most importantly, I know that I’ll never spend another day behind bars.”


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