ServiceNet provides a wide range of human services for people across the Pioneer Valley.
I first laid eyes on Rob on a beautiful morning ten years ago this June. I was on my way to my office at ServiceNet’s homeless outreach program. Rob was seated comfortably on the sidewalk, leaned up against the wall by our front door. He was deeply absorbed in his morning shave with a disposable razor. His light red hair stuck up at angles like
he’d just gotten out of bed - which he had. His face was flushed, like a man who’d been drinking a lot – which he
Rob had come to my office on recommendation by the staff at ServiceNet’s Emergency Shelter where he’d landed the night before. That day Rob joined my case load.
Not too deep beneath the surface lay decades of profound depression, chronic alcoholism, too many detoxes to count, relationships gone bad, and short-term junk jobs.
He lost touch with his parents and siblings for years at a time. His daughter: Rob last saw her at age 7. Now she was 17. He thought about her lots, though. Laura was her name. He’d heard she was doing well but didn’t want to reach out for fear of upsetting her happiness.
Rob’s depressed mood was really stubborn. “I’m just not interested in anything,” he said. Once, he sat in my office and actually asked permission to cry. “Of course,” I said. The loud, heart-broken wails that followed lasted many minutes. I think something profound happened for Rob that day. He began to get real about his sadness with another person and himself. Paradoxically, that was the day, too, when he began to contact his deepest strengths.
From then forward, he opened up in earnest to work on the issues that had been plaguing him for years. He began to make real progress in his therapy with me. Rob found his way to AA. He moved from the Shelter to the ServiceNet’s Silver Street residence where he became part of a group of
Silver Street men in recovery.
Gradually, Rob’s mood improved. Once out from under
depression, Rob began to make plans that included a return to school. He was inspired to become a substance abuse counselor. He started classes at GCC. After achieving his first year of sobriety, he sent a carefully-written letter to his daughter. Turned out she was actually interested in connecting. He got in touch with his family in Ohio.
Knowing that his father had suffered a pretty bad stroke and after nearly two sober years with ServiceNet, Rob returned home to help his mom keep the household going.
Rob stayed in touch, too. For his first year in Ohio, he’d
call every couple of months and we’d update each other. He transferred his classes to a community college out there, found a new therapist and became integrated in the AA
community. He’d talk about his latest visit with daughter Laura. He actually attended her wedding as father-of-the-bride.
He eventually graduated with a BA. When he got his first job – in addiction treatment - we’d talk shop – more like colleagues.
About once a year Rob comes back to western Massachusetts, and we always get together for a visit. Two years ago as we paddled a canoe on the Connecticut River, I asked him, “Looking back, what was the greatest help you got from ServiceNet?” His response; “The fact that you all stuck with me, from the Emergency Shelter on. You believed in me.”
Rob is just one example of the thousands of people we help each year.