ServiceNet provides a wide range of human services for people across the Pioneer Valley.
Duane first showed up at ServiceNet’s Drop-In Center in September of 2007. For years prior, he had been living outside in a tent drinking himself to an early grave.
Duane was born and raised right here in Florence, but his childhood was anything but typical. Almost from the time he was born, there were drugs and alcohol in his life. His parents were young, and they partied heavily. Throughout his childhood years, his mother’s solution to any problem Duane had was to give him beer. When he was two months old, she would put beer in his bottle to help him sleep. After all, that’s how she and his father handled most situations. Duane grew up convinced that drugs and alcohol were the solution to just about everything.
After high school, Duane joined the Air Force. He had a keen mechanical sense and was sent to Hawaii to become a helicopter mechanic. Unfortunately, his emotional issues prevented him from being successful at this task. Again, he turned to alcohol which ultimately resulted in his being discharged from the Air Force, which in turn caused him to begin drinking even more heavily.
Duane spent most of the 80s and 90s living in jail and living on the streets, with one brief stint in a veterans’ shelter in Boston. By this point, his mother had died from alcohol-related issues. His brother had committed suicide. He didn’t have much of a relationship with his father. He had two failed marriages, and a son. He had no friends. On top of it all, he had been in a major fight and was hit over the head with a cinderblock, causing a serious head injury. His overall physical and emotional health was declining at a very rapid pace. Basically, Duane had nothing going for him.
Nothing, that is, until he walked through ServiceNet’s doors. When he first came to us, we gave him a bed at our interfaith shelter. Unfortunately, his drinking continued and so we had to ask him to leave. But he still came to our Drop-In Center several times each week. We helped him get into detox, but each time he got out he’d start drinking again. In between detoxes, he’d be in and out of jail. His life couldn’t be more of a mess.
But then in the fall of 2009, something different happened. Duane entered a detox and this time when he got out he maintained his sobriety. He was attending AA. He came back into ServiceNet’s shelter and really began to deal with his issues. ServiceNet provided counseling tailored to his specific needs, and it was working. ServiceNet’s consistent support and Duane’s positive attitude blended very well, and in March of 2010 he moved into a room at our single room occupancy unit in Florence.
Today, Duane continues to go to AA meetings. He is involved with the Pedal People and their bike shop. He volunteers at the bike shop every Saturday. This past winter, Duane got a position in ServiceNet’s peer work program and is actually working at the Drop-In. He is an invaluable member of our team, and his willingness to share his life experience is making a significant difference in the lives of others, many of whom used to be his drinking buddies.
Duane was recently accepted to Westfield State College where he is seeking a substance abuse certificate. Due to the help of ServiceNet and his willingness to put his life back together, Duane has come an incredibly long way on his journey of sobriety. ServiceNet has been at Duane’s side every step of the way, offering support and encouragement. And we will continue to be at his side for as long as he needs us.
It’s been an honor to work with Duane. His incredible strength and human spirit is truly an inspiration.