“My name is Gabe Miller. I’m twenty-eight. I’m from Denver, Colorado. I grew up and spent my formative years in Nebraska. I was born in Colorado but moved to Nebraska as a young child.
When I was one year old, my parents; who are both from a small town called North Platte, and I moved to Nebraska. Life growing up, I had a great childhood. I had parents who I knew cared and loved me.
I had an older sister who got involved drugs fairly young, she was really rebellious and she kind of went off on her own thing. My parents really struggled with her. She ended up getting into addiction early on in her life.
I started out just swallowing pain-killers. Then it developed into: ‘What’s that, what are heavier drugs, how can I feel even more?’ I went and I explored and tried everything. I purposely put myself around guys who were open-minded and started hanging out with them.
I’d lose jobs. I’d damage relationships. I would blow everything else off for that. It became very, very desperate; to where that was the main driving force in my life: to get high.
Pretty much, at that point I was homeless. I had burned all of the bridges that I had to cross. I had tried just about everything that I could, short of going to a recovery program, to get help. I was back in my Mother’s house – it was the only place that I had to sleep, other than on the street.
My Nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia. My Mom had been raising my nephew since he was one year old. So, he was like a little brother to me. He still is like a little brother to me. He was in and out of the hospital, mostly in the hospital, undergoing his Radiation and Chemotherapy.
They had done his full treatment. They had done all of the Chemo. and Radiation that could be done on his body. My Mom was telling me: ‘You’re sitting here on the couch; you’re trying to kill yourself and your Nephew’s upstairs fighting for his life.’
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That didn’t really register to me, I was still really self-centered. When she came and told me: ‘You need to leave. Your Nephew is dying and you’re trying to kill yourself.’ I knew that she meant it. She had said things like that to me before. For some reason this time, it hit me. I wasn’t, by any means, happy with the way I was living.
I really had given up on life. I kind of just threw up my hands and said: “I’ll do whatever needs to be done. I’ll get out of your hair.” I got on a flight down to Florida, to come to the Justin’s Place Program. I entered and I was still very reluctant about doing that. I don’t think that I had really processed the idea of not using drugs or alcohol anymore.
Sitting on my Mom’s couch in Colorado, completely resigned to my addiction, I never imagined that I would be doing what I am doing today: helping another person. I thought I was beyond being helped myself. I never imagined that I would have anything to offer another person.
I got here and I was dealing with that. It kind of hit me all at once when I walked in the door, got settled into the house. I was like: ‘Man, I’m really doing this.’ I struggled with it, a lot. It was almost like I really had to mourn my addiction’s death.
Somewhere along the way, I started to realize that it wasn’t just about me. There were guys around me who were trying to change their lives for the better. To separate themselves from their addiction, experience freedom from that as well. It didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of that. To start participating in other people’s recovery and their spiritual walk. Wanting to encourage other people.
When I would encourage other people, I would feel encouraged. That’s why I still do that. So, today I’m a Case Manager for Justin’s Place Program. I meet with the men in the program, one-on-one, twice in their twenty-eight- day stay at the house that I work at. In the first meeting I typically just try to get to know them. We talk about their spirituality, their recovery. I get to know where they’re coming from and what their situation looked like before they got there. What was the desperation like for them? Explain to them, that desperation was a gift. That’s what got them to a place where they could really change their life. Then I get to encourage and use that gift of encouragement that I had developed from going through the program myself and experienced from other guys ahead of me, who were encouraging me.
I get to turn around and share that with another guy. I get to do that every day. Which, I love that I get to do that. Sitting on my Mom’s couch in Colorado, completely resigned to my addiction, I never imagined that I would be doing what I am doing today: helping another person. I thought I was beyond being helped myself. I never imagined that I would have anything to offer another person. Especially another person in addiction, other than maybe their next high or their next drunk.
Gratitude is probably the best word to describe it. Before I go to bed at night, and I talk about this a lot to the men program, before I lie down to go to bed – many times I’ll think to myself, I’ll say to myself: ‘Man, I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow. I can’t wait to get up and do what I did today again.’ I don’t ever recall feeling that way in my addiction, or before that, having that sense of purpose I was searching for before I even got into my addiction. I don’t ever recall that.
So, joy, gratitude – I’m extremely grateful for where I’m at today. I get to have that sense of purpose today. To give back to someone else who’s experiencing the pain and desperation that I was experiencing. Just to let them know that there’s freedom from that. That they can get past that, there’s a better life.”