One day at a time: Victor’s story
Victor grew up on the west side of Chicago, the second of three children born to a woman who liked partying more than she liked being a mother. When he was still an infant, she abandoned him and his two sisters to the care of relatives. Victor remembers very little about her.
Victor was raised by his grandmother. (His two sisters were raised separately: one on the West Side by different relatives, and one in Mississippi.) As a young boy he grew close to his uncle and aunt, who lived nearby. He loved his grandmother and his uncle and aunt very much, but he grew up very clearly aware of the fact that, as he says, “my mother didn’t want me.”
When he was in high school, his uncle introduced him to alcohol and his girlfriend introduced him to cocaine. He quickly developed an addiction to both, but especially to alcohol. Victor was friendly, but shy. He found it hard to reach out and make friends. As the friends he had moved on in life, he didn’t add many new ones. He found that alcohol helped him cope with his loneliness.
The more Victor drank, though, the more his life fell apart. By the time he was 30 he had lost a succession of jobs and was living on the streets. Desperate, he turned to prostitution to survive. He would wander the streets of “Boystown” (the main gay neighborhood on Chicago’s north side) until 4 a.m., looking for money and the illusion of love and acceptance.
In 1995, one of his friends (another man who was prostituting) told him about Emmaus Ministries, and he came down to the Ministry Center to check it out. At first, the structure of the Ministry Center was off-putting to him. He was used to the freedom of the streets, and here were people asking him to set long-term goals and insisting that he had a smaller goal to accomplish each day. It was clear to him that the people there weren’t mean or negative, though, so he decided to give their structure a try.
Today he sees that structure as one of the greatest things about Emmaus. “I wasn’t going to get a job or find housing on my own,” he says. “The people at Emmaus pushed me to have a goal every day. Every day I came down, it was ‘What’s your goal for the day, Victor?’ It was kind of annoying sometimes, but I can look back now and say that that was the reason I would do well.”
Today Vince is working and guarding his sobriety. He lives with relatives in Chicago, and though he would rather be on his own, he’s come to realize that that’s not the best situation for him. His need to be with people can overwhelm him; he relapsed at least a dozen times before he was finally convinced of that truth. The road of recovery hasn’t been easy for him, but he knows that walking that path is something he can do. He’s made sure to surround himself with the right people this time.
“All I can do is take it one day at a time,” he tells us. “I believe God will take care of me, but I’ve got to do my part.”