“I started using in college. Like a lot of people, I started drinking and experimenting with drugs and became addicted over time. I have a personality that likes to go and go and go and not stop. It caused hurt and harm with my family and myself. There were times that I would go and get right. Go to rehab to get myself together but something would happen and I would fall off.
A low moment for me was when I was finishing up school in Virginia and was getting close to graduating and fell off. I saw how it was hurting my mom and stepdad and nieces and nephews. I had gotten divorced and moved in with my parents to go to culinary school. Two years of that and I relapsed. I saw the hurt in them again. I was doing so well and to fall off like that was hard. I needed a change, so I moved to Atlanta to get back on my feet and go to rehab and get established. I ended up staying at Gateway and that’s how I was introduced to the Back on My Feet team. I was running and working in the recovery program. I reconnected with my dad and things were looking up.
My sponsor told me not to get in a relationship in the first year. I didn’t listen and our relationship buckled and I got hurt. That spiraled me back into drinking again and I had to start all over. I got back into rehab with Salvation Army and have been there ever since. I got into Veterans on the Move and was accepted for HUD. I’m meeting with the housing authority and soon I’ll move out on my own. I also do food service for the VA Hospital and am going through a six-month probation process but soon I’ll get to start cooking.
I have a support network that is very important to me. When people come to Back on My Feet, there is an atmosphere where guys want to exercise, get fit, work on recovery, and get their lives back. Then there’s the high fives, the clapping, the encouragement, the teamwork, the accountability. When you feel good about yourself you’re going to want everyone else to have self-esteem too. You’re going to lift people up.
The day Back on My Feet gave me my running shoes made me feel so proud. I wore raggedy shoes for awhile because they didn’t have my size. I waited a few months and before my 10 miler, I was putting in my work and being faithful and using what I had. Hannah and Theresa got these New Balances for me and I felt so loved. When I looked up the pair they got me, I saw they were the number one shoes for 2016 in Runner’s World Magazine. That was a special moment. Now I feel like I run for myself and for the team.
There’s always a bigger picture, a bigger goal, you just have to keep moving. You have to go through the process. It takes time but you start to become physically fit. You start walking. Then maybe you run for a minute and build from there. Then you start to get socially fit. People see your face consistently and get to know you. Then you get spiritually fit and find peace within yourself which helps you become emotionally fit. When you’re emotionally fit you know how to cope when life gets hard and then become mentally fit. Coming from the streets and addiction, this one is the hardest. Getting your brain back takes time. It takes work. It takes retraining your mind. You can get it all back, you just have to take it one step at a time.”
This story was told by Robert Loving during an interview with Gather Good. Robert is a current member of Back on My Feet, a nonprofit helping homeless individuals navigate a new life path through running. You can support individuals like Robert here. If you or someone you know is struggling with homelessness, click here for BOMF resources.
Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit operating in 12 cities coast-to-coast.
Photos are property of Back on My Feet.