There were two defining points in Galen’s life. One almost killed him, and one saved his life.
At 14, he found out that his father’s death ten years prior was not the accident he believed it was. Galen overheard his mother saying that his father had committed suicide. All trust and respect Galen had for his mother instantly vanished.
For the next year, he rebelled. “My life went upside down at that point,” says Galen. He got kicked out of the house and lived on the streets. “I had nowhere to go, and I wasn't connected to anyone, so I connected to other kids who were all partying and doing drugs,” he admits.
This was the beginning of decades of homelessness and addiction for Galen. He contracted Hepatitis B from using an infected needle. As his health declined, his drug use increased. One day, at only 87 pounds, he passed out in front of a hospital. A nurse found him and convinced Galen to give her his family’s contact information. A few days later, after plenty of fluids and treatment, his family bought him a bus ticket home to Fort Collins.
He lived with his sister, Lara, and got clean. In 2003, he was there when his niece Celia was born and came home from the hospital. She quickly became the most important person in his life. His sobriety was more for her than it was for him. He was off the streets, in his own apartment and most importantly, he had his family back.
But in 2011 Galen’s health worsened, and he slipped into a depression. He didn’t want to leave his house, not even to see his niece. Hepatitis had zapped him of all energy. It was the perfect storm to drive him back to drugs. At Christmastime, he broke his seven years of sobriety.
“Within a few months, I was a full-blown addict again. I wasn't paying my bills. I managed to keep my apartment for a year, but like everything, I lost that too. I became homeless in December 2012 and it was a real wake-up call,” he recalls.
But then came the moment that saved his life. After a couple weeks of living outside, he went to Lara’s house. In his mind, he envisioned a warm welcome with hugs and smiles. “I knocked on the door and felt an uneasiness. I remember Celia was hiding behind Lara. She acted like she didn't even know me. It crushed me,” Galen recalls sadly.
Days later, he decided to go to Fort Collins Rescue Mission. Seeing his niece look at him like she would a stranger gave him new resolution. He wanted to do everything he could to be a part of her life again. “I heard about the Steps to Success program and got involved as quickly as possible. I got reconnected with my church,” says Galen. He loved the program and going to chapel each night before dinner. “I came here quite broken, but within a few weeks Lara said that she could see the old sparkle in my eye,” he says.
Galen celebrated 90 days of sobriety on April 1st. He found permanent housing and moved out of the Mission last month after completing three steps of the program. “Chaplain Tom and Jim didn’t just give me a handout, they gave me a hand up. That means all the difference in the world. They looked inside me and saw a person worth saving,” says Galen gratefully.
Galen cannot believe he has lived long enough to see his 54th birthday next month. “Through the program, I've reconnected with God, bringing me to a new level of my faith. He has saved me from myself countless times,” says Galen.
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Galens story was featured in the April 2013 issue of Changing Livestitled "Worth Saving"Download Now