In 2011, Henry underwent surgery to stabilize his neck, but complications during the procedure led to a life-altering journey. From hospitalization and addiction to homelessness and despair, Henry’s story is a testament to the power of counseling and the support he found at Opportunity House, a homeless shelter dedicated to providing individuals like Henry with a new start.
Surgery and Setbacks
When Henry reported to for surgery in 2011 to stabilize his neck, a three-tier fusion was recommended to relieve his symptoms and restore his health. The surgery was successful, but Henry did not wake up from the anesthesia. He was rushed from the outpatient surgery center to a local hospital to save his life. At the hospital, he was resuscitated and brought back to life but in the process new fractures were caused in his newly-repaired cervical spine.
Henry underwent additional surgeries that involved inserting metal hardware into his spine and he ended up in a stabilization device called a halo–a large metal framework to keep the spine in alignment after a fracture. Henry would have to endure wearing the device for a year.
Struggle and Addiction
Henry’s pain from the surgeries and fractures was unbearable. His healthcare provider freely prescribed painkillers to help him endure his long road to recovery. After two years of being hospitalized and completing extensive therapy to learn to use his hands and learn to walk, Henry was discharged from the hospital. “I had to learn everything again,” noted Henry. He moved in with his dad to continue his recovery, unfortunately by this time he was addicted to the painkillers that were supposed to help him heal.
When his father sold his home, Henry moved to his own apartment. Henry was caught smoking pot outside of the apartment and eventually went to jail. With no apartment to return home to, Henry was homeless. The area’s shelter was full and a local agency created a tent city. He spent the winter outdoors. In spring, the police bulldozed the tent city. Henry began couch surfing with friends and hid his addiction from them. Inside he knew he was falling apart but didn’t know where to turn for help.
He eventually qualified for Social Security disability and got housing. His addiction took control, and he was selling drugs to support his addiction. “I got arrested and went to jail at age 50,” he notes. “The most painful part was telling my dad what I had done.” In jail, he was prescribed medications that continued to feed his addiction. While serving his time, his father died and he was not able to attend the funeral—a regret he lives with today.
After he was released from prison, he began living in a hotel room using the small inheritance his father left him. His doctor cut off his prescription opioids and Henry switched to the more affordable and accessible heroin. He was selling it to support his habit.
Eventually, he bought a car and lived in it. At times, he lived outdoors with a girlfriend. His life continued downward, and he was arrested and ended up in prison once again. For Henry, this was a wake-up call. “I went to prison and stopped using drugs,” noted Henry. In prison, Henry tapped into his spiritual side and decided he wanted to change his life.
After prison, he got Suboxone to detox from heroin. Life seemed to be going well and Henry was part of the Green Team cleaning up around the city of Reading. During this time, Henry had a medical marijuana card and continued to use it to ease his pain. The combination of Suboxone and marijuana led him back to his addiction and he went to rehab.
Finding Support at Opportunity House
After rehab, he went to a sober living facility. His neck problems began to worsen and required additional surgeries to reduce the numbness he was experiencing and improve his overall ability to function. After intensive rehabilitation, Henry was discharged from the facility. With no place to go, Henry came to Opportunity House. “It was my only option,” noted Henry. When he arrived, he felt supported by a team that was committed to helping him. “I focused on my health and cleaning up my act,” he added. “I got counseling and support at Opportunity House. I am committed to maintaining my sobriety and I am committed to Christ,” he said.
Embracing a new future
Henry’s time at Opportunity House was a turning point, providing the support and resources he needed to rebuild his life. As Henry looks back on his life, he has many regrets including not getting help earlier. “Today, I feel like I’m in a better place and building myself back up,” he noted. With counseling and newfound determination, he looks forward to achieving big goals, including walking without a walker and driving again.
(c) Opportunity House 2023
If you or someone you know needs help with an addiction please contact SAMHSA‘s 24/7 Help Line tel:1-800-662-4357 support is available in both English and Spanish