January 13, 2023

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Catholic Charities programs are committed to changing lives

David Bethuram

As a good student from an upper middle-class family, Peter never expected to find himself living on the streets. But when he began drinking at the age of 16, alcohol began to consume his life. As he began college, he soon dropped out due to his addiction.

A few years later, at the age of 21, he began attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and got his addiction under control. He went back to college, graduated with a bachelor’s in anthropology, completed law school, passed the bar exam, and even got engaged. But after five years of sobriety, the stress of it all led him back to old habits. He began drinking again, his fiancée left him, and Peter hit rock bottom, turning not only to alcohol, but also to drugs.

Peter decided he needed a fresh start and moved to Indiana. He attempted to transfer his law license but was still caught in the cycle of addiction. After being arrested for shoplifting, his application for an Indiana law license was suspended and his plans were ruined. He knew sobriety was the only way to get back on his feet, and he knew he would need help.

Peter had visited Catholic Charities before for help with food, clothing and other necessities. While he was in for food one day, a Catholic Charities caseworker suggested if he began to attend AA meetings again that she would meet with him weekly to work on his life skills, which would help him possibly find a job if he could prove he was ready.

He began attending AA meetings again, and with the help of his caseworker, he secured a job and stable housing. After working for more than a year, he fell back into addiction and lost his job. For the next two years, he was in and out of shelters.

Peter knew he needed to make a permanent change in his life. He remembered how the staff at Catholic Charities had seen him as an individual and went out of their way to help him succeed, so he asked the staff at Catholic Charities for help again. We provided bus tickets, food, clothing for interviews, job hunting assistance and the necessities we knew he needed to gain stability once again.

Our Catholic Charities mental health program serves as part of an interdisciplinary team with other community programs specifically working with clients who have an addiction. Our expertise is in the behavioral health counseling area and treating mental health problems which lead to or exacerbate complex comorbidities, which supports clients who are in recovery.

“When a person is truly ready to change, Catholic Charities will provide everything you need to change your life,” said Peter. “They saw me as an individual and not just another number or allotment. If I could show that I was taking the steps to get a job, they would get me what I needed to succeed and soften the blow to potential employers about me being homeless.”

Peter added, “Catholic Charities staff members have been great, positive role models” who have been a crucial part of him achieving stability in his life. He now attends church multiple times a week, is back in AA meetings and was able to secure a job working in construction.

He recently moved out of a shelter and into a rented room and hopes to hold his current job for the next year to demonstrate reliability. Eventually, he wants to utilize his law degree in some capacity and is hopeful for the future.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at dbethuram@archindy.org.) †

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