He went down a dark road, but found recovery and is now giving back.
“My name’s Clifton. I’m a native Washingtonian.” So begins Cliff’s story of addiction and recovery.
Cliff was a lifelong resident of the DMV, but much of that time was spent in prison as a result of his substance use.
“I went down a dark road,” Clifton recounts. “In and out of prison for about 35, 40 years. Broken relationships, untrust, guilt, anger, resentment: all the things that come with substance use.”
“Don’t be too proud to pick up the phone or walk up to someone and ask for help, because you never know where your help will come from.”
Cliff felt like a “dressed up garbage can.” He explains, “You’re clean cut. But that’s the outside. On the inside, you’re an addict… It’s just living a lie.”
The last time Cliff was in prison, his mom passed away.” “I used to care for my mom and I didn’t get the opportunity to go to her funeral. It was hard, man. It was hard.”
Not being able to attend his mother’s funeral was a turning point for Cliff, a moment of clarity. He made a pact with his mother that he would honor her by doing the right thing and trying to help others, which she did throughout her life.
This moment of clarity helped Cliff get clean. That and the help of a strong network of support. He made friends who do not use, and he’s now engaged to a woman with 25 years in recovery.
“Once I was given the opportunity to get clean, I knew that I could stay clean because … I’ve seen other people do it.”
In recovery, Cliff has made good on his promise the help others. He works with Inner City, a community-based organization that guides kids under DC Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services supervision.
“I know my mom’s smiling down on me. And I’m smiling right back at her.”
Cliff offers his view on recovery: “You have to find what works for you.” “What works for me may not work for you.” But “don’t be too proud to pick up the phone or walk up to someone and ask for help, because you never know where your help will come from. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
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