Not too many homeless veterans have dedicated their career to helping others in need. But then again, 58-year-old Fred Young isn’t your average guy. Young is the kind of guy whose spirit shines brightly like a meteor streaking through the night sky. But, Fred says it wasn’t always like that. At one point, in his early days out of the military, his thoughts went to darkness. “I’ve spent time in jail and I was previously homeless for 5 years living on the streets in Indianapolis,” he said. “It’s kind of been up and down for me.”
The US Army veteran says his dependency on drugs and alcohol escalated while serving in the military. Alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) is a disease that affects over 14 million people in the US.
“I was good at hiding my addictions, at least I thought I was,” says Fred. “And once I came back home from serving in the military my plan was to take a full year off and party but that year turned into 30 years.”
Fred was not yet committed to changing his life around but he landed a job in production at General Motors where he worked for 15 years. He says after watching his life spin further out of control, he decided to quit his job in fear he would get fired.
Fred sought help at the US Department of Veterans Affairs SATS (Substance Abuse Treatment Services) program.
“The best recovery is when the individual is honest with himself, is open-minded and willing to use the guidance and direction provided by those who have made that journey before him. That is what I did and it works,” says Fred.
Fred is 14 years clean and sober and quit smoking cigarettes 7 years ago.
In March of 2005, Fred was hired at HVAF to work in the Critical Time Intervention (CTI) program. Soon he worked his way up to Coordinator for the Residential Employment Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program. And in 2011, Fred was certified by the State of Indiana FSSA Division of Mental Health as a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) and was upgraded in July of 2014 to an Indiana Community Health Worker/ Certified Recovery Specialist (CHW/CRS).
As Coordinator, Fred says he enjoys seeing positive changes in the veterans’ lives and says he can relate to these men and women who struggle with addictions. He uses the 12-step recovery curriculum to help veterans overcome fears and obstacles.
When you walk past Fred’s office you notice stacks of files of the veterans that he serves and case managers and veterans stop in and out of his office. Fred’s light is always on, shining bright.