By: Danni Eickenhorst, MidlandDivision, Content Specialist
Phil George turned 18 in the Illinois Juvenile Correction System. He entered adulthood battling mental illness, addiction and ghosts from his early days. At 16, he was kicked out of his childhood home. Suffering from parental rejection and abuse, he turned to borderline behaviors and had been jailed for burning down a house in an insurance scheme.
Upon exiting the system, George found himself homeless and turned to using drugs. He entered into The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light facility in downtown St. Louis, where he stayed nearly four months. “I wasn’t ready to get help yet, but they showed me a lot of love,” he recalls.
Each time he would get sober, tragedy would strike, sending him into a tailspin that would jeopardize his sobriety. He suffered the loss of a best friend, and two girlfriends, and became haunted by the losses. “Old Phil would show up. I would relapse, try to commit suicide, stop going to meetings and volunteering,” he said.
Today, Phil is sober and has been for almost five years. “I stay clean for my grandmother,” he says, choking up, “I stole from her when I was in my addiction, and I feel that staying clean is the only way I can make it up to her, now that she has passed away.” Phil attends 12-step meetings several times weekly and finds comfort in daily routines, such as volunteering three to four days each week at The Salvation Army’s food pantry inAlton. “Here I am surrounded by positive people. It’s been good for me. I have a support system,” says George, “I have learned to feel the pain, both good and bad, and to get through it, and having that support has made all the difference.”