BOISE, Idaho — Last fall, we told you how Boise homeless shelter Interfaith Sanctuary introduced a free drug and alcohol recovery program. Now, staff and guests of the shelter are celebrating their first-ever graduate of the long-term residential program.
“It just totally changed my life,” said Jimmy Boyd, who graduated from their Level 1 Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment program. "Get sober, and I’m gonna tell you something, your life will change.”
Interfaith guests and staff celebrated Boyd's achievement with a surprise party filled with food, decorations, and a special "Happy Graduation!" cake.
“It works," said Jodi Peterson-Stigers, Interfaith Sanctuary's executive director. "If you give them a safe space, they can get healthy again.”
It was a day he didn’t see coming, for more reasons than one.
“The party here, it really shocked me. It was a big shock for me," said Boyd. "Both of my parents, growing up, were alcoholics. I had never in my life ever had a birthday party," said Boyd.
Boyd also struggled with alcohol addiction.
“I’ve been drinking for straight nonstop for the last 10 years. I hadn’t had twenty-four hours of sobriety," said Boyd.
He says never had been homeless in his life but when his addiction worsened, he wound up sleeping in alleyways.
“I had to start my day off at 5 a.m. in the morning, drinking because I was shaking so bad," said Boyd. "It was so bad I was actually getting to the point to where I was thinking about suicide.”
Boyd went to Allumbaugh House, a medical detox center, where they helped him with his withdrawals.
Upon returning to the shelter, where he’d been living, he joined Interfaith’s new Project Recovery program.
“I basically locked myself down for the first 32 days," said Boyd.
Boyd said they let him recover in the way he felt was important to him.
“I got anything, as far as human service help, they helped me get my Medicaid."
Managed by Recovery 4 Life’s staff, Project Recovery acts as a 24/7 live-in safe space with peer support to talk openly, like about urges for example.
“You just give it a chance, give it a little bit of time, sit and talk with somebody, it goes away,” said Boyd. "That’s what I needed was, I needed some structure.”
Peterson-Stigers says Allumbaugh and Interfaith's Project Recovery have an agreement of sorts where they work together to bring the essential components for recovery to individuals like Boyd.
"I think, together, Allumbaugh and Interfaith is the complete package to help someone be successful in their recovery,” said Peterson-Stigers.
“It really did save my life. If I didn’t get into this program, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of this camera," said Boyd. "And uh, I’m sure the police department out there is probably gonna see this on the news and say, ‘I know that guy!’" said Boyd, with a laugh. "‘We've helped him out! We’ve helped him out so many times!’ Believe me, the police department here in this town, they were my personal taxi," he said, laughing.
Boyd says he is proud of himself and says he’s come way too far now to revert back to his old way of life.
The impact of his achievement is also being felt by others in the shelter, according to Boyd and Peterson-Stigers.
“What some of them say is they want to be just like me. They want to be sober too, just like me," said Boyd. "Which I think is great, because actually they’re gonna really love it if they do stick with it and they do stay sober," said Boyd.
“He is a mentor whether he knows it or not," added Peterson-Stigers.
Boyd's story goes to show that with hard work and commitment, recovery is possible.
“For me to pull out of it and get as far as I have, then anybody can do it,” said Boyd.
He is also looking forward to a future filled with additional accomplishments; he says he is currently applying for jobs, and will soon after begin looking for housing. But he also says he is taking things one step at a time, so as not to overwhelm himself while in recovery.
Peterson-Stigers says even though he has graduated, Boyd is still welcome back to the program at any time.
Click here to learn more about Project Recovery.