A Day I Will Never Forget – John’s Story
Recently, John shared his story at a gathering of Pads Partners. Read about his journey below and find out why July 11, 2016 is a day he will never forget.
Hi. My name is John. Thank you for listening to my story.
I Grew Up in DuPage County
I grew up in DuPage County, and graduated from Wheaton North High School. Like my parents and sister, I went to college, but fell short of getting my engineering degree at U of I, as I became more interested in food service.
I worked 45 years in the hotel and food service industry, doing many jobs from cooking and serving, to purchasing and setting up displays. I worked at Four Seasons, Knickerbocker and Hyatt hotels as well as the Art Institute all in downtown Chicago.
My Struggles Began…
My life struggles began in 1998, when my mother, who lived alone in Carol Stream, fell down the stairs and shattered her foot. It was a devastating accident and she needed reconstructive surgery.
Doctors wanted to put her in assisted living, but instead, I agreed to help her daily, even though I was working 12 hours a day in downtown Chicago, where I also lived.
I would get her to rehab, shop for her, wash clothes and helped her financially. After two years of the 2-3 hour daily commute, I quit my job and left my apartment downtown to live in Carol Stream. I still watched over my mom, as she had new health issues, and I bounced around with different jobs.
While I never was a big drinker in my younger days, I did turn to alcohol. Before I knew it, in the year 2000, I had 3 DUI’s, which is a felony, and I had to spend 180 days in jail.
I finally landed a full-time job as a chef at the Hilton due to my vast experience – I passed the substance abuse test, all my professional experiences were verified, and they were as thrilled as I was to get started.
Three days later, the same executive staff that hired me, called me in a meeting and said that since the background check indicated I had a felony on record due to my DUIs, I was let go.
I could not work in hotels any more – most large companies will not hire convicted felons. I not only lost my license, but my career.
I was embarrassed and humiliated. I rode my bike everywhere and worked for small Ma and Pa places, making pizzas and whatever was needed, as they did not do background checks.
I came to DuPagePads
By 2007, I could no longer support myself with seasonal employment, and spent time in and out of DuPagePads shelters.
I used the ER as my doctor, and found myself blacking out way too often. I had high blood sugar and I my feet were beginning to hurt regularly. I ignored my health issues, and continued riding my bike to shelter sites, even in the snow, with all I owned on my back.
About a year ago, after getting hit by a car on my bike, I realized I was “a walking dead man,” severely diabetic, and that I needed to face my serious health issues. My feet were screaming with pain, but I did not want to lose my legs like Ron Santo.
DuPagePads case managers gave me hope, and I realized the first step was to stop drinking.
While in rehab I learned about “chronic disease self-management,” and how I needed to change my lifestyle.
My incredible case mangers helped me to be proactive, to be positive, and to face all my health issues.
While I didn’t think I deserved it, or was “good enough,” I was put on a wait list for DuPagePads Supportive Housing apartment program.
July 11, 2016 is a day I will never forget.
I spent the morning with my case manager, picking out nice used furniture, getting groceries and at 2:00pm in the afternoon, I walked into my DuPage Pads apartment, with my own keys.
I just turned 60-years-old and never thought I would have my own place again. My sister has always been supportive, and is thrilled that I can now maximize my talents and time here on earth.
This home means everything to me.
I have reorganized my life and focus on my health issues. I am on insulin, eat properly and see doctors every week for my blood sugar, severe nerve pain, eyes and teeth.
Having a home is a golden opportunity to address my health issues.
I have no doubt that without DuPage Pads I would not be here today. Because my case managers believed in me, I now look forward to many more years of a healthy lifestyle.
Thank you DuPage Pads and their supporters for saving my life.