Growing up around addiction, I saw the consequences affect members of my family and I swore I would never follow in their footsteps. For the first 29 years of my life I did just that. By all accounts I was living the American dream. I had achieved financial success. I had a great career, a house, a dog, a new truck, but I was never truly happy. I had no idea that in a year’s time I would lose all of those things and nearly lose my life to addiction. The progression was swift and the consequences were immense. I lost all the material things; I destroyed friendships that meant so much to me; I lost my sanity and I nearly lost my life.
On December 22nd, 2009 I was faced with a sobering reality. I realized I was that person you saw walking down the street arguing with himself. I had been enslaved by the monster of addiction and for a brief moment a sense of clarity came over me and I realized that I was a robotic shell of my former self. It was at this time I knew I either had to face my addiction and get help or I would end what was left of my life. At the time I have no idea why I chose to fight for my life and face the addiction head on, but I am very grateful today that I did. The following day I checked into rehab with the help of a counselor from LA Gay and Lesbian Center.
Facing addiction was and is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; little did I know that only a week later I would be dealt another blow. On December 30th, 2009, as a result of my behaviors in addiction, I was diagnosed with HIV. I again was faced with a moment of clarity – either I face it head on or I give up and end it. The next week was really rough for me and I ended up leaving the rehab and using again. The thoughts of suicide were all I could think of at the time. My mother, who was 700 miles away, knew that I was at the end of things and she never gave up on me. Somehow she convinced me to reach out to my family here in Illinois and less than 24 hours later I was on a flight here.
I left everything I knew behind in a desperate attempt to save what was left of my life. I made the decision to face the fact that I was a drug addict who had lost everything and I now had HIV. I knew I either faced it all 100% or I would fail and fall back into a personal hell I never want to experience again. The journey has been rough and challenging. Each day I face fear and I do my best to live a new way of life. Today I live my life full of gratitude. When you are stripped down to nothing it’s amazing how much you find to be grateful for. Each day that I wake up is a blessing and I try to live my life to the fullest every day.
For the first time in my life I feel like I have a purpose. That purpose is to help others and give back what was so freely given to me, which was a chance at a new life. Because of my experiences I am now uniquely qualified to help others. I have compassion and empathy and I believe that I can take the things that many view as negatives, such as being an addict in recovery and having HIV, and I can rise above those things. I can give back to the very communities that have helped me to save my life. I am currently back in school studying Addiction studies and social work and I am doing HIV counseling and outreach.
I have also decided to challenge myself physically and run the Chicago Marathon and raise money for The AIDS Foundation of Chicago. I have always wanted to give back to organizations such as Bonaventure House, Chicago House, and AFC which have been instrumental in my journey and I couldn’t think of a better way to do it. That is why over the next several months I will train with The Team To End AIDS and push myself physically as well as raise money to support the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. In order to be successful I need help from others in the community. Please support me by going to http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/chadthendry
Thank you for helping me to put my gratitude into motion.
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pine