Lawrence is a 64-year-old who hails from Arkansas and is the youngest of three siblings. Raised in what he says is a “good family and someone who has always been surrounded by successful people,” tragedy struck Lawrence, a U.S. military veteran, when he was a young man.
After serving in the military, Lawrence held several jobs and at 32 years old he suffered serious injuries at the hands of a gunman. That gunman killed 10 people and injured several others, including Lawrence. He was shot in the chest and directly in the forehead, miraculously he survived although one bullet remains in his brain. Although he was paralyzed on his right side for some time, he now has no major deficits.
Those injuries and serving in the military did however cause severe trauma and pain so Lawrence turned to drugs to deal with the chronic pain. He began using marijuana and then dove deeper into drugs. All the while he kept up appearances, working several positions including as Administrative Assistant at the Salvation Army. He also played basketball and piano, in an effort to not sacrifice his life.
“After a while you stop prioritizing work/family/friends in favor of the drugs and though you see yourself slipping you just don’t care. People around you view you a certain way so you figure, I already messed up so what more is there to lose,” said Lawrence.
Those are feelings he’s been dealing with on and off for 30 or so years. The moment of epiphany was while he was suicidal, living in a dilapidated family home and he took a good look in the mirror. “I saw myself skinny, face drawn in to the point I didn’t recognize myself,” he said.
It was in 2021 when he decided he needed a change so he boarded a plane to Miami and headed to Pembroke Pines to stay with his older brother. Although that never materialized, he went to the VA Hospital to get treatment.
“Eventually I went back to Arkansas because I wasn’t quite ready to give up all that nonsense and about a year later, I came back to Miami in January 2022,” he said. This was his true rock bottom.
At this point he had nothing, no social security card or proper identification. Because he’s a veteran and is part of the VA system they were going to place him with the Salvation Army. It was then a fellow veteran told him about Camillus House.
He went to Camillus House in February 2022 and there, the programs and resources helped him reestablish everything. He was housed at Camillus House and has been clean and sober ever since and says the chronic pain has stopped.
“[Having stable] housing is just a stress off your mind,” he said. “I thank God for saving me and getting me on the right track.” He has since been connected to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and is in the process of being placed in an apartment after it passes inspection.
He loves that the programs at Camillus House connect him to all the resources necessary to get people back on their feet. He thanks also God for the three nutritious meals he receives at Camillus House and how “[staff] don’t want anything out of what they do except to see progress and that’s enough for me. The people there always talk to me, they care about me.”
Saying he has more than he needs to live, including his veteran’s checks he helps out by volunteering at Camillus House wherever he can. It’s his way of giving back everything the staff there have given to him. And Camillus House is happy to provide wrap-around services to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country.
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