Sobering Realities

Al Mahoney’s life could be a novel someday.

Al’s story is one of youthful exuberance, long-term homelessness, drunken violence, near-death experiences, and ultimately redemption. By his own account, he’s lucky to be alive.

“Al is an exception to the rule,” says Two Feathers, a community outreach worker with Heritage Health. “At first, it was how many days can you be sober, then weeks and then months. We made sure to contact and support him on a daily basis. As time went by, he didn’t need as much from us. Then we started helping him with his life skills.”

For nearly 40 years alcohol dominated this man’s life. Eventually, he decided to confront alcoholism and start a new life of sobriety.

“The credit goes to Two Feathers and TJ Byrne,” says Al. “They saved my life. All of the people at Heritage Health really care.”

Heritage Health’s Street Medicine program looked after Al. Two Feathers and Byrne, a Physician Assistant, helped him stop drinking, making sure his medical and emotional needs were being met on a daily basis.

The details of Al’s life are still a little foggy. The 56-year-old Coeur d’Alene man has been battling alcoholism with repeated stints in rehabilitation centers across the country.

None of his recovery efforts or treatments worked for the fiercely independent man.

“Once I got out of rehab in Florida and within hours I was drinking again,” he says. “I couldn’t stop.”

Al is a survivor.

He was shot in the head, but he doesn’t remember why.

He points to a metal rod in his leg which had to be inserted after a car ran him over. He has been to prison too. He spent 27 months in an Iowa prison after clobbering a college student over the head with a chair during a poker game.

He’s been arrested countless times.

The common dominator in those situations has always been alcohol.

“At first, I was young and adventurous,” he says. “I just grew tired of my life. I wanted something better for myself.”

Heritage Health provided the resources to ensure he could achieve his goals – even if that meant giving him a ride to see a counselor or just helping him with day-to-day struggles.

“Heritage Health was there for me,” says Al. “They went beyond just doing their jobs. They saved my life. I am so much better off today than I was.”

Despite having long-term health issues, Al is optimistic about the future. He’s working as a janitor at a local business. He is also off the streets.

“Things are going great,” says Al. “I feel great. I am moving into a new apartment. It’s been six months since I have had a drink. That has been hard. It’s a fight for sure, but I know I can do it.”

Posted in Impact Stories, SUD.