WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid epidemic. In this story, we meet Trotwood-native Andre Lewis and his friend and recovery sponsor William Roberts.
Roberts works in social services in Dayton and is a church pastor with nearly three decades clean. As Lewis explains in this story, he first met Roberts at a treatment program for struggling addicts.
What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Lewis: The day I met you, you sent me home because I was drunk. I used to go grab a pint of wine and put it in my pocket and then go to the meetings because I never would go to the meetings sober. That's what I remember. What do you remember about that day?
Roberts: I remember you coming in and we kind of clicked. And at that time we were having a talent show and we found out that you had the ability to sing.
Lewis: We were singing, what was it, The Temptations or something?
Roberts: The Delfonics.
Lewis: Yes, The Delfonics, right. So, after that I told myself like I need to ask him to be my sponsor and so I did. And he said, yes. And he never left. When my mom passed, he was there. Everything that happened in my life, tragic and happy, he was there. I was a boy in a man costume, you know what I mean? He showed me what a man looks like. My father, he was also an alcoholic and he just yelled. But Mr. Bill, he'll talk to me in a way that I could just receive it because I wasn't receiving my father. I wasn't at all.
Roberts: You did well for a while and then you relapsed. What happened?
Lewis: I was what you call a "dry drunk." At first, alcoholism was my problem. I was sober for maybe eight years. I working at CVS. Somebody had pills there. I ended up taking pills and I started to like the euphoric feeling that they gave me. I had no idea that when you stop taking pills you get sick. A guy across the street told me, he said, this what I got will cure your sickness. And that was my very first time snorting heroin. That's when my life changed forever. And things just only went downhill after that. It cost me the most important thing to me – my family. And I've experienced the loss of me. This heroin thing almost took me away from here because I OD'd twice, so I knew god had something for me here. But every time I was in treatment, I'd done it for the wrong reasons and you always checked me on it. You let me go, like, you'll get it.
Roberts: Addiction is a disease where relapse is part of it. So, each time I had to let go because you weren't ready and there was no need in both of us drowning. And so when you approached [recovery] this last time, I think that you finally had hit a bottom and were ready for a different way to live
Lewis: And ever since then I can't stop. My oldest child is 25 and my youngest is 12 going on 13. They're needing me. No matter what age your kids are at in their life, they’ll always need their father, and I didn't understand that up until now. I got a question for you though. How did it start off for you?
Roberts: Crack cocaine was my drug of choice. I went through the crack epidemics of the late 80s and 90s. It took everything: family, anybody who loved me. I ended up in jail with a felony record. And at the time they had overcrowding in jails in Dayton and they let me out. I had been trying to get in treatment centers but they had a waiting list at the time. I had to end up going to the treatment center for homeless people, which was the Salvation Army. Thank god that they were available. And I surrendered to the program. My relationship with Andre is a constant reminder that you don't give up on people. But I was not one who got it the first time either. I had six treatment interventions before it stuck.
Lewis: Mr. B, if it wasn't for you –– it took 14 years for me to get to this point and juncture. You are literally god's vessel for navigating me to the point where I'm at right now. And I just want to say, thank you.
Roberts: Andre, I want to say to you, I am so proud of you for not giving up. It's been a pleasure watching you on this journey of recovery. This time I don't want you to turn back, even during the scary times. Continue, because you mean a lot to me.
Lewis: Thank you.
Roberts: I Love you.
Lewis: Love you too.
This is the first story in WYSO's Recovery Stories series. The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson.
Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.
Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.