A Ray of Light in the Dark: The Unfinished Story of Alex

Jun 30, 2020

StandUp for Kids – Orange County

While his middle school classmates were participating in school sports or learning to play an instrument, Alex was sleeping on the streets and abusing drugs. Throughout his adolescence, Alex battled drug addiction, homelessness, and deaths in his immediate family.

But committing to drug rehabilitation was the beginning of a new story for Alex, enabling him to act on his desire to help others – not only by pursuing a career as an EMT, but also by participating in charity work and volunteering for various organizations along the way, including Operation Officer Outreach, an initiative which provided care packages and supplies to support local paramedics working long hours.

Alex now, with his Virtual Run bib ready to hit the pavement

Alex is 21 years old and originally from Fort Worth, Texas. He is one of six children: three brothers, all of whom are deceased, and two sisters. Alex’s parents both struggled with substance abuse – his mother battling an opioid addiction, his father an alcoholic whose abuse of oxycontin contributed to his violent abuse towards the family. Although Alex gives them credit for doing what they could with what they had, the environment of substance abuse led Alex to follow his parents’ path. By age ten, Alex was the sole child living in the home, making him the main target of abuse. A repetitive cycle of being kicked out of the house by his dad and brought back by his mom started in middle school. During this time he would sometimes stay at a friend’s house, but if he had nowhere to go he would be forced to sleep on the streets, under bridges, or under highways. At this age Alex was using drugs as a means of staying awake when sleeping on the streets so he would be able to defend himself if needed. His drug habit had initially been encouraged by his parents, who provided him with hydrocodone for headaches, urged him to use whenever something was wrong, and ultimately gave him the fentanyl that kickstarted his addiction at age 15. When he had no drugs he would inject warm water into his veins to duplicate the feeling.

Younger Alex in high school

Alex described his time living on the streets as a “constant chain of traumatic events”. For example, Alex shared this story that happened within the past year.

“I was supposed to stay at a friend’s house but they kept all my belongings along with my medication and would not let me stay. I went to another friend’s house whose parents called the cops on me for getting high at their house. The cops picked me up and dropped me off on the street. All within 24 hours my friends had robbed me, I overdosed, and had been arrested. The cops dropped me off at a gas station and within 30 minutes I was robbed again at knifepoint.”

Another story Alex shared was of sleeping in a port-a-potty in 102 degree heat in order to avoid police and protect himself against the potential of being robbed or assaulted. Alex viewing a port-a-potty as a place of safety and shelter speaks to how dangerous it is living on the streets and the desperate lengths a person will go to feel a sense of security.

Alex has survived multiple overdoses, some intentional and some accidental. Alex recalls the time he was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of an airport while on his way to a rehabilitation center. He overdosed, stopped breathing, fell on the needle, and partially split his head open. Alex was admitted to the hospital to receive life-saving care. These instances contributed to Alex’s decision to fully commit to his recovery.

Alex in the aftermath of an overdose

He is currently living in a sober living home located in Orange County. Alex found himself in California after multiple rehab stays in Texas and Mississippi. Alex was referred by StandUp for Kids partner, 449 Recovery — an addiction treatment center in Orange County. He saw other youth in 449’s group therapy program benefiting from our help by getting access to food stamps and other resources.

“I left my first StandUp for Kids meeting feeling a lot better and more prepared for my journey into recovery. Before that I didn’t know how my situation was going to turn out, getting housing, food, or resources. After getting the help and finding out that there are organizations that want to help me, I felt safe.”

The support Alex has received from StandUp for Kids has been different from his past experiences, where an absence of resources left him to fend for himself. The coordination between what 449 Recovery and StandUp for Kids offer ensures Alex gets the resources he needs to continue his recovery and meets his basic needs.

Despite the hardships Alex has endured, he is resilient in his journey to better himself. Alex earned his GED and started college at 16. He attended Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas for his Associates of Applied Arts and was enrolled in their RN program in order to become an EMT. Alex is now one semester away from completing his EMT certification and is planning on attending Saddleback Community College to finish his education requirements. Alex’s goals moving forward are to earn his certification, further his recovery, restart his charity organizing the donation of supplies to paramedics, and ultimately to become a flight paramedic. Alex wants to become an EMT so he can do his part to help others.

“If I can do something to try and help catch someone early or help prevent someone from going down the same path that I had to go down, that is why I want to join the medical field.”

His addiction was not a choice and he believes his recovery will never truly end as it is something he will have to work at for the rest of his life.

In the future he wants to come back to StandUp for Kids on the other side, potentially volunteering his time or mentoring youth. Alex describes his experience with StandUp for Kids as welcoming, with the organization providing him with a sense of family. The help from his mentors along with the support from other organizational resources has contributed to Alex’s progress during his short time with StandUp for Kids.

Alex is currently participating in our StandUp for Kids Virtual End Youth Homelessness Walk/Run. Alex has been dedicated from the start, recording a total of 25 miles in a single weekend, and running a total of 162.3 miles as of June 26th. He’s motivated to run to help him stay focused on recovery and in shape, but also to give back to StandUp for Kids for all it’s done for him.

Your support to StandUp for Kids can help Alex and other youth like him. Donations to StandUp for Kids’s ongoing virtual run is the ideal opportunity to make a difference in the lives of homeless youth. Please check out the event progress and consider a donation here.