By Wesley McCulley, LMSW
In the winter of 2013, I was faced with the decision to continue living a life in cyclical turmoil or find recovery. I was 31 years old at the time, a father of two, and had become newly unemployed as a direct result of my addiction. Something had to change. I had been at this crossroads several times before, but something felt different this time. This time I was willing to accept help and humble myself long enough to not get in the way of progress. Eventually, I had managed to string together enough time sober that the dark cloud began to lift, and I could focus on picking up the pieces.
Around one year sober, I came to Horizon Goodwill Industries seeking employment. I was told about a quality control position that had come available on one of their custodial contracts at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. I knew nothing about quality control (at all) but in my mind, the opportunity had two things going for it, one, it was a job that paid money, and two, it positively occupied my time. That winter of 2014 I started working full-time as the new quality control coordinator at Fort Detrick.
During my tenure as the QC for Horizon Goodwill, I began to aspire for greater things and wanted to explore where I fit in the world of employment. Most of my time, those days, had been spent in one of three places, either at home, at work, or in a support group. The common elements found in each of those environments were unity and service. From the practice of unity and service in my life, I began to develop a sense of self-worth and identify what I felt was my purpose for living. This newfound sense of belonging to the world of humans around me inspired me to want to become an addictions counselor and help people find their path to recovery, as I did.
I impulsively enrolled in the next semester offered at the local community college for their addiction counseling certification program. One of my professors in that program opened my eyes to social work and encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree in social work if my goal was to be able to truly impact the issue of addiction. That conversation changed the course of my education and ultimately my career path. I was still working with Horizon Goodwill while I was going to school. HGI offered tuition reimbursement for qualifying programs which social work turned out to be, that helped relieve some of the financial burdens that tuition had on my family. I felt supported by my employer to pursue higher education and ultimately provide myself and my family with greater opportunities.
During my master’s program, I completed my internship with Horizon Goodwill in the mission services department helping with client intakes and the tracking of disability documentation for their ability one contract. The experience I gained during my internship was invaluable for my professional and personal growth. I worked closely with the Horizon Goodwill case management team and witnessed firsthand how they supported clients and employees in overcoming the barriers in their lives that have in one way or another held them back from reaching their full potential. As my internship approached its end, I envisioned one day being a part of that team and helping people achieve equitable access to community resources. Fast forward a year and I was approaching graduation and forevermore would be able to identify myself as a master social worker. Around that time a position as the Associate Director of Workforce Development opened and I decided to aim for the stars, I applied.
Getting that job would not only mean I was a part of the case management team I once interned with, but I would be their leader. Shortly after applying, I interviewed for that role and to my surprise, I was offered the position. The mission services team I interviewed with must have seen something in me that I didn’t see in myself, yet. I was not going to waste the opportunity that had been afforded to me. I accepted the role and was determined to become the leader this team deserved. I had big shoes to fill, as their previous leader was and still is the type of leader that we all envy and hope to achieve some semblance of. I soon realized that I should not aim to fill another’s shoes and instead focus on developing my skills and identity as a leader.
Let’s face it, it was never my goal to become the leader of a case management team, all I wanted to do was help people find recovery from drugs and alcohol as I once had. Little did I realize that the path I had embarked on with Horizon Goodwill would lay the foundation necessary for me to achieve exactly my dreams as I had envisioned them. After eight years working with Horizon Goodwill, almost three of those years spent in the leadership role, I am now moving on to follow my passion as an addiction counselor and pursue my clinical social work license. I have come full circle and realized my dreams while working with Horizon Goodwill Industries to provide the individuals we served with equitable access to resources to overcome barriers to employment, housing, and education.
Looking back, I realize while I was not a client of Horizon Goodwill, my story is reflective of their mission, vision, and values. My path from addiction and unemployment to where I am today is a result of my hard work and determination to not continue living the way I was. Horizon Goodwill provided me with the support bridge I needed to get to where I wanted to go and achieve my true potential. I will forever be grateful to this company and a champion of its mission in all that I do going forward.