Thirteen years ago, Andrew Lee was caught up in a vicious cycle of addiction. He was tired of getting high, but couldn’t come up with a solution to break the cycle. He was in and out of jail, all of his friends also used and he felt like there was nowhere to turn.
Andrew’s father passed in 2003 and he distinctly remembers feeling fortunate that he wasn’t in jail and was able to attend the funeral. He was sitting in the family pew, waiting for the service to begin, when ten guys in royal blue uniforms walked in. Andrew’s older brother, Arnold, whom he hadn’t talked to in about a year, got up and greeted the men in blue with smiles and hugs. When Andrew asked Arnold who the men were, Arnold said that they were men from the program called Ready, Willing & Working (RWW) and that they came to support him. Andrew couldn’t believe it; his brother was sober and happy – two things he desperately wanted for himself.
Andrew wanted to ask his brother for help, but his pride stood in the way. About a month later, he found himself back in prison. However, this time it felt a little different. Before, Andrew spent his time in jail feeling anxious to be released so he could get high again. This time, he was worried that if he was released he would fall back into his addiction and the cycle would never end. He knew he needed to make a change or he would end up back in jail.
He finally swallowed his pride and reached out to his brother. He told Arnold he was tired of living in an endless cycle of addiction and he desperately needed some help. Arnold and the case manager from RWW came and picked Andrew up on his release date and gave him the start to a new way of life.
After a couple of months of being in the program, Andrew planned to save some money, get a different job and go back to getting high. In the meantime, his birthday came around. The only thing Andrew had to look forward to was a “Happy Birthday” text from his brother, who was now working in Philadelphia.
Andrew was at work, cleaning his route, when his supervisor approached him and said that Patty, the BID’s President, was taking the team to lunch at a local restaurant. When he walked into the restaurant, the entire team stood up and sang Happy Birthday to him. Andrew was completely blown away. It may seem like a small token of appreciation to some, but to someone who battled addiction for many years, Andrew truly believed it was the key to saving his life. He began to understand the concept of work being a life-enhancing experience. For the first time in many years, Andrew felt like he had a purpose. He was regaining control of his life.
Eleven years later, Andrew is still here as the Director of Operations for the Capitol Hill BID and Ready Willing & Working. Most importantly, Andrew is now able to give dozens of men the same opportunity he was given all those years ago.