VETERAN FINDS HIS WAY BACK FROM ADDICTION, JAIL, USES HIS PAIN TO HELP OTHERS

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By: Reuven Blau

Original Source: www.nydailynews.com

After six and a half years in prison, Peter Henry had no money and no place to call home. He was 53, and decades had been squandered to alcohol and cocaine.

He was, he says, “lost for a while.”

Three years in the army – stationed in camps in Kentucky and West Germany in the early 1980s – were a distant memory. But then, painstakingly, he found his way back.

In February 2013, he was released and headed straightaway to a Veterans Affairs post in Montrose, N.Y., which offered him shelter and drug counseling. There, he saw reflections of himself – men and women groping for something to anchor their lives, trying to push through addictions and trauma.

Henry, now finally back in his Bronx neighborhood, is helping to lift them as one of 850 peer specialists enlisted across the country by the VA to turn around the lives of veterans – men and women connected by shared experiences in wartime and beyond.

For Henry and thousands of Americans, Veterans Day conjures up difficult memories, but it is also a time of renewal.

Henry’s transformation began with reflection at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, 70 miles north of where he grew up in Highbridge . He got himself clean, and he began to reimagine himself.

“I didn’t like the person I became, and sitting in a cell made me look at that person,” he said. “The only way to ensure that I never got back there was to change.”

It took time, but eventually he moved back home, where his four children bought him clothes and paid for his Metro Card.

“They were my biggest supporters,” Henry said.

Still, he had to overcome the skepticism of his longtime girlfriend, Tracy. The two have shared a friendship since they were 10 years old.

“She was glad to see me,” Henry says. “But she was apprehensive. She had to see the change in me. That was only evident by my actions.”

Henry used the Metro Card to travel to a substance abuse counselor training course at the Veterans Hospital on East 23rd St. in Manhattan.

After six and a half years in prison, Peter Henry had no money and no place to call home. He was 53, and decades had been squandered to alcohol and cocaine.

He was, he says, “lost for a while.”

Three years in the army – stationed in camps in Kentucky and West Germany in the early 1980s – were a distant memory. But then, painstakingly, he found his way back.

In February 2013, he was released and headed straightaway to a Veterans Affairs post in Montrose, N.Y., which offered him shelter and drug counseling. There, he saw reflections of himself – men and women groping for something to anchor their lives, trying to push through addictions and trauma.

Henry, now finally back in his Bronx neighborhood, is helping to lift them as one of 850 peer specialists enlisted across the country by the VA to turn around the lives of veterans – men and women connected by shared experiences in wartime and beyond.

For Henry and thousands of Americans, Veterans Day conjures up difficult memories, but it is also a time of renewal.

Henry’s transformation began with reflection at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, 70 miles north of where he grew up in Highbridge . He got himself clean, and he began to reimagine himself.

“I didn’t like the person I became, and sitting in a cell made me look at that person,” he said. “The only way to ensure that I never got back there was to change.”

It took time, but eventually he moved back home, where his four children bought him clothes and paid for his Metro Card.

“They were my biggest supporters,” Henry said.

Still, he had to overcome the skepticism of his longtime girlfriend, Tracy. The two have shared a friendship since they were 10 years old.

“She was glad to see me,” Henry says. “But she was apprehensive. She had to see the change in me. That was only evident by my actions.”

Henry used the Metro Card to travel to a substance abuse counselor training course at the Veterans Hospital on East 23rd St. in Manhattan.

Continue Reading: nydailynews.com

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