D is just one of our shining stars at Gateway Center.
Check out this interview with him.
Tell me a little about yourself?
D: My name is Demethris Hester. 53 year old black male who is loving life today and the things I am doing to help other folks change their lives. Every day isn’t a good a day, but every day isn’t a bad day. I was an intern that was being tested to be a substance abuse counselor. 6458 hours or something right now! I’m getting ready to go back into the substance abuse deal and do the CARES thing, Certified Addiction and Recovery Empowerment Specialist. That’s the new way the drug counseling will be. It’s changing, even in the medical field everybody is going to have to be certified in the next 5 years. I’ve been at Gateway now for about 5 years, going on. I came as a client and now I exit as a program coordinator.
What wisdom would you give to anyone who enters gateway in your program, or another program, to succeed?
Determination. Cause you are going to have distractions everywhere. What you are going to need to do is be able to change your way of thinking about everything. Your way of thinking about life. You have to change your way of thinking, because your way of life drove you to Gateway Center and seek help. You need to be able to capture that point, why you felt the need to seek help, and keep that. Cause that was your best day. You need to apply that to everything you do.
Where were you born? Where were you raised?
In a town called Gainesville Georgia, Hall County. You know where Lake Lanier Island is at? I was born up there. Mountain area.
How was your childhood?
My mom raised me. My dad, he was in and out of my life. But my mom she raised me. She raised me with real, core values. That’s where I get my determination. Because I’ve seen her raise 4 children, basically on her own. I was never aware about food stamps, or anything like that. My mom made sure I had a somewhat decent childhood. I was always into sports. Always into basketball, track… It’s just that I got caught up with the wrong people and started doing the wrong thing. Peer pressure. Getting high, you know, drinking…
So you have 3 siblings?
I have 4. 2 sisters and 2 brothers. My dad had a child outside of the core family.
How is your relationship with them?
They love me now. They used to stay away. Cause addiction separated them. I dealt with addiction 20-30 years. Smoking crack, I stole from mom and dad… You know I did basically what drug addicts do. But I celebrated 5 years last month.
How did you restore your relationship with your family?
I showed them they can trust me again. They stood on the sidelines. They watched me as I grew into the man I am today. And now they feel comfortable inviting me back in their lives. That part of me is over.
Where did you go to school?
East Hall high school. I’m the oldest of my siblings. Like I said I always stayed in basketball, I ran track, I played football… Sports was my outlet.
Can you do that now?
I can still play basketball. Not as good as I used to play, but I can still play.
Do you find the time?
Can you tell me more about the Upward Program?
It’s a drug and alcohol program. It’s focus is in the mindset, changing the client’s thinking. That’s the problem with drugs and alcohol, they are thinking that drugs and alcohol will relieve the pain of suffering and misery. Their life is that. Now, I’ve had 4 mentors that was top of their game in substance abuse and they molded my approach and my thinking. I am not the best but I have confidence, because I have seen the numbers that I can produce given the right tools. I can do this. This is my calling.
How did you decide this was your calling?
I didn’t. My God told me, ” You see, I’m saving your life, so this is what you have to do to repay me. You’ve got to help save someone else.” And then I did.
What are the responsibilities of a case manager?
Documenting the progress of a client. You’ll take responsibility of a client and you document and encourage them, and assist them whenever you can to empower them to use the tools they need for success.
What are the hardest parts of your job?
Seeing a client go back to square one. You know with me, [ as a case manager ] you’ve got to be able to follow simple instruction. If I tell you to sit there and wait for me, I will expect you to not go do what you are going to do and come back. Because what you do has consequences.
I am serious about what I do. From the start I let them know how serious I am. “You are a grown man. I don’t have time to raise you. If you want help, I will help. But sometimes the help won’t be enough.”
There is different types of addictions. A lot of people are addicted to their lifestyle. Being homeless, you answer to no one and you just act on your own. Some people become addicted to that, and when they come into a structured environment 3-4 years after that, they have a hard time.
You said that the hardest part was to see a client return to square one?
Yes. When they come in, stay 30-45 days. They see that life is hard work and you see them slowly going back to doing things they are supposed to be working on. When you are working with someone closely that long you learn their mannerisms, vocabulary, you pick up on small things when you talk to them. I see them, you know. And within those 30 days there has got to be some difference so that I know that I can help. Taking a bath regularly, sleeping regularly, following the simplest instructions. You know something.
What do you do when there isn’t a difference?
I tighten up on them. They know me, I know them. I’m going to help them if I can. But you have to cut the bull****. When you come with that bull**** you are going to see my other side come out.
What is the best part of the job?
Seeing a client come in, day 1, to work on themselves and enroll in a program and then see them realize that they are worth saving, and in a position to get housing. I mean it’s everything. Everything.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Changing my life. Not being so self-centered on myself. And being willing to help somebody. And my spirituality. I got to be a very spiritual person. I have got angels floating around me. I have a relationship with the divine. But there are spiritual predators out there and around me. Monsters that suck your spirituality out of you. You’ve got to stay prayed up and armed up. Everybody doesn’t like you. Some of them, your inner circle likes you, your family. I learned with time that people will suck you dry if you let them. But if you stay prayed up it’s harder for them to get in.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Running my own program. For everybody that needs help. And more specifically with addiction. I love being an addiction counselor. I will have my own program similar to this but not on such a grand scale. I will be my own boss. I know I can do it. While I’m here I will get everything I need to qualify to be the best that I can be.
Written by Greti Barokas, Gateway Summer Intern from Emory University