‘Army’ saved his life


Most people recognize the signage. The red shield with white writing symbolizes the charitable organization that takes used  items and sells them to the local community at minimal cost.

Even more familiar may be the red kettle bell rung during the holidays. However, not many are aware The Salvation Army has a program that rehabilitates those suffering from drug addiction and alcohol dependency.

Salvation Army Maj. Henry Graciani said that donating and shopping with The Salvation Army helps them honor their slogan in “doing the most good,’ including fund programs like its Adult Rehabilitation Center.

The program supports 130 men and women at a time in recovery in San Diego County providing a free six-month recovery in a residential facility.

“It helps men and women get back on their feet,” Graciani said. “It’s made possible because of the generosity of San Diegans.”

Graciani said the people who enter the program have made bad choices in life but want and need a second chance.

“I often call our facilities God’s workshop to mend the miracles that have been broken,” Graciani said. “You’re not just ringing up clothing, you’re putting a thumbprint on lives.”

Graciani said the only thing a participant needs is to be willing.

As many as 70 percent of those in the program are self-referred, while the other 30 percent are court ordered.

Graciani said while on average it takes those in recovery seven relapses to ultimately remain sober, the organization never gives up on those who leave.

“What we try and do is raise the bottom,” he said. “Just because they give up on themselves, we don’t give up on them.”

Participants range in age from 18 to 65 and are given tools such as counseling and substance abuse education, anger management, work therapy, chapel services and re-entry and alumni support.

Salvation Army Point Loma store manager James Durland has worked for the organization more than three years. He started off as a clerk and has worked at four of the stores, including as an assistant manger in Chula Vista.

Durland, 44, was an alcoholic, abused methamphetamine and cocaine and was suicidal when he entered the program in 2008.

“My life had pretty much fallen apart,” he said. “I was spiritually bankrupt. I was using and drinking.”

A man he met at the Volunteers of America’s detoxification program told Durland about the center.

“I wasn’t interested at all,” he said. “I didn’t think that was going to work for me. I had been trying to stay clean and sober since 2006 … but I couldn’t get any more than five months together at a time.”

It wasn’t until Durland went on a month-long binge that he thought about the conversation with the gentleman.

“I contacted the Salvation Army and they said they would take me in the next week,” he said.

Durland said that despite his initial reluctance, the program ultimately changed his life.

“Slowly but surely they began to change me — the perspective of anger that I had and the depression,” he said.

Today, Durland has been clean and sober nearly four years and has a functional life that he can share with his family.

“If you just let go and put everything on the table you have a chance,” he said.

Durland said the program, although extremely challenging, was worth getting his life back.

“If you don’t want it, it’s not going to work,” he said. “It’s something you must maintain and work on. It’s a lifelong effort that you have to make.”

Durland said everything he lost has been returned and more, including the relationships with his family and respect.

“I feel like I have a future now and the ability to give back,” he said. “My purpose isn’t getting things. Today it’s about me being healthy and appreciating the simple things in life and helping the people that I can help.”

Durland said someone important had his back.

“I believe that God intervened and brought me to the Salvation Army,” Durland said. “I definitely feel indebted to The Salvation Army.”

‘Army’ saved his life