I thought I was going to die a drug addict. I came to the realization life goes on. I want to be a role model to my grandchildren….so when my name comes up they can be proud of me," says Lawrence Baker, age 64, a resident at Catholic Charities' Cooke's Manor/Hines, a home for men recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, located on the U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs Edward Hines, Jr. Campus in Maywood. Baker is an Army veteran from the Vietnam War era.
Baker's recovery started in 2006, when he was imprisoned. "It's been kind of a long journey," Baker says. "I got locked up for possession of a controlled substance….Going to jail was a blessing in disguise."
Though he had been incarcerated before, something was different this time for Baker. He had been using different drugs on and off for 50 years. Confined to Cook County Jail without a detox program, Baker had to kick all his addictions, including nicotine, cold turkey.
"After a while it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Baker recalls. "I realized I'd have to live with this." He had a chance to reflect and decided to make a lasting change in his life. Once released from jail and on probation, Baker sought out substance abuse treatment programs, and eventually came to Cooke's Manor.
"This is one of the best places I've ever been," Baker says. "This place is one of the reasons I'm doing so well." He describes Cooke's as having "put some direction" into his life. Baker attends self-help groups, and has a sponsor to support his sobriety. He is working to get his driver's license back. As a senior, he hopes to find long-term affordable housing at the Bishop Goedert Residence, a 70-unit apartment building also located on the Hines Campus. He would also like to work for a few more years.
Baker has two children and four grandchildren. He talks to them on the phone and sees them at family gatherings. Baker has also found a creative outlet through the Art Therapy program at Cooke's Manor.
"I've always liked art. I never really participated until now. Art is a different outlet. It's something positive to do," Baker explains. He likes to work with watercolors, and is drawn to abstract images.
"It's never too late," Baker says. For him, Cooke's Manor has provided a new beginning.