Delbert gives peace a chance

Born in Indianapolis in 1951, Delbert grew up on the city’s near Westside, near Indiana Avenue, then a bustling street teaming with people and brimming with jazz. One of eight children, he liked school “to a certain degree” and was eager to get out of the house and make his own way in the world.

Delbert wanted to dress well, drive a nice car and be part of the action. He took his first job shining shoes at a local hotel when he was 14 years old. The hotel’s cosmopolitan environment gave Delbert a glimpse of another world outside of his neighborhood. “Me and my buddies at work saw different lifestyles, and we were always fantasizing about living like that,” he says.

Soon drinking and smoking fueled their dreams. “I got into smoking cigarettes when I was 14,” Delbert says. “We thought that was top of the line.” But before long, it wasn’t. “I was dipping and dabbing with drinking when I was 16,” Delbert says. “It got to be more on weekends. And then I was introduced to marijuana.”

At 18, Delbert quit the shoeshine stand for a series of jobs before landing a far-more lucrative job at International Harvester in the early 1970s. By then he had also begun using heroin and became more involved with his drug use.

In 1971, Delbert became a father to his first child, but his marriage with his child’s mother didn’t last. “I couldn’t function in relationships,” he says. “I wasn’t being responsible, wasn’t paying the bills, didn’t have the money to fix the car when it needed it, all those things. I was never the man and husband she needed me to be.”

Still, Delbert kept his job and stayed out of trouble. “There was no jail, no court, no nothing,” he says. “I was just being a selfish addict. It was my way or no
way at all.”

As Delbert’s use escalated, so did his need to use and his desire to change. “I started praying while I was using,” he says. “I’d ask God for more money so I could use more. And then I started praying to God to take that away from me. I kept praying and praying.”

Delbert had heard of Fairbanks through his job, and in the early 1980s, went to Fairbanks for treatment. “At first I didn’t want to be there,” he says. “I wasn’t communicating with anyone.”

Once he started talking, Delbert began listening to the counselors and became interested in what they had to say. “They told me that if I continued to do what I always did, I’d continue to get what I always got,”
Delbert says. “I could see that if I stopped using, life would be so much better.”

For the first time, Delbert began to understand his disease. Delbert believed his father was an alcoholic, but didn’t realize it. His mother didn’t drink or smoke, but couldn’t give him any direction or help, either. “Nobody understood me,” he says. And that included Delbert. “I didn’t know I was an addict or an alcoholic, or that I had an addictive personality,” he says.

At Fairbanks Delbert found people who understood him and helped him learn how to live a better life. “They gave me direction and showed me how to live, get control of my life, and how to care more about myself,” he says.

Today Delbert is an associate minister. He has six children, is married and now serves on a volunteer panel at Fairbanks where he shares his experience, strength and hope with men in recovery.

“Over the years, I’ve gotten peace because of Fairbanks. It’s not something you get overnight. It has a lot to do with sharing and helping somebody else. My life is so different now.”