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A Gift of Recovery for Father’s Day

June 18, 2023

Danny Green, CSS team member and Father Alfred Center graduate

This Father’s Day is unlike any other for Danny Green, a father of two. For the first time in a long while, he’ll be sober and at peace.

“This is the one where I’m actually present,” says Danny on the one-year anniversary of his sobriety. “I’m able to live in the moment, I’m able to enjoy the moment. I’m putting my foot forward and being the best father I can be.”

This wasn’t always the case for Danny, a soft-spoken ironworker. Born in Richmond, California, he was a fifth child to parents who struggled with substance addiction. He was born addicted, he says; “it was in my blood.” Growing up, Danny remembers dropping his father off and then not seeing him for a long while.

Knowing his family history, Danny abstained from drugs. He had a good union job as a welder, lived with his girlfriend and had two sons.

But by the time he hit 30, Danny got caught up in trauma and death that surrounded him. He became depressed. Eventually, he started using.

“I fell off and just got tired and got weak and gave into it. I didn’t see no other solution and didn’t know how to ask for help properly,” he says. “You go through so much pain [and think] nothing can help me. So every little thing you will try. By the time I realized I had a problem, it was way too late.”

Danny thought he could use recreationally, but things quickly spiraled. He stopped being a “super dad.” He lost his girlfriend, then his home. Then he lost his job and did time in prison. He became homeless, living out of his car and couch surfing. Drug addiction isn’t something a person can beat alone, and Danny couldn’t either, no matter how hard he tried. “I tried to stop, I tried to hide it, but it was showing in my actions, in my looks, in my hygiene. I was just in a bad space mentally.”

Substance addiction and overdoses in the United States are reaching record numbers. In 2022, over 110,000 people died of an accidental overdose, primarily due to fentanyl, an illicit synthetic opioid that’s becoming more potent and deadly: it’s 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.

San Francisco has some of the highest overdose rates of any large county in the U.S. In just the first four months of 2023, 268 people died from an accidental overdose, a 37 percent jump over the previous year. People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk of a fatal overdose, as are Black Americans.

For a nation that still views addiction as a criminal justice issue rather than a healthcare issue, these figures are particularly devastating. They also come at a time when private and public sectors have cut substance abuse treatment services nationwide, leaving an already vulnerable population with stigma and limited treatment options. People of color face documented racial disparities when it comes to accessing substance use treatment.

Danny (pictured with Justin Townsend, Father Alfred Center’s Intake Coordinator) graduating from the Father Alfred Center program on June 1

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. The good news is continued participation in aftercare recovery programs, such as the 12-step program, is associated with long-term success rates, according to research.

Fortunately, Danny’s parents, already in long-term recovery themselves, noticed the signs and convinced him to find help. He started looking. One treatment facility he turned to told him to change his hair, says Danny, who wears long dreads.

Soon, he found Father Alfred Center, St. Anthony’s free, year-long residential recovery program for men without income or resources to overcome addiction. This program is work-structured and abstinence-based. Here, participants get treatment such as counseling, individual therapy, job training, medication-assisted treatment and psychiatric services. Father Alfred Center also works with men who struggle with substance use disorders and mental illness, known as dual diagnosis, the treatment for which can be prohibitively expensive elsewhere.

“I just showed up at the door with my little backpack,” remembers Danny. “They saw the look on my face, saw my drive, let me in, it all just started from there. If you’ve tried everything, you’re willing to try anything.”

As Danny worked the program at Father Alfred Center, things started to fall into place. “I just stuck with it. I want to give this my all cause this is my last option. Miracles and blessings are happening. I was just waiting for the next one and it just kept on happening,” says Danny. His relationship with his older son improved. He got job training through St. Anthony’s Workforce Development Program and now works in the organization’s Community Safety Services department in the Tenderloin. He helps people on the sidewalks and in the street, hands out meal tickets, de-escalates tense situations and even saves lives in cases of overdose or a medical emergency.

“I talk to people who are in that place,” says Danny, referring to those struggling with addiction. “Sometimes I tell them to get help and they listen. This may be the moment I do it for.” 

The team members at St. Anthony’s Tenderloin Tech Lab and Workforce Development Program, some of whom have also gone through the Father Alfred Center, taught him interview and computer skills and helped him build a resume. “I didn’t know nothing about that before. I was in the streets. In the construction field, none of that is required. You just got your tools, boom, you’re ready to go.”

Danny has big plans. He’ll keep working a program of recovery while continuing his job with St. Anthony’s. He also wants to renew his welder’s union membership. But he’s found a new passion. He plans to go back to school to become a substance abuse counselor. He credits St. Anthony’s team members for inspiring and helping him sign up for classes.

In the near term, he’s leaving Richmond to get a fresh start and moving to his new place in San Francisco. “If I can get clean here, I can get clean anywhere,” he says. “I don’t get tempted by it anymore.”

And this weekend, he’s celebrating Father’s Day and his one year of sobriety together with his teen son and his own father, who’s coming over for dinner. More than anything, Danny wants to set an example for his son and keep him out of trouble, he says. “I want to have my son be proud of me.”

St. Anthony’s Father Alfred Center: Comprehensive Treatment at No Cost

The free, year-long, residential recovery program at Father Alfred Center (FAC) empowers men who have no income or resources with the tools to overcome addiction and the support to establish healthy and productive lives.

Your care and compassion help to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has access to the services and welcoming community they need to flourish. Please help us continue uplifting San Franciscans with hope, stability, and renewal by donating today.

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