Former addicts, ex-felons help others escape addiction
By Steven Malik Shelton
Special to The Michigan Citizen
On Linwood Avenue, starting at West Grand Boulevard and going north, one encounters a panorama of urban life. And although there is the occasional small business among the liquor stores, empty lots, and greasy spoon restaurants, Linwood Avenue retains only a shadow of its past glory when it thrived with Black businesses, cultural amenities, dance halls and jazz clubs.
I stand on the comer of Philadelphia and Linwood streets and remember 33 years earlier when I staggered drunk (on alcohol) across this same intersection in search of drugs to escape the pain and hopelessness of my 17-year-old life.
I found more than I bargained for when I naively followed two dealers into an apartment building and was robbed at gunpoint of my money, leather coat and fashionable pair of boots. They were empathic enough to leave the boots outside so that I could brave the almost 18 inches of freshly fallen snow.
Today, approximately a mile north of this nostalgic landmark of my youth, stands the Elmhurst Home, Inc. drug treatment facility. Over the years, the home, at 12017 Linwood, has helped countless addicts overcome the horrors of drug, alcohol, gambling and criminal lifestyle addiction.
Housed in a large tudor-style edifice, its clients range from homeless dope-fiends, to jail and prison-based individuals remanded by judicial and correctional agencies.
The staff at Elmhurst Home is effective and street wise, and consists largely of former addicts and ex-felons, who are able to relate to the unique problems and challenges of addicts, and to see through the delusions and denials addicts are prone to.
I talk with Marvin “Marvelous Marv” Smith, is a counselor and monitor. Some 15 or so years ago, Smith was caught in the throes of addiction, cruising the streets of Detroit in search of his next high. Today he delivers his own unique brand of therapy to over a hundred addicts that are under his supervision and care.
Smith has a sense of humor and those at the home can’t help but laugh at the way he puts things. But he always tells hard truths and never sugarcoats the difficult process addicts must endure to break the chains of addiction.
Although staff member Glen Stewart, who grew up in southwest Detroit, takes a more direct, no-nonsense approach, he balances it with a ready smile and a patient and attentive spirit. An example of this: a client is called down for reportedly smoking in the building (a serious offense at the facility). Stewart smiles warmly as the client gives his explanation, then he proceeds to write up an incident report to be viewed by clinical staff the next day.
Elmhurst Home staff has to walk a fine line between empathy and treatment, for the disease of addiction is cunning, baffling, powerful, and very patient. Addiction is known to propel a recovering addict back into active addiction even after years of sobriety and (seemingly) successful treatment.
Veteran counselor Claxton Cooper arrives and claims his paperwork from the panel reserved for him. Always meticulously attired, he combines the smooth refinement of a diplomat with that of an old-school hustler. He expertly maneuvers manipulative, sympathy-seeking addicts into answering their own questions in a way that forces them to be honest with themselves.
“Sir, tell me,” he exhorts. “What is it exactly that you want me to do to correct your mistake?”
Through it all, there is a definative climate that convinces even the most jaded participant or observer that (first and foremost) the staff at Elmhurst Home is about saving lives.
And they do it one life at a time.
Elmurst Home, Inc., at 12017 Linwood Street, can be reached at 313.867.1090. Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org