01 Jan Gerald Digilio
Please join the UPS team in congratulating…
“Your beginning doesn’t have to be your end.”- Gerald Digilio
Unique People Services (UPS) program recipient Gerald Digilio has embraced the opportunity to start life anew. With the support of UPS, Mr. Digilio has been able to achieve a positive life transformation…that is why he is the UPS January 2019 Individual of the Month.
From an early age, Gerald Digilio experienced adversities that would change the course of his life. By five years old, his father abandoned his mother and four siblings. By eight years old, Gerald took his first alcoholic drink. His mother also gave him his first valium to help quell the undiagnosed ADHD and youth mental illness (disorders, which produced severe anxiety, depression, and inattentiveness). By 11 years old, Gerald was hooked on drugs, alcohol, and the leader of a gang. “At a very young age I was very aware that I had a compulsive personality, but I confused my compulsiveness and undiagnosed mental illness, with being fearless. Consequently, I participated in reckless activities.” shared Gerald.
By seventeen, Gerald was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Witnessing his self-destruction, family members persuaded him to attend an AA (Alcoholics/Addicts Anonymous) meeting. However, his path to sobriety was short lived. “I couldn’t relate to the concept and principles of AA and I couldn’t figure out my own sobriety” Mr. Digilio shared. As a result, his behaviors did not change—they only got worse. “I figured out ways to hide my addiction. I was a functioning drug addict. As life went on, I was able to get a job, marry, and have children” Mr. Digilio further shared. To compound troubles, personal tragedies were a chief part of his life. He witnessed the death of his best friend, lived in a car with his wife and two sons, and in 1999, he buried his wife due to drugs and alcohol.
Mr. Digilio shared “After I lost my wife, I also lost my kids. I enrolled briefly in AA to get them back. Once I got them back, I reverted to my destructive habits. Once my sons were with me, instead of parenting, I became their friend and could only teach them what I knew—which was the drug lifestyle. Nevertheless, with all of these heartbreaking events, I never stopped getting high. I lost my children again and I became chronically homeless. As I figured ways to feed my addictions, my home became the streets. I admit that much of this time I do not remember. But what I do know is that I had a $70 a day alcohol and drug habit and finally realized, I had to make a change” He further shared.
The catalyst for change finally arrived with the persistence support of an ex-girlfriend and the realization, “that I was born sober and wanted to leave the earth sober” Mr. Digilio thoughtfully shared.
Regrettably, during his first month of sobriety, his 26-year-old son was hospitalized with complications related to substance abuse and was in and out of a coma. Daily Mr. Digilio would spend time at the hospital with his ailing son. Every day he would whisper his recovery progress in his son ear. “I’m sober 40 days. This is day 41”, he would utter. On the 47th day of his sobriety, Mr. Digilio, whispered proudly to his son, “I’m 47 days clean!” Mr. Digilio also recalls, upon hearing this–his son briefly opened his eyes and raised his hand in approval. With a tremor in his voice, Mr. Digilio sadly shared, “The next day he died. This is what truly catapulted me in a new direction. Shortly after, I enroll in a program that directed me to UPS.”
Prior to arriving at UPS, Mr. Digilio was homeless for 11 years and in the shelter system for two years. In 2017, he arrived at UPS and fondly recalls the day he met UPS director Eunice Gooding. “What a day it was! I was on my way to a new life and all I could think about was, the words my grandmother use to share with me. When I was at my lowest, I would ask her where God was in my life. Grandmother use to say, “God is in the most beautiful place, as she would place her hand on my heart. On that day my heart was full.” he said, as he pointed to the center of his chest. “However, the next three months was the longest time of my life, knowing that I was getting my own apartment in a new building and warm people. Once, I moved in it’s been a life changing experience since.” I wake up in awe every day in this peaceful apartment, ‘he shares.
When asked about Mr. Digilio’s progress, he is described as a model client and tenant. “In the past, Mr. Digilio suffered from undiagnosed issues related to mild schizophrenia, separation, and depression. With the help of another service provider and UPS, he now has the correct medication and is able to properly manage his mental health. His UPS case manager also smiles and then says, He is such a motivating, caring, and humble individual. His spirit is uplifting and after every meeting with him, I feel empowered. He truly is a vessel of hope and love. Mr. Digilio leaves a mark on your heart” she further states.
In his spare time, Mr. Digilio is an avid reader and writes moving poetry about his life experiences. He is also a much sort after motivational speaker. He is requested weekly to speak at different recovery organizations. “You teach what you want to learn, my grandmother once told me. To see people rise from where they were is encouraging. I share my testimony, with the goal of giving recovering addicts, the hope they need. I share that you can fall, but you can also rise. I guide them on how to get over the failure and setbacks.” Mr. Digilio shared. He further shares, that he is grateful to be a part of the process and immerses himself in this new lifestyle because it is rewarding, helps him maintain his own recovery, and uplifts him.
“In my sobriety I have learned to surrender, admit defeat, and start over again from the bottom with love and care. I didn’t know if I was going to make it past 30 years old, yet alone ever image myself at 60 years old, sober and in a brand new apartment. It was a long road, yet I am honored to be sober and able to have a home because of UPS” Mr. Dilgilio beams.
He concludes with, “UPS gave me a fresh start when no one believed in me. Even when I did not believe in himself. It is so gratifying to know that people do this for a living, to help others stabilize, and get to a better place. I believe that my success is UPS’ success– and shared success is the true triumph.” I am blessed to have a home and a new beginning… and UPS is a great big part of it all.”