“I basically got tired of going through the same routine over and over again, back and forth to prison—in and out, in and out, in and out.”
My name is Larry Calhoun. I’ve got nine years clean. November the 19th is my clean date. I stopped using drugs in 2005. One of the reasons why I stopped using drugs was because I basically got tired of going through the same routine over and over again, back and forth to prison—in and out, in and out, in and out.
I started using drugs at an early age. I started with marijuana. From marijuana I ended up going to pills. From pills I ended up drinking syrup, and from there I ended up shooting drugs. After that I kept on going back and forth to prison. The next thing you know I was addicted.
I was introduced to the twelve-step program in 1982, but I never practiced any of these principles, so I really didn’t find nothing worth doing in the twelve-step program. I thought everybody was lying. I got out of the twelve-step program, went back to prison, and I kept trying to figure out a way to change my life. I kept trying to figure out the way that I knew.
I never in my life trusted another man or trusted anyone to give me information. So I ended up getting out of prison in 1999, [and] I got a job at a substance abuse program. I worked there for a year. I ended up working for this other treatment center, and I worked there for a year, [and] lost that job because I still didn’t want to do the program. I didn’t use any drugs—that was in 2000.
I got a job working in construction. [I] worked the job, got laid off. I was making a lot of money—twenty-three dollars an hour—and ended up getting laid off again. So I got in a relationship and I caught myself trying to control the relationship. I went to jail in 2004 for menacing and did ninety days. [I] got out and went back for another ninety days and still didn’t get it—but I just knew that I didn’t want to use drugs anymore.
My next step was I didn’t trust anybody, so I decided to sell drugs. I got away with it for a long time, but I kept going to meetings. In the twelve-step program I was going to, a guy told me, he said, “Larry every time you pray, you ask for help.” So one day, the police kicked my door in, and that was my help. That was my spiritual awakening right there. So I went to prison—clean—and did twenty-seven months in prison. I had another spiritual awakening when I was in prison, and I said, “I didn’t want to leave out of prison this time not knowing what to do.” And the first thing that came to mind was the twelve-step program.
I got out March 28, 2012. I went to my first meeting, and the first thing a guy told me at this meeting, which turned me off, was, “Don’t go and buy a Cadillac.” I knew right then it wasn’t about the car, it wasn’t none of that material stuff that got me in prison—it was bad decision making.
So I end up going to another program and I meet my friend that’s in on this building with me, and he asked me to go onto prison with him. It was a prison I had just left. When I was in prison I was a warden clerk and the shoeshine boy. I used to always tell them, “This ain’t really me.” So they said, “You just like everybody else. Everybody says they aren’t supposed to be here.” So I said, “I can prove to you all.” I went back into the prison that I had just got out of and they had a twelve-step program going on in there—and I told my story. As I’m telling them my story the warden came, everybody came to look at me. They gave me some hope right there, and I’ve been on a spiritual journey ever since.
How this club came into play—the No Matter What Recovery Center—was when I got out of prison I got to hang with these guys and we were going back and forth to Detroit. They had a clean club down there. All my life I just wanted to live without using alcohol or drugs, and I kept seeing all the people having fun—it was amazing me. I never knew that God had a setup for me to have a program the same as that right there.
So I came back here and this guy called me and said he had a building with one floor, and he wanted me to try and help him make some money. When I got here, I had seen the upstairs and it was like, “Wow.” I called my partner—my buddy—and I told my buddy, I said, “Man, I’ve got a place we can have the same type of stuff they have in Michigan.” He said, “Larry, you can’t do it like that because you’ll be breaking rules.” So I said, “What do I got to do?” He said, “You can do it whole another way.”
I called the other guy and he came and looked and he did exactly like I did, and we ended up having our first dance. We had dances; speaker jams. We had a lot of stuff going on trying to make money, but we never made enough money to pay the rent. So the guy told us we couldn’t come back in [and] locked us out for a month.
So I investigated the building. I learned about the building and I found who owned the building and he gave me information. He told me to write a letter [about] what I was trying to do. I wrote a letter [about] what I was trying to do, and he gave me the whole building. So we’ve got three floors and [have] been here a whole eighteen months.
We got a lot of stuff going on here, [but] the building is real large and it takes a lot of money to work on it. Every day I’m running—every day. Tired. Wore out. When I got into this situation I didn’t know it was going to be like it is—but it’s keeping me chasing this vision I’ve got because I really want to help somebody else learn how to stay clean.
I remember going to a meeting one Friday night and leaving that meeting and not knowing what to do. So I went home and all that was going through my mind was, “I need to go to the bar.” That was what made me really push to get this building because [I] know Fridays and Saturdays are. We want to have fun, we want to go to places and do things, but we never really went anywhere where we can dance and have fun without using alcohol or drugs. So that’s one of the reasons what sparked the No Matter What Recovery Center.
I’m trying to get [this running] not just for alcoholics and addicts. I’m trying to get a boxing ring on the third floor for families—the kids of alcoholics and addicts. I’m trying to get the second floor for kids [and] alcoholics trying to get back to school and learn about computers. I’m trying to get the first floor for the older crowd—because they can’t go up the steps—for them to have something to do.
Every night we do dancing. We sell food to try to raise money. We’ve got a purse bingo coming up. We got a lot of people trying to get in to get dancing, but I’m afraid to really book them, because I don’t want the lights to be cut off. I don’t want them coming here and have nothing working.
I planned on having all three floors open—people coming and have fun. I want to create jobs for alcoholics and addicts. I want to create an atmosphere and a safe environment for anybody who wants to come have fun. I just want to have anybody that feels like they want to change their life—I want them to come here any day of the week.
I’m learning that the more I try to help somebody else, the more I’m helping myself. I’m finding out that the more that I practice these principles, the more people look at me and ask me questions and ask me how am I doing it. And I try to explain to them how I’m doing it.
I got a couple sponsees, and I try to work with them every Sunday, trying to show them that drinking and drugging is a whole different level. When you’re facing your feelings—it’s the responsibilities of life. A lot of them don’t believe that it works, so I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing to show them that it works.
Photographs taken outside of the No Matter What Recovery Center in Toledo, Ohio.