Salvation Army Employee Overcomes Homelessness, Drug Addiction To Help Others
ST. CLOUD-- A St. Cloud man who overcame homelessness and a drug addiction is sharing his struggle to help others from going down his path.
Ricky Gustafson first joined the army in his early 20's and served for four years. After leaving the army, he got married and he and his wife had a baby girl.
Life was going well for Gustafson and his family. However, when his wife, who was a victim of child sexual abuse saw a story about her perpetrator, Gustafson said things took a different turn.
After that day, Gustafson says it seemed something broke in his wife. In 2010, she died from a prescription overdose and soon after Gustafson fell into depression and was addicted to methamphetamines.
"I made the completely conscious decision to start smoking methamphetamines. I wanted to shut down after my wife died, I was in a depressed mood and the methamphetamine brought me out of my depression. I didn't think about the pain I was having, it was a blocker, so my mind never stopped to think about or process the death of my wife says, Gustafson"
Gustafson soon became addicted and lost his home and job. In 2014, he attempted suicide and was admitted to the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs.
The Minneapolis VA eventually talked Gustafson into coming to the St. Cloud VA, to get treatment through their veteran grant per diem program.
His close friends agreed to take care of his daughter, who was 16 at the time until he got better. He spent 90 days at the St. Cloud VA and completed the recovery program.
After he finished his treatment, the VA referred him to the Salvation Army shelter program. He stayed there for a year and in March of 2016, he moved out of the shelter and got his own place.
Even through his hardships, he was still able to get back on his feet, in June the Salvation Army offered him a full-time position as a staff member at the shelter.
Gustafson is now using his story to inspire others who come through the shelter. He says working at the Salvation Army has been a blessing and he owes it all to God.
"Being and working at the Salvation Army has opened my heart to be more compassionate toward others. I know me working here at the Salvation Army was God's plan. As a kid, I grew up in the Salvation Army, so when I was at the VA and they said we have a housing program at the Salvation Army, I was like are you kidding me. It was like a complete 180, I was right back to the place I was as a kid"
Gustafson is now a year and a half clean, however, his daughter is now addicted to methamphetamines. Although he's suggested she get the help, he says he can't do much, but hopes God brings her out of this.
"Looking back I wish I never let my daughter out of my sight because it gave me no responsibility. As selfish as it sounds, her life and her addiction is keeping me from going back to that. I have to be that support system and role model for her because I failed at that once"
Despite everything that's happened in his life, he hopes by him sharing his story, someone will benefit from it and turn their life around.
"I want people to know if they are addicted today, they don't have to be tomorrow. Just take each day at a time. Lives can be turned around, each day is a miracle"