Thank you for never giving up on me.


Gary Williams, 54

in recovery since December 18, 2007


“It’s difficult to hear, I know,” says the mild-mannered Gary Williams. “But it’s a part of me — my journey — and people need to hear the whole story.”

At age five, Gary was molested by his mother’s pimp. He tells people not to shock them or to elicit sympathy.

He tells them because through his journey, he learned just how important honesty is in his healing process.

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It was a secret he kept for over 40 years.

His mother’s street life meant Gary was shuffled from family member to family member, often living in a house overflowing with cousins, uncles, friends, and other relatives.

“My grandma Lilian gave me some refuge against the craziness,” he says with a smile. “Then when I was 11, she died.”

“I felt so lost,” his smile disappearing. “And that’s when the walls started to really crumble around me.”

And when the trouble began.

Drugs, alcohol, and criminal activity crept in and soon overtook Gary’s life. For 40 years he used, sold, and skirted the law. He watched friends die. He saw relatives overdose. He skirted death. He fought. He pushed.

I realized that if I kept going on the path I was on, I’d end up dead.

In and out of treatment for 35 years, including at Prairie Center several times, Gary finally found his door to sobriety opened when he was 45.

“I realized that if I kept going on the path I was on, I’d end up dead,” he said. “I found the courage to open up about my past and suddenly I saw a future before me.”

Gary attended long-term residential treatment in Springfield then continued his outpatient treatment with Prairie Center.

“I was there with people from Park Avenue to the park bench,” he says of his time in treatment. “I realized that all of us are impacted. I felt my heart moved and I realized I was meant to use my experiences to help others.”

I was there with people from Park Avenue to the park bench. I realized that all of us are impacted.

And so began a new journey for Gary Williams, one he has now been on for nine years. Today he serves as a mentor and a motivational speaker to help others struggling with addiction.

“I do it because when I help others, it helps me. It’s my new high. I love giving back.”

Between two steady jobs, Gary still finds time to attend various recovery-focused groups and meetings around the country to inspire and help others. He knows that many he encounters will try and fail before they succeed, just like he did. But he’s determined to be there to offer as much support and guidance as possible to each one until the time is right for their recovery journey to also begin.

“Thank you Prairie Center for never giving up on me. Today I now know that I have purpose.”

Thank you Prairie Center for never giving up on me. Today I now know that I have purpose.

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