The Silversmith

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“After I lost my job during the recession of the late 70’s, my mother suggested I take a job at the hospital. I became an x-ray technician and could go anywhere and get a job. Hell, I was recruited months before I even finished clinicals. I worked third shift in an emergency room because blood and guts don’t bother me. Everyone in our department was doing crystal, even the doctors. I was on call 24/7 and it eventually became too much. X-ray technicians all know each other so I was referred to a company in New York. I drove everything from Texas and it was quite a contrast. I used the company vehicle to run routes: one day in the Bronx, another in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, Queens, everywhere. During this time, I did a lot of drugs and became a crack addict. The dealer would see my van and wait for me outside my home. I’d always stop and pay him whatever he asked for. That was crazy shit. I was so into it, every single night.  It was when my dad had his first heart attack when I dropped everything and moved back home to Milwaukee. The doctors didn’t know if he was going to make it.”

“I’m a jeweler and silversmith. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Montana just north of Yellowstone Park. I learned everything from my father. He was a minister and I have always valued his wisdom. On weekends, we would hike up the mountain and collect Madison Blue agates. He had all the equipment and I still have over a thousand pounds of the gems in storage. It was our hobby, but it gradually became a business and was going very well. We would attend juried shows through a committee and once we were juried in, we had every weekend booked in the summer. People would ask us to come back. We’d go to indoor shows during the winter months. Two years ago, my dad had a stroke and we couldn’t do the shows anymore. How was I supposed to teach someone what took a lifetime to learn? I lost my business partner, but fortunately, he is still alive today.”

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“It was a problem back then, but I’ve always got by, drinking. I was recruited by an old colleague in Milwaukee working in their emergency room. He knew I did good work. I worked for him for 13 years and I loved that job. No office, no clock. Just had to call in at 8:00 every morning. Sometimes I would only have one or two x-rays a day. When he wanted to retire, he sold his business to Accurate X-ray, a huge corporation with a reputation for buying out small businesses. They were trying to steal our accounts. I couldn’t blame him for selling, but I told him there is no fucking way I’m working for them. After he retired, I basically floundered. My father had a stroke shortly after and I had to teach him how to walk in physical therapy for 3 months. I lost my mother on Christmas and I was worried I would lose both in the same year. During this time, I was drinking a quart of vodka a day. This is how I dealt with everything. I was killing it in the insurance business prior but ended up losing my job because of it. All I did was lay on the couch and drink. I looked like shit. Life was one big party before it became a problem. I started drinking when I was 14 and after 40 some years, it finally caught up to me.”

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“I look at it this way: I had the American Dream. I had a $300,000 house on the lake, a cottage up north, and all the toys you can imagine. But when our cottage burned down, we didn’t have anything. We lost our dog. We barely got out ourselves. It is kind of amazing to think everything you accumulated over the years - gone. We built a new home but couldn’t keep up with the mortgage. Shortly after I came up here to the Solutions Center, my wife forged my signature and closed out our joint checking account, starting another in her name. Sounds like a country western song, doesn’t it? ‘My wife left me, my dogs left me, lost my house’. But you know, I am freer now than when I had all that stuff.”

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“If it weren’t for you guys, I’d be fucked. They say you have to hit bottom and before now, I never hit bottom. I went to treatment centers in Florida for months, but they were like country clubs. I didn’t take it seriously. I always had a home and a job to come back to. And I am good at starting over. I have done it so many times before. But I had to lose everything. If it weren’t for this place, I don’t know where I’d have gone. I mean, where would we be without this place? When I came here, I wasn’t eating and was in a constant haze. I went to detox immediately. Who knows? The Solution Center may have saved my life. Out of all the homeless people in Fond du Lac, you took me in and gave me this opportunity to land on my feet. I just hope to give my spot to someone else who was like me when I came here. Now, I can see clearly and hold my head up high. I am very grateful to the Solution Center for all their help and support."

Casey FrenchComment