Tackling addictions with the help of God in Fox Valley
Angelo Valdes has people who used to use drugs living with him. But none are recovering addicts.
Rather, each have been delivered from their addiction through their faith in God, he says.
"We don't fix it," Valdes said. "God does."
The St. Charles Township man runs a Christ-based program called H.E.L.P.S. -Healing, Encouragement, Love, Prayer, Salvation - aimed at helping drug users conquer their addictions. A former drug user himself, Valdes says he felt called to start the ministry and opened his home this year to addicts who wanted his help.
"I consider myself done with it," said Scott MacDonald, a 24-year-old St. Charles man who was addicted to heroin. "I'm never going to do it again."
MacDonald is one of five people living with Valdes, his wife and children.
MacDonald was the first to take Valdes, now a social worker, up on his offer and guarantee that God could deliver. And on Nov. 18, MacDonald celebrated a full year of sobriety - a record for him.
"I had exhausted all my options," said MacDonald, who has been through traditional treatment programs. "My way didn't work. The program's way didn't work.
"Angelo had been telling me to try God and that he'd give me a 100 percent guarantee it would work."
Valdes provides group and one-on-one counseling sessions and routinely drug tests those living with him. Each program participant also takes an active role in the house - essentially becoming part of the family. They eat dinner together, pitch in with chores and go to church together.
"It's hard, but there's a blessing in it," said Valdes, who won't accept people who haven't at least gone through detoxification. "The whole family gets to live out their faith and be a part of caring for people."
Valdes points out that a good chunk of time is spent in prayer, Bible studies and weekly church services. Valdes talks about how God can change people's lives and encourages those living with him to pray that God will change their hearts.
"When the heart starts to change, naturally the mind and life will follow," Valdes said.
But some treatment experts say there's no such thing as a 100 percent guarantee when it comes to combating drug addiction. Nor is there any way to completely kick the habit.
"I will not discount the power of the spirit to help people get in recovery," said Arthur Lorigio, chairman of the criminal justice department at Loyola University. "But research shows that recovery is a lifelong process."
Valdes agrees his treatment program isn't like other traditional programs. But he relies on his own experience and scripture that he says shows God can change people's lives.
He notes that each of the five living with him have remained drug-free since they moved in. Three of the five also are in Kane County's drug rehabilitation court program, which involves weekly visits with a judge and drug testing and home visits from probation officers.
"It's been great for Scott," MacDonald's mother, Linda, said of the program. "It's changed his life.
"He was on the path of destruction and the black hole of heroin, and Angelo reached out to find him where he was."