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“I went toward a bad group because those were the people that accepted me,” he says. Drugs became a substitute for real friendships.

He started drinking, popping pills, cooking meth and shooting heroin. He was homeless for a while when his parents kicked him out of the house. “I would just be wandering the streets of Lima at all hours of the night until I found somewhere, chilled, sat down, fell asleep in an alley,” he says.

By age 19, Charlie was serving a three-year sentence in prison on a burglary charge. That’s where he stopped using drugs. He spent the last five months of his sentence in a community-based correctional facility where he took classes and completed group work to learn about addiction. The lessons stuck.

“I started telling people, ‘I want to be a probation officer,’ and everybody knocked it,” he says. “They were like, ‘You can’t do that, you’re a felon.’ I said, ‘Check it out, I’m going to do something.’ ”

One year later, he started working as a peer recovery coach, using his own experiences to help other people stay in recovery.

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Kaiser Health News

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