Sober and ready for success

For over a year now, Ritchie Johnson has been working to overcome the alcohol addiction that impacted much of his adult life. A resident of the Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Service’s sober-living facility (CADAS) in Chattanooga, Johnson said he had nothing when he decided it was time to get clean.

“Whenever I came here, I had nothing,” he said. “I was couch surfing. I used to be a Kindergarten teacher and I fell from grace doing that and ended up resigning. That was my rock bottom. I was 45 years old and had no hope.”

That feeling of hopelessness began to fade after he successfully completed inpatient treatment and moved into the sober-living apartments operated by CADAS.

Johnson is one of 24 residents living at the apartment complex located in Chattanooga’s Northshore neighborhood. CADAS built the facility – the first of its kind in Chattanooga and one of only a handful in Tennessee -- with the help of a $500,000 grant from THDA’s Tennessee Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Trust Fund, which is funded by proceeds from THDA’s mortgage operations, provides grants to various affordable housing projects across the state that help members of at-risk groups find safe, decent housing.

“This gives me hope, I have a bed to lay in, I have money to buy food,” Johnson said. “There’s just the hope that I have every day to be a better man and to make a difference in this world. I’m finding it here and I’m really blessed.

“I was turning 45 years old and my father passed away at the same age and I didn’t just want to be another statistic. This was my first attempt at getting sober, but I knew I was ready for it. It was my time.”

For Johnson, having a stable living situation has allowed him to concentrate on bettering his life without the anxiety that comes with not having a place to call home.

“This has been a great transition,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine getting out of rehab and not having this support, both from CADAS and my neighbors that live next to me. It’s really something that means a lot to me.”

That feeling of optimism also has Johnson looking forward to a future that he once thought was unimaginable.

“I had no hope, I didn’t know what my future would be,” he said. “I thought that death was the only way to get out. Now I feel like I have a future, I’ve got a good job with opportunities for advancement. I know that I won’t be able to live here forever, but I feel when I do move out I’ll have all the tools I need and feel confident that I gained a lot of that from being in sober living.”