Meet the Resident: Danny

The Power of Community in the Journey to Healing

Danny’s life at 56 is a stark contrast to the chaos and fear of his youth. His journey, marked by the darkness of abuse and the revolving doors of incarceration, now finds solace in the supportive embrace of Dismas House’s community. His story, especially resonant during Mental Health Awareness Month, not only highlights Danny’s path to recovery but also illuminates the profound role a support system plays in healing the wounds of an abusive past.

A Difficult Upbringing

From as early as he can remember, Danny’s life was overshadowed by violence and instability. An abusive stepfather and a home devoid of safety drove him to run away at just 12 years old. “I just didn’t have anybody I could count on, not even family. For me, as bad as it was to be out on the streets sometimes back then, it was what I thought I needed to do just to survive.” Danny reflects on his desperate escape, which launched him into a life on the run, punctuated by frequent stints in juvenile detention and later, prison. These early experiences shaped him into someone perpetually wary of others, a trait he deemed necessary for survival but now recognizes as detrimental to his long-term health and well-being.

The Cycle of Incarceration

Incarceration became a recurring theme in Danny’s life, each sentence stripping away a little more of his hope and humanity. “I remember constantly looking over my shoulder when I was running from the cops and then doing the same behind bars. I was constantly in and out of jail and finally ended up in prison.” It was during this sentence that Danny reached his breaking point. “It just about killed me. I said never again. I knew I’d need to find support when I got out to turn things around, and that’s what I did.” This vow marked the beginning of a new chapter, one where Danny could stop running and start a journey toward true healing.

Learning to Feel Safe

Dismas House offered Danny something he had never truly experienced: a community that cared. He shares that this new environment was initially overwhelming, after five decades of instability. The concept of safety was so foreign that at first, it was somewhat uncomfortable. “I found a place where everything was thought of. Not only did I find people who I could trust, I had classes where I could learn to let my guard down. I had to learn how to accept love. I’d never known what that looked like. But I’ve been supported every step of the way. Everybody’s path looks different, and we’re all met where we’re at.”

“For the first time in my life, I feel safe. I spent years thinking that everyone I met must have some ill will toward me, like my stepfather did. The way he treated me painted this picture in my mind of how the world must be. I wish I could’ve seen earlier that that’s not true, but I see it now. I see it every day.”

The journey of healing has been further aided by his employment at Thistle Farms, an organization known for its commitment to empowerment and reinforcing a sense of dignity. Here, Danny found more than just a job – he found purpose and a community that champions the belief encapsulated by its Love Heals mantra. Glancing at the vibrant mural as he enters the cafe each morning, these words have become his motivation to allow himself to feel loved and accepted.

“I’m not in a rush to tackle getting a car, getting a house, and all of those things just yet. The most important thing is making sure I take care of myself. I have the support to take care of my own health – to take care of me. That’s something I’ve never had the luxury of thinking about until now.”

Looking Ahead with Hope

Today, Danny is dedicated to maintaining his sobriety, reconnecting with his children and grandchildren, and nurturing the relationships he has formed at Dismas House and Thistle Farms. “It took me so long to learn what love is, I try to remember to tell others how I feel as much as possible now.” 

“I don’t always get too mushy with the other guys,” he says with a laugh, “but I tell them, ‘Hey, you know I care about you, right?’”

Grateful for the restored dignity and value he now feels, Danny is committed to spreading love and kindness to others—creating ripple effects from the transformative support he’s received and underscoring the truth that healing is indeed possible.