April 9, 1983.
This was the day Dickie Noles’ life changed. A Major League Baseball player with a nasty 95 mph fastball, Noles was a beast on the mound. But an addiction to drugs and alcohol was spiraling his life out of control as fast as his pitches. Multiple arrests for disorderly conduct were the norm for Noles, leading to far too many nights in jail and away from the baseball field.
And on that day – April 9, 1983 – Noles decided enough was enough. He hasn’t used drugs or had an alcoholic drink since then and life, Noles said, has never been better or more under control.
“The best part of being in recovery is knowing that I’m in control of my life, not the alcohol or drugs,” Noles said, speaking with a group of men from the Journey of Hope Project just behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies extended an invitation to Journey of Hope to meet Noles and stay for the team’s Businessperson’s Special against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 21 in recognition of Recovery Month.
The Journey of Hope Project is a collaboration between several innovative long-term residential treatment programs designed to serve individuals experiencing prolonged homelessness, substance use disorders, and co-occurring mental health challenges. It is able to admit individuals directly from the street, shelters, and Safe Havens by reducing barriers to treatment admission. Upon completion of treatment, individuals are connected with permanent supportive housing opportunities, as well as ongoing outreach and follow-up to help support long-term sustained recovery in the community.
While Noles, now an employee assistance professional with the Phillies, never experienced homelessness like the men he met with, he knows all too well of the struggles one faces when substances control their life. Now that he himself is in recovery, he enjoys nothing more than sharing his story and helping others get access to the treatment and services designed to help them leave a life led by substances behind. He works closely with players and offers insight to help them steer clear of the dangers of substance misuse.
During the hour he spent with the Journey of Hope Project participants, Noles talked baseball, sharing stories of his interactions with legends like Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and Rickey Henderson, and giving hitting and pitching tips. But he also encouraged the group to celebrate the victory of getting sober and working hard to stay that way. William Alba hasn’t used any substances for 35 days, a small number compared to Noles’ 35 years, but Noles encouraged Alba, saying they are in the every same place.
“Today is the only day that matters for you,” Noles said before hugging Alba. “Just take it one day at a time.”
Alba, 46, has misused substances for 31 years. Originally from Puerto Rico, he moved around to several cities when he moved to U.S. before stopping in Philadelphia in 2006. He had been in and out of homeless shelters and now believes that this time will stick.
“I’m learning how to take control of my actions and live a better life,” Alba said. “I started as a child with marijuana then on to cocaine, alcohol and heroin. I lost control and I lost everything. Now, I want to do what’s best to get my life back.”
Following their time with Noles, the Journey of Hope Project participants were treated to great seats to watch the Phillies in action. It was the first game at Citizens Bank Park for them and an opportunity to have fun after some very challenging times.
If you or someone you know is ready to get on the road to recovery, DBHIDS is ready to help. Call our behavioral Health Special Initiative (BHSI) at 215-546-1200 or the Philadelphia recovery Community Center at 215-223-7700. For more information on recovery support, please visit dbhids.org.