Like Hell on Earth - By: Alberto
July 1st, 2017
No one should have to live like I did a few years ago. It was about as bad as you could imagine. I hated my life, and I thought about killing myself . . . especially when I thought about how far I’d fallen and how bad things had become.
My story starts in Cuba, where I grew up in a big family. I became a shoemaker, and I made a decent living. But like so many other Cubans before me, I dreamed of coming to America. And that’s just what happened. I ended up settling in Naples, and I had my own tow-truck business, earning as much as $1,500 a week. Life was good.
About four years ago, I woke up one night with a strange feeling. I tried to get out of bed, but it felt like someone had tied me down. I couldn’t stand up to go to the bathroom. I didn’t know what was going on.
When I got up a few hours later, one side of my body wasn’t working very well, and I couldn’t speak clearly; I just mumbled. But I had a delivery scheduled, so I got into my tow truck and made the delivery. Then I drove straight to the hospital, where I learned I’d had a major stroke.
They stabilized me, but because I didn’t have any health insurance, I couldn’t afford the follow-up visits for physical therapy and speech therapy. (I couldn’t speak clearly for over a month.) So I went back to Cuba to get the therapy I needed because it was much more affordable there.
I came back to the U.S., hoping to get back into my towing business. But physically, I just couldn’t do it any longer. Plus I had two more strokes, making things even worse.
Before long, I ran out of money, and I lost my truck, my house, my belongings, everything. I asked some relatives here in Naples if I could stay with them, and they said yes . . . as long as I stayed in the garage. They didn’t let me in the house, except to take a shower every now and then. They wouldn’t even let me go to the bathroom in the house.
Living in that garage was like hell on earth. In the summer, it was over 100 degrees in there, with no air conditioning, just a little electric fan. Plus a bed and a side table. That was it. Since I wasn’t allowed to use their bathroom, I would use the restroom in a place like McDonald’s or Wendy’s. But that wasn’t always possible, so I sometimes ended up going in the back yard at the place where I was staying. It was terrible, and it smelled awful.
I got so depressed that I thought about ending it all. I ended up getting in contact with David Lawrence Center, hoping for some help. When my case manager visited me in that awful garage, he immediately started looking for a better living situation for me. He got me into one of DLC’s affordable housing units; I qualified because of my financial situation and my diagnosis, major depressive disorder.
Now it’s three years later, and I’m doing much better. The people at David Lawrence Center have basically saved my life. They have helped me in every way. They even helped me go through the steps of becoming a U.S. citizen. I love it here, and I’m proud to be an American!
I still struggle with depression, especially lately since my mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. I worry about her. I’m still unable to work. I now live on a disability check of just $733 per month — about half of what I used to earn in one week! It’s been a hard adjustment, but David Lawrence Center has been by my side the whole time.
I’m in tears as I tell you my story. It’s quite a sight — a big Latino man, crying. We Latino men are very macho, and we don’t cry easily! But when I think about how much I’ve been helped by the people at David Lawrence Center, I’m just overwhelmed with emotion. That is a sacred place, a holy place for me, and I’m so thankful.
Supporters like you make success stories like this possible. Alberto is very grateful for your compassion and your generosity!