Two decisions. One to tell the truth and ask for help. The other is to say “no” to living at an address too close to trouble. Between making those two right decisions on his own and discovering a helping hand from Volunteers of America Texas, William Balcom’s life now is as different from what it used to be as the proverbial night and day.
William grew up in Detroit. After his father died when he was in the seventh grade, he hung out with the motorcycle group his father had been a part of. It was, he said, the “tough side of the street.” He was kicked out of school by the ninth grade. He did earn a GED, but his mother eventually moved to Texas to raise her three other children and William was on his own.
Unfortunately, he landed in prison. Eventually, he was able to get paroled to Texas because of his mother’s presence. William moved to Ballinger and completed his parole successfully. But there were no jobs for him; the old way of life returned. Eventually, police came knocking. They found a gun, which automatically meant prison time. After serving two years, he was back on parole. And smoking marijuana. When the time came to visit his parole officer and get drug tested, he made his first best decision—to tell the truth. “I told my PO I was dirty. I said prison isn’t going to help me; I need help.”
His parole officer connected William with Volunteers of America Texas where he entered the residential Drug Treatment facility, Riverside, in Fort Worth. During his 90 days of treatment, VOA helped him find a job that would continue after his release. They also connected him to Pathfinders, a VOA Texas mentoring program. “They helped me find a new vision,” Williams says, one focused on sobriety.
He admits he “was a handful at first.” Quick with a laugh, he also admits he “took it all as a joke.” It wasn’t long, though, before the VOA programs and his contact, Shelley Heider, “made me look at the real world, not the side I was used to. Thirty days before I got out, I was jumping through hoops.”
It was during this time that William made his second, best decision. He turned down a place to live. It was too close to his old way of life. “I wanted to be somewhere where nobody knew me,” he said. And so, he came to a three-quarter sober living home that provided good all-around support. Recently, he moved into a townhouse of his own in White Settlement while still receiving outpatient treatment through VOA. “I give it to the VOA, they’re the reason I’m not in prison or doing stupid things,” William said.
Far from it. In fact, William began attending a Baptist church while in treatment. Every Friday night and Sunday morning a church bus would make a round trip from the treatment center. Now that he is working toward a Commercial Driver’s License, William has plans to become part of the bus ministry. When given the opportunity to add one last thing to his story about VOA Texas, William grew quiet. The jokester personality was set aside. He said simply, “They saved my life.”