In January 2009, I received a phone call which changed my life. Michael, a very good friend and spiritual advisor, was in the hospital intensive care unit diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma. Burkitt Lymphoma is recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, and Michael’s prognosis was very poor. My initial reaction brought on feelings of anger, fear, guilt and sadness. Someone suggested to me, instead of drowning in your self-pity, why not take advantage of Michael’s remaining moments here and be a friend.
For the following two months, I spent every day at the hospital with Michael, providing support and encouragement. As an atheist throughout my life, Michael opened my eyes to my spiritual void and filled my heart with a passion to share it with others. Bittersweet thoughts raced through my mind as I sat next to him in his hospital room listening to the sounds of the beeps and alarms of the machines supporting his life. Wicked, the Broadway musical was about to launch a second national tour and was constantly being advertised on television. My favorite song from Wicked was, “For Good” and I often listened to it while passing the time away at Michael’s bedside.
Michael’s final day on this physical planet was on March 3, 2009. I was devastated and in a moment of vulnerability and tenderness, I prayed for clarity in a situation amongst the feeling of being betrayed by the universe. While doing so, I suddenly felt an uplifting spirit from my heart redirecting my self-centeredness outward and once again, after such a long sabbatical, reaffirmed a sense of purpose in life. I said a prayer, “I am ready to carry out the responsibility and make myself available for the work of grace in the lives of others. Show me my skill upon which You trust, that I may not have the confidence to believe in myself, and let me showcase it to the world. Shower me with Your blessings for I will use this gift to serve others who need it the most.”
I also made the following promise which brought closure to the loss of a dear friend and redirected my life away from the isolation that once took me down: I will provide a safe harbor from the treacherous sea of addiction; I will be a solid friend and living proof that life can get better when we surrender; I will be honored to receive an invitation to walk side-by-side with a newcomer and be a positive influence throughout his new journey; and I will utilize my management skills acquired throughout my career and be a champion and leader in the recovery community.
After 5 years of dedication and service to the San Diego LGBT recovery community, I felt a sense of accomplishment with Amethyst Landing and a fulfillment of my mission, dream and promise to Michael. In 2015, I was preparing to move on, reentering the workforce and going to back to my career.
However, a power greater than myself redirected my plans creating a new chapter in my life. In March 2015, I was introduced to my business partner, a real estate broker and owner of a property management company. Although our first iteration of doing business together was not financially viable for both parties, I respected the gentleman that sat across the table from me and his success in the real estate market. We both saw the synergy in merging our expertise in a dynamic and high growth supportive housing market.
We continued to brainstorm and strategically looked at alternative ways to fulfill the critical needs and demands in the housing market. Transition Enterprises, Inc., a California corporation, was formed on September 2, 2017, doing business as Amethyst Landing.
We identified the current Centre Street property location, two blocks away from the LGBT Center in Hillcrest, with 10-minute access to over 100 Twelve-Step Meetings per week. After securing financing, and minor renovations to address the needs of the recovery community, Amethyst Landing – The Centre for Serenity (13 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms) welcomed our first guests in January 2016.
Shane, referred to in another post, became a certified drug and alcohol counselor. He has also founded several additional homes in the county and after a brief period of startup operational management, returns the operational responsibility back to the owners. Shane is currently the Operations Director of Normal Heights Sober Living (25 beds). For nearly 10 years we have remained true to one another and we extensively collaborate, provide checks and balances, argue, laugh, and cry with one another, keeping the safety and well-being of the recovering addict in our hearts.
With the intent of improving the living conditions and standardizing best demonstrated practices throughout the county, I accepted leadership positions in the Uplift Housing Network serving on the board of directors and as Treasurer. I also consulted with the network, visiting every member home, sharing information and ideas learned from others and continued to raise the bar searching for excellence in our network homes.
The goals, mission, principles, philosophies, beliefs and value systems agreed upon in founding Amethyst Landing can be identified as Michael’s fingerprint in other homes in San Diego.
Amethyst Landing was not just “gay friendly”, which in the traditional sense meant very little. We specifically marketed, advertised, and promoted to the LGBT community. We developed an ongoing relationship with Stepping Stone, an addiction treatment center serving the LGBT community. Today, although we are still recognized as serving the LGBT community, we openly welcome “straight” men and the ratio, although fluctuating, is typically 50%-50%. The LGBT community has been undergoing an identity crisis adding every letter in the alphabet (Q – Queer, I – Intersex, A – Asexual, + Everything besides LGBT). In an effort to avoid a label of being “straight friendly”, our 2017 marketing campaign entitled “I AM HUMAN”, sets aside gender identity and sexuality and looks at everyone as an individual human being. Tolerance and respect for your brother is important in the Amethyst Landing Family. Our success in teaching tolerance between the LGBTQ+ and Straight Communities is a simple formula = Have the opposing forces live together as a (LGBTQ+S) family. That’s not to say that daily challenges will not occur. However, the benefits of a group of men irrespective of label G, B, T, Q, +, or S, supporting one another like brothers in a family is a heartwarming experience.
Giving a home built in 1938 a second chance, so that it may do the same for others.
My best friend, Shane Liston, introduced me to the sober living environment. I saw a dichotomy in the market of home owners providing safe supportive housing and slum lords taking advantage of people recovering from addiction. Shane introduced me to the Uplift Housing Network (formally known as the San Diego County Sober Living Coalition). I took certification courses in owning and operating sober living homes and management leadership training focused on issues related to the recovery community. There was a tremendous need for supportive housing in the LGBT community, so I decided to dedicate my philanthropy to LGBT Recovery.