When he entered a rehabilitation center in June 2018, Evan Van Skaik’s body was so beaten down by drugs and alcohol that he needed a walker to get around.

When he began the Cincinnati Works JumpStart workshop in January 2019, his psyche was so beaten down that he struggled to answer even the simplest questions.

“I had nothing,” Van Skaik said. “My self-confidence was shot.”

When he walked into his new apartment in July 2020, he did so as a stable, valued employee at a local non-profit; a leader within a local running group; and a committed father who has paid down thousands of dollars in debt.

“Looking back, I can’t believe I have made it this far,” Van Skaik said with a smile. “And this is nothing, man. This is nothing. It is really cool to get to help people on a daily basis.”

He rebuilt his body, mind and spirit by focusing on small tasks immediately in front of him: completing a job application, working a shift, making a monthly payment, running faster or farther than the day before. He credited JumpStart instructor Vickie Mertz with boosting his confidence, and he appreciated how former staffing specialist Amanda Haney kept his spirits up during the job search.

Van Skaik was hired onto the manufacturing team at Cincinnati Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Most of his co-workers are blind or visually impaired, so Van Skaik and the other fully sighted employees play a key support role, in addition to their duties on the manufacturing line. It fit with his passion for service.

“That is the basis of my life right now – empowering myself and others,” Van Skaik said.

He thanked his supervisors at CABVI for respecting his past and recognizing the value he could bring. His family supported him throughout his addiction and especially through his recovery. He found friends through the Lord’s Gym and the Step Forward running club. And he checks in regularly with his Cincinnati Works coach, Martha Nicks.

It takes a village to fight the demons of addiction. But it begins with a determined individual and a single step forward.

“I know the depths of where the mind can go,” Van Skaik said. “But I also know what it takes to get someone’s mind back under control. It’s rigorous. You have to put everything into it, one day at a time.

“I battle myself every day. I still have those moments – like, I’m not an angry person, but there are still times I can feel the anger build. Over time, you get quicker and quicker at pulling yourself back in. I know what the warning signs are for me. Fortunately, I have learned to reach out to people when I feel things like that.”

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