WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — For decades, William Godley struggled with his drug-addicted demons.
The 61-year-old D.C. resident was in out and prison for over 47 years, hooked on the drugs and lived in squalor on the streets of the nation’s capital – at one point just a stone’s throw away from the city’s main drug treatment center.
In 2018, Godley said he sought to get clean and spent 22 months in a D.C. treatment facility to make sure he never went back to that way of life.
Now he is a peer counselor and talks to those without a home and those who struggle with major addictions even as the District has been seeing serious spikes in drug deaths going back to 2014.
According to the D.C. medical examiner’s office, in 2014 there were a total of 83 opioid overdose deaths and the numbers have been climbing since. With the exception of 2018, the numbers rose to a total high of 458 deaths in 2022.
Earlier this year, District officials began placing kiosks with life-saving items inside such as Narcan spray in areas of D.C. that has high drug use and near fire stations.
“I think the public just simply don’t know how to stop it,” Godley said. “I see D.C. doing a whole lot. We just got to keep up the fight. We got to keep throwing punches. The minute we let up the minute we fold up, it’s going to topple us.”
Godly said drugs almost took him out but there was a defining moment where he recalled when he watched a man walk out of a restaurant and was desperate for whatever scraps the person had in his hand.
When he asked the man for what he had in his bag that was dripping with grease, the man responded, “no brother, I’m going to take this home to my dog.”
That hit Godley, who spent 47 of his 67 years using drugs, living on park benches and struggling to stop committing petty crimes.
“I can never actually really describe that feeling again,” he said. “I put myself to be in your eyes, to be lower than a dog.”
Eric Scott, 52, also was hooked on marijuana, alcohol and other hard-core drugs. He also ended up on the streets and estranged from his family. His addiction began at the age of 14, he said.
“I was mostly addicted to alcohol and marijuana,” he said.
His struggles led to him losing jobs and then on the streets where he continued to spiral, Scott said. Then crimes like armed robbery got him locked up, he added.
“I was blaming the wrong people for my mistakes,” he said.
Scott said he sought treatment 10 years ago and has been clean ever since.
“It wasn’t an easy process because people still didn’t trust me because they heard it over and over that I’m going to change,” he said. “But I just knew I didn’t want this life no more.”
Both men are peer group mentors to those on drugs and living in the streets just like they were for so many years.
While Godley said he is not that drug-addicted person anymore, he knows that “everywhere I go, I carry me, so that old me is there and is going to always be like two people inside me warring.”
September is National Recovery Month and Godley said he thinks the efforts of recovery can bear fruit in D.C.
“This is a fight. This is a war,” he said. “We have to end the war knowing that you’re going to win and you have to keep that mindset.”