Profiles in Recovery
Dwight Vaughter


Vaughter is at the helm of one of Detroit’s largest behavioral health and recovery organizations, Self-Help Addiction Rehabilitation, Inc. (SHAR). Each year, the nonprofit helps more than 6,000 disadvantaged men and women improve their lives.

Vaughter’s own odyssey from heroin addiction, alcoholism and homelessness to a respected community leader signals what recovery can do.

“I love relishing in the contrast between my pre-recovery life and my life now,” says Vaughter, who advanced his education in recovery, earning a Master’s in Social Work and other degrees. “I enjoy the respect that I get from others, the respect I give to others and myself. I love the “realness” of my spiritual life now without chemicals.”

Day Job:
CEO of Self-Help Addiction Rehabilitation (SHAR) in Detroit

At my worst, I was:
Unsure if I wanted to live.   Life didn’t have any real value.  I didn’t know who I was any longer or what I wanted to be.  I had a period of being homeless, and was facing legal problems when I found treatment.

What worked for me:
I guess this is more productive than talking about what didn’t work.  The wife leaving, the preaching at me, the scolding.  The trying to use less, using on different days, use with different people, not taking all my money with me, hypnosis . . . those things did not work.

Long-term treatment got me “dry” or kept me “straight” for about 22 months – but I wasn’t in recovery.  Once I “graduated” I quickly started using regularly again . . . being unable to stop became my mantra for the next 4 years until I came to a 12 step fellowship and surrendered.

What motivated and moved me:  hearing “don’t do the first one,” “meeting makers make it,” “those who make meetings regularly stay clean,” and “every clean day is a successful day.”  Getting involved in fellowship service and sponsoring others strengthened my recovery.  Finally, learning to pray and really rely on God, this Higher Power, enhanced the quality of my life.

Best advice for newbies:

  • Realize you need help and ask and receive it regularly.
  • Dont look back and definitely, don’t go back!
  • Focus on your strengths and assets; not your defects and shortcomings
  • RUN: the faster you chase after your dreams and your future (today), the farther you will get from your past.  RUN!!!
  • Be loving toward yourself and others

Stigma I faced:
As a man, and especially a black man, I have been to social events where people could not believe that as a black man I didn’t drink.

On my schedule today:
I always start my day with gratitude, prayer, reading the Bible, or other literature, watching spiritual programming on TV.  This is just to get me going and centered for my day.  I try to make sure that I go to some level of spiritual gathering (12 step meeting, bible study, church, etc) every other day.  It may sound very rigid and ritualistic, but I believe people need structure.  Additionally, at the root of the word “spiritual” you will find the word RITUAL.

Advice to my younger self:

  • Be comfortable in the skin you are in.
  • Don’t be critical of yourself.
  • Live in the precious now.
  • This too shall pass (applies to the good and the bad)

What I learned about myself:
Recovery is about self-discovery.  I discovered that I really was a very cautious person and that the use of heroin as my primary drug of choice decreased my inhibitions and gave me the false sense of protection that I wanted.  I also learned that I wanted what I wanted NOW and did not want to work for the things I wanted.  On the same level, the waiting and working for what I want builds character. I have also learned that most people are reliant on something: I just improperly made it my drugs.

I get inspired by:
Watching new people grow in recovery

Proudest moment:
When I had nine years clean, doing some 9th step work in blind faith I went to the Philippines looking for a son that I had when I was I was in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war.  19 years had passed when I got there in 1993.  With the help of CNN, I found him and brought him here to the USA.  He is 43 years old now and has given me four grandsons!!!

On finding purpose:
Having purpose is essential to long term and quality recovery.  I heard a speaker say years ago that the reason why so many people relapse and return to drug usage is that AFTER a person gets clean, they MUST embrace a PURPOSE of helping others if they are to stay clean.  Without a purpose, the individual is almost forced to return to their original self-centered pursuits.

If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].


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