Profiles in Recovery

Sheldon Dennis Hill

On his flight from Detroit to Los Angeles, Sheldon Hill couldn’t help but to feel a sense of pride. Hill was to be presented with the Pier Family Leadership Award at the annual meeting of the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the US Department of Health & Human Services. An honor given to only 5 out of thousands of nominees.

Growing up on the gang run streets of Detroit his story may have ended like so many others, in the penitentiary or dead. Hill began doing drugs at the age of 8, by 12 he was dealing drugs for his father then at 16 he dropped out of school to become a full-time drug dealer. Hill said, “At the end of my run I had been booked 77 times, taken to jail, shot 9 times (3 the first time, 6 the second), hit in the head with hammers and broke my jaw broke twice.” His final time in front of the judge he was sentenced to 6 months in county jail. During this time, he underwent addiction treatment and was diagnosed with several psychological disorders.

From that point on, Hill focused on giving back. He volunteers for “anyone who will have him”. He founded SD Hill L3C, a community service organization in Detroit dedicated to serving low-income & other individuals needing couching and support for recovery from addictions and other harmfulful behaviors. Hill works on making himself a better husband, father, friend and son every day. He lives by this mantra: Success is mandatory, not optional. “I’m no longer part of the problem but part of the solution.”

Day Job:
President/CEO S D Hill L3C
Certified Peer Support Specialist and Recovery Coach
Peer Recovery Support Program Director for Judge Greg Mathis
Great-Grandfather, Grandfather, Father, Husband, Son
A man after God’s own heart

What I lost to addiction:
I lost my self-respect, the love of many family members and my children, 1.7 million dollars in property and other material items. During my 33 years of full-blown active addiction, I have even lost my will to live. Wanting to die over and over again. My wife, mother and daughters all suffered from the fact that I was missing, irresponsible and risking my life everyday for drugs and alcohol. I lost their love and respect. It cost them many sleepless nights and many painful thoughts. They spent hundreds and thousands of dollars trying to keep up with me and save me from myself.

What worked for me:
The last time I was arrested the judge brought it to my attention that I had been booked 77 times. I was facing 22 ½ to 30 years in prison. Then the judge made a promise to me, if I ever came back to his court room again I was going to the penitentiary. He only gave me 6 months in the county jail, that’s what did it. After the county jail where I did a treatment program, I went to another treatment programs for another 90 days. While being introduced to a 12-step program I continued to grow spiritually, seeking a power greater than myself to save me from myself.

Best advice for newbies:
To get involved with a 12-step program. Get active, do service work and share with others so they can see you. That can help you when it looks like you’re struggling with your recovery. It’s okay to tell someone you want to get high; getting high is what we’ve done for such a long time and some of us can’t remember when we weren’t high. So, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Advice to my younger self:
You don’t need as many friends as you think. I always needed to be liked by others and would do almost anything for their approval. People pleasing is a tremendously devastating and powerful character defect. It’s okay not to be cool, popular or hip. It’s okay to just be you!

Rules I live by:
My main rule is to believe that my success is mandatory not optional and it’s my responsibility. I must be accountable, reliable and dependable. Most of all I must be honest with myself and others about how I’m feeling. It helps them to help me be healthier.

What I value most in recovery:
I value peace of mind knowing I brought peace to my wife, mother and daughters lives and calmness in my home. They are very happy for me and love seeing me in recovery. Knowing how they feel about me means the world. I’m so proud that I love myself today because I know it’s important how other people feel about me. They love me, and I love them.

Proudest moment:
My proudest moment is when I won the Pier Family Leadership Award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2016 the SAMHSA’S Voice Award. I was nominated by my oldest. Out of the thousands nominated only five people were chosen. I flew out to Los Angeles, California to receive the award. First Lady, Michelle Obama opened the awards ceremony with a video presentation.

Stigma I faced:
I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, antisocial personality disorder and major depression. I’d been addicted to crack cocaine for 27 years and alcohol for 37 years. I thought I’d be a crackhead for life. When other people found out that I was an addict (and even now as an addict in recovery) they don’t want to give me some of the chances I deserve. So, that’s why I started my own businesses and I give other people chances.
I went for job interviews where I met all the skilled requirements, however, when they found out that I had to take medications for my disorders I didn’t get the job. That stigma hurts.

Rock bottom moment:
My rock bottom moment happened when my mother asked me to leave her home. She said she didn’t want me there anymore. she wanted her Dennis back. Dennis is what she called me but at that time all I wanted was to get high. I’d go to her home asking for work to do to for money, so I could buy more drugs or get something free to eat.

On my bucket list:
My goal is to take my wife to every place that she wants to eat, buy myself a Corvette and to restore the 88 Cadillac Eldorado I’ve had for the past 8 years.

Favorite recovery quote:
My favorite recovery quote is “staying clean must come first, without staying clean none of the rest as possible”.

When cravings come:
Now when the craving come I tell my wife, I even told her tonight. I must tell someone, someone must know what I’m thinking always otherwise I will be convinced that I’ll go get a cup of coffee, but I’ll end up buying drugs instead. It’s important to ask for help when you need it. Find someone in your life you can share honestly about your desire to use. It’s natural for an addict to want to use. So, it’s okay if you need help staying clean. Ask for that help someone cares enough to give it to you. People do love you even when you’re not loving yourself.

Thoughts on relapse:
My thoughts on relapse are that it is real and it will happen if you don’t take care of yourself. Remember to honestly share where you are. When you want to use, say you want to use, tell others.

At my worse, I was:
At my worst I was suicidal, using as many drugs as I could. I was interacting with very dangerous people, homeless on the streets of Detroit where the only thing that mattered us was getting and staying high. At the end of my run I had been booked 77 times, taken to jail, shot 9 times (3 the first time, 6 the second), hit in the head with hammers and broke my jaw broke twice.

On my schedule today:
I used to plan a specific day to spend the whole day with my wife. I must make sure that I let the people in my life, letting them know I love them and I’m willing to spend time with them. We need this time to make up and get closer to one another. I must go to work today because I do have bills to pay so work is necessary. It’s very important and it keeps me stable. I can pay my bills and take my wife places without borrowing money, that’s important. I will also make a meeting today. I started a program called Citywide Mentoring, it’s a non-profit based out of Detroit, Michigan. We help other men and women in recovery face the challenges of their lives and help reduce recidivism and relapse.

What I learned about myself:
I learned I have a greater power sober then I ever did while I was high, that I’m a nice, loving and caring person. Also, that I am human, and I will make mistakes, but I can overcome those mistakes and move on with my life. Which I have done and will continue to do.

How I get through the holidays:
How I got to the holiday with the help of my family and making 12-step meetings.

I get inspired by:
I was inspired by a man named Andre Johnson, the President and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project. He came to the treatment program I was in and told his recovery story. I followed Andre and I still follow him today. He’s a great person and I greatly appreciate him.

What saves me from myself:
My higher power who I choose to call God, My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On finding purpose:
My purpose is to give back to others. I focus on becoming a gentler man; a better husband, father and son.

SHED THE STIGMA:
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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