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Whatever it takes

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Charles Thomas fought his way out of addiction, poverty and homelessness and built a new life in Bath with his wife Ruth.

Charles Thomas came to Bath in 2000 a broken man. After 30 years of drug abuse, trouble keeping jobs, and run-ins with the law, he had no choice but to make a change. He was at a Veterans Affairs facility in Pennsylvania when a fellow veteran sang praises about the Bath VA and the surrounding community. So, Charles got on a bus and he’s lived here ever since.

“I came to Bath with nothing. I was homeless. I was an addict. I said, ‘I want to do whatever it takes to get well.’”

And he did.

When Charles was drafted into the US Army in 1971, the 19-year-old thought he was headed to Vietnam. Instead he was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. He was a member of the Military Police during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where a Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli Olympians.

“A lot of things happened in Munich that I still have problems with,” he says. “Drug use would cover it, but it doesn’t work because the problem is still there. You have to go back to the first hurt and deal with it.”

When Charles began his addiction recovery at the Bath VA Hospital, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. And while he takes responsibility for his choices, he says the diagnosis made sense of many of his self-destructive actions. Charles credits the VA with helping him turn his life around.

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“I enjoy life today,” says Charles, who doesn’t look near his 67 years. He lives to help other veterans and community members access local services to escape addiction and poverty.

“I use the resources around here. I go to the Mobile Food Pantries. You don’t have to go hungry or homeless. There’s help,” he says.

Charles volunteers at the VA Hospital, provides hope at addiction counseling groups and serves on his church board. He recently completed the Food Bank’s Speakers Bureau Program and is becoming an advocate for others facing hunger and food insecurity.

“It’s by grace and mercy that I’m still here after the way I Iived. And that means I have a purpose,” Charles declares. “There are some flowers that bloom early and some flowers that bloom late. I’m a late-blooming flower. I don’t want to leave anything materialistic behind — just a good name.”

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