LIMA — Andre Norman gave the residents of the W.O.R.T.H. Center a message of encouragement and purpose during a presentation at the center Friday.
“The message I’m here to tell the residents today is, please buy into treatment,” Norman said. “Treatment is the thing that’s going to save their lives, improve our communities and help our families.”
Often, people with addiction issues have trauma in their past. The addiction comes into play as a way to deal with that trauma. People addicted to substances get lost in a destructive cycle, Norman said.
“We want to come in and say ‘it’s not hopeless, it’s not too late and there’s a way for you to come back,’” he said.
Treatment is more effective if the person embraces it, Norman said. The first focus of treatment is addressing the trauma and, later, the addiction. The main goal of the center is to make certain when residents are released they are returning to their families having worked through all the issues, he said.
Norman began a life of crime when he was 12 when he and a friend began dealing marijuana so he could buy shoes, clean socks and other things he needed, as his family didn’t have a lot of money, he said. His father beat his mother, driving his sister to addiction and prostitution. By the time he was 18 years old, he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. While incarcerated, he rose to the top of a gang and began adding more years onto his sentence for attempted murder charges.
After years in state and federal prisons, Norman was planning the killings of rival gang members who had stabbed some of his men, he said. It was then he said God came to him and everything changed. God told him to choose a better path, and he listened, Norman said.
“If anyone ever tells you they argued with God, that’s fine,” he said. “If they ever tell you they won the argument, run because they’re on heavy medication.”
Norman began working on his education, starting with getting his GED. He began attending AA and NA even though he wasn’t an addict because the meetings helped him control his anger and bad decision making, he said. Norman was paroled after almost a decade and a half in prison because of the changes he made.
“Andre makes a huge impact because he has lived the life,” said Brent Burk, executive director of the W.O.R.T.H. Center. “He’s been incarcerated. He spent a decade and a half of his life incarcerated. He overcame many obstacles to get to where he is today. So when he comes and speaks to our residents, they understand him and they relate to him.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362