Meet Kelvin Lee

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Clitheroe alumnus an inspiration to current clients

By Sonya Senkowsky – 

Thirteen years after Kelvin Lee graduated from The Salvation Army Clitheroe Center residential treatment facility in Anchorage he returned to be featured in a story of his transformation.

After filming, he shared his story in a more personal way with current clients.

When he came to Clitheroe, Lee said he was a crack addict who had already been through eight other treatment programs. “This is the only treatment facility I completed,” he said.

Lee talked about how he’d been involved in crime as a young man in Alaska, how he’d moved out of state and tried crack cocaine—and the consequences, from addiction to incarceration, to numerous treatment programs and relapses.

A Clitheroe counselor encouraged him to see his frequent failures as valuable life experience that could help others. That change in perspective, he said, helped bring about a recovery that has lasted 13 years and has come with great rewards. “Today, my greatest gift is being able to take care of myself, my house and my family,” he said.

He is also president of No Limits, Inc., a post-prison adult re-entry program in Fairbanks, where he enjoys being “walking hope to the hopeless.” Today, he says: “I’m proud of Kelvin Lee.”

His story has already impacted the clients with whom he spoke, said Clitheroe Director Major Sherry McWhorter.

“Kelvin’s life speaks to the immense benefits of substance abuse treatment services—truly a lifesaver in many cases,” she said. “The clients were almost awed by Kelvin and the message of hope he shared.”

Lee told clients that while it’s possible to change their lifestyles to be more like his, they will have to work to get there. He also emphasized the importance of understanding that recovering from addiction doesn’t automatically keep bad things from happening.

“You aren’t going to always have favorable circumstances, and that’s OK,” he said. “It’s how you respond to those circumstances that makes the difference.

Several residents followed up to ask their guest speaker questions. One of them, Coral, stayed behind for a one-on-one conversation. For her, Kelvin’s talk came shortly before her expected discharge—a transition that scared her—so she wanted some additional tips.

Coral’s life has been complicated not only by addiction, but also by a painful spinal condition and mental illness. As she put it, “I’m blessed to be here. Blessed to be alive.”

The pep talk inspired her to find her own success, she said. For her, this will be measured in finding a place to live, enjoying a recently renewed relationship with her parents, and setting a positive example for her 16-year-old brother.

“Clitheroe’s given me the tools,” she said. “It’s hard, but I want a life worth living.”

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