Richard Nickerson grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s during the heyday of the Haight Ashbury. At a young age he was exposed to drugs, alcohol, and gang violence. He says, “I was the type of addict that whenever I got out of prison I’d tell my parole officer, ‘Save my gate money for when I come back!’ I was a ruthless drug addict of the hopeless variety. I didn’t believe there was any other way to live.” But in 1985, after yet another run in with the law, he was given the choice to either go back to jail for the umpteenth time or enroll in a recovery program at Pathway Society. He chose to come to Pathway Society and doesn’t regret his decision for a second.
His road to recovery was difficult. He lost his mother, brother, and young son in quick succession during treatment. He credits his successful completion of the recovery program despite these tragedies to his sponsor, with whom he had a close and trustworthy relationship. After graduating from Pathway Society Richard went to school for small business management, and today he manages his own construction company. He is now a strong leader, passionate drug and alcohol addiction recovery sponsor, and dedicated father.
As a drug and alcohol addiction recovery sponsor, he teaches people how to live healthy lives. He teaches his sponsees about goals, destination, and determination. They remind him about where he came from and keep him on track with his own sobriety. Richard believes it’s important, as a sponsor, to be available to his sponsees anytime of day or night; He says it builds a trust between sponsor and sponsee that’s uniquely important to an addict’s recovery.
Giving back to the community is one of Richard’s highest priorities. He helped formulate and implement the D.A.R.E. program in prisons across the west coast. He also coaches girl’s softball and built restrooms and a snack shack on his team’s home field. A father of three teenage daughters, he says, “I want to give kids a safe place to be instead of the alternative. I want to give them other options than the streets and drugs.” Richard often talks to his children about the disease of addiction and teaches them to live life with a positive outlook. For him, honesty is the best policy, “I always tell my kids, ‘don’t ask if you’re not sure you want to know the answer.’” Sharing cautionary tales about how the disease of addiction progresses is key, he says, to helping his daughters avoid repeating his mistakes.
As a token of his gratitude to Pathway Society for giving him the tools to cultivate a healthy, functional life, he donated his construction services to remodel one of their buildings and bought the Pathway House a lifetime membership to the local video rental shop. Richard is profoundly grateful for his new, sober life: “I’ve gotten in to living life to the fullest: I’ve gone skydiving, I’ve gone scuba diving, horseback riding. And I do the simple things. Ladies in my neighborhood are jealous of my garden. I do karate, take my daughters to Hawaii and Disneyland, I’m just enjoying life.”