Tragedy as Transformation

by Randolph Portugal

“I put myself in this situation because of drugs; I fell on some hard times.”

—Justin Golia

When commenting on TASK he mentioned, “This is a great program, and when you have other financial issues to worry about, this place sincerely looks out after you.” Golia has shared that he currently cannot afford housing and that he is constantly trying to find ways to earn money. Before, Golia had a history with drugs. He was addicted since his early twenties and would put all of the money he made towards his addicting habit. Now, he strives for any financial opportunity to support his family, especially his daughter. He has been sober for one year.

“It is so hard to find work now. I had a contract with my father in Fort Dix’s Floor Services, and I was a professional certified vinyl installer, and use to make sixty-five grand a year. But once the contract was up, I didn’t have a permanent job anymore. Usually it ends up being a side job now and most people nowadays are not paying for these types of services due to the recession and so we’re left out in the dirt.”

Golia wholeheartedly described how he lost many people in his life. At the age of 19, he lost his younger brother in a car accident. Shortly, two years later, his best friend died of a heroin overdose. His surviving brother, who is also younger, was also into drugs; however he is now sober for over a year and a half. After seeing his younger brother overcome his addiction, Golia was inspired to do just the same. Looking back, Golia regrets the mistakes he’s made.

“I put myself in this situation because of drugs; I fell on some hard times.” However, Golia is still hopeful and is making an effort to try to improve himself in order to gain custody of his three-year old daughter. “Since I don’t have a roof over my head, my daughter lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend,” said Golia.

Golia genuinely believes that things will get better, but only as long as people do the right thing. Once people start doing that, then things will ultimately work out. Golia is currently selling cars and living with a woman whom he looks after. He is saving enough money to become independent and try to have his daughter live with him. His dream job, however, is to become a marine biologist and plans to attend community college first to begin his path towards success.

 “I have been through a lot and I realize that once you go through a series of terrible storms and still find your ray of light, then there is a lot to be hopeful for.” Although tragedy indeed does tear people apart in the most devastating ways, it can also be an opportunity for transformation: to shape yourself in any way you want, which is exactly what Golia is doing.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The Wall newspaper.