John Osborne, formerly of Fenton who now resides in Arizona, is eternally grateful to Bob and Jennifer Strygulec, directors of Fenton Center of Hope.
It was through their love and compassion, and refusal to give up on Osborne that led to his recovery and giving him a new lease on life.
Osborne, 48, was born in Flint and lived in Fenton since he was 5 years old. He graduated from Lake Fenton High School in 1991.
The beginning of Osborne’s troubles began when his first wife, Christina, died in 2008 at the age of 36 from an accidental prescription medication overdose due to a pharmacy error.
“While I cannot go into specifics, I did win a settlement from the pharmacy due to the horrible mistake,” Osborne said. “At the time of her passing, I felt very guilty because I was the one who picked up the prescription, and I didn't double check it before giving it to her.”
Osborne said he fell into a deep depression and felt that he had a part in her passing.
“At that time, I became unable to care for our 6-year-old daughter and had to give her to a family member,” he said. “My home was also condemned around this time and I couldn't afford to fix it and keep it, so I lost my home. I lost everything in the home, my dogs, my clothes, everything.
“The combination of the loss of my wife, my daughter, and my home was more than I could take and I turned to liquid Vicodin. That progressed to Vicodin pills, and then I moved to Oxycontin and marijuana,” he said. “After a few years I moved to heroin, first snorting it and then injecting it. I also did crack. I spent over 10 years as an addict, doing whatever it took to support my habit. The money I was awarded from the lawsuit was all spent on drugs. I was frequently homeless and sleeping on the streets. I sometimes had to eat out of trash cans,” Osborne said.
“During this decade of abuse, I overdosed seven times. The last time I was pronounced dead and the sheet was pulled over my head, but I jolted up and the paramedics were able to bring me back to life. I feel that the last overdose was my rock bottom, and was God's way of telling me to get my life straight and to help others by telling my story.”
Fenton Center of Hope
“My friends and I used to go to the food pantry at the Fenton Center of Hope,” Osborne said. “We went there for most of the 10 years that I was an addict. We never attended church, we just went there for the food.”
In 2018, Bob and Jennifer told him, "We love you and we do not want to see you die."
“Bob and Jen kept working with me. They found a job for me, and the man I worked for told me I mattered, that I was worth something, that I was smart. My co-worker told me that I have a purpose, that I can help others. These people are my true family.”
Osborne needed surgery in April 2018 and Bob volunteered to take him to the hospital and stayed with him during the operation. “He made sure I got back home safely and even brought me some snacks that he bought for me out of his own pocket,” Osborne said. “I couldn't believe it, what did I do to deserve these people and their love and kindness They asked nothing of me in return. I love them so much, they are such good people. They are two of my angels.
“I needed to have somebody show me they loved me, that I matter, that no matter what I've done in life or who I've hurt, God forgives me and loves me. Bob and Jen have been like mom and dad to me. I can never repay them. I can never show them enough gratitude. Bob and Jen just kept coming after me, they wouldn't back down. They would say prayers for me that would give me strength. The ladies at the food pantry at the Fenton Center of Hope were so sweet and kind to me. I call them my grandmothers.”
In the beginning, Osborne said he was not a religious person. “I felt like, when God took my wife and all the bad things happened, that He had turned his back on me. Bob and Jen showed me that He loves me and cares about me.
“I am religious now, not over the top but I try to tell people what He has done for me. Yes, I believe, and I want everyone to know it.
Shortly after October 2018, Osborne had one relapse, “and that was the last time I used drugs,” he said.
Osborne currently works in an Arizona warehouse for amazon.com. “It's hard but satisfying work, and it feels good to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay,” he said. “I like my new life, it's a whole lot better than the life I was leading. I don't have to wake up sick, I don't try and hustle to get money for drugs. I don't have cold sweats or vomiting due to needing a fix. I have a normal, relaxed life now and I am grateful every day.
“I would just like to say to anyone who is still going through it, or who doesn't know what to do — stay strong and keep going forward. At the end of all that darkness, pain and misery there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. When you feel it's worthless to keep trying, just know that it's not. Keep going, keep your head up, don't let things bother you too much to where you feel the need to use drugs to drown the pain.
“Take it from me, dying is permanent,” Osborne said. “Life may be hard, but you have to persevere. If you have someone trying to help you, and telling you what can happen, listen. Don't be like me and take over 10 years to wake up. Please take the help offered and know that there are better days coming in the future.
“Please don't judge addicts as bad people,” he said. “They are good people. They are just looking for a way to ease the pain and suffering. Do what you can to help them.”
(In an article “Heroin overdose victim identified,” published in the Times in October 2017, John Curtis Osborne’s alleged involvement and legal battle regarding the overdose death is detailed.)
ABOUT FENTON CENTER OF HOPE
Fenton Center of Hope exists to serve our neighbors who are hungry and in need of resources. It is at 2525 W. Shiawassee Ave. Fenton, Michigan 48430. Hours are Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find them on Facebook. Phone is (810) 620-8167. The Fenton Center of Hope offers a variety of services, including Food Pantry, Baby Closet, Job Skills Training, Classes, and Small Groups.