Buster Howard is a Behavioral Health Technician at Serenity House Detox Center in West Palm Beach Florida. Born and raised in Miami, Howard started drinking when he was ten years old. For the next fifteen years, his mindset was, “whatever you got, I want some.”
After some legal trouble, Howard’s public defender suggested he seek treatment. He stayed in a facility for 35 days before moving into a sober living home. At age 25 he got sober, and has been ever since.
While in treatment, Howard met a young man named Ozzie. Ozzie was a professional baseball player who died one weekend when he relapsed. Though painful, this incident has helped Howard keep his own recovery front and center.
“I try to tell clients that they probably have Ozzies in their life,” he said. “If people keep using, they’re dancing on their graves. For me to realize this, someone else had to die. That’s a high price to learn a lesson. If you care about your friend who OD’d, what do you think they would want you to do?”
For 25 years, Howard has stayed connected to his recovery community. In 2012, the former owners of Serenity House Detox Center asked him if he would take a position as a Behavioral Health Technician. Though it took a few tries, Howard eventually accepted. He has been with Serenity House since day one.
Howard uses his own experiences of substance use and treatment to inform his care for clients. He thinks, “How would I want to be treated if I went back to detox?”
“As a whole, we each bring something different to the table. We’re like a jigsaw puzzle,” Howard said about his colleagues. “We treat the clients as individuals. One of the things we’ve always tried to do is to treat people with respect. We’re not Stepford techs or Stepford therapists walking in lock-step. The clients can plug in to different people.”
As a gay man, Howard struggled with finding a higher power, and can relate to other gay clients who feel similarly. As a person with 35 years of recovery, he is able to connect to older clients. And still, as a person who got sober when he was very young, he’s able to connect to young clients who worry about having to stay sober–one day at a time, for years to come.
At the end of the day, Howard is always focused on what is best for the clients, even if that means strong recommendations to eat.
“There’s a joke around work that I’m a food pusher,” he said. “I always say, ‘the world looks better on a full stomach.’ This is a growth center. We want you to be well-rounded when you leave.”