Geoffrey Hyser is the Director of Operations at Serenity House Detox Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Hyser grew up in South Florida, where drug use was prevalent in his household. He remembers his father smoking pot throughout his childhood. When he was about 12, his parents divorced, and he began using cocaine with his older brother. For the next 25 years, Hyser struggled with reigning in his addiction to crack-cocaine and alcohol.
“I was a full-blown alcoholic as well,” he said. “At age 21, I began to drink a lot of alcohol to take the edge off the crack.”
In addition to being homeless and eating out of dumpsters, legal consequences began to pile up for Hyser. He had to detox in jail twice. During that six months, Hyser said he had “a lot of time to think,” and decided that he needed to make a profound change in his life.
“I had the thought that there has got to be something better,” he said. “My mother was very successful. She was raising my son who was born addicted. I knew if I got my act together, my mother always wanted me to be a father to my child. I had no one to hold my hand and take me there. I became content knowing that my children would be okay.”
Upon being released from jail, Hyser became involved in the local recovery community and resided in a sober living home. His mother had a friend in recovery, who also owned a plumbing business. This was the first of several opportunities that Hyser was able to seize thanks to his newfound recovery.
After several months of working in the plumbing business, his housemates found him a job with a construction company. One of his first projects was remodeling the facility that would later become Serenity House Detox Center.
“I was working on the construction crew and remodeling the original building,” he said. “A good friend of mine was part of the original Serenity House crew and said they needed a Behavioral Health Technician. I threw my name in the hat.”
Hyser took the job in 2012, and has been with Serenity House ever since. He is one of the few employees remaining who has worked at the facility since day one. Hyser often tells clients who are apprehensive about finding work that as long as they do the next right thing, they will be okay.
“Clients will ask ‘How do I get a job?’” he said. “I say ‘I have been employed since the day I got out of jail thanks to people from the program. Keep following the path that is laid before you. But you have to be in recovery.”
Hyser believes that the care he and his colleagues provide at Serenity House is unique because their philosophy has always been about putting the clients first.
“The Serenity House way has always been about the client,” he said. “It’s been that way since day one. You have to have compassion and empathy. I’ve seen them do amazing things for people with no money to their name.”
As Hyser has worked his way up from BHT to Director of Operations, he still takes as many opportunities as possible to catch up with clients.
“Seeing somebody get a glimmer of hope is very rewarding,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to share my story. If someone comes up and says that it helped them, that’s what it’s all about.”
Today, thanks to his recovery, Hyser married a woman who used to work for his mother, who he says at one point saw him at his worst. Hyser and his wife have a child, Hyser’s third. He is in contact with both his 18-year-old daughter, who lives with her grandparents, and his 17-year-old son, who lives with Hyser and his wife.