BISMARCK, N.D. - Doug Grenz has spent most of his life high, drunk or both.
"I've been fighting addiction for 40 years," Grenz said. "I lost jobs because of it. I lost relationships, lost my dignity, my sanity ... everything because of alcohol (drugs)."
Now sober since Feb. 13, Grenz, 61, is trying again to set his life straight and remain drug- and alcohol-free. He's living and paying rent for a one-room apartment at the Horizons homeless shelter in Bismarck owned by Ruth Meiers Hospitality House.
The shelter has zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and smoking.
The Vietnam War veteran quit high school at the age of 17 and joined the Army. Stationed in Da Nang, he quickly fell into the drug scene. What he first thought was cocaine turned out to be heroin. "So it didn't take long to get strung out on it," he said.
After nearly a year in Vietnam, Grenz was given an honorable discharge from the Army in 1971.
Years of moving around the country didn't curtail his use of meth or alcohol. Jobs came and went, girlfriends enabling his abuse, two children, two failed marriages, a drug deal gone bad in which he was stabbed nine times including in his spinal cord and carotid artery, the death of a son, a heart attack and seven stints in rehab.
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Grenz said he stopped taking meth in 2005, but after 10 years of constant, heavy drinking, fighting a crippled body, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and his addictions, Grenz said it was time to wake up to reality.
"Finally I realized that I have to grow up. I can't drink and that's a fact of life with me. Because when I drink, I drink until I pass out."
Now he said he is taking advantage of treatment programs he ignored in years past. He receives counseling for his post-traumatic stress disorder, AA meetings, medical care from the Veterans Affairs clinic and he recently started a part-time job at the Salvation Army.
"I have a good support system here now," Grenz said. "I'm really lucky to find the people I did and the people I care about now. My family, especially."
Grenz said the appeal or the need for alcohol is gone.
"I wasn't happy. That high I used to get from drinking was gone, too. I wasn't being satisfied. It's not worth it for me anymore," he said.
"I'm starting all over again. My family can see, and they're happy. They even come over and visit me."
If anything, Grenz's family and his wish to repair their relationships might be what keeps him sober for good.
"If I started drinking again ... it would kill my parents. As long as I stay on my programs, which I know I will, it will work out," he said.