Dennis’ Story: A message of hope

Dennis Coselmon, 58

Born and raised in Flint, currently living in Flint Township

Feb. 7, 2014

“So I either could go to treatment or my plan was to just keep going and kind of wither away, but that didn’t happen. I decided I wanted to live.”

Telling his story was not something foreign to Dennis. He has told it to anyone willing to ask. Anytime. Any place. He was very open and honest about his life, who he was and his journey. He was very candid with us and not ashamed of his past. We met one day in the library of Central Church of the Nazarene as he began to share what life was like as a drug addict. His face lit up with a smile when he spoke about how his life has changed and the choices he made to clean up.

Dennis was kind and told jokes as he went through his story. If he could help one person with his story that was good enough for him.

We had met Dennis after multiple people had told us we needed to hear what he had to say. We heard a glimpse of his story during an event for Carriage Town Ministries a few months back and we were excited to hear more.


Dennis poses for a photo at Central Church of the Nazarene


Dennis sat down with us ready to tell us everything. Looking at him, you wouldn’t have guess that three years ago he had hit bottom.

Here is his story:

Dennis spent a majority of his life taking drugs and drinking alcohol. It changed his life and almost took life on several occasions, but he hopes what he learned from his choices can help save somebody else.

All in all, he wants people to know there is hope.

Dennis grew up in what he called a normal household with a normal family. He started trying beer when he was younger and there would be drinks left over from his dad’s parties.

“Growing up I would say that alcohol was my gateway drug. And I do consider it a drug. Then started smoking pot in early high school, then probably went to LSD,” Dennis told us. “I tried it all. I liked it all. Then I found cocaine, which was probably the beginning of the end, which I didn’t know many, many years ago and chased it for probably, I would say, 30 years.”

Dennis’ drug use started small with marijuana at the age of 14 and then it grew to gradually take over his life. At age 16 or 17, he started using cocaine, mushrooms and downers, among other drugs.

“I always tried to justify the pot smoking, you know, it wasn’t bad. It was just a way to keep you right where you were,” he said, adding that he would never be able to let go off drugs while still smoking it.

Dennis worked for General Motors. He had parents the cared for him. He was married for 17 years. Despite any of that, drugs controlled his life and his relationships.

He was making good money at GM and then spent good money on drugs. His wife, who he married at the age of 26, also used drugs … and probably still does, Dennis said. He would go through a couple of stints of recovery but would go right back to drugs after.

Drugs were used to numb reality. Dennis didn’t want to deal with life.

“(When addicted to drugs) coming down from a high … there’s only one thing you’re thinking and that’s where you’re going to get your next high. That’s where you go. That’s that vicious cycle,” Dennis said. “That’s what your life is. It’s not much of a life, but that’s where your head’s at. That’s where your mentality’s at. It’s not, ‘How can I stop this?’ or ‘Where am I going to go now?’”


Hitting Rock Bottom

Dennis’ life began to spiral out of control in 2009.

On Aug. 1, 2009 his mom passed away after a six-year battle with cancer. He had been living with his mom and dad for about year at that point helping to take care of his mom and his dad, who was legally blind and had on set Alzheimer’s.

“I watched my mom basically wither away,” Dennis said. “I was spiraling. I didn’t want to deal with it. I don’t know if I’ve mourned her death to this day.

“Bottoming out, it is and was key for me.”

Rock bottom came for Dennis is March of 2010. He was still dealing – or not dealing – with his mom’s death. He wanted drugs, but didn’t have the money.

Dennis stole between $4,000 and $5,000 from his dad to buy drugs.

“Got really into drinking, drugging, smoking crack every time and every chance that I could and every dollar that I could find. Didn’t matter how I got it,” Dennis shared with us. “That was a turning point for me.

Dennis had no place to go. He couldn’t go back to his dad’s house.

“So I either could go to treatment or my plan was to just keep going and kind of wither away but that didn’t happen. I decided I wanted to live. I believe that God was speaking to me all this time. I know he was. He had to be.”

He was staying at a dingy hotel, one he wouldn’t even let a dog stay at, he said. That’s when he walked to downtown Flint. One thing led to another found himself in the lobby of the Salvation Army enrolling in their six-month recovery program.

Two weeks after graduating from the program he began employed there taking intakes for men coming into the program. That happened for the next two and a half years.

Then one weekend he packed his bags for a weekend away. That one weekend changed everything. A weekend turned into 10 days and at the end of the 10 days he found himself needed to once again get clean of drugs.

This time he found himself at Carriage Town Ministries.

“That was very, very humbling. … I needed to be humbled. I needed to be put in my place,” Dennis said, adding that he ran into people he had helped register for the program at Salvation Army.

He was at Carriage Town Ministries for almost two years, during that time moving into the transition home, finding a job at a local restaurant before getting a janitorial job at Central Church of the Nazarene and then at Diplomat Pharmacy.

And every step forward in his life, he was open and honest with people about his past. It was part of him. And he wanted people to know things can be different, things can change.


Finding Hope

When Dennis was asked how it was now that he has been clean for three years and life was completely turned around, his answer was simple. “It’s living. It’s life. It’s great.”

He feels emotion. It’s no longer total numbness. He has to stay focused on that.

Dennis will tell his story to anyone who is willing to listen. He wants people to know there is hope.

“There’s hope. … You got to want it. You got to surrender. You got to hit rock bottom. You got to want to change. You got to be willing to do the work. You got to put in the time. If you put in as much effort as you did getting high as you will getting sober you’ll get sober. If you don’t, you won’t

“You can do it. It can be done. Trust me. I’m living proof.”

Forgiving yourself is a very important step. Telling yourself you have value is the next step. Admit when you’re wrong. Try to do tomorrow a little better than today. That’s Dennis’ advice.

His advice to others who may encounter someone going through a rough time can be summed up with two words: Don’t judge.

More compassion in this world will go a long way.

“We don’t know what they’ve been through. You don’t know what their circumstances are. You don’t’ know where their mental state is at. You don’t know where they came from. You don’t know what they’ve just been through. You don’t know. If the world was more compassionate I think there would be a lot more recovery,” Dennis said.

Dennis ended the interview with this. “To God be the glory.”

This is the tenth story in the Flint Stories Project. Please continue to check back for more stories. Feel free to contact us at

Everyone has a story. We are listening.

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