After surviving twenty-five years of addiction, Don Halfenberg found his calling in life. He had spent a big chunk of his young life partying, drinking, and doing drugs. It wasn’t until working at The Midnight Mission where he would uncover his greatest purpose.
Tragedy was an unfortunate reality in Don’s life. At eighteen years old, Don lost his brother when his brother’s friend drunkenly drove off a cliff. Don was spiraling out of control. He was mad at the world and everybody in it. But, a miraculous moment transpired when he decided to go to Oregon for a fishing trip and found out he was speaking to the man who had killed his brother. It was a moment where he thought he sworn he would have killed his brother’s friend for taking his brother’s life. However, Don realized from talking to him that his brother’s death was truly an accident and that he too was dealing with years of immense grief. Don believed God orchestrated that moment so that both of them could have a sense of healing.
Although incredibly thankful for this meeting, Don still struggled with his addiction. Nevertheless, four years after mourning the tragic death of his other brother, who took his own life, Don finally decided to surrender and enroll into a drug and alcohol program. He had finally realized that he was going to lose his life if he continued living a life filled with drugs and alcohol. After 6 months within the program, Don was eligible to work. He decided to go to school to become a counselor. He got his C.D.S. (Chemical Dependency Specialist) certificate and started working as a counselor within the very program he was enrolled in. He continued his education and received his C.A.T.C. (Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor), becoming officially certified by the state of California. By 1999, he even became the Program Manager in that same program.
In 2004, after calling The Midnight Mission for a character reference, Don was invited to a lunch meeting and within ten minutes got a job as a Program Manager. Working at The Midnight Mission for the past 11 years is where he has found that calling. He says, “I do what I do here because I couldn’t help my brother. I didn’t know then what I know now. But now, I can help other people’s family members and I get to pay it forward.”
Don is grateful to have the opportunity to give to others what was given to him. While his days are filled with executive meetings and supervising a staff of twenty-three, he still makes sure to work with the guys enrolled within The Midnight Mission’s Healthy Living program to stay connected to the “pulse of the house.”
He finds extra satisfaction when he sees boys within the program transform into men or days when kids come to The Midnight Mission to meet their newly changed fathers. “I barely existed and today I live,” he says. “As I celebrate 18 years of sobriety, I have learned that when you try to make a difference in the lives of others, it ends up making a tremendous difference on yours. I will continue to serve and will always make sure to help out in some way.”
Written by: Berenice Famili