By Linette Hidalgo
A new year often brings change, as it is a time for reflections, resolutions, and a refreshed sense of possibility. For former Denver VOICE vendor Brian Dibley, 2016 is certainly proving to be a year of positive change. Brian recently moved from Denver to Amherst, New York, to be close to family and focus on his goals of finding work and staying sober.
Brian grew up in Lockport, New York, a small town not far from Niagara Falls. He was one of nine children, and felt very sheltered during his childhood because of a heart condition. A blockage in one of his main heart valves posed a risk for heart attack and prevented Brian from not only participating in organized sports, but also general childhood mayhem and play. However, the blockage was repaired by the time Brian turned 14, and he was able to get involved in athletics. Though he enjoyed sports, his interest soon waned and he found himself spending much of his time drinking and “partying.” Eventually, these particular extracurricular activities overtook his focus and he dropped out of school when he was 16.
He worked various jobs between the ages of 16 and 19, primarily doing maintenance and cleaning work. Eventually Brian needed a change and decided to enlist in the military, seeing this as an opportunity to travel the world and gain direction in his life. He obtained his GED and promptly enlisted in the Air Force at age 20. Brian went through several different trainings which took him to a variety of cities across the country. Then, in 1983, he received orders to be stationed in Japan. During this time he continued his military training and education, participating in courses in Korea, the Philippines, and Guam. Brian served in the Air Force for six years. He hoped to re-enlist, but was charged with a DUI near the end of his service term. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous to address his drinking but was unable to re-enlist.
At this point, Brian moved to Denver to live with his sister. He attained sobriety and worked in construction for the next couple of years until once again he started partying and drinking. Within a year he had two DUIs. He changed his career path from construction to upholstery. Again his drinking interfered, and he was fired from his upholstery position. He began working odd jobs. During this time he met a woman named Manuela who became a significant part of his life. Both were struggling with addiction. Manuela achieved sobriety but Brian continued to drink. This strained their relationship and Brian ended up homeless after moving out of Manuela’s.
In 2007 a friend informed Brian about the Denver VOICE vendor program and Brian chose to sign up. Brian’s work as a vendor allowed him to pay bills and supplement his monthly disability earnings. The Denver VOICE also provided him a great support system consisting of caring staff and volunteers, and encouraging fellow vendors.
“The Denver VOICE empowered me to get out and do more things, like get my disability benefits,” said Brian. “I was more encouraged and motivated.”
In addition, the Denver VOICE has given Brian an outlet to express himself through poetry. He has contributed his work consistently for several years.
Before his move to New York, Brian was a regular at the Denver VOICE office, always taking time to talk with staff, volunteers, and other vendors when in to purchase papers. He was always kind, polite, and could be counted on to toss out phrases like “wicked cool” and “bitchin’.” Now that he is back with his family, Brian reports that he is “happily enjoying life again” and is working towards making 2016 a great year. ■