He's spent years helping people recover. Now, he's celebrating 40 years sober: 'People need recovery'

He's spent years helping people recover. Now, he's celebrating 40 years sober.
Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 17:29:29-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A man who has dedicated his life to helping people overcome substance use disorder is now celebrating 40 years in recovery.

"Every picture, every book, everything tells a story in here," John Shinholser, the president and co-founder of the McShin Foundation, said.

A look around his office is like flipping through pages of his biography.

"And this is just a drop in the bucket, you know. I got boxes of stuff," Shinholser.

While much of his story has been put to paper, some is still being written.

August 10, 1982 marks when he started his journey to recovery. For ten years prior, from ages 13 to 23, he said he suffered from addiction, taking whatever could get him high.

He enlisted in the Marines at 21 and two years in, with several strikes against him, his colonel came to him with an ultimatum.

"Look, I'm going to have to give you a choice between the brig and a bad conduct discharge or you go to rehab," Shinholser recalled.

He ended up choosing the latter and was connected with people he calls "hope dealers".

"They educated you on, look, you're not a bad person who needs to get good. You're a sick person that needs to get well. You have an illness. It's called addiction," Shinholser said.

He finished his time with an honorable discharge and moved on to start a successful painting business.

All while he was continuing his own recovery, Shinholser and his wife, Carole McDaid, were helping others do the same.

"We had a lot of folks hanging out at our house, sleeping on our couches. People were dropping off kids at our house because we had a reputation for helping people," Shinholser said.

In 2004, the two combined their passion for helping and created the McShin foundation.

"We incorporated, filed a nonprofit status and got an office all in the same day," Shinholser said.

Within six months, they moved from that office to their current home, the Hatcher Memorial Baptist Church in Henrico County, and have reached close to 10,000 people through programs in jails and prisons or in their recovery centers and houses.

"If they need access to sober living, we can give it to them today. If they need access to medical detox, we can get it to them today," Shinholser said.

Shinholser said their data shows that 62% of their attendees remain in recovery two years later.

"I have to say that John was, he's been a lifesaver for a lot of people," Marvin Monroe, one of the earliest success stories of the foundation, said.

He said he had been looking for a halfway house for some time while in jail in 2004. He learned of the McShin Foundation, joined and has been clean for 17 years.

"He was my mentor and he actually saved my life. He did. I tell many people that all the time. If it wasn't for John Shinholser, I would not be here. I wouldn't, that's for sure," Monroe said.

For Shinholser, stories like Monroe are the fruits of his labor.

"I mean, that's the hit right there. That's why we do this work," Shinholser said.

And Shinholser, who will be 64 next month, said he will keep working until he's 70.

"My purpose was to ruin my life with drugs and alcohol. Now, my purpose is to make the world a better place for recovering people, people need recovery," Shinholser said.

Some of his focuses include recovery voices in policy decisions and more support and re-entry services in jails and prisons. With many more years to come, Shinholser said he is looking forward to what the future will bring.

"I do believe my best work is in front of me. I mean, I feel like we ain't seen nothing yet," Shinholser said.



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