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Recovering alcoholic uses experiences to help others
Contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health 630-312-7508

Hinsdale – In the last seven years, New Day Center volunteer Ronald Gignac helped numerous alcoholics down the road to recovery, but as a recovering alcoholic himself, Gignac says he is the real benefactor.

“Volunteering at New Day Center has given me a new lease on life,” the 75-year-old Westchester resident said. “There’s more to sobriety than not drinking. The real gift is that you change the way you think and how you live your life. It’s very gratifying when I can convey that to someone who’s come into the program being negative, angry or even hateful and see that light come on.”

Two days a week, Gignac leads aftercare groups at the center, a program of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. He also lectures four times a month for individuals in the 28-day program and those participating in the six-week program. Moreover, he files paperwork, prepares fliers and contributes in hosting a monthly fun activity for the groups. The social activities do more than underscore the fellowship the groups offer; they teach valuable social skills.

“When you become sober, it can be daunting to be in these situations when you have a history of drinking at events,” Gignac said. “I used to just imagine people walking up to me and saying, ‘My God, Ron, why are you drinking Coke?”

Nor does he mind the long hours, for Gignac has witnessed the devastating effects of alcohol on others and feels abundantly paid for his time when he shares patients’ successes. His grandfather and mother were alcoholics; one of his daughters, a 51-year-old recovering alcoholic, recently underwent a successful liver transplant.

Before entering the recovery program, Gignac’s own drinking problem escalated when he retired in 1994 after 42 years in the Chicago Tribune’s advertising and marketing department. One day, two of his three daughters caught him drinking before noon. That event, coupled with the 40 pounds of fluid he accumulated in his abdomen, prompted them to call the paramedics.

Gignac argued with all of them, but eventually consented to treatment. He often shares with the people in his lectures a photograph of himself taken upon entering the program. The shock that photo provides speaks clearer than any words.

“New Day Center not only saved my life, it clearly gave me a reason to live,” Gignac said. “As one of the counselors said, ‘By volunteering, you think you’re saving others, but you’re really saving yourself.’”

Gignac has accumulated 5,000 hours of volunteer service at New Day Center. New Day Center offers outpatient treatment programs for adults who struggle with addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs. The approach is holistic, designed to recognize and treat each individual’s physical, mental, social and spiritual needs. Each patient is treated as a unique individual and therapy is based on a complete assessment of the person’s individual major life areas. New Day Center helps patients transition from one level of treatment to the next. In addition to stabilizing a person in crisis, the center offers plans of care that present each patient with the highest chance of long-term recovery.

To volunteer at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, call (630) 856-4000.