EVERETT, Wash. — On most days you’ll find Bryan Dennis walking the sidewalks of downtown Everett.
“Hey guys. How’s it going?” he said to a couple laying behind the McDonald's on Everett Avenue.
Dennis was looking to make a connection. He talks to people he believes he has something in common with.
“Would you guys let me tell you about where I was at a couple years ago?” said Dennis. “You guys are in a very similar position.”
Dennis’ story with addiction started when he was a teenager. He had oral surgery, and a doctor wrote him a prescription for an opioid.
“I took them, and they made me feel better. They made me feel better about who I was,” said Dennis. “It wasn’t a drug, because we talked about drugs, but those were street drugs, and this was not.”
Dennis’ story isn’t easy to listen to, and it follows a story line heard from so many battling addiction. Dennis said he lost relationships, his full ride to college and the jobs that followed. He said he eventually became homeless.
“I remember being cold. I remember feeling very alone,” said Dennis.
Dennis overdosed twice while using, but that feeling of loneliness was what he called his darkest moment.
“You don’t know who you are. You don’t know what the truth is, you’ve lost track of the truth and you don’t know where to find it,” said Dennis.
The thing about being lost, is there’s nothing left to lose. For Dennis, in what he called a moment of clarity, that meant taking a chance.
“I was lost on the streets for about a year when I contacted the sheriff’s department. When I walked up to an officer like just sitting there in a patrol unit in the parking lot. Somebody I think has said something like, 'Those officers are here to help people,'” said Dennis.
The memory is a blur, but inside that car was Elisa Delgado, a social worker who embeds with Snohomish County deputies.
“For whatever reason, at that moment I felt safe talking to them and me being honest,” said Dennis.
“He agreed to coffee, then an assessment and finally treatment,” said Delgado.
Delgado will tell you getting people off the streets and into treatment is part of her job. For the past three years Delgado and deputies have visited camps around the county.
Dennis said the work by Delgado and the sheriff's office saved his life.
“I felt like they trusted me. The way that they treated me made me feel hope. Like I was worth rescuing,” said Dennis.
In the months Dennis worked to get clean, he said Delgado and deputies with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office took him to treatment, brought him clothes, groceries and helped him with court appearances. Dennis said on occasion he still meets with them for lunch.
“I think sometimes the most unlikely help comes from unlikely sources, and in this situation, I got the greatest help from someone I would have been most afraid to tell the truth to,” said Dennis.
He’ll never forget where he’s been, but his life is now focused around his passion – working on boats in the Port of Everett.
He’ll also never forget who helped him get there. That’s why he talks to people in downtown Everett. He hopes to make a connection and find someone else ready to take a chance.
“In my healing, I hope to become a healer," said Dennis. "I hope to be a voice of hope, and I want people to know there is life after drugs and alcohol. There is life after what feels like hopelessness. A very rich life.”