Success Story: Anthony Acuña
Age: 62
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Interviewed by Dr. Aaron Kelly Anderson on Sept. 30, 2023
This recent “Success Story” conversation was an incredibly engaging one – all about a tumultuous journey through homelessness and addiction, before finding some much-needed resources and making a profoundly positive impact in the community for those facing the same obstacles. Mr. Acuña found shelter at Hope Village here in Albuquerque and eventually settled into his own apartment. He then secured a new job at New Mexico Solutions, and he has been thriving there ever since. He was even able to purchase a new car after only a couple days there! He is known among his colleagues for his kindness, initiative, and resourcefulness.
Aaron: “What is your current job, and who do you work for?”
Anthony: “I work for New Mexico Solutions, and I’m a Certified Peer Support Worker, or Peer Support Specialist – that’s what my title is. Basically, we do a sort of community treatment out in the community: We go see the clients, help them do applications, find housing, take them shopping... a lot of different stuff. Sign them up for DVR, find group meetings for them, fill out job applications, find job resources, food boxes, a little bit of everything – help them get cell phone service also.”
Aaron: “Okay! So, just basically being there for a lot of life resources, essentially.”
Anthony: “Yeah, life skills. It’s been – it’s really good. It’s keeping me in line with all the stuff I had to go through. It’s why I was able to get pretty resourceful with a lot of the local communities and finding resources and the ones that worked actually, and I just passed them down.” [laughs] “It’s been a blessing.”
Aaron: “Well, that’s excellent! That’s great to hear, for sure, that you’re able to – it sounds like you’ve kinda pulled from your experiences and passed that on to people.”
Anthony: “Yeah, it's always good to know that you’re not alone in this situation, especially with my age and my disability. And I had a lot of things I thought were gonna be barriers, but fortunately, working with the DVR and your program, the job development – it’s panned out. I mean, there’s been a lot of good relationships out of it that I’m able to keep and nicely pass them down to a lot of my clients. Share the wealth!” [laughs]
Aaron: “Exactly, yeah! That’s wonderful, for sure. And how did you first learn about LSG?”
Anthony: “Uh, I was a client for the DVR for, I think, almost 3 years, pretty close to it. And I was going through the OPRE [Office of Peer Recovery & Engagement] program to become a Certified Peer Support Worker. I got my license back in March, and right around the time that I got certified, I found out about the DVR contracting to your company. And I’ve been working from there – it’s like I’m the first new member contracted out from DVR, and it’s been really, really helpful. They helped me put in applications all over, we met with a lot of people, they helped me prepare my resume. Most of my resume was for electrical; I was an electrician for a lot of years. Then, my disability came in, and I was out of work for about 7 years. And just being able to find a job again was a task, and I’m grateful for all the support that I’ve been able to get. It’s been a learning experience, and I’m living proof that somebody can really start over again, no matter the age, barriers, life skills, changing your career, any of it. And I’ve been in recovery for about, let’s see, 3 years or a little over, and that's really helping too. So, I’ve been active in a lot of the community resources that are available, and I’ve been committed to keeping that relationship with them. So, it’s really panned out, because keeping all those relationships in good standing has made a lot of bridges to cross over for this line of work I’m in, and this was a whole new start for me – a fresh start, so I am blessed and I’m grateful.”
Aaron: “Well, that’s really excellent to hear, for sure! And it does sorta tie into the next question I have, because I was also gonna ask you about how LSG and UNTAPPED have been helpful in your process of searching for a job and securing a job and so on and so forth – and you’ve definitely spoken to that very well so far.”
Anthony: “Yeah, even after I got my employment, the person that was working with me from LSG has been really helpful. She contacts me still, at least weekly, to see how everything’s going. She even helped me with my benefit package, once I got some really awesome benefits from this job, so I’m really grateful. This whole thing has been a learning experience, and I am thankful for all the support that I’ve been able to get, with you, with LSG, with everybody. And just reaching out into the community has been making a big difference in my understanding of the way things were and the way they are now and the changes that remain to be made. It’s given me a lot more confidence, and I’m able to find that support. And any other people that are gonna be coming through your program, they should take it to heart and apply whatever their caseworker or their person that’s working with them is suggesting and be openminded that all these little things that we might not think are important, they really do matter, and they’ll make a big difference in the long run since they’re starting over. And you can’t give up; you gotta always be helpful and be willing to learn, because it’s a constantly changing world.” [laughs]
Aaron: “Absolutely. Yeah, the need for those kinds of resources is always there, you know, among that changing world.”
Anthony: “Right.”
Aaron: “Yeah, absolutely – that's really great to hear, for sure. And what is your disability, and how would you say it affects your work? Or does not affect your work?”
Anthony: “Well, I have a physical disability: osteoarthritis in both my knees and in my right hip. So, my mobility was starting to become an issue, and I wasn’t able to do physical things that I was doing while I was an electrician. So, it was kinda messy at times, but I still was able to find the energy to change over to this whole new career – you know, that was all new to me. Starting over at 62 years old, it’s something, and I’m really thankful. But I just hope it gives some hope to the people out there: No matter what the obstacles are, the barriers, your disabilities or the things that you’re not able to do, they’re always willing and able to learn how to do them and even better. The things that were keeping me from being able to do the kind of work I was doing before – I had to learn a whole way of living during the time I was on my disability and the benefits I was getting and learning how to do a budget and survive off of that. But I started taking the training, and all of it was really inspiring. And I met a lot of people out there that are homeless, that are recovering addicts, that were just going through so many obstacles and barriers that they weren’t able to have the right mindset to think that there was a chance that they could make it. And I just hope that whoever does think that understands that there is a way; there’s always hope. And if you’re able to get support from anybody, it’s a blessing – you should take it. And what you apply to it, it’s gonna come back tenfold. It might be a little bit of a process, you know, but it’s not on our time. It’ll all fall into the right place at the right time, and you can be happy doing what you’re doing. And it's amazing. The people that I work with, they’re all working as a team, they’re really good people to work with, and it’s like a big family. And I’m really thankful to be able to have this job and to be able to work with the people that I’m working with. And it’s taught a lot from all the years that I wasn’t able to, you know – or I thought I wasn’t able to. My mindset was very slowly changing to find resources, and I had to. I mean, I had no other way to live. But, keeping in good standing with all the places that I was finding, it’s really becoming something that’s expanding out into the community and into this job and with the people I’m working with. So, everything has a purpose, and sometimes we don’t understand it while we’re going through it – you know, like, going through the fire. We don’t know exactly what’s on the other end until we just keep going forward, keep moving forward. And that’s the best advice I can give anybody.”
Aaron: “Yeah, for sure! It’s awesome, really, because of the story of someone who’s been in your position – your story, specifically. And then you get to meet others who have at least been in similar positions, and you’re still able to do this great networking of experience, essentially. And of course, then you’re all able to let each other know what’s possible and to be able to guide one another through that.”
Anthony: “I suffered with an addiction for over 40 years, most of my adult life, and until I was willing to accept that I needed help, nothing was gonna happen. It wasn’t gonna change unless I was willing to accept it and work with it and find a better way to live. And it’s been a long process, but it’s been worth it, you know. My whole life’s been changed. And then, my physical disabilities, they’re still there, but I mean, I’m actually more inspired because a lot of the people that I’m working with, they’re even worse than I was. I mean, they’re a lot worse. But it’s like finding healing. And when you’re finding healing through someone else that’s gone through something that’s even more intense, it changes your whole mindset. I try to focus on moving forward, and the more that I accept the things that are coming my way and I see so many things that I’ve gone through – God, I’m able to remember all the places that I needed to turn to for help that were available and that worked. So, I’m able to share those with them, and it’s been good.”
Aaron: “Well, wonderful! Yeah, and sort of in that vein: I understand that you were also a resident of Hope Village. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your journey coming from there?”
Anthony: “After I bottomed out, I was on the street for about – a little over three years. I was homeless; I was pretty much at the bottom of my barrel, man. I was ready to give up. And I got to a point where I was sick and tired of the way that I was living, so I started searching for every resource I could find that would accept me, to find any kind of help I could. And I’ve been through a lot, and it’s been a long learning process, but the things that I was able to take back with me, I’m still using them. And it keeps me motivated; it keeps me focused in the direction that, um, there is always a way to come out of whatever you have. I mean, I was at the bottom of the barrel. I was ready to give up hope for everything. I was homeless, I was addicted – I was almost a senior citizen, man. And my body was wearing out. So, I’m like, you know, I gotta do everything I can in order to make it better. And if I don’t accept support when I can get it, it’s not gonna make any difference. It’s just gonna pass by. And that’s the only way it’s gonna change is accepting that sometimes we need help. And when we accept that we need help, we can be willing and we can find help from people that have gone through similar things, because they’re all around us. And it becomes another stepping stone to how you get better, how you succeed, when you’ve reached a point where there’s no return. And there’s – I’m a living miracle, brother. There’s something that somebody is going through right now that they think is the biggest obstacle in the world and it’s a barrier they can’t cross. They don’t have to do it alone. You know, there’s some really good places out here: LSG’s one of them, and it’s been really resourceful in helping me all along the way. And I had to change my whole resume, doing applications – they were helping me to put applications online, all over the place, man. Anyway, working out in the community has really brought a lot of healing. And being able to connect the resources that have been available to me is something that’s my goal. And there’s a lot of community places out here that are willing to help. And there’s some places where they can only do certain things. But finding the one – I'm hoping there’s gonna be a day when there’s one place you can go to and you’ll be able to connect with everybody, you know, for whatever it is you need, and that’s what I’m striving for.”
Aaron: “Yeah, absolutely – to be able to just network as many people as we can together, just so the awareness of all these resources and supports are at its peak, you know. That is the dream, for sure!”
Anthony: “You have many support systems you’re able to turn to when you need them, and the only actual thing to do is to share them. And, when you share them, you get a feeling of – you learn to be humble, learn to be grateful, and you will learn to go, ‘You know what? I know where this is, I know where that is. Hopefully, I can help you connect with them.’ And it just – it becomes, oh, the reach goes a lot further than you can even imagine, man.” [laughs] “It’s something that really quite amazes me.”
Aaron: “Yeah, absolutely, and that’s really great. Off of that, I guess the final question I have is: How do you envision yourself for the future, in your career and just in life in general?”
Anthony: “Well... I envision myself living a lot better life than I could imagine I was able to. And I have hope for every day, and every day I’m able to help with somebody else: what they need, what they’re going through, or guide them to learn to use what they do have. It makes a big difference, and I mean, there’s gonna come a time for every one of us when we’re gonna reach that age or we’re gonna reach that point in our life when we’re gonna need help. And that’s a reality, man.” [laughs] “And I believe in, uh... I don’t know if it’s karma, but I know that the seeds you plant, that’s what’s gonna grow.”
Aaron: “Yeah, absolutely, for sure. And it seems like you’re helping to plant some pretty great seeds, for sure.”
Anthony: “Thank you.”
Aaron: “Yeah. Well, excellent! So, again, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me today, and it’s been wonderful getting to talk to you and to learn all this about you and how you got to where you are now and just the impact you’re having, you know.”
Anthony: “Sure thing. You know, I had too much time on my hands; now, each day, I have some purpose, and it really means a lot. It means a lot to me, and I know there’s people out there that are searching for that purpose. And the only thing you really need to do is accept that there’s help out there, there’s support out there. There’s a lot of places that are willing to guide you. You just have to be willing to participate in them.”
[photo by La Dawna Pea]
WelcomeAbout UsPartners & AffiliatesJob Openings EventsStaffResources Apply HereUNTAPPEDA PhD on the Spectrum

LSG & Associates Inc

10320 Cottonwood Park NW, Suite A.
Albuquerque, NM 87114