‘I’m not a criminal, I’m just a drug addict’: Man’s search for a fresh start

Christopher Eichelberger is hard to miss. Covered in tattoos, with a head full of dreadlocks and an affinity for brightly colored clothes, he will be the first to admit he will be the first to admit he is a different person today than when he was trapped in a cycle of addiction and crime. 

At age 13, Eichelberger began taking pain pills and soon he followed his parents path into heroin addiction. 

“I felt like we were closer,” he said of his parents. “So I continued doing it for that reason. And then it became something I enjoyed.” 

He came to Williamsport for a fresh start. 

After being released from his first stint in prison, Eichelberger tried to break his addiction. He made it two months before falling back into his old habits. 

““Some of it was because I went back to my old place with old friends and bad influences,” he said. “I needed a fresh start … so I tried this place.”

He went to prison for a second time and after completing this sentence the now 27-year-old Eichelberger knew it was time to turn his life around and that he couldn’t do it on his own. 

The Bethesda House in Williamsport first opened for male residents on Oct. 6, 2021 as a program of the Transitional Living Centers. It is a contracted state facility similar to a pre-release center, or a “jail without bars,” said Cleveland Way, program director at Bethesda house. 

The Transitional Living Centers offer home plan options for incarcerated men and women to make a positive and productive transition back into society, according to Nicole Miller, the center’s executive director. She added that the case managers will help reentrants with their goals of eliminating substance abuse, enhancing their mental health, finding employment, managing their finances and more. 

“Coming here, we can help them make that adjustment and give them the right resources and the right contacts to give them a running start to success,” Way said. 

The Bethesda house has 34 beds and has been at capacity since opening in October. The program provides a home plan option in North Central Pennsylvania that has been mission in the region, Way said. 

Eichelberger spent four months in the program and recently graduated. He now has a place of his own and is working hard to find a job. 

“My dad used to tell me ‘If you look for resources, you’re going to find them because they are all out there, you just gotta look.’ So, I looked and … I’d say it’s the best choice I made.” 

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

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