“I’ll be spending Christmas at my sister’s house.”

Richard is no longer wandering the streets. Instead, he is spending this Christmas with family!

Richard, 58, has lived his whole life in Baltimore. Dad was a steelworker and mom stayed home, taking care of the four children.

Richard remembers his grandmother struggled with alcoholism and was reclusive. While he didn’t like that about her, he started to drink, himself, by age 13. “I was small in stature and shy,” he says, “and it helped me fit in better. It gave me ‘beer muscles’.”

Looking back, Richard says he was an alcoholic by 16.  Still, although drinking regularly and working a side job, he did earn his high school diploma.

But, at 19, his parents couldn’t tolerate his drinking and “invited” him to leave the family home.  On his own, and continuing to drink, Richard kept steady employment in local restaurants. A hard worker, he often received raises and promotions. Then, at age 28, his boss invited him to his first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.

It was a moment of clarity! Richard bought into the 12 Steps of AA and began faithfully working the program. A couple of years later, his girlfriend, the mother of his son, agreed to marry him. Richard remembers this as a good time in his life and he stayed sober for eight years.

But, he started getting bored with his daily routine. “Life got kind of stale,” he says. One day, Richard decided to take a drink – even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. Within a year, he was divorced. While he cared about his son and saw him almost daily, Richard admits it wasn’t quality time.

The two of them became estranged when Richard was sent to jail for a year. In fact, they only saw each other once during the following decade – at the viewing for Richard’s mother after her death. By that time, his son was on his own journey of alcoholism… and recovery, with two years clean.

In her later years, Richard’s mother needed 24-hour supervision because she was now blind and diabetic. Still bored with his life, Richard moved into her house and cared for her – all-day, everyday for seven years until her death. But that was okay with him because he could also isolate from the world and keep drinking.

After his mom died, Richard remained isolated and drinking in her house. But after two years and numerous unpaid bills, his sister evicted him. Richard says, “While I wasn’t shocked, I still had no plan. I was penniless and had this feeling of impending doom. I cared, but knew I was powerless – and that it was my own fault.”

Then something happened. A friend tricked Richard into attending an AA meeting because she knew his son would be there. The two exchanged pleasantries and his son introduced Richard to two ladies at the meeting.

The next week, now homeless and penniless, Richard was standing on a Baltimore street looking at a store window display. Inside, one of the women from the AA meeting recognized him and came out. They talked and she promised to take him to an AA meeting where he could learn about a program that might really help him. 

As a recluse, Richard was afraid of programs, but agreed to go to the meeting. There he met three guys from Helping Up Mission who shared about HUM’s 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program. After hearing their stories and seeing how they were doing now, Richard felt a spark of hope.

But, it was the Labor Day weekend and there were no intakes until Tuesday. Richard prayed, asking God to keep him alive until he could get to HUM.

Then, an AA friend from years ago recognized Richard and offered to take him to his home for those three days. Richard slept on his couch, got cleaned up, ate good food and went to more meetings with his friend.

Upon arrival at HUM, Richard said, “I was looking for all of the homeless people, but I couldn’t see anyone who looked like me. The moment I walked in I felt hope!”

But Richard was in terrible shape – 115 pounds and couldn’t get up out of a chair on his own. And, after nearly a decade of isolation, being in the midst of 500 men on the HUM campus wasn’t easy. “But I noticed I was getting better,” he says. “My life was changing and I could see it. I could even look people in the eyes again.”

Richard’s daily work responsibilities on campus also required him to interact with many new people. He met guys serious about their recovery and they became friends, even helping him reconnect with his son.

Today they’re doing much better. “It’s amicable,” he says, “no longer about the past. He believes I am sorry. We love each other.”

Richard also reached out to his ex-wife and thanked her for raising their son. He even reconnected with the sister that evicted him.

This fall Richard celebrated one-year of sobriety and graduated from our one-year Spiritual Recovery Program. “I am truly learning what it means to live one day at a time,” he says.

Thanks to you…Richard no longer wonders the streets, isolated and homeless. As a HUM graduate he continues to live and work on our campus – and this year Richard will be spending Christmas with his family – at his sister’s house!

"I will spend Christmas at my sister’s house." 1

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