Yasin Abdul Adi was born in Detroit, MI but, while still young, his family moved to Knoxville, TN – the places he considers his “hometown” today. Yasin says he always felt a God-connection and tried many things to deepen it – including 25 years practicing Islam. Here’s his story.
My high school graduation present was to be allowed to hitchhike to California and that’s when I experimented with marijuana, alcohol, LSD and heroin (but didn’t like the latter back then). In those days I associated getting high with new life and experiences.
Later on in life, we would sit around and get high, talk about the country and how bad it was; how it was for black people. I started using injectable drugs and eventually got around to shooting heroin.
I had some pretty good jobs during those years – iron worker, welding and data processing. But in 1984, after going through a divorce, I was put in jail for public drunkenness. Later charged with armed robbery – I received a 35 years! But I wasn’t a bad guy and, after 10 years, was paroled for good behavior.
I completed two years of college while in prison and, when released, enrolled in the University of Tennessee – earning a degree in psychology. With my psychology degree I worked as a youth teacher/counselor, wilderness therapist, crisis interventionist, community health coordinator and supervisor at a residential youth house.
But one of the things I struggled with was setting proper boundaries in relationships – I tended to get too involved. So, after working four years, I relapsed. And for the past 20 years it has been a cycle of crack cocaine and alcohol, getting locked up, getting out, using again and getting arrested again. It seemed like whenever I used drugs I broke out in handcuffs.
When I was released from prison in 2013, my mother had Alzheimer’s. I’m really proud of her – she was the first registered black nurse in Tennessee and later joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee. I tried to take care of her and did well for a while…but eventually relapsed and wound up back in jail.
Upon release I went to Knoxville Area Rescue Mission (KARM) and joined their program. It was working for me but I relapsed again. KARM put me in contact with HUM and that’s how I arrived here early in 2016.
Along the way, I had given up on Islam and came to realize that there was something different about Jesus. He personified mercy, grace and forgiveness to all of us – even though we continually fall short. I had a transformational moment at a tent revival in Nashville when they sang “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” – and I surrendered. It wasn’t emotional…it was just time. Jesus is the only One who personified mercy, grace and forgiveness, while we continually don’t quite hit the mark. That resonated with me.
I love Gospel music…because I love Jesus…and was so grateful to be able to join the HUM band when I arrived here. Knowing I always do better in recovery when I stay involved with physical activity, I also joined the Back On My Feet running team (BOMF) here at HUM. But BOMF isn’t just about running – they also offer financial literacy, resume classes and community service.
So in October I’m running the full marathon in the Baltimore Running Festival, representing HUM and BOMF. I need a team because of my loner tendencies. And I’ve learned a lot from running – I’m learning to slow down.
I’ve benefited greatly from my mental health counseling here at HUM. So I’ve started working on a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling which will count towards my masters in applied psychology and counseling. It will take a couple years…I’ll be 66 when I am done!
But I’m excited to help other people my age gain insights into their own possibilities – of training, of enlightenment, of being aware of all they can still do and be!