I just left a meeting here at the Mission where I shared a little about my archaeological work in the Middle East. People can tell I am passionate about all that. But I finished by pointing out that the really good stuff is not what I dig up over there, but what happens right here on the 1000 block of East Baltimore Street. I admit I have special feelings about this one (and you will see why), but it has been 8 years now for Kevin and he knows God is still faithful.
My life hit bottom the summer of my 40th year and I entered a hospital in Montgomery County for detox. During my brief stay at the hospital, I met a nurse named Gayle. I told her I was broken down with no money, no insurance and virtually no outside support. She suggested I consider a one year spiritual recovery program at the Helping Up Mission in Baltimore. I thought about it and later agreed. After discharge from the hospital, late in August, I came to Baltimore.
Upon arriving at the Mission, I had to sleep on the chapel floor for a few days until I got into the program. That first night I couldn’t get any sleep. I remember opening a Bible I found and reading some passages by the glow of the street lights outside. All I could think of is what would happen to me.
The next day while waiting in the chapel, I witnessed several men coming and going who were smiling and energetic. They were friendly and had direction. They were at peace. I sensed they had a guiding force. When I asked a gentleman what it was about the men, he said, “Brother, it’s all God!” This was the first time in my life I started to believe there was a God and he could possibly help me.
Once I got into the program, I met Pastor Gary who it turns out is Gayle’s husband (the nurse at Montgomery General). Now that’s God! Pastor Gary introduced me to the Bible and the notion of having a personal relationship with God. I remember in his class, we were reading the Proverb for that corresponding day. One man was talking about how God instills in us character and integrity and how we have a responsibility to submit to him. I felt almost immediately upon my entrance into the program that maybe God was the answer and that I wanted to turn my life over to God. At a chapel service later on that day, I asked God to come into my heart.
During my stay at the Mission, I worked in the Development Office, coordinating volunteer services, speaking in public and working with staff to administer the program. As my year progressed, I really felt a change coming over me. God was molding me and shaping me! I had a lot of ups and downsparticularly dealing with the day to day issues of life without drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t easy that year but with the help of HUM I was able to address my legal problems, to get into counseling and on medication for my depression and anxiety and fulfill my needs for food, shelter and community.
As I progressed into the Life Prep phase of recovery and at age 43, I began my search for a job. I found a job as Assistant Director of Development raising money for a local non-profit child abuse prevention agency. I worked there for a year and eventually moved out of the Mission in 2004 (a year after I graduated) to live with friends I met at the Mission when their church came to volunteer, Doug and Missy. They explained I could live at their house for a year as a part of a transition back in to the community.
Unfortunately my health took a turn for the worst in 2005 and over the next four years, I had 8 surgeries, 2 ICU stays, almost died twice, was diagnosed with cancer and had one nursing home stay. While I was seriously ill, I started to drift away from my faith and my 12-step meetings because I was depressed, fatigued and in a lot of physical pain. But God did not leave me. He’s continued to work on me and prepare me for something better. I did finally get back on track and began attending meetings, re-cultivated my relationship with my sponsor and most importantly with God. God has continually watched over meeven when I almost died.
I believe addiction is a day to day struggle. If I do not maintain my spiritual connection, I could throw away all of my clean time. Today, I have a choice not to use. This gives me freedom. Prior to getting clean, I didn’t have a choice, I was a slave to alcohol and drugs. The keys to my sobriety have been to continually working on my relationship with God.
I will pick up Kevin’s story here. I know how he works his spiritual recovery. It has been 8 years and he treats his Bible and prayer as daily sustenance and support. Kevin keeps in regular contact with his spiritual accountability partners, Doug and Missy, as well as his 12 Step sponsor. He makes church and 12 Step meetings a priority in his week. Kevin says he works at continuing to “develop and broaden my support network and take care of my day-to- day physical and emotional needs to avoid hunger, anger, loneliness and to get rest.” Apparently it is working!
Through all his tough times, Kevin found that supernatural Source who promised to “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Recently he came back here to tell his story to my classes. I am so happy for Kevin and proud of him – and I know God has some really cool things in story for him still. I really do love my job.
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director