“My Dad and his girlfriend were both alcoholics. They lived in an urban neighborhood very different from the neighborhood I had grown up in. I had never been in that type of environment before and felt like a fish out of water. As part of my attempt to fit in, I tried alcohol and marijuana… and eventually cocaine and heroin.
“I ended up mostly drinking and smoking marijuana. I didn’t think I had a problem. I kept mostly to myself because the drug usage and violence in the neighborhood were intimidating to me.
“After 2 years, there was an incident with some of the guys I was hanging out with. My Mom brought me back to Virginia to finish school. There was a neighborhood lady there who used to take me to church. That’s when I was introduced to Christ. I was baptized and became a member of the church.
“After graduation, I moved back to Baltimore and lived with my Grandmother. We got along well and she was my rock. I started going through my loneliest periods. I didn’t realize how introverted I was becoming because of my marijuana use and I suffered through a long season of depression.
“In 1995, I tried to kill myself for the first time after a rough break up. I got through it but I was never treating the depression – just going through the motions. Marijuana became a medication for me. As long as I was high, I could deal with my demons but I wasn’t able to function sober. I was working but I had no social life. I rarely went outside except to get marijuana and cigarettes– some days I would play video games all day long. Life was a struggle for me. I would wake up irritated that I was alive and had made it through the night.
“In 2001, I started working at the Starbucks inside BWI airport. I loved it and started interacting with the customers while I was working. After a year, I was given the opportunity to transfer to a new Starbucks inside of a downtown hotel. I was there for 5 years and was given the opportunity to supervise a location.
“I had gotten my own place and was doing well on the surface. But, my marijuana use and my mood swings were increasing. I was overwhelmed by depression and loneliness and eventually lost my dream job. I was on very shaky ground and started contemplating suicide again.
“In November 2012, my Grandmother passed away. I was angry because I felt like she left me. I never was able to get back any sense of footing.
“I was looking for jobs unsuccessfully. I didn’t have anywhere to live so I moved in with my Aunt. She was dealing with depression herself and our relationship struggled. One day, in the height of my struggles, I tried to strangle myself. I was unsuccessful and ended up calling the suicide hotline.
“I was hospitalized for 6 days. While I was there, my Aunt called to tell me that I would need to find somewhere else to live. I had no idea where to go and decided that I would kill myself after I was released from the hospital. I started thinking about how I was going to do it. I didn’t have any money so I wasn’t smoking marijuana. I was in a deep depression and didn’t see any hope for my future.
“A psychiatrist at the hospital told me they were trying to find a place for me to go. He told me about Helping Up Mission. I was unsure of what to expect but even the prospect of a place to go started to relieve some of the weight on my shoulders.
“I didn’t realize till I arrived at the Mission that the program was a spiritual program. I was so excited to learn of this unexpected blessing. I felt right at home and knew that I would be able to do it! I was very comfortable talking with the pastors on staff and could see that this was a brotherhood.
“I got into counseling and started getting things off of my chest. I learned techniques that enable me to get through bad moments. I started reading the Bible. Little by little, life became easier.
“I’ve really experienced a total transformation. I don’t expect that life will be a picnic in the future. I realize that even after I graduate from the Spiritual Recovery Program I will face challenges but I know that I’m making good decisions now.
“My worst days are gone. If I’m ever feeling down, I know how to deal with it. My counseling appointments are so helpful. I now have the tools to deal with my depression and bad feelings. I don’t have to smoke marijuana and play video games to escape any more.
“I am studying and reading books and thinking about becoming a behavioral counselor. I enjoy interacting with the guys at the Mission and letting them know they are going to be okay. I see myself in the guys who have newly entered the program.
“I’m involved in work therapy here at the Mission and I set little goals. I set a goal to become a HUM intern and I’m now an intern in the rec room. I’m having more fun sober than I did on my best day while I getting high. I relate much better socially now. I spend time with my Aunt and Uncle – they are very supportive of my journey here