Today Carla’s Room is Beautiful Again 

“I always had pretty walls and beautiful surroundings. Today my walls are beautiful again.” 

Carla, age 49, was born and raised in Cecil County, Maryland. “It was good being me as a little kid,” Carla recalls. “I did not like Barbie dolls and stuff like that. I was a tomboy, but my bedroom was really pretty. I had pictures of horses, puppy dogs, kitty cats, and arranged my closet in a rainbow. I was the oldest of three sisters and we were always together wherever we went. I was taught to protect my sisters. But when I was 8, I was sexually abused. I felt responsible for my sisters, and I thought that I was going to get in trouble. So, we did not tell anyone. I went into my room, and I remember ripping down all my pretty pictures. It became dark black and hard to understand. I had resentments and I did not understand why.” 

“I grew up as a rebellious little girl and when I was 12, I smoked marijuana. I told my family at the dinner table that I smoked ‘weed’ and what were they going to do about it? I was emotional, angry, and hurt. I did not know what to feel. I did not feel like I fit in, and as I grew older smoking ‘weed’ made me feel good. I started dabbling in other substances as I grew older. At age 18, I got pregnant before I graduated high school. I started drinking heavily and gained a lot of weight. I turned to drugs to lose the weight and when I was 24, I started using heroin. I quit drinking completely. The heroin made me feel okay, and it was controlling my weight.” 

“Heroin and incarceration eventually took me away from my family and my kids. When I was locked up, I was okay, but when I came home, I would continue to use drugs. I spent years back and forth like that. I overdosed on heroin 21 times and had to be revived with Narcan 21 times. Once again, I was in a real dark place.”  

One night, while waiting for drugs Carla was attacked by kids with baseball bats. “They beat me up really bad and I had to get rushed to a trauma center. The girl giving me my CAT scan recognized my name, but not my face. We went to high school together. She asked me if I wanted to get treatment and I said yes. I went to a treatment center, to a detox center, and back to a 28-day recovery program.” 

“When I was getting discharged from the 28-day program, I told the lady that I needed something more. I was homeless and destined to return to the methamphetamine lab that I was living in if I did not seek more treatment. I could not go to another month long, or even a six-month program. I needed something to transform my life and that is when she told me about Helping Up Mission (HUM).  

HUM puts together the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of recovery. I never put those three things together. I enrolled, did my black-out period, and went back home to Cecil County to see my grandson. But when I got back home the same life pattern began and soon, I was isolating and not returning phone calls.” 

“Finally, Women’s Program graduate Cindy got a hold of me and asked me where I was. I told her that I was in Cecil County at my meth dealer’s house and that I wanted to come back. Please come get me! Cindy said, ‘I am on my way!’ When I came back, I had to go into another 28-day program which really helped me.  

“Most of the time my fear comes out in anger. So, if I am angry, it is because I am fearful, and I become protective. It leads me back to being a little girl and not knowing how to deal with that feeling. I do not want to be hurt again. Now, it is important for me to tell others how I feel. God has done a lot in my life, and He has surrounded me with people that love me and accept me. He loves me no matter what with His Grace and mercy. I call out to Him when I am troubled knowing the consequences could be death.” 

“I have hope now. I want to go to school for art. God did not give me this talent to just do nothing with it. I have a creative side and I like to express myself with color. I think creatively. Now I have a clear mind and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I can do art therapy to help little kids through traumatic experiences.” 

“HUM provides real friendships, real relationships, and real love. I am in a safe and healthy environment where all my needs are being met. It is life-transforming not having to want for anything. Without the donors’ love and concern this would not be possible. My sponsor Kelly is my beacon for teaching me the way she learned recovery.” 

At the end of the day the most amazing thing in Carla’s journey brings us back to childhood. “I always had pretty walls and beautiful surroundings. Today my walls are beautiful again. They are filled with things that I drew. It is serenity.” 

Mike, age 49, was born in the United States territory of Guam and moved to the U.S. at age 3.  Raised in a military family, his father a military doctor, Mike, often moved from place to place. The youngest of four children, he had a great childhood. “I was surrounded by all of my family’s good love. Everything was provided for us and then some. I grew up in a Christian home and believed in God whole-heartedly,” Mike remembers.

Regardless of his upbringing, Mike was never comfortable in his own skin. “I could be in a crowded room and feel all alone. I was popular, played sports, and had a good sense of humor, but none of that mattered. At the age of 13, I experimented with drinking. I discovered ‘liquid courage’, talked to the prettiest girl, and even kissed her. Because of the alcohol, I started throwing up, but I could not wait to do it again! I had so much fun.”

In school, I often heard ‘If you only applied yourself.’ In tenth grade I made the decision to ‘apply myself,’ and they were right my grades improved! The only problem was my drinking. I spent each summer after tenth grade in rehab. My mother would wait outside of church while I attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. My family recognized my problems drinking before I did. And when I finally did realize I would drink more to escape my reality.”

“I graduated high school and received a full scholarship to play soccer at the University of Delaware. After heavy partying during my sophomore year with other drugs, including hallucinogens, I was asked to leave. I was confused, lost, and scared with no direction. I knew that I could not return home. My father told me, ‘I cannot control you, but I can control my environment.’ So, I packed my bags and moved to Southern California which led me to crystal methamphetamines and better marijuana.”

“After ten years in California, I was facing serious charges related to my drug use. The crystal meth had me do things that I would never do. I had lost contact with my family due to shame and guilt, but I called my mother. She told me that ‘God had told her something bad was going to happen to me.’ She flew out for my court date and the judge acknowledged her for being there. He said, ‘I am going to drop all of the charges, but you have to leave California and check yourself into a long-term treatment program.’ I did just that and managed to piece together ten years of sobriety through 2015.”

“I was living in the Little Italy section of Baltimore in a long-term relationship with my girlfriend who was also an addict. She relapsed and I threw her out. After three weeks, I was so lonely that I found her, brought her back, and tried to help her. But I lost sight of my own recovery and started using again. One Wednesday night, I was walking my dog and noticed a large group of men entering St. Leo’s church and asked what they were doing. They were men from Helping Up Mission (HUM) going to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting! I knew where I needed to go for my recovery and enrolled in the Spiritual Recovery Program for the first time in 2017.”

“I left after the 45-day (limited communication) blackout period. I soon lost my house which led me to being homeless on the streets. I came back to HUM in 2018 to detox and face new charges. Three weeks into the program, all my charges were dropped again! I knew that the hand of God came down in that courthouse and I believed that HUM was the place to provide me a safe, clean, and healthy environment.”

“HUM taught me patience. Through looking at other men in the programs and seeing what they could achieve gave me hope. If they could do it, then I could do it. I just needed to sit back and get out of my own way. I learned to try different things that the mission had to offer. Which resulted in me doing everything that I could sign up for like retreats at Camp Wabanna and equine therapy. I even was chosen to attend a retreat with Grace Fellowship at the Rockbridge Young Life property. We went hiking, horseback riding, and I met some good Christian men. It was a ‘gamechanger.’ Fellowship was what I was missing!”

“At HUM, I have gained self-love, self-acceptance, and healthy relationships. I have redeveloped relationships with my family. I spend as much time with them as I can. I have had cavities filled, tooth extractions, and even have had my hepatitis-c cured.  When I became work eligible I got and outside job. I was making money, but I felt that God had a different plan. I stared working in the Treatment Coordinator internship plan working with the new guys in the program. I could literally see the light go on in their eyes and watch HUM’s life-transformation begin. I showed up every day doing the next right thing which led to me being hired as the Philanthropy Coordinator.”

“I am going to continue to let God’s plan guide me and I invite you to come take a tour of HUM, with me, to see the Lord’s good work!

January 2022 NL Feature Story – Scott W.

“HUM has helped me get new teeth, new glasses, expunge my record, and even try the benefits of acupuncture. There is just too much good happening daily.”

Scott, age 45, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. When Scott was a child, his family did a lot of moving around. “I was in and out of school and always the “new kid.” I was also short and heavyset. This combination resulted in me always being made fun of. So, I dealt with the humiliation by learning how to become a recluse. And I recognized my first addiction as being food,” recalls Scott.

“I was born Methodist, but my father’s side of the family was Roman Catholic. I was uncomfortable. I felt like everything that I did wrong would result in me going to hell. I had my first drink at the age of 10, sneaking a shot while nobody was watching. When I was a sophomore in high school I was “hanging out” with the skateboard crowd and started smoking marijuana daily.”

“After high school, I was looking for a career. A lot of my family were either police officers, fire fighters, or in the military. My grandfather was a Marine, and he used to come over and tell “war stories.” I was intrigued. I always thought growing up that I was not getting the love that I craved and yearned for from my family. And if I joined the Marines, then they would be proud of me.”

“I impulsively made choices of the direction that I wanted to go in my military career. And that was not the best choice for me. I ended up having a breakdown and they put me in the mental health ward for two weeks. I had already been dealing with low self-esteem, from my parents drinking. My father was a heavy drinker and a terribly angry person. Prior to the military, I had dealt with a lot of childhood trauma, physical abuse, and mental abuse. The military made me feel like I was nothing and I could not handle it. They discharged me.”

“After that, I would escape reality. Whether it was drinking, going to bars, or smoking crystal methamphetamines. I was out there “ripping and running” two, three, four days in a row. This is when I realized that I had a problem. I did not talk about anything, and I internalized everything. I just wanted to escape. I worked job after job, had relationship after relationship, and even went to prison from 2003 until 2006 for theft. I just could not stop using.”

“In 2017, I was in the Howard County detention center. I told them that I was a common addict and begged them not to release me. I told them that I was going to die if I went back out on the streets. But they had already made the decision to release me. I found myself walking down Washington Boulevard heading towards Baltimore City when I stumbled upon this little church (Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church) in Relay. It looked like something right out of an old movie. I cried out, God if you are real, I am going to walk into this church and throw myself on the floor. I need help and I cannot go another day like this. So, I walked in while they were having a service and they invited me to stay. An interim pastor Josiah sat me down. He said, “I have a good friend chaplain Vic King at Helping Up Mission (HUM), and I am going to give him a call.” Vic reserved a bed for me in Overnight Guest Services (OGS), and that is when I started my recovery journey.”

“In 2018, I graduated from the Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP), moved out, and was doing well. Soon my meeting attendance started dropping and I was not being open and honest with myself. But the seed of recovery had been planted and I knew that I had to come back to HUM. I enrolled as a Graduate SRP member and graduated again in 2020. Unfortunately, I was moving too fast, and I left the program in order to deal with life on my own terms. That did not work out. One day, I was lying there ignoring phone calls when I got a call from Frank Haddix (Client Services Manager). I answered it, started crying, and told him that I could not live like this anymore.”

“Once again, I came back to HUM. This time I walked through the doors and told God, “I am completely free of myself. I am open and willing to surrender to You. That is why I am going to college. I want to help people that suffer from the same disease that I suffer from. I just want to serve the Lord in everything that I do. With my degree, the first in my family, I want to become a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor. I have recently been offered an intake intern position. When I was a Marine, I was an infantry man, and now I will be working on the front lines of recovery!”

“HUM has helped me get new teeth, new glasses, expunge my record, and even try the benefits of acupuncture. There is just too much good happening daily. And I just want to thank you for your kindness. Guys come here with nothing and leave with everything. You are appreciated and I am living proof!”

Jonathan, age 45, was born in Miami, Florida, and raised in Severna Park, Maryland. He spent his formative years with his father. “I love him, but a lot of things were kept behind the scenes. And I watched a man that I respected my whole life, completely deconstruct through drinking. In 1997 he hit a big wall and sobered up. His life completely turned around,” recalls Jonathan. “Because of this, I have always been interested in the dynamic of parental role models. I needed to know these things.”
“I graduated high school and got accepted into schools with scholarship offers. In an act of hatred, I took the educational path off the table. My father thought that I did not want to go to college, but I did not go because I hated my father. The flood gates of addiction completely opened for me when I turned 21. I remember buying my first beer and drinking by myself. At that point, I knew it was a bad idea. I got into the restaurant business and that environment became gas on the fire of my addiction. For ten years, I wanted to go back to school and try and repair my relationship with my dad.”
“I developed anger issues that resulted into borderline rage. One day, I came to work drunk, got into an argument with my manager, and got fired. I would be allowed to come back to work if I sobered up. The next day I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and it just hit the right spot. Soon after I started going to meetings, my friend hired me to work at his restaurant. The new job brought me back to Severna Park and the bus route that I would take drove right by Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). To me that was a huge sign. So, after ten years, I finally ended up going back to school. I was sober. I was going to AA meetings. I had a good sponsor. I had a good place to live. I developed a genuine enthusiasm for academia and wanting to succeed.”
“I would graduate AACC, then the University of Maryland with a degree in English language and literature. Being sober made it all possible. But, one night I decided to celebrate and celebrating became drinking. Even though I finally fulfilled what I dreamed of doing, I left college in a self-induced black cloud. I ruined the experience. My girlfriend since childhood told me that she ‘loved me but, could not watch me do this to myself again,’ and left me.”
Jonathan would spend the next few years bouncing from job to job, and hotel to hotel. “I celebrated my 43rd birthday in Portland, Maine. I was killing myself drinking and could not grasp the thought of my dad seeing my body on a slab. I called my father and told him that I was scared and could not live like this any longer. I got on a train the next day and came home. When I got there, my stepmother informed me that they knew about my problems and would like to suggest a place for me to go. ‘We would like you to try Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore.’ “
“I arrived at HUM in March. I had no other choice. But old habits die hard, and I relapsed and was out by October. My anger and rage came back and one of my best friends ended up calling the Sheriff’s office on me. And by that December, I was outside, alone, cold, and frightened. I had hit my ‘rock-bottom.’ “
“God, please help me get out of this! I called my friends at HUM and they told me to ‘just get here.’ I agreed. The next day, waiting for the bus and freezing cold God answered my plea. The bus that I was waiting for was not going to stop. He told me ‘go stand in front of that bus.’ It worked, the bus practically ran over me, but it stopped.”
Jonathan had to spend three weeks in HUM’s Overnight Guest Services (OGS) when he arrived. “Pete Griffin, Assistant Director of Programs, told me to ‘figure some stuff out for myself.’ And John Mister, OGS Treatment Coordinator, told me ‘to just show up, consistently, to prove that I wanted recovery.’ It was a humbling experience, but three weeks later he asked me if ‘I had anything to take care of?’ I said, no, everything is right in front of me. My diligence finally paid off and I was admitted back into the program.”
“The initial ‘Seed Phase’ (45-day blackout) moved quickly. After that was over, I started going out and walking for exercise – on purpose. A passion that I carry to this day. I also appreciated the continuity of knowing what I was doing, having been in the program before. I was held accountable, but there was room for me being able to ask, ‘am I doing the right thing.’ I learned how to let things go. I meditated, prayed, and read. We went on a therapeutic mountain biking trip. Getting on the bike helped me parlay my walking into hiking. I have been training with a 40-pound pack, so that during the next year I can hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.”
“Thinking about what the future may hold, I have a lot more faith in my abilities. I could do a multitude of things. And one of them might have to be sitting still for a while, and I can live with that. I have gratitude for so many people here. HUM is an awesome, beautiful thing.”

Your Support Gave Jeremy the Chance to Forgive

“My receiving and giving forgiveness was my Spiritual Awakening.”

How does the hope that you provide help change a man who has battled adversity through addiction in finding new life through the Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP) at Helping Up Mission (HUM)? To find out, please read this story of hope provided by Jeremy, age 45, born and raised in Southwest Baltimore.

“To understand my story, you have to know how it started.” recalls Jeremy. His stepdad took out his aggression on a six-year-old Jeremy, in many ways. One story of mental and physical abuse stands out. “When I was six, we would chop wood for our wood burning stove. He would make me hold the logs while he swung the ax. He warned me that if I had let the wood go, he would mess me up. Imagine, at six years old, having someone that you trust and is supposed to care and love you, swing an ax at you – mentally torturing you with the possibility of physical abuse.”

“I do not remember a lot of my childhood. I blocked out much of it because it was too traumatic for me to deal with. I went to my first rehab at age 12. And before I got out my stepdad divorced my mother, she had a nervous breakdown, and tried to kill herself. So, at age 12, I had free reign. I had nobody left to care about me and could do whatever I wanted. I did as much drugs as I could do to fill the void inside of me. To numb my mind.”

Years of drug abuse finally caught up with Jeremy and his younger brother. During Christmastime of 2018, Jeremy and his brother were looking to get high. “My brother called me to help him get high. He was “dope sick” . We got drugs and we got high. He fell asleep, but I had to go. I took two pills of dope, a spoon, and a new needle, and put them in his backpack and texted him the details so he could find them when he woke up.”

“I did not hear from my brother for a couple of days. He lived with his boss, and his boss called me to tell me that he had overdosed and died. I figured out that he found my text message, took both two pills of dope and overdosed. My soul broke that day. Something in the core of my body broke. I tried to kill myself. “

Jeremy was unable to end his life, however hard he tried. Eventually, after another attempt had failed, his girlfriend suggested that he needed to figure out what he was going to do. A friend of his had come through HUM’s programs twice. “He made the phone call for me to enter HUM at 6:00 am the following morning. So, I went to sleep for the first time without having to put another shot of dope in me.”

“One of the first mornings after my arrival, I walked by the chapel and something drew me inside. I heard a voice say, ‘let it go.’ My eyes welled up and I sat in the chapel and cried like an inconsolable child. I cried for an hour and a half letting go of 40 years of pain and agony. I cried for dealing with the grief over the passing of my brother, and my mother. It was just pure sadness. What was I going to do? So, I prayed for the first time in a long time. An honest prayer for help and spiritual healing.”

“I had to figure out what I wanted to accomplish and how to succeed. I was willing to change all my bad habits. I was willing to let go of my shame, my guilt, and my trauma. And willing to pursue a relationship with God. I knew that God was the answer. I just did not know how to seek Him out.”

“I needed a stronger relationship with God, because I needed to deal with not being able to grieve my little brother’s loss. I need to deal with the trauma of my childhood. My Treatment Coordinator Matt Joseph and Director of Spiritual Life Mike Rallo gave me the same advice. ‘Sit with the sadness, sit with the guilt.’ At first, I did not want to sit with it. Eventually I did and Matt asked me to write a letter to my brother and let my sadness out on the paper. He had me sit down with him and read the letter aloud. I could not get through the first words without crying. When I finished, it was a huge release. I was able to let go of the guilt and shame that I felt for my role in his death.”

“My next step was dealing with my relationship with God. And Matt and Mike said, ‘sit with it.’ For two months I sat with God. I prayed an honest prayer, asking Him to help me.” After weeks of other men in the program helping Jeremy find God, one day in a Trauma class dealing with forgiveness, Jeremy’s prayers were answered.

“I saw God’s sadness. I heard God say to me that this was going to hurt Him more than it hurt me. I had a vision and saw God crying. I saw my stepdad beating me and God was crying even harder. I saw Jesus being crucified. I saw what God was doing to His Son for me! And I forgave my stepdad.

My receiving and giving forgiveness was my Spiritual Awakening. God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit were in that room with me. Healing me from all the pain and telling me that my scars make me beautiful.”

 

Our feature story this month focuses on the journey of Rick W., a 53 year old Navy veteran, who was born in New Jersey and raised in Boston. His alcoholic parents divorced when Rick was 8, and he took it hard. His family moved to Florida and eventually back to Boston. His father was now a raging abusive alcoholic and at age 12 Rick would have to intervene. Coincidentally, Rick started drinking alcohol at age 12, to escape loneliness and the childhood trauma of bullying. “I could not sleep at night and sometimes I got very depressed. The first time that I drank, I had four beers and I liked it so much and from then on, if there was anyway that I could get a drink, I would,” Rick remembers.

Rick feels that some of his bullying was brought on by himself. A lover of fiction, especially the stories by F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Rick would frequently dress up in white sports coats and tweed pants. “I just really got into that period of time. They (the characters) had freedom. They were always drinking, partying, and having a great time. I realize now that the books were my first indication that alcoholism was not great for me to have. And at the time, I realized that I was an alcoholic.

Eventually Rick dropped out of high school to join the service. “I was tired of school. I was tired of people. I wanted to be able to take care of myself. So I joined the Navy, and I thought that it would be a place where I could get my life back under control.”

At first, Rick trained to become a medic hospital corpsman. But, when he was getting ready to go to his first duty station, things changed. “I was told that I would become an “8048” and that’s a combat medic. It never dawned on me that I would end up a Marine. So I went to bootcamp and became indoctrinated into the Marine Corps, from how to salute to combat techniques.”

After spending time in Asia, Rick began training at Twentynine Palms Marine Combat Center in the Californian desert. “In January of 1991, we got our orders. I thought that I would not have nightmares anymore, I wouldn’t have to be bullied anymore. Fitzgerald became a distant memory. But it (war) changes you. The sounds of gunfire, the sounds of explosions. I was in Operation Desert Storm. I walked into battle with a gun in my hand and walked out with a strange sense of guilt that I have carried for the rest of my life.”

Once the war was over Rick’s life didn’t change for the better and drinking started to affect his military career. On one excursion in Somalia, he was sweeping a village, when an insurgent stabbed him with a crude knife. “I still have the scar, (the knife) got me deep enough that it took out my appendix, part of my large intestine, and almost nicked my spine. I spent three months in the hospital and four weeks learning how to walk again.”

The hospital administered morphine to ease Rick’s pain, but alcohol was his painkiller. “Being a medic, I knew that I was an alcoholic. Just like I knew it when I was a teenager. I never wanted to stop. I have Barrett’s esophagus from reflux attacks. And yet I still drank!”

In October of 2019, a peer recovery specialist named Joyce recognized that Rick needed long-term help and recommended Helping Up Mission (HUM). “For the first 45 days, I spent so much time in the chapel. It was the first time ever that I felt the Spirit come to me. I prayed to God to

please take the pain and anxiety away from me. And then I felt it all go away. I learned how to actually talk to God.”

At one point, Rick learned that he was staying in the program and doing recovery for himself. He wanted to finish the program. “Something about the graduations, keep you going. Seeing people phase up, seeing people graduate, and halfway through the year, you start noticing people that you have been interacting with. And you think maybe I can do this.”

“It’s funny when you come to HUM, you feel totally lost. And at some point, you are a part of it. It becomes your family.

Speaking of family, “The biggest highlight for me this year is because of all the work I have done, on August 22, my fiancee Elizabeth married me. She married me because she really believed and continues to believe in me. I never felt worthy. I was just a nice drunk. I drank alone. I never really was in love with anybody, I did not even love myself. I was able to marry the love of my life, and I would not be able to do that if it was not for HUM.

“Combat will change you forever. You will never look at the world the same. When you open up and believe in God, you finally know that you do not have to carry as much guilt. You can confess and feel whole again. The same goes for drinking. You can be forgiven. I’m a better father and a good husband. And I am going to become a Peer Recovery Specialist to help others turn their life around.

“It’s Okay to not be Okay” 

John, 46, grew up fishing the waters on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. John was eleven years old when he was taken in by his grandparents to escapthe abuse of an alcoholic father“My grandfather, John Sr. and I started building a boat. I followed his lead, and he took very good care of me. He showed me compassion and taught me what compassion for others meant. My grandfather also explained how forgiveness worked and how important it is to forgive. We truly bonded, and to my surprise, when we finished building the boat, we put it in the water, and he gave it to me. 

John lived with his grandparents for 27 years, and his life was good. “I joined the fire department, played softball, and did some pretty exciting things, but my grandfather got sick. The day that he died, a part of me died. My lifeline and my mental support were gone, and I replaced that with alcohol and disconnected from life. 

“It was a constant fight every day to keep my head above water. I was drowning. Two years ago, I was sitting in Medstar St. Mary’s Hospital when the doctors said there was nothing else that they could do for me. I looked down on the counter, and there was a number for Helping Up Mission (HUM). I called and asked if they had a bed, which they did. then called my mother for the first time in a very long time and said, If you never speak to me for the rest of your life, I need help with one thing. And she drove me to Baltimore the next day. 

“I spent my first night in Overnight Guest Services (OGS), feeling numb, alone, and lost. A guy that I have never seen before asked, “Hey, fella, you okay?” The following morning, he was getting ready to leave, and when I told him that I was going to join the Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP), his response was, “I can’t leave your countryself like this. I gotta look after you!” A few days later, we were both in the program. 

One day during class taught by Spiritual Life Director Mike Rallo, John was angry. “Mike just looked at me and said, Hey man, what’s wrong with you? And I answered, “Nothing.” Which he responded, It’s okay not to be okay. I started repeating that statement over and over, and after class, I went up to the roof, grabbed the railing, and decided to let go of my anger, because it’s okay. I let it all go that day, and when I came back down from the roof, I was a different man. I began to do things the right way. 

I engaged in my work therapy assignment in the OGS the right way. Working in OGS gave me the opportunity to be like my grandfather and practice compassion with grace.  I then recognized that he had been with me this whole time, and I looked up, smiling, and I have been okay from that day on.  

I then turned my attention to the 60 men that spend their nights in OGS. How could I help them with their barriers? So, I told them my story and wanted to find out how bad their storm wasConversations turned into building a relationship of trust. Often, the guys even taught this country boy about city life!  With my Peer Recovery Coach and mental health training, we started to break down barriers. 

In January 2020, John graduated from the HUM’s yearlong Spiritual Recovery Program and was hired by HUM as the first Treatment Coordinator for overnight guests. In March, when COVID-19 forced HUM to redevelop processes and procedures to comply with safety regulations taking additional precautions, John felt the calling to stay with the overnight guests and administer to their needs. “I wasn’t worried about getting the virus. I knew that God was not going to bring me this far to drop me. My faith in Him took away my fears.” 

When HUM’s community partner, Johns Hopkins Hospital administered COVID-19 testing, assisted testing the menensuring they were safe, comfortable, and receiving basic needs. One day, I started feeling tired and found it difficult to breathe. I was tested for COVID-19; the results came back positive for the infection. became angry and afraid as my body started shutting down. would not let the doctors put me to sleep until I knew that I would be safe. We agreed on a treatment plan involving intravenous fluids, which felt like my veins were on fire.” 

John spent ten days recovering in quarantine before being cleared to return to HUM and return to work with the men he lovingly serves“You know I am a big guy, and to be able to say, “Hey, this happened, but it’s okay. I have learned how to move forwardsharing with others, this is how you pray, and this is how you get through the barriers, and this is how you survive the storm. It’s pretty amazing.” Thank you for helping John feel amazing!  

Because of your generous contributions, Brian (age 41) has focused on his recovery and learned to ask questions. Brian was raised in Pasadena, MD and had a good childhood. “I came from a middle-class family. I never wanted for anything. My parents divorced before I was two and my stepfather became my dad, while my father bounced in and out. He was a holiday father, only visiting on Christmases and birthdays. I knew that I wasn’t the reason for his actions, so I don’t let it affect me. I grew up in a very strict environment. I did what I was told, when I was told. It wasn’t an ask why kind of household,” recalls Brian.

Drugs and alcohol were introduced to Brian’s life at age 12. “I began using psychedelic drugs like ecstasy and acid at an early age. But I didn’t realize that I had a problem until my thirties. In my twenties, I was a Union sheet metal worker. I could party, go to work, and go to school while using drugs. I never ‘had a problem’ until I met opiates. Once I did everything spiraled downhill.”

“When I was in my 20’s and early 30’s I was shy to an extent. I would stay in the house and only come out when needed. When I met opiates that changed. I ventured out of the house. I wanted to talk. I started hanging out on the streets, and once I did that, I became a part of the street life.”

Eventually jobs became harder to hold on to. One day Brian got hurt on a job and ended up going to pain management. “I figured out how easy it was to obtain large amounts of opiates. I went from two cars, a house and motorcycles to losing everything. Soon I was living in tents and abandoned homes. And by the grace of something I’m still here.”

Brian attended and completed a six-month program on his own free will. “After months of sobriety, I was walking down 25th and Maryland Avenue and the crack dealer said ‘testers’. At first, I kept walking. But then I thought ok. I could do this.” Shortly thereafter Brian was once again, living on the streets panhandling in West Baltimore.

Eventually an ‘Old Friend’ found Brian and told him that he was going to Helping Up Mission (HUM). Brian responded, “Really? You’re going to that place on Baltimore Street? He said, “just come with me man”, at first, I said, “no”. Yet, when I pulled up out front of HUM, it wasn’t anything like what I had in mind. And it was January and it was cold.”

“At HUM I had a question for everything. When I was a child we only went to church on Christmas and Easter. I never was religious. But the Spiritual Life staff has been open to my goofy questions. My beliefs have been opened. I want to learn more about religion, but I want to learn about all aspects of it – the good and the bad.

For the most part, Brian acknowledges that his work therapy assignments have had right timing. “I chose to come here, to fully work and focus on myself. I didn’t come here to get my kids back, for a good girlfriend, or a good job. At first, I cleaned toilets, and then I was a peacekeeper at the 23 desk. The 23 desk is a focal point of the building dealing with 400 different personalities (as they check in and out). It taught me patience. Finally, I started working in the Treatment office, where I ask a lot of questions and talk a lot with the men. I get to help people daily.”

On relationships, Brian has reached out to his father. He is also rebuilding the relationship with his mother. “Recently, I got a phone call from her, stopped by the house and when I was getting ready to leave, she asked if I would come by the next day. But family doesn’t have to be blood. My daughter’s mother has been there for me this whole year. We can relate. The other day I texted my daughter that I only had two weeks until graduation and she said, “I know. I am proud of you.” And that brought me to tears. So, through me being selfish in my recovery, I have earned back respect and relationships. I’m not perfect, but I am living reasonably happy. Now, I plan on doing the next right thing.”

“After graduation I’m going back to work and possibly taking the steps to become a part time Peer Recovery Specialist. I plan on getting my alumni badge and coming back here, to keep asking questions. I have a newly discovered passion for helping people. Now, I love talking to people.”

“To the donors, you ladies and gentlemen are truly a blessing, because of your blessings HUM gives so much opportunity and Hope.”

Thanks to your committed support, Graham (age 49) is rebuilding the relationships that eluded him during childhood.  Graham was born in Winchester, Virginia to good, hardworking parents and has a younger sister. But stability was not a part of his upbringing. “We moved twenty times by the end of high school. At a young age, I never felt part of anything and found it difficult making lasting friends,” recalls Graham.

By age 11, Graham started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.  “At first, using was purely ‘social lubrication’ but, I quickly realized that I was a full-blown alcoholic because my father was one as far back as I can remember. Therefore, Alcoholics Anonymous had always been in my life. But in high school, drinking was more like a badge of honor. I was the boy that your parents didn’t want you to hang out with. A big issue was my lack of discipline at home – a big resentment that I am working on today. During school, the vagabond lifestyle appealed to me, fueled by constant moving during childhood, I packed my things and followed the Grateful Dead group from the age of 14 until 17. I was a dirty hippy drug addict, living in school buses.  I ended up being asked to leave school my senior year for my absences.

At age 19, Graham was smoking crack cocaine and burglarizing houses. “I got arrested and the FBI got involved since we were moving stolen property from state to state. I served 3 years and left prison the same guy that entered. I was a “good boy”, doing what I was supposed to do. It was only because of a court order that I went to my first treatment center and got my first clean time. For my 30th birthday I rewarded myself and got high.”

In spite of his addictions, Graham was seemingly living the American Dream, he had a good job, a house, and a wife (who was sober, and she thought that he was…). His using continued and the marriage ultimately failed. They had a son, but divorced when he was two, and everything has been downhill since.

After the divorce Graham lived through “a series of messes, including homelessness, treatment centers, lockups, and moving to get away.” A trait that he learned from his childhood.

In 2015, Graham was living homeless in Rochester, New York. “My parents came and got me, and I returned home. Once again, I was living without discipline, drinking and going stir-crazy. That is when my sister intervened. She did some research and discovered Helping Up Mission. She dropped me off out front and I stood across the street smoking cigarettes. My vagabond ways almost took me out of Baltimore, but I walked through HUM’s doors – for the first time.”

Graham graduated from our Spiritual Recovery Program and was hired in the Maintenance Department. Two years later he relapsed and was let go. “Due to the stress of my prior relationship difficulties, I tried too hard to appease others. Over time, I stopped going to meetings and taking care of myself.”

In June of 2019, he came back to HUM. For the first time in Graham’s life, he asked for help. When asked what he is doing differently this time, Graham responded,” I no longer have the lurking notion of reservation. I now feel that I am finally a part of something. I have a sponsor and a home group. I am rebuilding relationships. I go out with my sister and we talk for hours about how we are more alike than different. I have reached out to my parents to tell them that I love them. My son is finally reaching out to me, which is scary, but with the help of my therapist I’m continuing to rebuild relationships.”

“My Spirituality and Faith are also different this time. I’ve always been a believer, but I had a hard time searching for answers. The Mission, notably Mike Rallo (Spiritual Life Director), and Pastor Gary Byers (Former Deputy Director) changed that for me through the way that they teach. I read the Bible every day. I go to HUM’s library and read books on Christianity. And with my sponsor’s help, I got down on my knees and prayed for the first time in my life.”

“When I came back to HUM, Kevin Healey (Assistant Director of Programs) told me to ‘take a year, relax and get to know myself.’ So that is what I am doing. After I graduate, I will attend CCBC to study psychology.

Today, I can finally say that I am reasonably happy. Everything that I need the HUM provides. I walked in here with nothing besides the clothes on my back and I have been taken care of. Thank you to the donors and the staff, because of you I protect and value Helping Up Mission.”

To read more of Graham’s story, visit helpingupmission.org/stories/grahamp

 

Bobby Johnson Sr. 59, a veteran from Salisbury, North Carolina hit rock bottom asking for a Christmas meal in Tampa, Florida. Because of generous donors like yourself, Bobby, a former chef, is now going to college with the hope to help kids develop their own culinary skills.

“I was raised by my mother, a single parent with help from my grandmother, but my father was in my life, so I had a good upbringing.”

As a kid I loved to succeed. I wasn’t old enough to get a newspaper route, so, I helped the newspaperman carry papers. I was on the school yearbook team. I was good at acting and theater, and I played football. At age 15 I started DJing and my mother suggested that I wait until I became grown to start doing such foolish things (laughter). Later, she would tell me that “when I was in school, I never gave her problems. I waited until I grew up to start doing things that were not right.”

At age 20, Bobby joined the military, got married, and got divorced. “I was a food service officer in the military from 1980 to 1990. At 32, when I got out of the military, I remarried but found out that my new wife had a secret. Prior to our marriage, she had a relationship with my father. I was so hurt that I could not even think about loving the Lord. I started hanging out with friends and smoking marijuana laced with cocaine, which soon escalated to crack cocaine. I didn’t want to embarrass my family being a “crackhead”. So, I moved to Tampa, Florida and for seven years I held onto my resentments which kept me in my addiction.’

During Christmas in 2004, living in substandard housing, Bobby went to a place where they were giving away food. And at that point, he asked, “why am I living, if I’m living dead? This was not me and I thought I was going to die. So, I asked God for help.”

Eventually Bobby turned to Baltimore for Recovery. “I started out at McVets, where I got six years clean. And then my mother passed in 2016, and a couple of months later I relapsed. I struggled and went home to North Carolina. The Pastor from my Baltimore church called, and I told him the truth.”

“He said, “I’m sending you a train ticket – pick it up, come back here, and we can get you some help.”

“It turned out that my pastor was a graduate of Helping Up Mission (HUM). When I realized it was a Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP), I knew that’s what I needed because I was spiritually broken.  So, I arrived in August 2018, and I have not looked back, and I have more joy today than I’ve ever had in my life.”

“At first, the hardest thing about being in this program was me. I was sensitive to authority. Now, I understand that people are put in positions to help and that I am here to get help. For example, I think I did every job the HUM has to offer. Free help and I was getting fired from free jobs! (Bobby belly laughs).”

“The easiest thing? Growing with God. Pastor Gary Byers taught bible classes, which planted a seed in me, just like when you start in the seed phase (first 45 days). Now I go to recovery classes at Mount Zion Baptist Church on East Belvedere.  My pastor is a very caring teacher.  He knows that I am now hungry for the word and breaks it down just like Pastor Gary did.”

Because of YOU Bobby has reconnected with his family.My grandkids know who their grandpa is. They came to HUM with my son and left crying because they had to leave their “papa”.”

Bobby also credits his friends in the SRP for developing the rich relationships he has made in recovery.We try not to keep our feelings locked inside by feeling weak, or less than a man – we let them out. Then you can laugh together and at the end of the day you’ll be laughing at yourself, too.”

“Today, I’m enrolled in college! My plan is to get a bachelor’s degree in culinary skills and teach underprivileged high school kids at my church’s school, so that they can take care of themselves and their families. Whatever you have been through, can be used for the good of helping someone else.  God can use all of us in ways that we don’t know, and I believe everybody’s story is intended for somebody else that crosses their path in life.”

Finally, Bobby would like to Thank You for your generosity. “With donors like you, the prosperity of the HUM is spiritually connected, because of all the good work that you do to provide for this spiritual program. “