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.”

 

Jimmy is a Product of Your Generosity
“He said that I can have all the joy, if I do what he wants me to do.”
Jimmy B, age 62, was born and raised in Baltimore, Md. A child of the sixties, Jimmy was raised in an all-black neighborhood, during a time of segregation, but did not witness the tumultuous times. “I didn’t see the riots, but I grew up around them. My mom was protective of her children. We lived in a rough neighborhood, so she kept us in the house most of our lives. She was also a minister, so we stayed in church twenty-four seven. My father was abusive and an alcoholic, he would come home drunk and lay on the couch and sleep all day. Therefore, my mother had to work two jobs to keep clothes on our backs and food on the table. In 1972, her hard work paid off and she was able to afford a house and we got out of “the ghetto,” Jimmy recalls.
“I started getting high when I was 12 or 13. Nothing forced me to get high. I just enjoyed getting high. I thought that I was missing something. But I never wanted to grow up to be like my father.” Eventually, Jimmy’s father passed away from a stroke. The man that he did not want to become, Jimmy became. “I knew that I had a problem when I started losing everything. I never have a problem getting a job. But I would not keep the job, because I would get high and not go back to work. My father passed away in 2007 and I was still getting high. Even after everything that he put us through when I was a child, I wanted to get sober before he died. I wanted him to be proud of me. I still loved him, and I wanted him to see me sober. I finally got to my wit’s end in 2009 and decided to go to rehab.”
From 2009 until 2019 Jimmy was sober. “I was clean. I was doing everything that God wanted me to do. I stayed in church and was being obedient. Everything was working out fine. But eventually, I stopped being obedient. And soon things started falling apart. I became disobedient. All the things that I did to stay sober, I stopped doing. I stopped going to church. I stopped serving God. I stopped serving other people. I started drinking again. I would get one beer, and that one bottle became three, and then four bottles of beer. Just like they say in Narcotics Anonymous, ‘one is too many, and a thousand is not enough.’”
One day God spoke to Jimmy. “Why do you keep going back to bondage? And He spoke to me about obedience. I am obedient now and things are starting to work. I was not a thief when I was getting high. But I stole from myself. I stole my own joy. And when God spoke to me, He said that ‘He has stolen me.’ He put the food, the Spirit in me. He said that I can have all the joy, if I do what he wants me to do. And I finally have that joy, the gentleness in his kindness.”
In 2019, after Jimmy had relapsed, his sister spoke with him about pursuing sobriety at Helping Up Mission (HUM). “My sister knew somebody that used to work at HUM, and she said,’ why don’t you go ahead and try HUM.’ I had nowhere else to go. I lost everything. I had no car. I was down on my wits end and I came to Helping Up Mission with nothing but the clothes that I had on having not showered in two weeks. I came here, walked up to the door broken and they opened the door. They opened it with open arms and told me to come in. I was so tired.
At first, Jimmy just wanted to be left alone. “I did not have anything to lose and that hurt.” Over the past year, Jimmy started getting into good thoughts and sobriety was starting to become a reality. “Every time that I came to chapel on Fridays, I became motivated seeing the guys walking across the stage. I said that is it. That is what I am going to do, graduate the Spiritual Recovery Program. I stopped wanting to be left alone and began grabbing the young guys, talking to them, and putting them under my wing. I wanted to show them that they could have everything that they want, right now and giving them my heart. When I finally graduated and they called my name, everybody stood up and applauded. I thought man, this is what God was talking about. It made me feel good! “
Today, Jimmy is looking to retire at age 62 and loves his work therapy assignment as a driver for HUM. “I love driving and it is one of my passions. I like seeing other people have fun. But my plans may change when the new Women’s and Children’s Center is built down the street, maybe I’ll apply for a job and delay my retirement.”
“During my time here, you may have to do things that you do not like, to get what you need. You might need to accept the bad things that happen, because as long as you live on this earth, you will go through trials and tribulations. But this is going to be my life. My desire is to live a more fruitful life, live a simpler life. To All of the people that make HUM happen, thank you. I am a product of your generosity!

Lavell, age 43, “a country boy,” was born and raised in southern Maryland’s Calvert County. Growing up on his uncle’s small farm with his two brothers, mother, and father – Lavell was a loner whose best friend was a cow named Joe. He had a good childhood. “I was raised in the Methodist church, went to Sunday school, and sang in the choir,” Lavell remembers. “I got my first car at age 15, was in gifted and talented programs, and graduated Northern high school in 1995. As a graduation gift, my father gave me a sports car and it blew up from there. Before I graduated, I had become popular because I drove, worked at a liquor store, and could provide alcohol for parties. I started drinking from that point on and for many years, my life was pretty cool. I just partied.”
“That same summer, I began smoking marijuana. Everybody around me smoked “weed” so I started smoking and drinking every day. While I liked to party, I always prayed. I always read the bible. I knew the things that I was doing were wrong, but I just wanted to fit in. I would do bad things and then go around the corner and say, ‘Lord please help me.’”
“When I turned 21, my uncle passed tragically. I helped my grandmother find him by climbing in the window only to discover his body. Seeing him dead devastated me and I remembered a friend telling me to have a drink of wine in order to deal with my emotions and relax. That glass of wine put me to sleep and soon thereafter, I was drinking four packs of wine, which turned into bottles of wine. By age 22 I had transitioned to cocaine.”
“At age 28, I met my partner. They were well off and we had a strong attraction to each other. But due to the financial situation, cocaine was always around. Cocaine became life. The tumultuous relationship was filled with alcohol, drugs, and infidelities. We moved to California with the hopes that a new environment would help alleviate the pressures of our relationship. At first, the partying dropped off completely. But the reprieve was temporary as old ways resurfaced and ‘cocaine-fueled’ antics returned. “
“I was miserable on the inside and thought about walking away from this lavish life and trusting God’s plan for me. One night, when I just couldn’t handle the situation any longer, I was “coked-up” and had a loaded shotgun in my bedroom. We were arguing a lot and they kept calling me ‘crazy’ and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I put the loaded shotgun in their mouth and said call me ‘crazy’ one more time. His eyes got really big and he left. I then put the shotgun in my mouth, but it would not go off. I tried to kill myself. I kept pulling the trigger four or five times, but the gun jammed. I blacked out and woke up in my room with the gun gone. I immediately booked a flight home to Maryland. I packed my duffle bag, trusted God, and left.”
A few years later, and after his fourth DUI, Lavell finally heard God’s plan. “One day I hit rock bottom, woke up and said that I am done living this life. I called my best friend Lisa and she already knew what I was going to say. She put me on the phone with John Mister, a staff member at Helping Up Mission and as I was talking to him, I instantly knew, God said ‘HUM is where you are going.’
“I asked God to take away my taste for chemicals, including cigarettes. And I am a firm believer, that if you ask Him to take something from you, He will.”
“When I arrived at HUM, I went from being a little scared country boy to having a true brotherhood with the guys and staff. I broke out of my shell and started singing in the choir. It was the first time that I sang in front of people, sober, in twenty years. Members of the choir and I joined a group called Brothers in Prayer. They became my core group of accountability partners. We love God and the gospel. I could finally just be myself.”
Last March, when the pandemic began, Lavell was worried about how the 500 men at HUM would be served. “All that I could think about was the coronavirus was going to hit HUM and we would be screwed. I didn’t know if we were going to go into lockdown or be discharged. So, I made the decision to leave my work therapy assignment in Philanthropy and go back to work. I was worried about having no money and no place to go. At my new job, I was tested for COVID-19 every Monday and Thursday. Thank God, I never did end up catching it. In the end, Helping Up Mission was a safe haven. Their attention to detail, cleanliness, and their response to the coronavirus has protected me and the other clients during this pandemic. There is no other place like Helping Up Mission and that is all that I need to say.”

Dele is Feeling Your Christmas Blessings
“I started to become ME again”
Ayodele, 35, who goes by Dele, was born in Baton Rouge, but raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up as a child of separation and divorce, Dele lived with his American mother and older brother during the week and spent every other weekend with his Nigerian father. Dele did well in school, had a good home life, and was an all-star caliber baseball player as a child. At age 15, all of that changed when he started smoking marijuana.
“My brother introduced me to “weed.” Since I was comfortable with him, smoking weed did not take a whole lot of thought. And things progressed to drinking beer. My grades started slipping in high school and with three months left to graduate, I told my mother that I was done with classes. She responded, “if you are done with school, you cannot live here.” I immediately moved out and began living with my cousins. And my addictions just took off from there. A lot of partying and drinking.”
“My father had a lot of lofty expectations. He wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer. He would say, “work now and play later.” I reversed that to play now and work some other time. He did not want to talk about anything other than education. I did not even know what I wanted for myself. I became rebellious toward him and in ninth grade, I got into a fight with him on school property. I ended up in juvenile detention and that was the beginning of my in and out of jail phase.”
Dele would cycle between violating probation, and 90-day juvenile programs. “It hardened me. I did what I had to do to fit in. I was in and out of the juvenile detention facilities until I turned 17. And then I went straight to county jail. I got out of prison for the last time in 2013.
“My older brother was in an out of rehabs at the time. He had finally gotten clean, and by seeing him go through the process of sobriety, I thought I should try it as well. I went to rehab for the first time in 2015.” Dele started repeating the in and out process, but this time with rehabs. “But my spirituality started to grow. I could hear God speaking. He would tell me to remove myself from situations – to not go.”
Dele, recounts a pivotal moment God told him to “not go.” “One late night, I was running out of drugs (cocaine) and I could hear Him say “don’t go.” But I had to find more. It was three o’clock in the morning and I am going back and forth in my head. My addiction finally wins, and I went looking for drugs. A dealer pulls up in his truck and a gunshot rings off inside the vehicle. He pushes the victim out of the truck and takes off. A guy runs up and starts wrapping the victim’s head while hollering out for someone to call the police. In my mind that was not what I came here for. Nobody called the police. We just walked off in our separate ways. “
“For some time, what I witnessed kept playing through my mind. If I did not stop using drugs now, I might be next in line. At the time I was a member of Back On My Feet Atlanta (BOMF) and told them that I wanted to leave Georgia. I wanted to get clean and I was not going to do so there. They introduced me to Helping Up Mission (HUM) through the BOMF team in Baltimore. I got on a bus with a suitcase and a map and arrived at HUM in June of 2019.”
“When I started the Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP) at HUM, my heart and spirit were hardened. I did not want to make any new relationships with people. But little by little, as I went to meetings and classes, things changed. The camaraderie at HUM, guys checking on you to see how you are doing and making small talk. Overtime, I would speak up more and more.”
“I started volunteering. I helped build the patio at the Chase Street Women’s Center with Coca-Cola Consolidated. I also volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul church on Friday evenings. Pretty soon, I began signing up for everything that HUM had to offer and my true personality began to come out. I was eating and sleeping well and, in the process, I started to become ME again.”
Today, Dele is back in school, pursuing a degree in respiratory therapy. He graduated from the SRP and is building his connection with his Higher Power. Dele is also rebuilding trust and restoring relationships with his father and his 11-year-old son. “My dad and I are a lot closer than we have ever been. I commit myself now to be there for my family. To be there for my son. I am excited about having a future that does not involve drugs and alcohol and my biggest problem is which courses should I take in school.”
“Thank you to all of the donors for making HUM possible. For me to come here all the way from Atlanta and feel comfort and safety. To be here at Christmas. It is all a blessing.”

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.

“When we were beaten, we became willing”

Larry, 38, was born in Germany to a military family. As a hyperactive child, he battled concentration issues that resulted in a lack of learning or desire to sit in a classroom. His family moved several times, and by junior high, he found himself being molested by an older girl in his neighborhood. “I was being taken advantage of by a neighborhood girl. I was 13, and she was 17 years old. This went on for about a year and now I realize that the experience messed me up and my perception of what women are like and relationships in general.” Amidst the situation’s confusion, Larry thought the girl might be his girlfriend, but the abuser saw things differently. “At the time I wanted her to be my girlfriend, and she said, ‘no.’ The rejection hit me hard. My heart was hurt,” remembers Larry.

Soon after the sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol would find their way into Larry’s life as he searched to be socially accepted. “At first, I would smoke a joint with a friend, and that is how it started.” His desire to be cool would then result in buying a large amount of marijuana. “I ended up getting caught, just wanting to be a part of the crowd. I thought that I learned my lesson and did not mess with drugs again until two years later, when we moved to Tennessee. “

“I was a big guy. On my first day of school, everyone wanted me to play football. They wanted ME to be a part of something. So, I started playing with the team, and we thought that we were men. This was when my drinking started. At first, we drank after a game, and then we would drink after an exam. Soon we were drinking every night. “

“I began meeting rougher crowds, rougher groups of people. Some girls were involved and introduced me to cocaine, which just opened the door for my addictions. And soon, trying to please others and make them happy – I started using cocaine regularly.”

“My mom had a rule, ‘if you do not go to church, you are not going to live under my roof.’ I ended up missing a few services, and she put me out.” With nowhere else to go, Larry moved in with a local drug dealer. “During my stay, he was robbed a couple of times, and I felt like I had to help him out. We decided to find the guy that robbed him and get back his stuff. Armed with a gun, we found his stolen property and left. Soon after that, the police found us and took me to jail. I ended up spending three and a half years in prison.”

“When I got out of prison, I got into a toxic relationship. I got a job and an apartment, and we moved in together. And my powdered cocaine habit transitioned to crack cocaine. And after two years, it progressed to a full-blown addiction. I needed it. I had to have it.”

Larry would spend the next ten years getting high, getting evicted, and moving from state to state. In 2016, he would complete his first 30-day sobriety program but got high two weeks later. After more programs and eventual evictions, Larry finally hit rock bottom. In July of 2019, he walked through the doors of Helping Up Mission (HUM).

“The information that HUM provides helped me realize that it is okay to make mistakes. To quote Narcotics Anonymous, ‘When we were beaten, we became willing.’ HUM helped me learn how to take

suggestions. And there are people here who are living fulfilling lives with substantial amounts of clean time. Many of the former graduates come back and tell their stories.”

Larry has also been able to deal with the sexual molestation that scarred his early childhood. “When Mike Rallo [Director of Spiritual Life] discussed similar problems in class, I started relating to all the times that I had gotten clean only to relapse, due to past relationships. HUM taught me to love myself to the point where I am not looking for others to think that I am cool.”

“I still struggle with people-pleasing behavior. When it comes to doing what is right, I now know what is right and what is wrong. I have messed up a lot in my past, but my family is slowly coming around. They want to see substantial, long-term change in me. I know the key for me is better decision making.”

“There are guys in my Celebrate Recovery Group, Tyrell, Brett, and Ramon, and we have a bond because we have suffered through the same things and share it. And when one brother shares, it enables me to take off my mask and speak honestly. And they helped me in my recovery because I cannot do it on my own.”

Today, Larry is attending Baltimore City Community College and pursuing a degree in Behavioral Science, hoping to help others as HUM has helped him. “Nobody is immune to the trials and tribulations of life. Everybody is going to make mistakes. If you need help, it is okay to ask for it. I am grateful to HUM, helping me understand that recovery is a process without an expiration date.”

“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!  

“God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen.”

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Struggling with addiction for over 20 years, Ramon (39) asked God for help, “God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen.” Thanks to generous donors like yourself, Ramon’s prayers were answered, and he came to Helping Up Mission (HUM), where he has healed, “spiritually, mentally, and physically.”

Born in Guatemala, Ramon’s family moved a lot: from Costa Rica to the Dominican Republic, to Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. His father, a preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist church, and his mother did a good job of making his family feel safe during the many moves. “I never liked to be in one place for very long. I got used to moving and liked meeting new people and discovering new cultures,” recalls Ramon.

Being raised Seventh Day Adventist, with a strict ethical code against the consumption of alcohol, Ramon did not have his first drink until age 19.  That all changed while in college. “That first night, I drank two forty-ounce beers. After that, I never drank casually. Drinking was all or nothing and I always drank to get drunk and I didn’t care about the consequences.”

Ramon’s “no-care” lifestyle would continue for another 15 years. Much like his childhood relocations, Ramon would often move to change the situations, yet his addictions would resurface. “Through the geographical moves, I now realize that I was the problem. I had always blamed my situations on other things.” Ramon moved to California to live with his sister, but his addiction resurfaced and he moved to Texas with his brother. “I thought that if I were around my brother, everything would get better. But I wasn’t happy and quickly started isolating myself. I moved back with my parents who were living in New Jersey, and repeated the process. My father got transferred to Maryland, and I moved too.  The pattern repeated: I got healthy again but started drinking.

In Baltimore, Ramon got arrested and while in detention asked, “God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen. That is when I met John. He said that he knew of a place that would help me. I did not see him again and I was released. We never exchanged information and I did not know how to find him.  But through coincidence, or more likely by GOD, John was there when I returned to get my things. And that is how I found Helping Up Mission.”

“The hardest thing about the Spiritual Recovery Program at HUM is living in a dorm with 30 guys, although it is cool how the men come from all walks of life. Learning to stay still, letting the ‘fog clear’, and taking direction were also hard at first. But they (staff) provide us with so much and there are so many opportunities to carry us through the year. I joined the choir and connected with the group Brothers in Prayer. I signed up for everything that HUM had to offer, like backpacking. I joined a recovery homegroup and attended Celebrate Recovery.”

Throughout the year I also stayed connected with John. He said he had a job opening for me when I was ready. At first, it was hard to find a job because of my past. But HUM helped me expunge my criminal record, and I work for John now at Sofi’s Crepes Fells Point. A job that I can walk to! It has been a blessing.

As Ramon looks ahead to his future, he is thankful for HUM teaching him to sit still and just letting God lead. “I passionately want to be a Peer Recovery Specialist. I want to help people get over the hump of addiction. I know what they are going through, and I want to show them how they can start from nothing and relearn what they know about God, religion, and recovery.”

“My relationship with God today is very personal. Recovery has really helped me see His love for humankind, but we must find out how to love ourselves first. God has given me the gift of being comfortable around people. Because of my upbringing, I trust people, and that is what I want to help instill in others. By trusting in God, like when I prayed to him from the detention center, He opened the door and placed John into my life.”

“Today, I am most thankful for my health and my life. My family stuck with me, even when I was reaching a point in my life where (it seemed) there was no coming back.   I am thankful for God bringing back my sanity (Recovery Step 2). And I am thankful for love allowing me to adapt to and accept people where they are. I am grateful for HUM healing me: spiritually, mentally, and physically. If I had the opportunity to go back and talk to myself on my first day I would say, ‘Ramon, you are at the right place. God brought you here. It’s starting now!’ “

Thanks to donors, volunteers, and partners like you, Ramon is well on his way to becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist. His true life-transformation is a testament to your generosity on many levels. And the hope that Ramon provides the men and women that we serve is immeasurable.