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.”

 

Because of your generosity, Arthur Friday (age 37), has another chance to recover from addiction! Arthur was born in Baltimore, the oldest son of ten kids. Arthur’s life changed at age 9 when his father passed away, leaving the family reeling from the sudden loss. His mother, struggling with active addiction, was left with the daunting task of raising ten kids as a single parent.  “We were hungry, not going to school, down and dirty. My oldest sister “dumpster dove” to feed us.  Shortly thereafter, our conditions were reported to Social Services and all ten of us were placed in various stages of foster homes, group homes, and institutions,” recalls Arthur.

The oldest children, including Arthur, were placed in the KIVA House, a group home for 11 to 17 year olds in Arnold, MD. Arthur attended Severna Park High School, where he was a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball, and track. It was during this time that Arthur began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana to have fun. Arthur admits, “Alcohol was my “trigger,” drinking was my gateway to other drugs.” His addiction progressed from there. Having graduated high school and attending Montgomery College to play football, “having fun” changed to owing people money for the cocaine he started using.

At age 23, Arthur returned to Baltimore and started living with his mother, then clean from her own addiction (she now has 18 years of sobriety). “My unmanageability was growing. I started lacing marijuana with cocaine. I wanted more and more and the cravings grew. I also started smoking crack cocaine. Within 30 days, I lost everything – my job, respect, money, and my responsibilities.”

“My mother’s boyfriend had been a HUM client and told me that HUM ‘would be a great place for help.’ In 2009, I came to HUM for the first time, but I stayed just 45 days.”

“I came back to HUM in 2011, this time as a member of the Johns Hopkins 9-1-1 program. I graduated from the program, but I was not done using drugs…I relapsed. In 2017, I spent nine months at the Mission. But I was selfish and moved in with my girlfriend. I eventually ended up at the Salvation Army, where I graduated from their six-month program. They offered me 3 different jobs, but I turned them all down. The same scenario unfolded, and I got selfish and relapsed again. Finally, six months ago I walked through the familiar doors of Helping Up Mission, hopefully for the last time.”

“The Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP) leaders gave me another chance. The staff at HUM have tremendous faith and will not give up on a person. They recognize addiction as a lifelong disease, and all that you have to do is apply the tools that they freely give you. The  program has provided me with mental health counselors who help me open up about the real issues that got me here.”

“My Treatment Coordinator Steven Gallop, a HUM graduate and staff member has helped guide my recovery. I’ve spent countless hours in the HUM gym, getting healthy again. Donors have provided all of the clothing and personal care products that I need. When it comes down to it, living at HUM means having all of your physical needs met so that you can pursue your spiritual needs.”

Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

“My favorite quote from the bible is from Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Now when I have a choice, I choose God.”

“The SRP has provided me with the life skills necessary to look forward to graduation. I want to use these skills in the field of recovery by becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist. I plan on taking the classes that our Workforce Development Program provides in order to help the men who like me, are struggling with this lifelong disease.”

Thanks to YOU and countless other donors and volunteers, Arthur and 540 other men and women have the chance each day to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness.  You are saving and transforming lives through your compassion and generosity!

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. “

 

Manny S

Family values were extremely important in Manny’s upbringing. His mother is from Manning, South Carolina, and she made sure that he and his five siblings maintained “old country” values. Manny’s mother was a hard worker and expected nothing less from her children. The second child in the family, , Manny and his older sibling had a close look at their mother’s work ethic.

Even when his mother would do housework, “She would always give us something to do, like clothes of our own to wash,” Manny says. “Once we were sitting on the front porch, my siblings and I, and we had buckets scrubbing our own clothes.” Manny remembers that each of his siblings were given a white shirt, a pair of socks, and underwear. “As I got older, I realized that my mother was inside doing loads of laundry, cleaning up, and cooking dinner all at the same time.”

Manny grew up in the Fairfield area of Baltimore, near Brooklyn. Family outings and gatherings were a weekly event, especially on Sundays at Southern Baptist Church.

Manny’s mother became a reverend three years ago, but has been an ordained minister for 17 years. “Church was the key to our family, and sticking together instilled a strong sense of responsibility in us all,” says Manny, “looking out for each other and preserving the family institution was important.”

Addiction has no respect for family values. It does not discriminate no matter your race, age, sex, or socioeconomic status. “I went straight from being a teenager to using drugs, “ Manny says. Manny’s mother was cleaning his room one day, with an ulterior inspection motive, and she hit the jackpot. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found drugs. “She asked me when I came home: What is this?”, as she stretched her hand out toward him holding the small clear bag. She had found powder cocaine. “Well, what is this?” she exclaimed. Manny’s only response was, “Why were you in my room?” Manny’s mother explained that she couldn’t have drugs in her home, and especially not around her younger children. Manny had to make a choice.

Manny remembers, “She was like, well, you’ve got to choose the drugs or your family.” Manny chose drugs, which would see him abandon his family, lose his job, and become homeless. Manny’s homelessness lasted for seven years. At first, he stayed with friends, but “couchsurfing” was his least favorite. “I don’t like to feel as though I’m asking anyone for anything and I wanted to maintain this image of a self sufficient man,” Manny says. He preferred to stay in an abandoned Baltimore City school, or in abandoned houses.

I even stayed under the Charles Street bridge, because it was right near Penn Station. I found a way that I could get around the fence when no one was looking. I would get down there and daydream while looking at the cars pass on 83,” Manny states. Those seven years were the longest seven years in his life, but at age 25 Manny returned home and began his road to recovery.

A month into his sobriety Manny returned to church. With his mother and God at his side, Manny’s faith grew and he prospered spiritually, personally, and professionally. But addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. Manny’s 17 years in recovery culminated with a relapse. Manny disappeared again. This time, thanks to the Grace of God, for only three days. He stopped contacting his family, and began demolishing his rebuilt relationships. “My phone kept ringing and receiving text messages, but I never responded,” Manny remembers.

Getting to the Helping Up Mission (HUM) was a relatively easy process. Manny finally mustered up enough nerve to return home after family, friends, and church family put enough pressure on him. He spent a week in solitude with his family members, getting honest with himself and his family. After that week of soul searching, Manny put on his best suit and walked through the doors of HUM. His pastor at the time had made donations here and suggested it to Manny as a place for him. It worked. Manny graduated from the one year Spiritual Recovery Program on February 15, 2019. He is also the Spiritual Life Intern at HUM.

The HUM has helped Manny combat his shyness and people pleasing tendencies. The “inside work” as he likes to refer to it. “That part of me that connected to God was missing, because even though I was in church, you know, the church wasn’t in me,” Manny expressed, “My spiritual life is now back on track and I’m actually looking into Human Services. HUM has given me so many opportunities. The sky is the limit, I would tell to any man that walks through these doors.”

Because of you Manny has been given a second chance to get it right.

Your generous contributions have enabled him to pursue schooling and professional training opportunities and he gets to live amongst men flourishing in their new-found spirituality.

 

That part of me that connected to God was missing.”

Kedrick, 51, born and raised in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore, MD. Although he was raised by two working parents who both retired from the State, his mother would often tell him that “we are poor compared to our neighbors”. Her intent was to keep Kedrick humble, but her comments instilled a sense of inadequacy that Kedrick fought hard to overcome.

Kedrick’s life was fairly comfortable, with plenty of opportunities. His mother made efforts to expose him to culture, while his dad tutored him in math and reading. At age 13 his parents divorced. His father’s drinking and violence toward his mother crumbled his family, and were the basis of other childhood traumas that led to Kedrick’s own drinking. “I drank to escape,” he recalls.

Kedricks found solace in the presence of his oldest sister Barbara. “She was a true big sister and a huge asset, I always wanted to be with her”. Just like his mother, Barbara fell victim to an abusive relationship, and was murdered while Kedrick was in his freshman year of college at West Virginia Wesleyan. Reeling from the loss, Kedrick thought that a change of location might improve his circumstances. He transferred to the University of New Haven.

“I drank alone, and I drank for the effect.”

Uprooted and grieving, Kedrick’s drinking took a turn for the worse. “I began drinking to fall asleep and numb my loss,” he says, “I drank alone, and I drank for the effect.”  He began to recognize his addiction manifesting itself in him as it had his father before him. Kedrick started going to Al-Anon to seek help, deflecting the admission of his problem. At age 22, Kedrick eventually made it to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“I was a functioning alcoholic,” he remembers. Kedrick received his degree in Creative Writing at Vermont College, and he believed it was the beginning of a new chapter. “School was a means for ‘everything to be ok’, ‘I’ll be fine, I won’t drink anymore. I won’t be an alcoholic. I won’t feel less than.”

After finishing his degree he immediately entered an International Journalism Master’s Degree Program at City, University of London.

“The degrees didn’t fix me,” he reflects, “I still felt incomplete and empty. I always sought God, but I came up short. I moved a lot, to escape, to reinvent myself. Changing places meant always starting over, often times failing.”

In 2018 Kedrick would drink alone while listening to Christian music. He stopped socializing for the most part, and finally came to the revelation that he was tired of his struggle. He quit his job, called his family (who were unaware of his relapse), and checked himself into Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for detox. While in Bayview, a counselor suggested another program for him to begin his recovery. “I was ready to leave and seek a Christian program, at first I called Salvation Army, but I kept hearing good stories about Helping Up Mission (HUM).”

Something deeper inside me said give HUM a try

Kedrick felt, “A year long program surrounded by so many people did not seem appealing, but something deeper inside me said give HUM a try.”

Today Kedrick celebrates 8 months of sobriety at HUM, and he feels acceptance and adjusted to life on life’s terms. He says that, “a lack of acceptance, patience, and tolerance was my downfall”, and “the staff of the Helping Up Mission has been a blessing, by helping me realize my true potential. It’s not all about me, It’s bigger than me, It’s a collective and they’re there to help me, so I must make the effort to help another.”

Before HUM, Kedrick’s writing was published in two Maryland newspapers, as well as in West Virginia, and London. He also held editor and columnist jobs in regional newspapers. While at HUM, Kedrick has used his writing skills to benefit the Inspiring Hope Campaign Newsletter for the Women’s and Children’s center.   Kedrick is the Editor in Chief  of our very own HUM Gazette — A newspaper by and for our HUM clients. Kedrick muses, “Seeing other guys get excited, and interested in writing… I enjoy the thrill that they receive when they see their names in print. It’s one of the ways that I give back.”

Today Kedrick has a homegroup, a sponsor, a home-church — The Carpenter’s House of Baltimore, where he is the Assistant Editor of their newsletter; and he is working the 12 steps of AA. Remembering what his mother instilled in him about monetary wealth, Kedrick’s favorite verse is:

Matthew 6:19-21 New International Version (NIV)

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Robert is 67 years old and just recently celebrated three years of hope being clean and sober after fifty-two years of addiction. Better known as Blue by everyone at HUM, he explains that someone once joked about him being one of the Blues Brothers and while he didn’t see the resemblance, he loves the blues so he let the nickname stick.

Blue was born in 1950 in Baltimore. He started drinking and smoking by the time he was twelve. At the age of fifteen, a friend’s older brother introduced him to heroin. He explains, “It was just the sixties. I was a hippy. I was high through the whole time. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was getting high off of something.”

Blue recalls, “This is the era of Vietnam with the draft. So, guys like me didn’t really have anything to look forward to. None of us wanted to fight in some jungle that didn’t make sense. So, when I went down to the draft board I was extremely high, and I never got drafted.”

Blue was arrested for possession of heroin.

In 1968, a month after graduating high school, Blue was arrested for possession of heroin. Blue said, “I went on methadone after I got busted. My mother and father didn’t have a clue what to do.” They took him to a psychiatrist who prescribed the methadone.

During this time, he met his wife and fell in love. They were both on methadone for ten years, and then he detoxed off of it. His wife was taken off of it abruptly and overdosed a few days later. Blue gave her CPR and brought her back to life. After a few days she overdosed again, and this time, he could not bring her back. Blue was devastated and did his best to bring up his daughters without their mother.

“I got high for fifty-two years.”

Blue explains, “I was jumping from one thing to another. I was in a program; I wasn’t in a program. I was shooting dope; I wasn’t shooting dope. I was drinking because I would go to that when I didn’t want to do dope because I would get strung out on it. I smoked a lot of weed. I got high for fifty-two years. I didn’t get high off of any one thing for fifty-two years, but I was getting high off of something for fifty-two years. I didn’t go three months where I didn’t get high a couple of times.”

“I got so cold.”

In 2000, Blue lost his job because he was shooting dope and couldn’t work without it. He ended up homeless and set up a makeshift shelter between two buildings. After about a year of living on the streets, he found an old broken-down hearse in a parking lot. The back was unlocked and he moved in. He remembers, “I almost froze to death on Christmas Eve in 2004. I was dope sick. I didn’t have any money. I went into the back of the hearse and covered up with every piece of clothing and blanket that I had. I got so cold. I will never forget that.” He went into a shop and sat there to try to warm up, but was forced to leave. As he was walking down the street, a lady saw he was distressed and let him sleep on her couch and get warm. “It was quite a Christmas. It is not something I am trying to go back to ever. When I see [homeless] guys come in here at night, I know what it is like.”

Blue had been in and out of programs so many times

In January 2014, Blue went to Bayview Hospital to detox. He had lost so much weight and gotten into such bad shape that he couldn’t walk. He was sent to a rehab center to regain the ability to walk. He was physically getting better. But in September of 2014, he took some pills and drank a pint of vodka and woke up in an ambulance on the way to St. Agnes. The social worker at St. Agnes told Blue’s wife about HUM. He had been in and out of programs so many times and had always focused on the physical and mental health side, but never had he thought about the spiritual aspect of recovery. When he arrived at HUM, they told him that it was a year-long program and he was not ready to commit to that. He admits that he thought, “Oh no! I am gone. I headed to the door. The only reason I came back is because my wife stayed at the desk and stared at me.”

“I was in really bad shape, really.”

The first three or four months Blue struggled and did not sleep much. “I was in really bad shape, really.” When asked what changed for him, he explains, “I stopped fighting God. It sounds like something you would say because it sounds good. Just the difference of not having to fight.” His entire life he had been an agnostic. He could not explain the existence of God and the existence of bad things at the same time. Now he says, “It has been a relief not to have to understand, I know what I know. I learn what I can. I help whoever I can. I do the best I can.”

Each week, at the graduation chapel, Blue sits in the same place and jumps up to give a hug and hope to those who are celebrating their graduation from the one-year Spiritual Recovery Program. He explains, “I feel very strongly emotionally about what is happening here. I know what it took for me to do it – to come in here and go for a year. I’ve been out there for so many years, and I’ve seen how this struggle is with drugs and alcohol. To me, a year is a miracle. So, yeah, I hug them guys when they make that year because you started something, and you finished it. We don’t do that a lot. We’re good at starting things, but not finishing them.”

“I came to understand that God kept me around…”

Blue is a graduate intern here at HUM as a Treatment Coordinator Assistant and sees his role now as to help others who are struggling to get clean. “I came to understand that God kept me around through all that stuff. God let me survive all of that. So what’s the purpose? I am 67 years old. I spent 52 of those 67 years getting high off of everything. So, I can look at my life in two ways; I’ve wasted my whole life. Or no, I’ve put 52 years of hard experience to understand the stuff nowadays. So, I choose the second.”

Blue is well known at HUM. He explains, “I am a firm believer that the small things in life make the difference. The big [things] are going to happen to everyone. The little ones are gifts. When someone talks to you and they actually care, it’s something you remember. It can make a huge difference in the rest of your day. It might make a difference in the rest of your life. Care might be the difference between life and death.” This New Year, Blue will continue to do what he can to offer hope to the hurting.

John, 50 years old, was born at Baltimore Memorial Hospital as one of six kids. He graduated from Arundel Senior High where he played baseball and ran track. He was especially close to his mom growing up but admits, “I was a curious kid, so I always stayed in some kind of trouble. She always had her hands on me.” His father was around but was not very involved in his life.

At “the age of 16 or 17 years old, I basically went on my own path” and began hanging out and smoking marijuana. After John graduated, he worked at a racquetball club and watched people playing the sport. “I started to fall in love with the game. I used to sneak on the back courts on my days off.” The club pro taught him a few strokes and soon John was beating everyone around. He got sponsored and became a semi-pro racquetball player. “The thing that killed me with that is I would go to tournaments with nobody watching me, nobody behind me. I felt kind of lonely at tournaments and got introduced to cocaine.”

He met his first wife in the racquetball club, but after she became pregnant, she left him because of his drug use. She moved to Montana and John followed her. He remembers, “My dad didn’t have nothing to do with me when I was a kid, and I wasn’t going to do that to my child.” He started going to 12 step programs, but couldn’t relate because everyone in those groups was an alcoholic. “They didn’t want to hear my story, and I couldn’t tell my story.” John and his wife got divorced and then remarried. When they were apart for a year or two, he went on using sprees. They divorced again and, after seventeen years in Montana, John moved back to Maryland and went back to his cocaine and his life as a “go fast boy.”

John came to HUM for the first time in 2012 because he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He was dating a girl whose brother was at HUM. He stayed for several months but got in trouble while away for the weekend and couldn’t make it back to HUM. “It ate at me because I was doing the right thing and let the wrong thing happen. I eventually knew that I was coming back here.”

John stayed clean for almost three years. But, he started dwelling on all of the problems going on. His mother was battling cancer, and his brother passed away. He thought, “I didn’t come home for this.” He missed his son, but John says that his past using “was shaming me from keeping in touch with him.” After his mom had lost her battle with cancer, John says “I fell right back in the boat I always fell back in.”

His girlfriend wanted him to get help and called around. Eventually, John told her to bring him to HUM. “In my own mind, I always knew I was going to come back.”

John ran track in high school, the 440-yard dash and some long distances. When he was at HUM in 2012, he joined Back on My Feet and ran with them as part of his recovery. Upon returning to HUM, joining a running team was a priority for him. “I went right to my counselor and told him I need to get back on the team.” He explains running “is therapy to me. It puts me at ease. It lets me think, it lets me really think about what’s going on in my life.”

John explains that he isn’t normally one to socialize, but being part of the Back on My Feet team has helped him to relax a little. “When I first joined the team…I wasn’t really a talker and everybody on the team talks. Once I settled in and realized it was okay to talk, they aren’t trying to dig into your business; they are just trying to help you. Once I got that in my mind, I was good with it.” Now, John says his teammates think, “Man he doesn’t shut up.”

The time on the running team encourages John and helps him to help others. “I find myself around the Helping Up Mission talking to guys…trying to show them certain things to do, not to sit up in corners hovered up. I even encouraged some guys to get on the team and just try something different.”

John is currently training to run the marathon in the Baltimore Running Festival in October. He recently finished in the top thirty-five runners in a ten miler with a time of 78 minutes.

In addition to the support he has found in a running group, John also goes to an NA 12 step program. “For me, I am dead in the water without it. You can’t do this alone; it’s just impossible.”

John is proof that good people can make bad choices, and while he may have to live with the consequences of those choices, there is hope. Once he graduates from Helping Up Mission, John plans to stay connected with his support community of HUM, as well as his NA group and will keep running as alumni of Back on My Feet.

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David is strong and determined. Those qualities have served him well, especially in his recovery. He grew up in Southern Maryland, the oldest of three children. Although David and one of his sisters were adopted at birth, he always felt loved growing up. That being said, he has also dealt with trust and abandonment issues.

Throughout high school, David was a member of the Junior ROTC program and worked hard to prepare to join the military. He was on the drill team, which taught him humility, and to be part of a team. He was also a drummer on his church’s worship team, and everything seemed to be on track for a picture-perfect future for David.

The barber shop across the street from his house was the neighborhood hang out and an easy place to get drugs, but David didn’t get involved in the drug scene as a young kid. When he was 16, his friend mentioned that he needed a place to smoke weed. David offered his yard, and that was the first time David tried marijuana.

In the middle of his senior year, David’s perfect picture changed when the police caught him with marijuana. That possession charge kept David from joining the military. He explains that it also, “took away the trust my parents had in me.” At one point, he remembers that his father caught him with weed and David “saw the discouragement in his face.” His parents saw he was headed in the wrong direction, and they wanted to help, but they didn’t want to enable him.

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Instead of the military, David went to a community college and studied food production management and hospitality management. He completed a year and a half of the two-year program while working in the food service field. But, instead of finishing the program, David quit school to sell marijuana.

Trying to manage the different sides to his personalities (the good, church-going young man versus the drug using and selling guy) left David with a lot of guilt. So, at the age of 21, David quit going to church thinking that would help. Instead, that just added another weight to his shoulders. He remembers, “that is when things started to go downhill for me, once I deleted God out of my life and pushed him to the side, that is when I started to do some really, really sad things.” He began using and selling cocaine, stealing from his jobs, and using women.

At one point, his parents sent him to a job corps program in West Virginia to try and help. He got there and started using and selling marijuana, so after a month, he was kicked out. David went back home, and “the worst part was just seeing my sisters’ progress… but I just keep backtracking. My life is going in a circle over and over again, doing the same thing over and over again. I’d do good for two or three months, and I’m back to my old ways.”

David moved out and kept using and selling cocaine. Over the years, he had a few arrests and kept using. The most recent arrest ended up sending David to HUM’s year-long Spiritual Recovery Program.

When David came to HUM, he was ready for a change. He knew that if he didn’t complete the program, he would not see his kids for a long time. Having never met his birth father, it became important for David to be there for his children.

It didn’t take long for David to reconnect to his spirituality. During the black-out period, “I got into my Bible and the morning devotions.” It felt like coming home, as David remembers, “to arms wide open.” He explains, “I know the Bible. I know God. I have a very strong spiritual connection, but it was just gone for the last five years…I just ignored it.”

His arrival at HUM also allowed David to recall to the joy of playing drums. An important part of his recovery has been joining the worship band. “It felt great. My endorphins were actually kicking in, and I was just having fun with it. I was opening up…it was better than smoking weed or taking cocaine. It was great.”

David is currently cooking at a local restaurant but is uncertain about his future. He is praying and asking God for guidance about what to do after he leaves HUM.

David says that the staff at HUM is extraordinary. He also knows that having people you can lean on is important. “You need to have a group of people where you can keep them accountable for you, and you can be accountable for them.”

David believes that “Helping Up Mission is the place to be. It can save your life, it saves lives, and it is saving lives.”

Thanks to you…Greg has learned his purpose in life is to help others. 

Greg is 25 years old, and like many of the young men here at HUM, he grew up in a family that provided every opportunity for him. His family regularly attended church and Greg, like his two older brothers, attended a private school. 

Greg admits that he has always been a bit a rebellious. A fireworks incident got him suspended in seventh grade, and by eighth grade, he was drinking with his peers.

At the beginning of his freshman year, Greg moved from alcohol to marijuana. By his junior year, Greg was using OxyContin and cocaine. His family tried to help with rehab programs, but Greg began a long spiral of accidents, incidents, rehab, short periods of sobriety, and eventually, relapsing. 

In 2015, at the age of 24, Greg’s parents kicked him out after he robbed them. “I was homeless, but I couldn’t do it. I slept on a bench near HUM, but didn’t know this was the Mission.” After two nights, he called his dad who told him about Helping Up Mission and Greg agreed to give it a try.   

He arrived, still dirty and high. When he came into the building, it wasn’t what he was expecting. It was comforting to see someone from his church working at HUM, and that helped, but he still struggled. He called home hoping to leave, but his dad told him, “Greg, this is that moment where you make the decision if you want this.” For Greg, this was the time to surrender. 

Greg spent ten months at HUM, went back to college, and was doing well. But, he stopped going to recovery meetings, was not working the 12 steps and decided that he should celebrate his birthday by using. After all, he was doing so well; perhaps he could get away with it just one more time. Looking back, he says, “Part of me thinks that it was because I was doing so well – maybe I could get away with one.”

He borrowed his parent’s car, telling them he was going to a meeting. Instead, he went to his usual place to get drugs. “I shot up while driving and I just had an immediate overdose…the last thing I remember was a loud crash.” Greg crashed into a bus on Maryland Avenue. He remembers, “My next conscious memory is three weeks later in Johns Hopkins ICU surrounded by doctors with machines and tubes everywhere. My parents are there and crying, so I started crying.” He had been in a coma for three weeks, having nearly died several times.

Greg recalls his mother was “just praying that she didn’t have to bury her youngest kid.” She wasn’t the only one praying: the HUM staff, his friends, and his church family were all praying for Greg. After a month in the hospital, he went home and took another month to recuperate. 

In May, Greg returned to HUM. “Ever since I got out of the hospital, all I wanted to do was come back to the Mission. I have never been clean for ten months since I started doing drugs. I’ve been to many treatment centers…but God is doing something good here.”

Greg returned and started the year-long Spiritual Recovery Program all over again. He remembers, “Three weeks after I came back, I watched the seed class I came in with graduate.  My mom came and watched with me. I was happy to be alive.”  

“I try to do two things each day for my recovery: trust God and help others.”      

The staff at HUM saw a difference in Greg this time around. Greg explains, “When I got out of the coma, I had learned that two of my friends did the same thing (overdosed) and didn’t wake up the next morning. I did, so I knew that I had a purpose. There is no reason why I should be alive. I saw a purpose in my life.” 

He is actively working the 12 step program now and encourages those struggling with the steps, “don’t look at them like they are hurdles you have to get through. Look at them like guard rails that you have to stay in between. You do them on a daily basis.”

Each day is new, and Greg has a plan for today. He offers this explanation: “I try to do two things each day for my recovery. That is to trust God and to help others. You don’t have to be an addict to relate to my story. You just have to be a human being and realize that you guys are alive for a purpose. If you trust [in God], then you start to live life with a purpose. You start to see value in things.”

“The second part is helping others. That is the key. When I am helping another, I am focused on them entirely. That is what works for me today.”

Greg is now in college, studying human services administration. He would like to go into the substance abuse field to share his story and help someone else not make the same mistakes he made. He wants to help others to see that they have a purpose.   

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Wes, 33 years old, was born and raised in Baltimore.  His family sent him to an all male private high school to allow him to get a good education. “While I was there,” he explains, “I probably didn’t enjoy everything about it. But after graduating, I really appreciate having the opportunity to go somewhere like that.” However, while in high school, Wes started gained access and started using substances, like Ritalin and Aderall – taking prescription medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, even though he was not diagnosed with ADD. From there, he moved onto other drugs, including marijuana, hallucinogens, and OxyContin.   

Wes graduated high school and moved on to Towson University, where his addiction intensified.  He was eventually expelled for selling marijuana from his dorm room. For several years Wes worked dead-end jobs in order to support his habit. Then he started selling again. “I kind of felt like it made people need me in their lives,” he explains. “I always had trouble making friends on my own, so I figured…if I sell addictive substances, they’ve gotta be my friend.”

Eventually his house was raided, he was arrested, and he moved back in with mom. At that point, Wes knew he was on a downward spiral. He was only twenty-eight years old. Wes was going through what he called “spiritual decay and just feeling tired with life.” At this point he knew, “I had nothing to sell; I had nothing to give; I was just really taking everything… trying to fill the void inside with drugs.” 

Wes went back to Towson University, managing to get good grades despite continued drug use, and earned his degree in Environmental Science. But even after earning his degree, he getting dead-end jobs, staying up all night using and sleeping all day. He thought it was the chemicals that caused the schedule, but since he has been at HUM he has realized: “It was really a lot of self-image and self-esteem issues, being ashamed of showing my face outside in public. I didn’t want to see the light of day, or the ‘normal’ people going about their business.”

Thanks to you… Wes is gaining confidence to live as the man he was created to be!

At one point, Wes went to ask his mother for money. She suggested he get some help, but Wes protested that he didn’t have insurance or any way to pay for a treatment program.  But, his sister’s boyfriend had been to HUM and told him about it. Wes spent that night in his mother’s basement, thinking, and finally decided he was ready for something else. So at the age of thirty-two, he started his recovery journey at HUM. 

When he first arrived, Wes was in a fog, but was ready to surrender. He was surprised that everyone seemed friendly and willing to help him. It took a while to settle in, though, because he was used to the schedule of sleeping during the day and staying up at night. 

At about four months, Wes started to acclimate to recovery. “Making regular class attendance, grudgingly waking up for work therapy, and at least trying to do the best I could do” are all things he says have helped.  “It really has gotten easier. As somebody who would go to sleep before the birds wake up, my work therapy [has me] wake up with the birds and go clean up cigarette butts on East Baltimore Street. I am out there dancing around with my music on, and I am having a blast.”

Besides his work therapy, Wes suggests that other aspects of life at HUM have really helped, especially the sense of community. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he says. During his time here, Wes has also taken the opportunity to meet regularly with his mental health counselor. “The mental health coordination is great. I can be honest with my counselor, tell them whatever is going on with me inside.”

For Wes, one of the most meaningful parts of the HUM community has been the choir. It took him some time to gain the confidence to join, but once he did, Wes found he was in his element. “The people who sing in the choir get a lot out of it – finding some purpose – helping us to realize that we need to trust God and just do the best we can. I love getting up there. I have always been an introvert, and never thought my skills would be enough to be on a showcase. But, I love getting up there and showing off my moves.” Through the choir, Wes has had some additional leadership opportunities which have been personally affirming. It has been an encouragement to Wes to realize that “people see more in me than I can see in myself sometimes.”

Wes graduates in a few months, and he is waiting on God as he discerns the best way to move forward.  Wes is thrilled to have a better relationship with his family. Where he used to be a hindrance, he is now a help.  His self-image issues have come a long way, and he is learning new ways to live in confidence and freedom. While he would eventually like to work in his field of study – Environmental Science – Wes is not anxious. “I can take this time, figure out what is best for me, and set things in motion.” He knows that God will make a way for him.

What does Wes think of HUM? “It saved my life, and I think it can work wonders in anyone’s life, even if they don’t think it can.” To all friends and supporters of Helping Up Mission, he has this to say: “Thanks for showing me that God loves me!”

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