August NL 2021 Feature Story Michael C.

Thanks to You Michael is Ready to Say Yes

“When you combine a healthy active lifestyle with everything that HUM has to offer you have a ‘recipe’ for success.”

Michael, age 34, graduated from Helping Up Mission (HUM) in 2019 and in October 2020, was hired as our Philanthropy Coordinator. Although his journey of life-transformation has at times been rough due to anxiety and depression, today Michael will be preparing for his next step leading Team HUM at the 2021 Baltimore Running Festival.

Born and raised in Toms River, New Jersey, Michael grew up the youngest in a loving family of five. “I was first introduced to the team sports of soccer and baseball when I was 5. I really enjoyed the team aspect and competitive nature of sports with my friends. Toms River still is a hotbed of youth sports,” states Michael.

“During high school, I was a good student, played baseball, and ran track. I was a long-distance runner. The summer going into senior year I experimented with marijuana because of peer pressure. At first it was a weekend distraction that slowly progressed to a daily activity. Marijuana helped ease my mind and allowed me to escape my negative thoughts. Regardless of my early stages of addiction, I was able to graduate high school and move on to college at Rider University to study marketing.”

“While in college, I continued smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol on a regular basis. I was able to keep myself together and graduated college with a degree in marketing. The summer after graduation, I started my own ice cream business on Long Beach Island a popular summer tourist location on the Jersey Shore. Things were going good, despite my inability to deal with my mental health issues and drug use.”

“Eventually harder drugs were introduced to my lifestyle as the marijuana and drinking stopped doing their “job.” Honestly, opioids allowed me to become more outgoing. In 2017, I decide to get away from my negative influences in New Jersey and move to Maryland with my sister for a fresh start. I thought that a change in location would provide a change in my situation, but that is not what I found. Instead, my drug use continued. Looking at the prospect of becoming homeless or getting help – I chose the help that I desperately needed. “

Michael came to HUM and completed our one-year Spiritual Recovery Program. “After graduation, I started working and stopped focusing on my recovery. Instead, I was so worried about making money that I got away from the intensive substance abuse programs at HUM and relapse became part of my story. I realized that I learned a valuable lesson in keeping recovery in the forefront of my journey. I recognized the hope and peace of mind that HUM provided, and I reenrolled a couple of months later.”

“This time I did things differently. I started listening to people who had been successful in returning from addiction and I focused on the programs instead of rushing back to work. Sometimes sitting still is better than making a rash/emotional decision. Eventually a job opened up in our Philanthropy Department and Pete Griffin, Assistant Director of Programs, thought that I would be a great fit. In October 2020, I was hired which brings us to today.”

“My primary responsibility is to handle our Gifts-In-Kind (GIK) program for the mission in addition to supporting many Philanthropy initiatives/projects. GIK provides much needed clothing and essential toiletries to the 540 men and women that we serve. I remember how great it felt as a program member to receive these “blessings.” Now I get to see the work that I do have a direct impact on my friends in the program, which makes it rewarding.”

“I am also proud to be this year’s 2021 Team HUM Captain for the Baltimore Running Festival. Running is in my family. My brother competed in the Olympic time trials for marathons and as a former long-distance runner myself, I understand the importance of the team’s motto: One Life at a Time, One Mile at a Time. On October 9, two hundred men, women, and children will join me in raising awareness and critical funds while representing HUM. These funds will help save people from the devasting grips of addiction. Throughout the years at Helping Up Mission, exercise and healthy eating habits have been a big part of my recovery. Fitness has helped me learn discipline which was much needed in my life. I also realized how much these things helped with my mental health as well. When you combine a healthy active lifestyle with everything that HUM has to offer you have a ‘recipe’ for success.”

“Growing up, I never imagined living and working at a Baltimore City rehabilitation center. It is funny where God leads us, but I trust in His plan. I hope to continue working at HUM and giving back to the place that helped save my life. Whether it is leading a team at the Baltimore Running Festival or securing vital GIK donations for our clients, I am ready to say ‘Yes.’”

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles, 48, was born and raised in Baltimore City by his mother and father. His family was not wealthy but they had everything that they needed. His parents sought to raise him with discipline. According to Charles, his mom “spoke it” and his dad “screamed it.”

When he was 13, Charles began smoking cigarettes, which transitioned to marijuana throughout high school. He attended Pikesville High School, where affluent students drove fancy cars and sported new diamonds. In an attempt to fit in, Charles began selling weed. “If you wanted to smoke it, I could get it. I was an “entrepreneur” with a substantial amount of money and this service helped me fit in.” During his time at Pikesville, Charles was arrested a few times and placed on probation for selling.

Charles maintained good grades and upon earning his high school diploma, his father begged him to go to college. “My dad offered to buy me any car that I wanted if I went to college. I regret to this day not following through with his offer.”

After high school his drug use unfortunately progressed. “I enjoyed the limelight, respect, girls, clothes, and cars that came with dealing drugs. It became my new addiction.” Charles was good at selling drugs, and he worked with successful dealers to learn how to do it even better. “It was my downfall, learning how to do what I was doing.” For the next 28 years, Charles used and sold drugs.

“I knew that I had a problem. In 2010 I came to the Helping Up Mission for six months, and in 2017 for seven. In May of 2018 I was at the end of my rope.” Two days before stepping through HUM’s doors Charles came face to face with God.

“I overdosed for the first and last time. In the ambulance the paramedic told me that I was dead. They hit me with two cans of narcan and were waiting for more to arrive. I saw God in the darkness of the overdose and heard the words ‘jails, institutions, or death.’ I had finally been through all three and heard God ask, ‘what more do I need to show you?’ I surrendered immediately in the ambulance.”

Charles began meditating on God first, for everything. “He has the last word. I live through His way, so that I am a servant and will be a witness to God’s good work.

Today, Charles is a Graduate Intern in client services. “I enjoy helping the guys see God plant a seed in them when they first get here, and watching that seed grow. Learning about themselves. I help them get the care that they deserve. If I can’t, I’ll find them somebody who can. We talk about anger, frustrations, stress, and where relapse comes from. I used to point the finger and let the darkness lead me astray. Today, I see the light. I also tell them that recovery literature and spirituality need to be balanced, and once they do that they will receive God’s path. When I sold drugs I provided a different type of service, today I serve God. At my first chapel upon entering HUM, CEO Bob Gehman talked about the staff at the mission being ‘All In.’ This really struck me and to this day, they are words that I live by. In my recovery I am ‘All In.’

Charles plans on attending Community College of Baltimore County in the Fall to pursue a degree in Human Services and Mental Health Therapy. “While signing up for college, I was looking to get a degree in Information Technology. I sat down at the registrar’s desk and she said that wasn’t the degree that I had signed up for…I was puzzled. She proceeded to show me my new student ID and then she read off my info from the computer and it said Human Services. I looked at my friend and laughed. If this was God’s will for me, I had to accept it as part of His plan. To this day, I still do not know who signed me up for this degree!”

Charles would like to thank you for caring and having the heart to serve “all of the lost souls at HUM. Thank you for keeping the lights on and the air conditioner going. The bible talks about living with the Holy Spirit in the fifth chapter of Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Thank you for embodying these principles in your heart to serve. “Donating your time is love, when you come and meet us where we are at. Thank you for bringing your own light to Helping Up Mission.”

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Brian, 50, was born in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. His father left the family coal company to work at Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore. When Brian was 11 his grandfather died, so his father needed to return to West Virginia to take over the business. Brian’s mother didn’t want to go, and chose to stay in Baltimore with Brian. “I felt that I did something wrong, because my father left,” Brian remembers.

Brian’s earliest addiction was money. “I thought my father left with everything, so I got a job to impress him. I was delivering papers, but I was also delivering drugs for my step-brother. There were times that he gave me $500 per week. When I was 16 years old, I went to Fox Chevrolet and paid $14,672 for a new Chevy van. My mother was so proud of me—she thought it was from delivering papers.”

“I worked hard and sold drugs. I was a functioning addict who used cocaine, but my mother was a nurse and she thought cocaine wasn’t addictive. I’d get clean for 60 days and then I’d start using again, but in my mind I wasn’t an addict. I started selling heroin and made fun of the people I sold to. As it turns out, my God has a sense of humor. I got hurt at work and needed back surgery. I started using Fentanyl patches and I was good to go, but when they said I didn’t need the medication anymore I started snorting dope. I became what I had judged.”

“Last year my mother got really sick. She was dying. She was in hospice and my family didn’t tell me because I was so messed up. Then my mother didn’t call me for my birthday, and I got worried. I later found a message from her—she had been in a coma and came out of it to look for me. I went to see her, but did dope in the bathroom while I was there. A nurse caught me and started crying. She said, “you’re killing your mother, get some help.” I didn’t know what to do. I’ll never forget the day I was with a girl, and the next thing I know I’m waking up from the inside of a rubber body bag. Paramedics hit me six times with Narcan. I haven’t seen that girl to this day, but if it wasn’t for her finding help I’d be dead. I knew that I had to do something, so I went to detox at Bayview. I was there for ten days when they usually only give you three. They suggested Helping Up Mission. The following Monday, at six o’clock in the morning, I was here. And I’ve been here ever since.”

“I decided that I was going to succeed. I started going to meetings every night of the week and bringing new guys with me. I got a sponsor and I started doing step work. I read the Bible, especially the daily Proverbs. This program has given me the structure that I needed in my life. You have to change the way you’re living. Today, I can walk through things instead of around them, even when it’s not great. I want to be clean more than I want to be high no matter what.”

“Three weeks ago my mother died, but before she did I went to the hospital and said, “Mom, I love you.” She responded, “I love you too.” I said, “Mom, you’re going to be alright,” and she said, “No, you’re going to be alright. I love you,” and she closed her eyes. I came back to the HUM and dealt with it. It’s not easy, but life shows up. At my home group I celebrated a year clean with a couple hundred people there.”

Brian now runs the crew for HUM’s maintenance work therapy program. He helps with the interview process and brings guys in with the right skills. Brian says, “ it helps with their recovery, and I point them in the right direction. I’ve got guys beating the door down at six o’clock in morning. I tell the guys to do everything that’s suggested, and they can’t tell me it doesn’t work.”

“Today, I get on my knees every day and say, ”Not my will but Yours be done.” I believe that this is what he wants me to do. I just take that little step, and God will take it the rest of the way. I don’t know how, I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. But I know it.”

When Isaac “Ike” lost his father at age four, he was sent to live with his aunt in Dundalk. He lived an outdoor “Huckleberry Finn” life, learning how to swim and even becoming a boy scout. Unfortunately, because his uncle was abusive, Ike’s home life was unstable and he frequently ran away.

Change came when a basketball was placed in Ike’s hands. Instead of running away he would run to the basketball court, and his skills rapidly accelerated. People began to notice how well he played, and opportunities began to present themselves. Anything that Ike needed; shoes, clothing, and basketball camp were provided for him. He helped lead his team to three straight championships. Colleges took notice and offered 17 scholarships before he decided to attend St. Bonaventure in New York. But, free opportunities sometimes come with the cost of exploitation, and Ike was vulnerable.

Before his time in college Ike had never been high, but during Easter break he was introduced to heroin, which was the beginning of the end. Ike recalls, “It gave me an escape, and I had a lot of scars. I took to it like I took to basketball. Soon I couldn’t get away from it.” That summer he stayed home getting high, and when he went back to school he realized that he had a habit. At half-time in the middle of a basketball game, he first felt the effects of withdrawal, quit the team and came home to the one thing he couldn’t escape anymore – Heroin.

Life deteriorated. When Ike returned home, his opportunities gone, he became classified as a career criminal and would spend most of the next 30 years in prison.

When he left prison in 2007, Ike realized that “the things that many people take for granted I never experienced.”

Shortly after his release Ike got married, but everyone, including his wife’s son, thought that it was a mistake. “At first I was angry, but during the first year of my marriage, I understood completely. If I had not used drugs drugs during my marriage, we would have made it. We both loved the Lord. But I started using and that ended it. I still speak to her everyday. We are in a really good place,” he admits.

Eventually Ike wound up at Mercy Hospital for detox. “Right after I got out of Mercy this guy said have you ever heard of the Salvation Army? He gave me the address and the phone number. I truly believe that guy was an angel because I had no other options.”

A few years later Ike needed a change from the Salvation Army and turned to his sister for guidance. “My sister donated money to HUM. I called and spoke with a man named Kevin, and he said “we’ll take care of you.” I thought that these were just words but when I came in I felt that this was a totally different beast,” Ike recalls.

When he arrived Ike had very low goals. “I wasn’t aspiring to do anything. Never really had a good job. I knew inside that I was better but I didn’t have the will.” “My sobriety hinged day to day. I have a solid foundation here. I knew it was doable.”

“My foundation starts with God. When I went to Pastor Gary’s class I thought, what is this all about. But when I got to Alpha (2nd stage of our year-long Spiritual Recovery Program) everything fell into place. Everything he said made sense. The Bible made more sense to me which made it easier to apply to my everyday life. Soon Mr. Avolio and my counselors gave me the confidence to do it. (finish the program)”

People started saying, “Ike, you would be a really good peer advocate. Matt Brown, the Education and Workforce Development Manager, went the extra yard for me, he made sure that I got with the right people. Matt helped me with my resume. Brett helped me with everything that I needed on the computer. Soon, I started the classes and was number one in the class. 4 interviews the first week, 3 job offers in 2 weeks. And I chose Johns Hopkins, Thanks Matt and Brett. As a Peer Advocate, my job is to help you help yourself. I will advocate for you. I’ve been there and I know exactly what you are going through. You can do it, I did it.”

“When I was younger I thought I was going to be a basketball player, but when life took its toll, I didn’t care. Life is not easy, but life is a truly precious thing, I have had some dark days, but I’m making up for it now – waking up seeing the sunrise and going to bed knowing I did the best that I can do.” Ike believes.

Finally Ike says, “It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am to the staff, this place gave my life purpose, and I would not have been able to do it without them. HUM made a difference in my life.”

For Adam, the loss of his father coupled with the weight of family obligations, steered him into dependence on painkillers and eventually heroin. In an attempt to free himself from the family construction business and escape tradition, Adam went to school to pursue a degree in Political Science. He intended to “fight for the underdog”.

Little did he know that the underdog he would ultimately fight for would be himself. After coming to Helping Up, Adam began to make peace with his past and his background. Once a high school track athlete, Adam even began running again. And now, he runs for recovery. He believes that “running is a metaphor, not just for recovery, but for life itself”.

Adam will be the first to tell you that “a journey of a thousand miles begins one step at a time. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. If you put your mind to it, you can finish the race”.

Adam grew up in Baltimore County, in a loving family that attended a strict church where music and toys were forbidden. His parents left the church when he was 12 and his father died unexpectedly when Adam was 18. The passing of his father and shortly thereafter his uncles rendered him without male figures. He was told that it was time to “man up,” and observe the Italian tradition of proper mourning.

He went to Virginia Tech to get a degree in Construction Management and follow in the footsteps of his late father, but his education was derailed after a marijuana possession arrest. At this time Adam decided to change his education goals and moved back home to study Political Science. He wanted to fight for the underdog.

During college Adam pursued the “normal” habits of a student and drank alcohol and dabbled in marijuana but functioned. At this time Adam had a daughter, graduated college and took two years off.

He started Law School at University of Baltimore and he “never got into it to make money,” as he “expected more social justice.” The reality of Law School quickly made him disenchanted. He was during this period when Adam started experimenting with painkillers. His using quickly became a dependency which led to headaches and even seizures. Adam remembers stockpiling the medication, which did not last long, spending too much money and then one day a friend told him, “heroin was cheaper.” And soon his life spiraled out of control.

Life now involved, falling asleep at the wheel, breaking and wrecking cars, and ruining the relationship he had with his daughter’s mother. This spiral resulted in Adam moving back home and even stealing from his mother. All the while still working and attending Law School.

Inevitably Adam spent 30 days in Jail not thinking about the future, but how to get more heroin.

Helping Up Mission.

Upon arriving at HUM, Adam finally took the time to listen to his elders and just “sit still.” He started his work therapy in house keeping, which enabled him to satiate his desire to be of service. Today he is a graduate intern and he has been clean and sober for over a year.

Running

In October 2017 Adam started running for the first time since running high school track in 2002. “It doesn’t matter how fast you run, if you put your mind to it you can finish the race,” Adam transfixed in the metaphors like those in recovery tend to do. Physically he began to feel much better and working with HUM partner Back on My Feet enabled him to feel human. “We have great volunteers that give donations and help serve meals, In Back on My Feet, volunteers run with you, get to know you and your family, and actually treat you like people. Which is awesome, because most of us, for years have only been told that we are thieves, and liars, and criminals.”

Adam was focusing on running the 5k at the Baltimore Running Festival, but is now planning on running his first half-marathon!

Family

“My daughter’s mother would not let me in the house, my mother kicked me out, and my sister wouldn’t even talk to me,” Adam recalls. Fast forward, he returned from a week’s vacation – with his mom and sister, and his mom now lets him drive her car and stay at her house unsupervised! His sister communicates with him, and he even helps his daughter’s mother with stuff around her house!

His daughter would do an impression of Adam “sleeping at the wheel.” Now she cheers him on as he races and gave him a book entitled 50 Things I Love About My Daddy for Father’s Day. This “Mad-Lib” style book contains quotes such as “ I love how fast you run,” and “ I love that you never make me brush my teeth.” The transformation is really powerful when Adam honestly states, “ I knew I was being a terrible example, I was using just to be a bad dad, If I didn’t have the drugs I would be a dad at all.” Today, “Having a kid is the best adventure in the world, she is my inspiration!”

Today

Today Adam is on a spiritual walk. Helping other addicts or the homeless make him feel that “all of his messing up… can be for a purpose, positive. He quotes Paul’s letter to the Corinthians “the suffering of this present time are nothing compared to the glory that shall be restored to us.” 20 years from now Adam envisions his daughter realizing that he “was human, fell and got back up” Adam knows that he has “a long way to go,” but with the “support of the people who have gone through it already,’ it will help him get to the point that he can do it on his own.

Adam believes like Jesus said” it is mercy when a man can be who he deserves to be.”

 

Eric is 40 years old and from West Baltimore, but moved to Carol County as a child. He explains that his parents were good people and he wanted to be like them. Eric was a good student, and his goal was to become a police officer after college. He recalls, “I wanted to be a detective. I always wanted to protect everything around me and police did that.”

Eric started using at the age of 14 when he saw the cool kids using, and he wanted to be like them. Not long after, he began getting drugs from the city for his friends in the county. Despite his drug use, he managed to continue through school with good grades. He had a teacher who noticed something was going on and confronted him. Eric remembers, “She told me she would help me in any way.”

Shortly after graduation, he was charged with robbery and assault. Although the charges were eventually dropped, Eric was no longer able to attend college to become a police officer. Before he could start college again, Eric got into a street fight and ended up in jail for robbery.

Eric moved to New York to be with the mother of his child and began a pattern of drinking and bad decision making. When he returned to Baltimore, his mother died, and Eric went on a six-month drug run. He explains, “Literally, I was trying to die.” He tried to get clean but instead became addicted to heroin. He and his girlfriend had their children taken from them because of the drugs.

He went through several cycles of getting clean and then messing up. In 2015, he got clean again and was clean until he was in an accident. The doctor prescribed pain medicine and Eric refused to take it at first. Eventually, he was in so much pain that he started taking the pills. After about a week of taking the pills, he decided to come to HUM. Eric said, “I knew I was getting ready to go on a run.” He could tell he was losing control and knew he needed help.

When he came to HUM, Eric “saw people making it. I saw people making themselves make it. I saw there was a whole lot going on in one building.” Even though he didn’t need the majority of what was offered at HUM, he was impressed. He had a place to live and the ability to leave, but Eric decided to stick it out to see what would happen and recently graduated.

Eric shares that he is sure that, “you cannot skip the struggle. That is where the personality is built. That is where the character is built. Anybody, anywhere that skips any struggle when they fall on their face, they are lucky if they get up again. People are dying from that.”

Eric is now the overdose outreach advocate at a nationally known hospital. He goes out into the places of need to help those struggling with addiction and tries to share hope with them. “I care about people seeing who they can be,” Eric explains. He likes providing options. “When I was in the midst of everything, there were no options. You wake up every day, and your intent has to be get money or be prepared to die. I have choices nowadays.”

He believes there is something at HUM that is special. There is no reason this many men who would never even speak to each other in the street can get along at the mission.

Eric feels like he is living right now to help others out. “I feel like my existence right now on this earth is if I am not making it better, don’t touch it.” He is thankful that he got to meet every single person that he met at HUM. When asked about his plans, Eric explains, “I want to try to share the hope that I learned. To me it is real.”

Listen to Eric tell his story on our podcast.

James, 50 years old, is originally from South Carolina. He moved to Baltimore at the age of 14 and started drinking to fit in. Then he saw others using heroin and thought they looked cool. From the time he was 18, he was stealing, lying, and his life was about drinking and drugs.

In 2016, James was living in the woods in South Carolina and found out that his daughter had passed away. He was supposed to come to Maryland to help with his grandchildren, but did not. He recalls, “I couldn’t come right away because I was too wrapped up into using and drinking, just not doing the right things.” He was hoping to get sober on his own and then come to Baltimore, but kept going back to the familiar and kept using. A couple of months later, his granddaughter was about to be put in foster care, so he decided to come to Maryland. A friend tried to help get him into treatment and offered to help pay for the trip.

While James was waiting for the train to Baltimore, he saw someone he knew and decided to go with him to get a bite to eat and a couple of drinks for the train ride. He explains, “The next thing I know I was waking up in [the] hospital. They had robbed me and stabbed me and pushed me out the car on the side of the road. [They] left me for dead. It was pretty bad. I couldn’t walk for about two months; I had to learn how to walk again.”

Once he was able, James felt determined to come to Baltimore to see his granddaughter. When he got off the train, James had a seizure and ended up at the University of Maryland hospital. There, someone told him about Helping Up Mission, which at the time, did not interest him.

He explains, “This addiction was beating at me. I felt like I just couldn’t function, I couldn’t be normal unless I had something in me.” So, the next morning, he went to the liquor store and then found a familiar spot under a bridge. That night he had another seizure and was back in the hospital.

Again, the hospital worker told him about HUM and offered to give him a referral. James took the address down and decided he needed to change. He walked to the Mission, hoping that he would not get turned away. At first, he stayed in Overnight Guests Services. James explains, “All I can remember is just being dirty and nasty and wanting to be to myself. I think I was more afraid than anything. I don’t think I was really quite sure whether I was really ready to stop.”

The guys all helped make sure he was okay and got him what he needed. He explains, “They kind of made me feel comfortable.” He admits that he was going through some insecurity problems and wasn’t very patient. He was about to leave when one of the guys encouraged him to give it a chance. “Ever since then, I just dug in, I dug in deep.” When he didn’t believe he could do it, his friend told him just to give it until tomorrow. James points out that his friend Jeffery is his special angel because he would not give up on James.

Once he started going to the classes and met with his counselor, James began to feel comfortable. The counselor helped him with his grief over losing his daughter and encouraged him to trust people again after the stabbing.

Be patient, buckle down, and keep moving forward

Throughout his time at HUM, James focused on getting custody of his granddaughter. He had a lot in his background that made the process challenging. Despite the frustrations, he learned to be patient, buckle down, and keep moving forward. James explains, “The HUM has taught me that. Those are some of the tools they have given me and showed me how to use. I just cannot thank the people around here [at HUM] enough. It is awesome.”

I thought I was going to die in the streets

James also knows that, “[HUM] helped me learn how to get connected to God again.” He grew up in the church, but shares, “I got disconnected with the church in my late twenties. Now, I know that [God] has had his hands on me the entire way. It took me to get clean and sober to recognize that. I closed my mind on that for a long time, but since being here and going to chapel every morning and hearing the word, I believe. I can feel it in my bones. He took an old, wretched guy like myself from out the woods and under the bridge and put me in a house, clean and sober. It is unbelievable. I never thought it would happen. I thought I was going to die in the streets; it is all I knew. It is all I loved.”

James has a new life and is renewing his relationships. He has a job working in a warehouse and enjoys it. James also has a place of his own and is ready to make a home for his family. He shares, “I never thought I would be where I am at now.” James is also thankful that his family never stopped believing in him and explains, “Now today…they are always saying, ‘You are back to yourself.’” Thanks to you, James has a chance at a fresh start.

HUM was the best place to go for help.

Dean is 60 years old from West Baltimore. “We weren’t rich and we weren’t poor. Pretty much, everything I asked my mother to get me, she got it for me.” Dean recalls that he had to go to Sunday school each Sunday or else he could not go out and ride his bike afterwards. He started singing in church and it was the only thing he liked doing. “Even when I was in school, I used to cut class and go in the broom closet and sing. We got in trouble, but it was fun.” He would sing a bit of Jackson 5 or the Temptations with his friends.

Dean had his first experience getting high after high school graduation.  “I thought it was the only way to have fun.” By his twenties, people around him started dying. At that point, he would get high to protect him from the pain of losing loved ones.

“I was getting high and trying to hide it from people.” His younger sister died of brain cancer, so he started using more to cover the pain. Then his brother died of colon cancer and he increased the usage to help with the pain. Finally, his wife had lung and brain cancer. He quit his job to be with her. Dean recalls, “While she was in the hospital, I laid the drugs down. I said I wanted to be with her with a clear head.” After seeing all of the death around him, he just gave up and didn’t care anymore.

He had his own lawn service that made him enough money to buy his drugs. People kept telling him he wasn’t looking right, so he just pulled away and became an introvert. He recalls that people recognized that he had  problems, “but they didn’t have guts enough to say, ‘Dean, you need help.”

One day, his mom saw him cutting grass. She tried to call to him and he didn’t answer. Eventually, she got in his face and said, “Boy, what’s wrong with you. You need help.” That evening, his family sat around and told him he needed to get into a program. “I tried to play it off and play the jokester, but they told me now is not the time to joke.” They asked if he wanted to be homeless. “I have always been with family. They told me if I didn’t get myself together and find someplace to go, I was going to be homeless. That rocked my world.” The intervention included information on several options for help. His church had donated to Helping Up Mission, and his sister had done research and said HUM was the best place to go to get help.

The next day he came to HUM

He agreed and then went and got high again. “I wanted help, but I really didn’t know how to ask for it.” “Part of me was saying nah, you don’t want that kind of help, you can go another year like this.” The next day he came to HUM, but was in such bad shape that he ended up at Johns Hopkins for a brief detox to help get him over the rough spots. After detox, HUM welcomed him back and told his family that Dean would have a rough couple of weeks. Dean remembers, “I was sick as a dog. Didn’t want to be bothered with nobody and was thinking of ways to get put out. But I guess God had other plans, because I am still here.”

Finding good people to be around

The spiritual life classes really hit home. “I said to myself, I am going to give it a go, I am going to try.” Dean believes that being held accountable at his work therapy also helped get him through his seed phase. Likewise, it really helped him when he found good people to be around. He met great friends in his dorm. “The whole dorm was just guys that were feeling what I was feeling.” They approached him and said, “I feel your pain. I done been there, I know what you are feeling.” That really encouraged Dean. He recalls, “Just surrounding yourself with people who are honest with you and are not going to tell you what you want to hear will get you through this.”

We would cry together

Every morning now, Dean wakes up and prays to be a better person than he was yesterday. He believes that the many opportunities here at HUM have really helped him. The pastors, the book club, the art room, and the treatment coordinators have all really encouraged Dean to grow. But if you listen to Dean, you will know that his counselor and his time in the choir really had an impact on his time at HUM. Dean describes his counselor, “We would talk, laugh, and cry together. She taught me to look at life a different way.”

It took him four months to join the choir. He explains, “I had to work on me. [But] I heard them singing and it was like a magnet, it just drew me to it. Just singing praises to the Lord and being in the company of that group of guys. They helped me through my hardest times.” Dean is not one for talking, but singing allows him to express himself.

HUM helped Dean through the hurt

Dean has had to deal with death again since coming to HUM. A friend left the program early and died from an overdose. It was very difficult, and he is sure that if he was on the street he would have tried to numb the pain like he did so many times. But, he had his support from HUM to help him through the hurt.

Dean explains, “If I went back out and used again today, I would be letting a lot of people down. First of all, I would be letting myself down. And today, I want to live. It hasn’t always been peaches and cream through this journey. But, I have had more good days than bad days.” He says that now they are mostly good days. Dean says, “I graduated, I became an intern and I have stuck around… I’ve got a purpose today.”

Thanks to you, Dean has found the man he always knew he could be. He is singing again, worshiping a God that won’t give up on him, and making sure that he will be leave his mark on this earth as a man who was dependable.