January 2022 NL Feature Story – Scott W.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When we were beaten, we became willing”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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. “

 

Valeriy, 31, grew up in Nakhodka, a small seaside town in the Russian Far East. At age 7, his family emigrated to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania.  Coming from a close-knit community of people trying to get by, Valeriy was shaped by Russian culture in a positive way. However, adjustments from his upheaval at a young age contributed to stress and anxiety and without the proper coping skills to navigate his new way of life here in America.

At age 9, Valeriy planned to play basketball with friends after school. Unknowingly, at the same time, his father finished work early and wanted to spend some quality time with Valeriy, playing tennis. The misunderstanding led to his father, in a rage, beating him severely. Valeriy recalls, “This moment revealed my father’s abandonment issues and shaped my codependency. I didn’t want to get the crap beaten out of me again.”

“In high school I began playing soccer, which shaped my self-discipline. Due to “peer pressure” and in order to “fit in”, I started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.  While initially able to maintain classes and relationships, things got out of hand in college. I lived by myself, living off a bag of potato chips and marijuana. I figured that if I had those two things, why would I need anything else?”

After college, Valeriy got married and fathered a son. “We were so young and immature, we didn’t know how to communicate.  Marijuana gave me a fake euphoria; my culture made my identity as a father permanent.  My family didn’t believe in divorce. Eventually we separated and regardless of my father’s actions, my upbringing taught me how to be a father.

“I thought I could achieve more through drug use, but I developed paranoia, lost my ability to control my emotions, and people began manipulating me. Eventually, my actions were going to lead me to lose custody of my son.”  A moment of God’s grace.  “I was planning on going to my son’s Taekwondo belt ceremony. The night before, I thought that I would stay up all night on crystal meth, but fell asleep, and woke up right before the ceremony. Upon arrival, I was asked if I was high on drugs. My custody was at stake and I was tired of lying. I was sick. My spirit and happiness were gone. In order to enjoy my time with my son, I thought I had to be on drugs.

After I confessed, my ex-wife told me about Helping Up Mission, saying her ex-boyfriend had spent almost a year there. I interviewed for the recovery program but was told I needed to “detox” from the drugs before entering the program.  I stayed at my ex’s house for a week and returned to the mission in peace. I was raised Christian, so I view it like Daniel having peace in the lion’s den.”

“It wasn’t always easy. I didn’t see my son for the first six months, and dealing with being in the city can be difficult. But I didn’t struggle with the density. I was able to go on Equine Therapy retreats to a horse farm and enjoyed hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail, where at the end of the day we could sit around the fire and help each other out. I joined “Back on my Feet”, and now I love the city of Baltimore and its architecture. I studied Landscape Architecture in college, and I love the city’s open spaces.

HUM’s one-year Spiritual Recovery Program has helped me on my spiritual journey.  The answers are all in the Bible, reading it first and then putting the lessons into practice. Before I came to HUM, I knew about Jesus, I just didn’t know Jesus. I was never vulnerable to Him.  Like Daniel, take my attention off my problems and turn my focus to God.  Unfortunately, some damage had been done because of my past, but I can now love without fear.

Valeriy recognizes that plans do change.  “My plans have changed six times since I came to HUM. At first, my recovery was for my son. Then I was going to stay for two months, six months, and then I was going to get a job. But working in Overnight Guest Services (OGS) has slowed me down and taught me humility.  I have learned, with respect, to see our guests as persons and not a persona. I show them love, humor, sensitivity, and compassion. This humility allows me to sit still and not worry about a job right now.

“I used to build furniture by hand, and soon I will finish my CNC training through the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC). My dream is to one day combine these two skills, move back to Pennsylvania, and open a shop, so that I may provide for my son and meet his basic needs. And to be his father.”

“I would like to thank the donors, this is an opportunity that God puts in their hearts to give. Please do not be discouraged to give a guy the chance to affect his life. This is a huge investment in our future.”

Devin will be running for Team HUM at the 2019 Baltimore Running Festival (BRF). The journey that led him to this point was not always smooth, but his transformation enables him to maintain structure in his life. He runs to support all men and women struggling with addiction and homelessness.

Devin, 30, was born and raised in the Owings Mills neighborhood of Reisterstown, Maryland. “I was always athletic. I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. My father really got me into sports, he played baseball his whole life. I was good at all of them until I broke my femur playing football at age 12. It took me a while to heal, but I attended Mount Saint Joseph High School in Irvington and continued to play sports.”

“Everything was going well until my parents divorced when I was 18. I moved to Edmondson Village with my mother, which is when my active addiction began.  I started hanging out with my friends from Mt. St. Joseph and my mindset changed. I started thinking and reacting differently to life, and developed a sense of paranoia.  I had to look over my shoulder all of the time. I thought I had to be on point with my movements, the way I acted, the way I thought, and the way I talked. I was drinking, partying and doing illegal things.”

After high school, Devin briefly attended Delaware State University to play football. Unfortunately, he made some bad decisions during his first winter break and got locked up.  At the age of 19, he would spend a couple of months at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The case was ultimately non-processed, because Devin was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.   “It messed my head up, I didn’t know how to deal with going back to the old neighborhood upon release.”

“I started drinking every day, hanging out with my friends, and partying.  I did this for the first decade of my adult life.. I became depressed—this  was not how I wanted to live. I could do better than this.  I have always had people say that I had all the potential in the world, I just didn’t know which route to take to make my life better and get out of the depression.”

“My mother gave me an ultimatum. She said, “Devin, you can either go to Helping Up Mission (HUM), or you can get out of my house forever.” My mother learned about HUM through my father’s sister who gets her hair done by a guy that does the Tuesday meetings in the rec room. I fought this weekly with excuses until I finally said okay. I’ll go. I surrender. And coming to HUM is the best choice that I ever made in my life.”

“HUM is a breath of fresh air. All of the negativity of the outside world went away, and I started adjusting to the daily structure of Mission life. Before I came in, I wasn’t too fond of people telling me what to do, but I learned to humble myself and began taking direction.”

The structure that aided Devin took new meaning when he started running again. “I was working out every day in the gym, but my stomach wasn’t going anywhere. I signed up with Back On My Feet, to begin a running program.  Getting up at 5:30am began to push me mentally, and when I started running I started realizing that I was capable of more than I thought. One mile became two, and three miles became four.  Running is a metaphor for recovery.  I have a network of people who will not let me quit. It is a great thing just to be able to do something with a group of people who want the same things out of life.”

“Today I work in Client Services.  I get to meet all of the new guys and help them get what they need, like health insurance. My mother always told me, “Devin, you are a rescuer, you have the heart to help the next man.” I truly bond with them and answer their questions. I love it.”

On October 19, Devin will be running in the half marathon at the BRF. He has been training hard and is ready to push himself to see how far he can go. “Representing Team HUM is an honor, and to be noticed means that I am doing the right things in my Mission life.”

After the BRF, Devin hopes to serve his country by joining the NAVY as a helicopter pilot. A year ago, structure was one of his sticking points. But today, structure is a necessary part of a balanced life. “HUM has shown me that you really can do anything that you want in life. You just have to apply yourself.”

“Before coming to HUM, I knew that there was a God out there, I just didn’t understand His way.

Today I pray every night before I go to bed, and every morning while I run. Coming to HUM saved my life, I’d probably be dead or in prison otherwise. The greater reward is worth the try.”

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.”

 

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.

“I had accepted in my head that I was going to be a dope fiend for the rest of my life.”   Josh is 29 years old and was born in Boston to an Air Force family. He moved to Middle River, Maryland when he was seven and he graduated from Eastern Technical High School. Josh started using marijuana around the age of thirteen. He remembers the older kids in the neighborhood using. “Curiosity was a big part of it,” and he thinks the media had something to do with it, too. Throughout high school, Josh used the party drugs – ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, cocaine, etc. It wasn’t until his senior year that a friend introduced Josh to opiates and he explains, “I fell in love immediately”. After high school, Josh worked in sales and went to community college. He managed to do okay balancing out a life of partying, working, and going to school. Eventually, he realized that managing his social life and friends had become overwhelming. “I had no rest. So, if I wasn’t at work and if I wasn’t at school, I either had a group of friends over at my house partying, or they were hitting me up. [They wanted to know] about what bar are we going to, or can you get me this drug and do you want to do some of it with me? Josh remembers that “it became a burden to continue in that role.” Josh’s friends at work reintroduced him to oxycodone during this time. “I started to lose interest in work and school and hanging out with friends.” At first, oxycodone helped and kept him motivated to keep going. “Eventually, my friends started seeing different changes in me, that I was becoming a straight addict with these pills [as opposed to a social user]. They started not wanting to be around me. I started resenting them not wanting to be around me. Then I started lying about how much I was using. That’s when the isolation started to happen.” Eventually, Josh dropped out of college, and his life became about going to work and getting high. When he was twenty-four, taking prescription drugs became too expensive and more difficult to find, so he moved on to heroin. “The idea of shooting up had disgusted me [in the past].” I had always taken a lot of pride in myself and had a lot of confidence in myself, and the needle took that away from me. I couldn’t do it in a room with a mirror because I didn’t want to see myself.” After a while Josh wanted to get clean, so he called Mercy Hospital’s detox unit and went through three days of detox. “Luckily I had a friend that was clean at the time, and he introduced me to Narcotics Anonymous. I went to a meeting, and I didn’t like it. The guy who shared, I judged him the whole time. Even though I was an addict, I judged everyone in there the whole time. I left there and got high. I called my buddy, and he told me to come back.” Josh kept going but decided he didn’t want to do anything they were telling him to do. “It sounded like a lot of work.” He refused to give up alcohol and six months later, while he was drinking, he started using heroin again. Josh overdosed four times after he started using again. He explains, “Before, when I was disgusted about what I was doing, I didn’t hate myself. I just hated what I was doing. I knew I was better than that needle. But, at this point, I had tried all these different things and had lost the willpower to get clean. I had accepted in my head that I was going to be a dope fiend for the rest of my life and I was okay with that.” Eventually, Josh was arrested and charged with possession and disorderly conduct. He had also received several traffic violations over the years. At his hearing, he was sentenced to four years in jail because the judge was afraid that Josh would either kill himself or someone else if he was allowed to go free. When he was clean, Josh had met graduates of Helping Up Mission. He told his dad about HUM and said he wanted to come here. So, when Josh filed for a modification of his sentence, he came to HUM. When he arrived, adjusting wasn’t that difficult. HUM wasn’t what he expected and “looked like a hotel.” At the end of his blackout period (the first forty-five days), he started to show up to non-mandatory meetings, hearing the NA literature again and met a good group of guys who seemed to want the same things he did. “When we got off black-out, we were [out at] meetings every single night.” Josh came to Helping Up Mission just before Thanksgiving. “That week was just amazing. We eat well here, anyway, but that week I ate amazing. We had the Ravens players come out, and it was cool meeting those guys. A lot of people were festive and in good moods. I was used to being in jail where everybody was angry the whole time, and there was a tension that you could cut with a knife that they didn’t have here. It was relaxing to me.” Josh’s parents visited around Christmas, and he sees them more often now. He is working on building up the relationship with them. His brother has even brought his dogs to meet up with Josh at local parks. While at Helping Up Mission, Josh has grown through his work therapy experiences. He started off as a peace-keeper and then moved to work as Pastor Gary’s assistant. He was there for several months when another opportunity presented itself. Josh had a casual conversation with Martin, the IT director at HUM, and mentioned some of his experience. A little while later, Martin asked Josh to work for him in IT as an undergraduate intern. The opportunity to work on technology has been incredible for Josh as he rediscovers his interests, especially in network security. Josh has a bit longer before his graduation. He wants to stay active in his twelve-step program and has been asked to lead a group here at the Mission. He plans to eventually go back to school to study the field of IT and network security. He says, “I’ve learned to trust the process and God’s plan for me.” Josh and a friend at HUM recently reminisced, “When we got here we didn’t want to stay for a year.” Now, they might stay beyond a year to continue to grow. “This is a good place for me right now. As long as I keep doing the next right thing, then I will never know what it’s like to get hit with NARCAN again.”