“I was using drugs for so long that I didn’t know how to live without them.”

Dustin was a Baltimore City firefighter when he fell through a flight of stairs and was injured. He was prescribed pain pills to help him recover, and “started needing more and more.”

“When I couldn’t pass the physical to go back to the department, the insurance got cut off, which means the doctor got cut off. I realized I was addicted and started feeling the withdrawal.” So, Dustin started buying pain pills on the street. When he couldn’t get them anymore, a buddy suggested trying heroin as a stronger and cheaper alternative.

He woke up one morning and couldn’t find any drugs. He remembers, “I was sitting around, hating myself, and hating life. I cursed God a lot and was wondering what went wrong.” A week earlier his sister and mom had tried an intervention. Dustin decided to try to detox and went to Bayview Hospital. He was in there for seven days when a social worker, “an angel on my shoulder” as Dustin puts it, came to him and explained that he needed to do something or he would die. She told him about Helping Up Mission and showed him videos of the Mission on YouTube, but he still wasn’t sure.

Eventually, Dustin decided to come to HUM. He remembers, “When the cab pulled up out front, I was scared and nervous. I was still sore and feeling [the effects of withdrawal]. I was using drugs for so long that I didn’t know how to live without them.”

At first, a year seemed daunting, but after three months of going to classes and chapel, he decided he wanted to stay. “I liked the way I was feeling. Every time I would see [my mom]; she would say ‘You’re looking good. You’re walking tall now. Keep it up.’”

“I started building a strong support network. I was making good friends. We started playing softball together. We were all learning to live again, learning to play again, learning to have fun again. Besides my family, the friends that I made here that are still my friends today; I consider them family now. There is no way we would be where we are now without each other’s support. We still hold each other accountable every day.”

When he came to HUM, Dustin knew his mother had terminal cancer. The time they had together while he was going through recovery allowed them to get to know each other better than ever before. Dustin remembers, “It was kind of a blessing that we knew she was terminal and we got to know each other [again]…it was liberating. One Sunday I visited her, and they did a church service in the cafeteria at the nursing home. We prayed together there for the first time probably since I was a little boy. I still remember that.”

After about six months, as Dustin was beginning to get his life together, he got a phone call that his four-year-old son had pneumonia and was in the hospital. Although they thought he was getting better, he did not begin to breathe on his own when the hospital removed the ventilator. Dustin was on his way to say his goodbyes to his son when his friends rallied around him. They wouldn’t let him go the hospital on his own. They were with him and went through the painful time with Dustin. While he was numb and thought about using again, he didn’t want to lose all of his progress and all the trust he had built back up. He didn’t want to disappoint those who believed in him. “I loved to see the look on my mom’s face. I loved that my daughter smiles back at me now.”

His mom’s health was deteriorating, and she could not make it to his son’s funeral. Three weeks later, Dustin’s sister called to say that his mother only had a day or two left. He and his sister spent the night with his mom as she passed away. “I just felt gratitude. If I would have picked up [and started using] after my son passed away, then I wouldn’t have been able to be there with my mom. It just kind of put everything in perspective for me. As hard as it was, it was peaceful. We were able to be there with her. I was clean and clear-minded. I was at peace, and she was at peace.”

Dustin explained how he continued his recovery during this difficult time. “I leaned on my network. That is a big part of my story; I had that positive network.” He remembers, “It was hard at first. All I knew is that I had to keep moving forward.” A few days after his mom had passed away, Mike Rallo encouraged Dustin to share his story with the new guys at HUM. “It was an emotional day. When I walked out of there, I just felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.” It was also an opportunity for him to help others at HUM. “Before, I thought nobody’s going to learn from me.” Now he can see that others learn from his struggles and how he got through it.

Dustin graduated in November of 2015. Shortly after graduation, Dustin and his close friends were all offered staff positions at HUM. He recalls, “To be able to give back to a place that saved all of our lives, it was awesome.” He continues, “It’s about the guys that are here in the program. Just to be able to give back to them, it’s a special place, and I feel it when I walk in here.”

Dustin has a new life after coming to HUM. In August, he had a new a life come into the world when he and his wife had a baby boy. “Hopefully I went through the struggles so he won’t have to.” Dustin’s daughter is eleven now, and he gets to be there for her, too. “I love being a dad.”

Dustin says that those who support HUM matter. “You save lives every day. I’m not just thankful, but I’m sure my family is. I’m sure my kids are. I’m sure my mom was thankful to have her son for her last six months – her real son, not her son who was showing up high.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Born into a Marine family in North Carolina, Jackie was one of six children. His parents divorced when he was twelve, so Jackie grew up with his mother and was close to his grandmother who shared her faith with the family.

Not having his father around was quite difficult for Jackie. “The last time I saw my dad was when I was twelve years old and when I saw him again, I was twenty-four,” he shared. Jackie started drinking with older friends when he was sixteen.  “I wanted to do it to try it out.”  Jackie continues, “When I first started using, I just gave up.  When my daddy left, it took a lot out of me. I said well, if I do this, maybe I will get some attention. I got attention, but it wasn’t the right kind of attention.”

By the time he dropped out of high school in 12th grade, Jackie believes that he was already an alcoholic.  He recalls, “Momma told me I’ve got to go or go back to school, so I left the house.” He stayed in the area but would work during the day and drink at night. It only took a few years before he started using drugs.  Jackie continued to drink and use cocaine for many years, working odd jobs and just getting by.

About five years ago, Jackie came to Maryland to see his father who was living in the area and had been diagnosed with cancer.  “When I saw my daddy in the hospital, I made a promise I would stop.  I made a promise to him, and I stopped for a while.  But it took a toll when he died, and I couldn’t help it.” After his father had died, Jackie stayed clean for a while, but gave up and picked back up again. 

A few months later, Jackie had a light stroke.  His wife is a nurse, and she recognized the symptoms.  Even after the stroke, Jackie kept on drinking and doing drugs.  His wife finally gave him the ultimatum: “It’s either the liquor or me.” After that, things just kept going downhill. She left him, “but at the time, I didn’t care,” Jackie said.  He had to move in with his uncle and kept up the drinking and drugs for about three years.

He heard about Helping Up Mission from his cousin, a bishop at a local church. “I was tired,” Jackie remembers, so he agreed to come and was ready for the year-long Spiritual Recovery Program. Jackie recalls that he was worried about coping with all of the other guys at the mission, but he knew he needed HUM.

Jackie shares, “When I got here I asked God to help me stay faithful and humble and to give me patience. I went into the chapel one afternoon, and the choir was singing, and I just felt the power. I wanted to join the choir. Ever since then, I’ve been singing in the choir.” 

His cousin also told Jackie’s wife that he was at HUM, and she came to see him after the 45-day blackout of Seed Phase when residents have no access to computers, cell phones and are not allowed to leave the campus generally. Jackie explains, “She told me that she never gave up on me.  She wanted me to get myself together.” Once she saw his recovery, his wife suggested he move back in, but Jackie wanted to finish up his time at HUM, responding, “I told her I’m not leaving.  I’ve got to do this for me.”

While at the Mission, Jackie was able to participate in Cornerstone, the substance abuse program associated with Johns Hopkins that is embedded at HUM. This program helps residents understand the effects of chemical addiction physically, and employs group therapy sessions. Shortly after he finished up the Cornerstone program, Jackie became an Intern in food services at the Mission. 

Jackie is going to take full advantage of every opportunity given to him and has decided to not only finish the recovery program, but he has also decided he wants his high school diploma. Jackie has two choices to obtain his high school diploma: the more traditional General Equivalency Diploma based on exams and the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). The NEDP is based on life experiences and course work, such as real life skills like financial budgeting. Both tracks require computer literacy, resume writing and job search skills.  He will benefit from the Innovative Learning Center at the Mission and use the tutors provided to him and other assistance while he prepares for the exam.

After he successfully completes both the Spiritual Recovery Program and his GED, Jackie is looking forward to getting a job and spending more time with his wife and his church. 

When asked about HUM, Jackie says, “This place is awesome. These people will go out of their way to help you out in any way you can.” Jackie wants to thank those who support Helping Up Mission in a variety of ways: “Thank you for all of your offering, dedication, and your donations. You are tremendously helpful people. The volunteers are awesome. They are real good people.”

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Jake is 32 years old and working on his bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore; he has plans to earn his Masters in Public Health to work on water security or to develop vaccines. Looking back at everything that brought him to this point in his life, Jake says that he is, “grateful for the Helping Up Mission and for everything I’ve been through.” He believes that “not everyone’s life has to be reduced to shambles, but I’m grateful because maybe if mine didn’t, I might be living a mediocre life.”

Jake grew up in Severn where he went to several small, religious schools. His parents divorced when he was eight years old, but he continued to have relationships with both his mother and father and knew that they both loved him. Jake’s father was more like a best friend growing up – he was always encouraging, but rarely disciplined Jake. 

He remembers, “I figured out pretty early that, if I can project the appropriate image, then I can get away with anything.” Jake had always been a good child and had earned his parent’s trust, so he barely had any oversight at that point in his life. He explains that he liked the “thrill of living a double life.”  In high school, Jake started using a variety of different recreational substances off and on.  After he graduated high school, he says, “I just wasn’t expecting the lack of direction that I had in life.  ” That hit me really hard because I had all the confidence in the world throughout high school that, in spite of my behavior, I thought I could have anything in the world that I wanted.”  Eventually, Jake started “relying on drugs to get any enjoyment out of life.” 

Jake

He remembers that “I didn’t want to do school anymore. I didn’t really want to do anything anymore.” After he had wrecked a car, he was sent to a strict rehab facility and then tried other rehab programs.  Jake recalls, “I hated the life I had and didn’t know how to stop or make it change.” So, he believes that he made one of his best decisions and joined the military.  He has always had an interest in the medical field, so he joined the Navy to serve in the medical corps.   

During the five years in the Navy, Jake trained in Illinois and served in Italy and Pearl Harbor.  He was also able to serve on a six-month humanitarian mission to Central and South America.  Jake says the military “let me travel, let me know that I could do anything that I put my mind to, gave me friends around the globe, and gave me ideas for my future.” While he may have had the opportunity to drink with his peers, Jake recalls that substance abuse was not an option for him while in the Navy. 

When he got out of the Navy, Jake had the best of intentions.  “I got out thinking that I was different enough that coming back here everything would be different.  It wasn’t really true. I came back to the same old frustrations, the same old obstacles.” “I can’t remember what the first reason I went back to using drugs was, except maybe boredom.”  Although he had a job he loved, Jake went back to his old ways and struggled for two years with his addiction. 

His older brother told him about Helping Up Mission, so he came to HUM for the first time in 2015.  “All II wanted was to salvage what was left of my life.  I didn’t know anything about really addressing me at the core and what is wrong. And I didn’t even really care to do that.  I was too scared to do that. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t think it was necessary. I just wanted to protect the few things I had in this world – a car, apartment, and a few decent relationships.   I just wanted to stop digging the hole deeper.” Jake stayed for about three months but wanted to get back to his life as quickly as possible. 

Two months after he left HUM, Jake was “way out of control. It was my worst ever. There was daily use of heroin and cocaine.” His family was worried, and his sister staged an intervention, but he didn’t get the help he needed. He just kept using. It wasn’t until he overdosed and got in another car accident before Jake felt broken enough to see that he needed help.  Two days later, Jake came “crawling back in the doors of HUM.”

This time around, Jake entered HUM with a quiet new focus.  He found a couple of guys that he could relate to, stuck with them, and then really did some introspection.  He has taken advantage of the mental health counselors during this time at HUM.  “Before, I had no desire to really dig.  I was too afraid of what I would find.  Now I know that there is no hope of hope if I don’t do what is uncomfortable.”

Jake has learned to cut himself a break and to stop clinging to his past.  He now knows to take responsibility for the things he needs to, but that he isn’t responsible for the things he can’t control.  “I walked into the doors this time and just let go of the entire outside world.  I was no longer trying to save anything from the past.  I just knew that I needed to get myself straight.”

Jake says just hearing that “I am a wicked sinner and it’s okay” really helped him.  Now he knows that he “doesn’t need to be righteous for God to love me, or for me to love myself.”

Since coming to HUM, Jake has realized that he can combine the strengths of the 12 step program with his faith to make recovery work for him. In fact, Jake is the Secretary of his AA home group and enjoys serving in this way.  “I have been fortunate to find a meeting where I connect with the guys there.”

Jake will stay at HUM through graduation this time but then plans to move on and finish up his schooling.  Because he has allowed himself to focus on his recovery during his stay at the Mission, Jake is celebrating his independence and believes God knows how his future will all work out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick has been able to rebuild his relationship with his mother and brothers, and now he can help others do the same!

Nick is the youngest of three boys whose parents divorced when he was young. He admits that he was spoiled and played both parents to get what he wanted. His brothers stayed with his mom most of the time, but Nick would go back and forth between both parents. He liked to stay with his more lenient dad, who was also an addict.

At the age of ten, Nick started drinking alcohol and using marijuana. When he was twelve, he was using regularly. His addiction got worse, and by the time he was fifteen, Nick’s mom sent him to a recovery program in Utah. He hated the program, and was angry at his mom for sending him. He explains, “I always loved my mom, more than anything in the world. She was a wonderful lady, but I was always mad at her for that.”

While he was in Utah, Nick didn’t use, and completed two years of high school. He thought he had recovered and wanted to return to Maryland to be a normal student and play sports for his senior year. Nick convinced his dad to get him out of the program and let him come back to play football and baseball.

Upon returning, Nick earned the starting quarterback role on his varsity team. He drank occasionally, and once the football season was over, he drank frequently. During baseball season, Nick hurt his arm and started taking pain medication which he became dependent on..

He played baseball for a year in college, but his reliance on pain medications led to a heroin addiction, and soon, Nick didn’t want to do anything other than feed his habit. He quit school and managed to survive for several years with the help of his father.

He eventually moved back with his mom, but he wasn’t able to hold a job or have a relationships. Again, his mom tried to help by bailing him out when he got in trouble and sending him to rehabs. One of the programs had a spiritual focus, and that was where Nick discovered his desire for a relationship with God.

Unfortunately, he returned from one of the rehab programs to find that his brother had started using, too. Nick returned to his old ways and even began to sell drugs out of his mother’s house. His mom had finally had enough and said they couldn’t live there anymore. Enraged, Nick went to Las Vegas to live with his father. “I was not nice about it at all. I could not control my emotions. I am a completely different person now. I don’t even recognize the guy that I used to be.”

Nick lived two and half years in Vegas. He was always high, repeatedly arrested, and at one point found his father on the floor unconscious from an overdose and with a blood infection from shooting up. In the end, Nick was living in a trailer that didn’t have power or water. He was exhausted, and when his aunt came out to bring him home, he returned reluctantly to the East Coast.

Nick has a family friend on the Board of Helping Up Mission who recommended that he and his brother come to HUM. Although Nick was not ready to stop, his brother was ready, and came to HUM’s Spiritual Recovery Program. He recalls “I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to.” As Nick went through several other programs, he realized, “I didn’t really want to live. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to do what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.” He kept trying and kept slipping up, but all of those places helped keep him alive until he was ready to stop. “I always believed that once I was ready to stop, I could with God’s help.” Nick called his brother after he had messed up again, and his brother suggested he come to HUM.

Nick remembers walking through the door and just crying. He was worn out and wanted to stop. When he came in it felt good and safe, and he could finally let his guard down. At HUM, he could focus on what he needed to do to get better. He had the chance to address the root causes of his addiction. For the first time, Nick didn’t immediately seek out a social circle. Instead, he focused on his recovery and did the work he needed to recover.

One thing Nick had to work on was his relationships. He was tired of hurting everyone. When his mom came to visit, it was tough to see her, and they both cried. She visited every week and welcomed him home.

There were years that Nick didn’t communicate with his mother, and there were times she enabled him, believing she was helping him. Eventually, she made the tough choice to say “whenever you are ready, I am here.” It was certainly tough for him to hear, but now Nick proudly declares that his mother is “the best woman I ever met. She is loving and caring and always did everything she could for my brothers and me. She always put us first.”

It has been almost a year since Nick graduated from HUM. He now works as an Intern in the Program Office at the Mission and helps other men find their way. Thanks to you, Nick has been able to rebuild his relationship with his mother and brothers, and now he can help others do the same!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Richard is no longer wandering the streets. Instead, he is spending this Christmas with family!

Richard, 58, has lived his whole life in Baltimore. Dad was a steelworker and mom stayed home, taking care of the four children.

Richard remembers his grandmother struggled with alcoholism and was reclusive. While he didn’t like that about her, he started to drink, himself, by age 13. “I was small in stature and shy,” he says, “and it helped me fit in better. It gave me ‘beer muscles’.”

Looking back, Richard says he was an alcoholic by 16.  Still, although drinking regularly and working a side job, he did earn his high school diploma.

But, at 19, his parents couldn’t tolerate his drinking and “invited” him to leave the family home.  On his own, and continuing to drink, Richard kept steady employment in local restaurants. A hard worker, he often received raises and promotions. Then, at age 28, his boss invited him to his first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.

It was a moment of clarity! Richard bought into the 12 Steps of AA and began faithfully working the program. A couple of years later, his girlfriend, the mother of his son, agreed to marry him. Richard remembers this as a good time in his life and he stayed sober for eight years.

But, he started getting bored with his daily routine. “Life got kind of stale,” he says. One day, Richard decided to take a drink – even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. Within a year, he was divorced. While he cared about his son and saw him almost daily, Richard admits it wasn’t quality time.

The two of them became estranged when Richard was sent to jail for a year. In fact, they only saw each other once during the following decade – at the viewing for Richard’s mother after her death. By that time, his son was on his own journey of alcoholism… and recovery, with two years clean.

In her later years, Richard’s mother needed 24-hour supervision because she was now blind and diabetic. Still bored with his life, Richard moved into her house and cared for her – all-day, everyday for seven years until her death. But that was okay with him because he could also isolate from the world and keep drinking.

After his mom died, Richard remained isolated and drinking in her house. But after two years and numerous unpaid bills, his sister evicted him. Richard says, “While I wasn’t shocked, I still had no plan. I was penniless and had this feeling of impending doom. I cared, but knew I was powerless – and that it was my own fault.”

Then something happened. A friend tricked Richard into attending an AA meeting because she knew his son would be there. The two exchanged pleasantries and his son introduced Richard to two ladies at the meeting.

The next week, now homeless and penniless, Richard was standing on a Baltimore street looking at a store window display. Inside, one of the women from the AA meeting recognized him and came out. They talked and she promised to take him to an AA meeting where he could learn about a program that might really help him. 

As a recluse, Richard was afraid of programs, but agreed to go to the meeting. There he met three guys from Helping Up Mission who shared about HUM’s 12-month residential Spiritual Recovery Program. After hearing their stories and seeing how they were doing now, Richard felt a spark of hope.

But, it was the Labor Day weekend and there were no intakes until Tuesday. Richard prayed, asking God to keep him alive until he could get to HUM.

Then, an AA friend from years ago recognized Richard and offered to take him to his home for those three days. Richard slept on his couch, got cleaned up, ate good food and went to more meetings with his friend.

Upon arrival at HUM, Richard said, “I was looking for all of the homeless people, but I couldn’t see anyone who looked like me. The moment I walked in I felt hope!”

But Richard was in terrible shape – 115 pounds and couldn’t get up out of a chair on his own. And, after nearly a decade of isolation, being in the midst of 500 men on the HUM campus wasn’t easy. “But I noticed I was getting better,” he says. “My life was changing and I could see it. I could even look people in the eyes again.”

Richard’s daily work responsibilities on campus also required him to interact with many new people. He met guys serious about their recovery and they became friends, even helping him reconnect with his son.

Today they’re doing much better. “It’s amicable,” he says, “no longer about the past. He believes I am sorry. We love each other.”

Richard also reached out to his ex-wife and thanked her for raising their son. He even reconnected with the sister that evicted him.

This fall Richard celebrated one-year of sobriety and graduated from our one-year Spiritual Recovery Program. “I am truly learning what it means to live one day at a time,” he says.

Thanks to you…Richard no longer wonders the streets, isolated and homeless. As a HUM graduate he continues to live and work on our campus – and this year Richard will be spending Christmas with his family – at his sister’s house!

"I will spend Christmas at my sister’s house." 1

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Troy, 47 years old, was born and raised in Philadelphia, the second child of four children. A bright guy, he worked hard in high school, and his grades reflected it. This is his story.

Troy’s family was very important to him and provided a lot of support. While many families around them were disintegrating, his family held together, and upon graduation, Troy joined the Army. He reflects, “…a lot of my friends were starting to go down a path that I didn’t want to go down, starting to deal drugs.”

Initially, Troy planned to make a career out of the military and spent 8 years in the infantry. But at that point, he decided it was time to move on. Reflecting on his time in the military, Troy says, “If you are thinking about going into the military, do it. It’s a great experience and will teach you a lot of structure and helps you become a better person.”

After his military service, Troy returned to Lancaster, where he had purchased a home and found a job as a busboy. “Cooking became a passion for me and I applied my military training to good advantage. In the military they teach you, in any situation you are in, to pay attention to detail.” Doing just that paid off for Troy and after a few promotions he became a line cook. But by this time, both marijuana and alcohol had become a regular part of his life. After 6 years at that restaurant, Troy took a position in a restaurant at a casino in Atlantic City. After only one year, he was moved into management.

After 6 years in food service at the Casino, he returned to Lancaster to manage a fast food restaurant. “It was a big change going from fine dining to fast food. I took one of their lower performing stores and made it into one of their highest. Again, I applied my training in the military, teaching my employees how to pay attention to detail and focus on the customer as well as the operations,” says Troy.

During this time, he started smoking crack cocaine. Troy’s mother passed away suddenly from cancer even though the family didn’t know she was sick. He was very close to her. “At the time, I was in a really bad space, emotionally and mentally. I was just kind of drained from the job and picked crack back up – even heavier than before.” After 6 months, Troy quit using because he could see where it was heading.

Troy is pursuing his dream of owning a restaurant

But things were still very unsettled in his heart. Troy left that job and began isolating himself. For about 9 months he stayed in his house and lived off his savings. “I stayed away from everyone, even family. I had to come to terms with my mother’s death. I started using crack again – a little at first. Then I was smoking every day. Eventually I “woke up” and thought, ‘I need to stop what I’m doing’.” So in October 2014, Troy decided to come here to try and really get his life on track.

Early on, a new life plan began to form in Troy’s mind. He wanted to further his career in the food service industry by earning a degree in Culinary Arts, and so he began attending a school right here in our neighborhood.

Troy graduated from HUM in October 2015 and has continued living on campus in Graduate Transitional Housing. He will graduate from his culinary school next March. “My ultimate goal is to own my own restaurant. Of course, that’s going to take time and money. So my plan is to start out in a hotel or as a personal chef and go from there.”

Troy’s spiritual life has greatly expanded while here at HUM. “Today I have a great relationship with God. You know, I actually pray quite a bit every day. My sense of right and wrong has come from my parents, the military, reading the Bible and knowing God.”

Troy knows that remaining in recovery is a spiritual discipline. “It’s a state of mind…that you don’t want to do this (drugs) anymore. You need to believe it with all your mind, heart and soul – and then constantly remind yourself ‘I don’t want to do this’. It will become a habit and you’ll begin to practice it unconsciously. Helping Up Mission has helped me understand and practice that.”

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Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, Doug Coffield’s parents divorced and he was raised by his grandmother at age five. “Grandma was like mom to me and living with her was the happiest part of my childhood,” he recalls.

But, at 12, he was sent to live with his now-remarried father and there was constant strife between Doug, his stepmother and stepbrother. So, by age 16, he started experimenting with a variety of chemicals – and alcohol became his drug of choice.

Looking back, Doug says, “I wasn’t addicted yet, just trying to fit in with friends. I was really shy and it gave me courage.”

Out of high school, he started working construction and quickly moved to driving trucks. “The big rigs came naturally to me; like I was born to do this,” Doug says. He became a professional long-distance truck driver.

He also kept up his drinking and using drugs. “Looking back,” Doug says, “I’d become an alcoholic in my early 20’s. I had to have a bottle of Jack Daniels with me in the truck all the time. By this time, I was getting high on almost everything – including doing speed (methamphetamine) to stay awake driving all night.”

Doug found peace

Then, at 33, Doug had a spiritual moment of clarity – in a prison cell in Hagerstown, Maryland! “One night in a bar, a guy disrespected my girlfriend (now my wife!). We got into a fight and I ending up shooting him in the thigh!” Charged with assault and attempted murder, Doug received a 50-year sentence, with all but 5 years suspended. He served 2 ½ years and was released on parole for good behavior.

During that prison time, Doug knew he needed the Jesus his grandmother had introduced to him. He started praying, reading his Bible faithfully every day and attending every church service they had. “It was a true spiritual awakening for me,” he says.

Upon his release, Doug shared it all with his wife. Together, they started attending a small country church regularly and Doug became very active, attending Sunday School classes, participating on the church council and singing in the choir.

“But the pressures of life started to build and I didn’t know how to handle them,” Doug recalls. “My wife would use drugs from time to time and my spiritual focus began to deteriorate. After about 6 months I started using again.”

“Sadly, that’s how our marriage has been from the beginning. One of us gets clean and the other doesn’t – then we both wind up using again, together! In my 40’s, we both got hooked on heroin. I was in and out of recovery programs – both in jail and on the outside.”

First arriving at Helping Up Mission in 2014, Doug really wanted to stop using – and he did pretty well here, but left and eventually started using again.

When he felt like he just couldn’t take it any more, Doug came back to HUM, willing to do whatever necessary to stay clean – for him and his wife’s sake! He says he knew he could not do this himself and really needed God’s help. “I’m going to do whatever it takes; I’m done. Take me and I will do whatever you want,” was his prayer.

That was the summer of 2015. He was 59 years old…and it was surrender!

After being back here a while, Doug says he got peace and joy back in his soul. He started singing in the HUM choir. “I love to sing and try to always do it from my heart – others can feel it, too! It’s an important part of my recovery,” he says.

This summer – and now a HUM graduate – Doug was invited to help lead an evening Bible-focused recovery meeting on campus. Doug recalls the night he was to lead it by himself. “I was scared to death and it was hard getting started. But God helped me and the guys encouraged me.”

“I just tried to talk honestly about myself and how God is helping me. I also shared that I don’t really know what God has for me, but am waiting patiently. Afterwards, one guy said to me, ‘God is already doing something in you and through you.’ That helped!”

Doug says people have started to respect him now. “That’s pretty amazing because for the longest time, I didn’t even have respect for myself.”

Beyond his service here at HUM, Doug is also involved with a community outreach in Brooklyn Park, where people whose lives God has transformed, are available to help transform others. It’s been very meaningful to him.

This fall, Doug also enrolled at Faith Theological Seminary, working toward an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. “I want to be ready for whatever God has for me,” he says.

“My wife is doing well these days, too!” Doug is quick to add. “She’s working and this is the first time in 
our lives that my wife and I have 
been clean together – God is doing something new!”

Doug laughs a lot more these days