“I couldn’t do five miles. I couldn’t. But, before I knew it, I was walking a quarter mile, a half mile, a mile, and two miles.”
Levolia, age 51, known affectionately as Lee at Helping Up Mission and Prudence to family and friends, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. “My mother and father were both addicts,” remembered Lee. “My mother loved me but abandoned me in a hospital at an early age. My mother’s cousin Beverly raised me for a while, and she loved me as much as she could. At age 8, my mother’s oldest sister Alberta, who was better off financially, stepped in, moved me in with her, and sent me to private schools. But I missed my mom and moved back with her to Cherry Hill, Baltimore.”
Thinking back on her young life, Lee remembers ‘Love.’ “Our neighborhood was tight knit. Everybody knew everybody. I had an older sister and a younger brother, and we all slept in the same room. My father had another child from another lady. I loved my half-sister so much. I do not remember childhood trauma. I just remember love!”
“My mother and sister were so close. I was about 25 when my mother died. I did not want to go to the funeral and my family literally carried me out of the house. And my sister did not cry or mourn my mother, like I did. So, I asked her why she was not more upset, and she said, she got high because the ‘drugs sedated her.’ After my mom’s death I wanted to try drugs and they begged me not to. At the time I was working as an executive secretary. I had money, a young baby, and I was young. But I did not want to feel the pain and from using drugs my entire world crumbled.”
“I always knew about God because of my maternal aunts. They were saved at a young age. God called them one day and they became devout Christians. They introduced me to church and how to have a relationship with God. They planted a seed in me that became watered when I came to Helping Up Mission (HUM). My aunt Alberta told me about HUM. I responded by saying that is only for men and she said, ‘they now have a Center for Women & Children!’ HUM was nothing that I thought it would be. God resides here. It is a place where people care about you holistically. I am being healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
“Today I am doing stuff that I have never done before. I do not recognize the old me. I am 51 years old, and God saved my life. I remember before I got to HUM, sitting on my bed, and crying and asking God, if You are real You gotta show me, You gotta save me. I cried all day. I ‘used’ to live, and I lived to ‘use.’ I was the ‘living dead.’ Today, I am LIVING!”
“I went to a recovery convention in Front Royal, Virginia recently. It was beautiful in the mountains and the personal stories were powerful. I was really encouraged. I have gone to equine therapy. I was able to get my birth certificate and social security card. I am meeting with Brett Hartnet and Whitney Mugula in Workforce Development to work on my education. Before, I gave everything away, but now I see that God allowed everything to be taken. God is my everything. I am excited and things are opening up!”
“I joined Back on My Feet (BOMF). We walk one to three miles every Thursday. It is prepping us to be a part of Team HUM for the 5k at the Baltimore Running Festival on October 15. I am 51 and I couldn’t do five miles. I couldn’t. But, before I knew it, I was walking a quarter mile, a half mile, a mile, and two miles. I used to walk around the chapel and sing to God. I am in the choir, and people started telling me that I need to get involved with BOMF! People see things in each other that we do not see in ourselves.”
“I have never had a personal relationship with God. It was not until I came to HUM. It is like you plant a seed in a pot and the seed becomes a stalk, and the next day it grows a leaf. In four months, my spirit has been strengthened. I used to blame Him for my mom and dad being addicts. But God saw fit to save me. In Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. I do not have to worry, because right now I do not know what I want to be when I grow up. But God has plans for me. I always wanted what I want and now I want His will instead of my own.”
“Looking forward to the future, I know that I will be helping other people. Telling them that there is eternal life. I want to be where God puts me. I can go to work, obey the rules of HUM, spend time with God and maybe somebody will see that.”
“To the donors like Terry and Bob who tirelessly help in our library, these people give of themselves of their time, effort, prayers, and money I am so thankful. That is how God intended us to work and come together. There are many other women, and men who are grateful at HUM. We are thankful to God for allowing you to have the mind and heart to do what you do, and we are thankful to YOU for doing it!”

“HUM is not just concerned about my addiction; they are concerned about the whole man.”

Jason, age 49, was born in Lodi, California. “I was born into a cult,” states Jason. ” One night, to escape, my parents grabbed me and my brother, loaded up the car, and headed out of town. From there we joined a church. I was in first or second grade at the time when my babysitter began to sexually abuse me. My dad was an alcoholic with a traumatic past. My parents had a traumatic marriage which was fraught with violence and anger. So I did not have a safe place where I could share about the abuse that was occurring.”
“The abuse lasted 5 years and only ended because of my older brother getting involved with drugs. And the only solution that my parents could produce was to pack us all up and move all the way across the country to New Hampshire. I would like to say that my trauma and abuse were dealt with, but that is not the case. It was simply a geography change.”
“In middle school, there were a couple of kids that spoke openly about their traumatic backgrounds, and they were ostracized for their courageous confessions. I wanted nothing to do with that and the seed of deception was sowed within me. I started to tell lies about my past. The lies worked so well that I lied increasingly until every part of my life was either hidden, manipulation, or deception. Growing up, being someone else was all that I wanted”
“I got married right out of college. With the pressure of being an adult, my first job, and being married my alcoholism really began. But my alcoholism really took off when I joined corporate America. I would entertain clients who loved to drink. So we drank a lot and often. When I was entering my forties, my father passed, and my childhood abuse came raging back. I slipped into depression and used alcohol to self-medicate. From the time that I was 40 until age 49 I drank around the clock. I was a 12-year-old boy functioning in a 49-year old’s body. My decision making, my relationships with loved ones and God, and dealing with my addiction were being managed by a 12-year-old boy. It was time to grow up!”
“I eventually checked into a 28-day program in Northern Maryland. We would have nightly meetings where folks would share that they have been coming to this place 28, 18, and 12 times. It was disturbing to me that this culture of relapse had invaded this sector of society. I met with my counselor and said, listen, I really love you, but I do not ever want to see you again. What do I do? And they said, ‘if you are serious about getting sober and addressing your story behind your story, you need to go to Helping Up Mission (HUM).’ I was sober for 5 weeks, severely overweight, battling the onset of diabetes, and terrified.”
“I showed up here with all those physical factors and wondered what I was getting myself into. My marriage was in a state of limbo. You are just looking at the scorched earth landscape of your life. There was nothing left to hold me back from today’s incredible level of freedom that my wife and I have. But my wife dove into our relationship. She dove deep into the Be A Loving Mirror (BALM) method of family recovery. Through BALM she was moved to deep compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Today, we are rediscovering one another and reexperiencing our marriage. We have experienced Christ in some extraordinary ways this year. Also, my daughters were able to come into themselves during this process. If they are angry or happy with me, we can have an honest conversation. Our relationships have an authentic, open dynamic that has allowed for healing. A highlight being when they both came to my graduation and cheered me on.”
“HUM is not just concerned about my addiction; they are concerned about the whole man. They connected me with a nutritionist and a primary care physician who quickly put me on a strict diet. They plugged me into a group of guys who were exercising daily. I was introduced to a partnering organization Back on My Feet (BoMF) that uses running to help people get back on their feet. When I came to HUM, I could not run one hundred yards. But two weeks ago, I ran a 10-miler! I have lost 154 pounds. My blood pressure is good, and my diabetes is gone. I have had a return to optimum health!”
“Salvation is a gift. We did nothing to earn it. We are completely in need of it, but the price tag is immense. In our walks with Christ, we must accept Him for who He really is. Just as I must accept myself for whom I really am. If I am brave enough, accept enough, and humble enough, what is next is going to be the pursuit of that in my relationships with my children, my wife, and God.”
“There are very few missions that are helping severely marginalized and broken people. HUM is a place where the Holy Spirit and Christ penetrate, change, and save lives. Thank you for supporting HUM. We see miracles here. The problems are immense, and the need is great. Thank you for being part of the solution!”

“I stopped hiding from God and started turning toward Him.”

Terri, age 58, was born in Montgomery County and then in and out of multiple foster homes. “I was in three foster homes. I was never in one place for too long,” she recalls. “I left my third foster home when I was 18 and lived in Mount Ranier, Maryland for a year before spending the next seven years in Oregon. I came back to Maryland and got a place of my own. I worked different jobs. I worked hard, played hard, and partied hard. I drank alcohol since I was 10. At 15, I started smoking marijuana which led to harder drugs. Using drugs was social to me. I enjoyed it.”
“15 years ago, my mom was dying, and I got deeper into drugs. My relationship fell apart. I lost my job due to a failing economy. A lot of things were happening at once. Instead of drinking at 5pm, I started drinking earlier in the day which turned into drinking all day, every day.”
“Eventually, I got a little clean time under my belt, was going to meetings and staying connected but I was working at Giant Foods and living in a recovery house where I was assistant manager. I was tired and working too much, so, I stopped going to meetings, and quit taking care of myself. After a while I was going through physical and emotional pain and there was a liquor store right there. Instead of telling people what I was going through and reaching out for help, I made the decision to take that one drink. My drinking snowballed and I drank more and more. My house manager finally called me out.”
“One day, I heard a friend of mine Tina speaking to her counselor about Helping Up Mission (HUM) being a spiritual program. I asked her what she meant, and she explained that it had to do with God. I have been hiding from Him due to my shame and guilt and I needed to turn back to HIM. I was crying for help!”
“The hardest part about coming to HUM was opening up about the scared little girl in me. I had so much shame, guilt, and a lack of trust. I did not open up right away, but when I did, I jumped in with two feet. I started to relax and want what was being offered. I found a sponsor and took advantage of the therapy that was being offered. My faith is getting a lot stronger every day. I stopped hiding from God and started turning toward Him.”
“Recovery is a process. It is slow healing, but I have tapped into the things that I have learned about myself. Where in the past I would not feel pain and stuff my feelings down, today I feel what I am feeling, understand what I am feeling, and share my feelings with people I trust. I am happier. I came in with a lot of guilt and shame, but today I am smiling! I am laughing! I am proud of myself today, because I have a relationship with the Lord, and I live with a family instead of in an institution.”
“I mean, I will never get used to getting up at six in the morning, but I am grateful to be here. It is not easy, but it is doable. And when you put in the work, before you know it, you are feeling better spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. And that is important because HUM is a safety net. They give you the tools, give you hope, and give you excitement for what you can do. I am surrounded by beautiful people here.”
Today, Terri is the first security peacekeeper in our Women’s Spiritual Recovery Program, and as far as her future goes, “I do not try to look too far ahead, because all my life I have had instability. As I trust in the Lord, my faith grows stronger, people have my back, and I try to do the next right thing. I just want to stay at HUM because I am welcome to do so, and I am so grateful for that. I want to stay focused on my recovery and work on Terri. I have a healthy better life and that is all that I want right now. I trust what I am doing because I want this”
“I encourage people like me to give themselves a chance. Come in through HUM’s door and you will be all right. There are people here who care, there is help, and there is love. There is so much for you to do at HUM that you can have a better life. Give yourselves a chance to live instead of existing!”
“To the people that make everything possible at HUM. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are kind, caring, and amazing! I would love to meet all of you in person and thank you, because you have changed so many people’s lives – the ones that have come before, the ones that are here, and the ones that are coming. We NEED this! Thank you!”

“I was tired of not knowing what HUM was about”

Allen, age 53, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. “I grew up in East Baltimore, but at the age of 14, I was moved to one of the worst neighborhoods in West Baltimore and placed in foster care,” recalls Allen. “I understood what the “system” was trying to do. The move seemed great at the time. There were porch front homes. Kids had mothers and fathers. It was a healthier family setting. But, outside of those homes, the neighborhood had a “gang bang” type of mentality.”
“From age 12 to 16, I was just smoking marijuana. But, when I moved to East Baltimore, I started seeing guys shooting up heroin. The same guys were like ‘bosses’ of the neighborhood and you did not mess with them. I hung out with a gang of guys, and we made a pact. As long as we did not buy drugs to use, using was okay, because we equated addiction with guys that spent money on drugs. So, we took what we needed. Eventually, some guys figured out what we were doing. They said, ‘we know what you are doing. We think that you are a cool dude but keep taking from us and there will be consequences.’ I ended up forging friendships with a lot of them.”
“I began to navigate through my drug usage, through my addiction. Using was like a circuit, just repeating the cycle. Man, I was on that cycle until I was 46 years old! I always had a way out. I went through a lot of abuse as a child. I was ‘damaged goods.’ But I began to doubt my life. I love change and I started to wonder what it would take for me to change the way I was living. What would it take for me to find a way out of this wheel? I clearly said I need to find a way out!”
“The first time that I came to Helping Up Mission (HUM) in 2014, I got turned down at the door. One day, I decided that I was tired of not knowing what HUM was about. I entered the building and started looking around and ran into Kevin Healey, Director of Program Accountability. Kevin said, ‘I know you from somewhere!’ I told him that I had not been allowed into the program so many times that he recognized me from not letting me in. Without delay Kevin asked if I was ready. I did not intend to enter the program that day. But I felt that it was meant for me to be there.”
“I came in December 2014 and graduated Christmas Day 2015. I remember my first Christmas here. I was in Overnight Guest Services (OGS), and I had feelings about not having a home to go to for the holidays. But, this volunteer, a little girl, asked if I could use a. She was an angel and I still have it.”
“In 2016, I got into a relationship, and even though I was not ready to leave due to unfinished business, I left HUM. I had a job, a relationship, and a nice house with a peaceful front porch. Everything was so quiet. I felt like I was on probation, and I relapsed. I remember thinking of what might happen, what I would have to go through, and I decided to seek my recovery. I reentered HUM through the Johns Hopkins 9-1-1 program, but I did not surrender. I was trying to chase my old recovery.”
“One day, Pastor Gary Byers saw me and said,’ I knew that you would be back. Allen, you needed to be sold on the real joy of recovery.’ He nailed it! I surrendered, and today I love learning about myself. Pushing myself beyond what is dangerous or comfortable and being honest makes me free. Freedom today means not being prisoner to my old thinking, feelings, and emotions.”
“HUM has given me determination, better mental health, and better mental awareness. I earned certifications in computer fundamentals, Microsoft Word, and Excel. I have addressed my child support. I have also received my certification to become a Peer Recovery Support Specialist.”
“It has become obvious to me that there is a Higher Power. I have been in enough situations where it was not me, but Him who got me through it. When I first came back to HUM, I worked in housekeeping, but I felt like I wanted to do something more. I felt Him say ‘please be still. What I have for you will be for you.’ Shortly after I was asked to work with the Treatment Coordinator (TC) team. I get to help men in the program navigate and communicate with their TC’s. I had a lot of apprehension during my recovery, so I can help the guys coming in.”
“I have four kids and my relationship with them is wonderful. I came from a broken home, and it is important for me to help my kids break the chain of not having their fathers in the family. We are going to get through this together. “
“Thanks to the donors for their compassion. The guys around here are living, walking miracles. You are changing the world. I never thought that I could lead a happy life. At my age, when you come into recovery, you are masked up and uncomfortable. At HUM you can experience freedom and real Spiritual Recovery. Thank you!

Jose, age 50, was raised in Quakertown, Pennsylvania before moving to Philadelphia when he was 6. “We moved into the Erie section of north Philadelphia,” Jose recalled. “A bad incident happened between my father and mom, and he just disappeared – he went back to Puerto Rico and divorced my mother. I was raised in a church going family with decent values, I just went off the deep end as a teenager.”
“I remember going to the ballpark with my grandfather. I was close to him. One time he took me camping and was teaching me how to clean a fish. He looked at me, swung the fish, and it smacked me across the face! He laughed so hard that he peed his pants! That moment was a highlight of my life.”
“We moved into a not so nice section of Philadelphia, and I was told to change schools. The school was in a predominantly white section and there was a lot of racial tension. It was a challenge, especially being jumped twice and chased out of their neighborhood. Kids were just not nice and that is when I dropped out of school following 5th grade.”
“I took to the streets. We did not have a rec center or playgrounds that were safe. But the streets made me tougher. I learned how to hustle. I always had to prove myself, and I was fighting constantly. To get good clothes or a decent pair of sneakers, I took to selling drugs and made fast money. I started smoking cigarettes, then marijuana and drinking alcohol. But when crack cocaine hit the scene, it was something new for everybody. And it was socially acceptable to use it!”
“I met a girl who put me on a different path. I was dealing drugs in front of her house, and she said, ‘you’re better than this.’ We fell for each other hard. I would have done anything to be accepted by her parents and one day I was knocking on their front door to speak to them, and her father pulled out a .38 revolver and just starts shooting at me! He could have hit me, but he wanted to scare me! She told me that if I wanted to be accepted by her parents, I needed to do things differently.”
“I left town for Harrisburg and when I came back at age 20, I had a decent job, but her parents moved her to California. When I could not find her, I went off the deep end. I got deep into hard drugs. For a year, I was so depressed that I was trying to kill myself. So, I sought help for my addiction for the first time.”
“Around age 36, I met Pastors Dwight and Tony from Greater Grace Church and started going to their church in Philadelphia. And they brought me to Helping Up Mission (HUM) for the first time, in 2008. I had my first epiphany there. I was in the old rec room memorizing Bible verses and looking for Matthew 4: 19. Something tapped me on the shoulder, but nobody was there. I felt a warm hug, started crying, and prayed. I found Matthew 4: 19 and it said, ‘come follow me.’ That is where my spiritual journey began.”
“My second epiphany happened years later. I was packing up to leave my house and I reached for my 2008 seed certificate, and it fell to the ground but landed upright on the frame! I looked at it and said, ‘I am going back to HUM!’”
“My son was murdered four days after I came back. I became depressed but I decided to continue my recovery. HUM is where I feel the most fulfillment. For a long time, I wanted to be a contractor. Today, my number one priority is to go to Bible college, to continue in the ministry that I started with Haven City Church in Fells Point. I happened to arrive at the church when they needed help. Being bilingual, I was able to step right in and help. Now, I am driving their truck and have keys to the center! And soon I will oversee the food ministry.”
“There have been tough times at HUM. Particularly the death of my son, his mother, and my other children being homeless. I prayed hard for my other children and a family member from Chicago stepped up and provided a house for them!
“Today my life is different, God has shown me the way. I enrolled into Metro Baltimore Seminary. I stay in service helping others. I cannot believe HUM exists, what they are doing for us. HUM helped get my taxes done. Traffic legal issues have been taken care of. Workforce development helped me with my student debt. My credit score is looking good. And the Latino program that is growing here! “
“I hiked the Appalachian Trail. The campfire was awesome. It was special to reconnect with my grandfather, who I had camped with so many years ago. God created this blessing of nature.”
“Thank you (donors) from the bottom of my heart. Without your generosity, a lot of people would not get the help they deserve!”

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!”

August NL 2021 Feature Story Michael C.

Thanks to You Michael is Ready to Say Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jonathan, age 45, was born in Miami, Florida, and raised in Severna Park, Maryland. He spent his formative years with his father. “I love him, but a lot of things were kept behind the scenes. And I watched a man that I respected my whole life, completely deconstruct through drinking. In 1997 he hit a big wall and sobered up. His life completely turned around,” recalls Jonathan. “Because of this, I have always been interested in the dynamic of parental role models. I needed to know these things.”
“I graduated high school and got accepted into schools with scholarship offers. In an act of hatred, I took the educational path off the table. My father thought that I did not want to go to college, but I did not go because I hated my father. The flood gates of addiction completely opened for me when I turned 21. I remember buying my first beer and drinking by myself. At that point, I knew it was a bad idea. I got into the restaurant business and that environment became gas on the fire of my addiction. For ten years, I wanted to go back to school and try and repair my relationship with my dad.”
“I developed anger issues that resulted into borderline rage. One day, I came to work drunk, got into an argument with my manager, and got fired. I would be allowed to come back to work if I sobered up. The next day I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and it just hit the right spot. Soon after I started going to meetings, my friend hired me to work at his restaurant. The new job brought me back to Severna Park and the bus route that I would take drove right by Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). To me that was a huge sign. So, after ten years, I finally ended up going back to school. I was sober. I was going to AA meetings. I had a good sponsor. I had a good place to live. I developed a genuine enthusiasm for academia and wanting to succeed.”
“I would graduate AACC, then the University of Maryland with a degree in English language and literature. Being sober made it all possible. But, one night I decided to celebrate and celebrating became drinking. Even though I finally fulfilled what I dreamed of doing, I left college in a self-induced black cloud. I ruined the experience. My girlfriend since childhood told me that she ‘loved me but, could not watch me do this to myself again,’ and left me.”
Jonathan would spend the next few years bouncing from job to job, and hotel to hotel. “I celebrated my 43rd birthday in Portland, Maine. I was killing myself drinking and could not grasp the thought of my dad seeing my body on a slab. I called my father and told him that I was scared and could not live like this any longer. I got on a train the next day and came home. When I got there, my stepmother informed me that they knew about my problems and would like to suggest a place for me to go. ‘We would like you to try Helping Up Mission (HUM) in Baltimore.’ “
“I arrived at HUM in March. I had no other choice. But old habits die hard, and I relapsed and was out by October. My anger and rage came back and one of my best friends ended up calling the Sheriff’s office on me. And by that December, I was outside, alone, cold, and frightened. I had hit my ‘rock-bottom.’ “
“God, please help me get out of this! I called my friends at HUM and they told me to ‘just get here.’ I agreed. The next day, waiting for the bus and freezing cold God answered my plea. The bus that I was waiting for was not going to stop. He told me ‘go stand in front of that bus.’ It worked, the bus practically ran over me, but it stopped.”
Jonathan had to spend three weeks in HUM’s Overnight Guest Services (OGS) when he arrived. “Pete Griffin, Assistant Director of Programs, told me to ‘figure some stuff out for myself.’ And John Mister, OGS Treatment Coordinator, told me ‘to just show up, consistently, to prove that I wanted recovery.’ It was a humbling experience, but three weeks later he asked me if ‘I had anything to take care of?’ I said, no, everything is right in front of me. My diligence finally paid off and I was admitted back into the program.”
“The initial ‘Seed Phase’ (45-day blackout) moved quickly. After that was over, I started going out and walking for exercise – on purpose. A passion that I carry to this day. I also appreciated the continuity of knowing what I was doing, having been in the program before. I was held accountable, but there was room for me being able to ask, ‘am I doing the right thing.’ I learned how to let things go. I meditated, prayed, and read. We went on a therapeutic mountain biking trip. Getting on the bike helped me parlay my walking into hiking. I have been training with a 40-pound pack, so that during the next year I can hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.”
“Thinking about what the future may hold, I have a lot more faith in my abilities. I could do a multitude of things. And one of them might have to be sitting still for a while, and I can live with that. I have gratitude for so many people here. HUM is an awesome, beautiful thing.”

Your Support Gave Jeremy the Chance to Forgive

“My receiving and giving forgiveness was my Spiritual Awakening.”

How does the hope that you provide help change a man who has battled adversity through addiction in finding new life through the Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP) at Helping Up Mission (HUM)? To find out, please read this story of hope provided by Jeremy, age 45, born and raised in Southwest Baltimore.

“To understand my story, you have to know how it started.” recalls Jeremy. His stepdad took out his aggression on a six-year-old Jeremy, in many ways. One story of mental and physical abuse stands out. “When I was six, we would chop wood for our wood burning stove. He would make me hold the logs while he swung the ax. He warned me that if I had let the wood go, he would mess me up. Imagine, at six years old, having someone that you trust and is supposed to care and love you, swing an ax at you – mentally torturing you with the possibility of physical abuse.”

“I do not remember a lot of my childhood. I blocked out much of it because it was too traumatic for me to deal with. I went to my first rehab at age 12. And before I got out my stepdad divorced my mother, she had a nervous breakdown, and tried to kill herself. So, at age 12, I had free reign. I had nobody left to care about me and could do whatever I wanted. I did as much drugs as I could do to fill the void inside of me. To numb my mind.”

Years of drug abuse finally caught up with Jeremy and his younger brother. During Christmastime of 2018, Jeremy and his brother were looking to get high. “My brother called me to help him get high. He was “dope sick” . We got drugs and we got high. He fell asleep, but I had to go. I took two pills of dope, a spoon, and a new needle, and put them in his backpack and texted him the details so he could find them when he woke up.”

“I did not hear from my brother for a couple of days. He lived with his boss, and his boss called me to tell me that he had overdosed and died. I figured out that he found my text message, took both two pills of dope and overdosed. My soul broke that day. Something in the core of my body broke. I tried to kill myself. “

Jeremy was unable to end his life, however hard he tried. Eventually, after another attempt had failed, his girlfriend suggested that he needed to figure out what he was going to do. A friend of his had come through HUM’s programs twice. “He made the phone call for me to enter HUM at 6:00 am the following morning. So, I went to sleep for the first time without having to put another shot of dope in me.”

“One of the first mornings after my arrival, I walked by the chapel and something drew me inside. I heard a voice say, ‘let it go.’ My eyes welled up and I sat in the chapel and cried like an inconsolable child. I cried for an hour and a half letting go of 40 years of pain and agony. I cried for dealing with the grief over the passing of my brother, and my mother. It was just pure sadness. What was I going to do? So, I prayed for the first time in a long time. An honest prayer for help and spiritual healing.”

“I had to figure out what I wanted to accomplish and how to succeed. I was willing to change all my bad habits. I was willing to let go of my shame, my guilt, and my trauma. And willing to pursue a relationship with God. I knew that God was the answer. I just did not know how to seek Him out.”

“I needed a stronger relationship with God, because I needed to deal with not being able to grieve my little brother’s loss. I need to deal with the trauma of my childhood. My Treatment Coordinator Matt Joseph and Director of Spiritual Life Mike Rallo gave me the same advice. ‘Sit with the sadness, sit with the guilt.’ At first, I did not want to sit with it. Eventually I did and Matt asked me to write a letter to my brother and let my sadness out on the paper. He had me sit down with him and read the letter aloud. I could not get through the first words without crying. When I finished, it was a huge release. I was able to let go of the guilt and shame that I felt for my role in his death.”

“My next step was dealing with my relationship with God. And Matt and Mike said, ‘sit with it.’ For two months I sat with God. I prayed an honest prayer, asking Him to help me.” After weeks of other men in the program helping Jeremy find God, one day in a Trauma class dealing with forgiveness, Jeremy’s prayers were answered.

“I saw God’s sadness. I heard God say to me that this was going to hurt Him more than it hurt me. I had a vision and saw God crying. I saw my stepdad beating me and God was crying even harder. I saw Jesus being crucified. I saw what God was doing to His Son for me! And I forgave my stepdad.

My receiving and giving forgiveness was my Spiritual Awakening. God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit were in that room with me. Healing me from all the pain and telling me that my scars make me beautiful.”

 

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