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By: WMAR Staff Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 12, 2022 and last updated 6:17 PM, Jan 12, 2022 BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s Helping Up Mission received a generous donation Wednesday morning. The organization received 3,000 pairs of socks as part of the Marian Preparatory Academy’s first annual “Sock-It to me” Drive, collecting socks for homeless women, men, and children. To read the full article and watch the video CLICK HERERead More
By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer Report for America Corps Member email@example.com Helping Up Mission, a Baltimore, faith-based nonprofit that provides programs and services to men and women suffering from homelessness and addiction, is set to open a Center for Women and Children at the end of January. The new center will be located on East Baltimore Street, just across from Helping Up Mission’s men’s campus. It will open its doors to women this year, and next year it will take on …Read More
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Vic: From Helping Up Mission, this is A Shot of Hope. I’m Vic King, chaplain at Helping Up and your host on this podcast.
As children, many of us were great observers, but terrible interpreters. We picked up on a lot, maybe more than our parents thought, but we didn’t know what to make of it. And often we concluded that trauma like divorce or abuse or neglect or death was our fault. For some of us like Renee, those false verdicts then trapped us in tunnels of shame and fear. Drugs and alcohol seem to offer a way out, but only ensnare us further. Today though, Renee knows the way out.
I asked her what she would say to her childhood self, to the little Renee who was growing up amid so much evil and abuse. And she told me, I would say, everything in life that happens to you is not your fault. You are beautiful, and God does love you.
For Renee, God’s love became a solid foundation from which she could be boldly honest about her past trauma and present struggles, while still honoring the good that was there as well. It’s what enables her to look at her life and see every single thing as a lesson or a blessing. 📍 Those are her words; you’ll hear them later in this podcast. For someone who’s been through what Renee’s been through, that’s no trite cliche, that’s hard won wisdom.
Renee: Okay. My name is Renee Martin. I am 42 years old. I have three biological children and two bonus children. And our age ranges are 26 to seven. So it’s wonderful.
I grew up in Baltimore city. My father was an addict who passed when I was about eight years old. So my mom was a single mother who was very depressed. That was her 14 year old boyfriend who she happened to marry by home and who passed. So a lot of her depression was in my story because she wasn’t available spiritually, mentally, emotionally. She was gone, which gave me one, freedom to do things I shouldn’t be doing and two, expose me to things that probably shouldn’t have been exposed to at 3, 4, 5, 6.
I was in a daycare that they now named the hell house and it was horrific. And I was there from the time I was six weeks until seven years old. I was the longest running child in that place. And a lot of molestation, a lot of verbal abuse, burning with cigarettes. Child labor, like picking greens, cleaning floors, rubbing feet, mopping walls. Conversations about people being murdered by adults around you. Just things that no child should ever hear.
So from there, it put in me a feeling of what happens here, stays here, there. And then when I go home, the same thing, what happened here, stays there. So I was taught to keep secrets early. I was taught to bottle early, up whatever you feel. My mother was a heavy drinker and I became her bartender. I was her codependent enabler. I wanted to keep everyone around me happy because I was in so much chaos as a child.
I think I was probably 11. My mother was to pick me up from somewhere. I don’t know what happened, but she never showed up. I decided to walk and then I was raped. So I just went into full blown pre-teen rebellion, running away, being with boys who were drug dealers, getting in stolen cars, doing everything that you should not do and still never using, because I knew my father used and watching him nod out and all that. I thought he was sleepy, but found out later it was heroin. So I just decided that I would never use, and I would never drink. That was just not going to happen because I watched my mother drink.
But I definitely turned to men and trying to get relationships. And first it started because I was athletic. I played basketball. So I thought as a way to get attention and it was never sexual in the beginning, it was more just for attention. I just wanted someone to be nice to me. I just wanted somebody to do something for me and boys buy me things and I’d be like, oh, thank you. Not realizing at some point they might want something back for that.
I was overly developed because I was so mature and all my experiences, I knew way too much. I would be involved in fights consistently at school, but had perfect grades. So it was like, people would always say, you’re so smart. What’s wrong with you. But I had to keep the secret. So I didn’t know how to navigate, like what I was feeling, because I was never allowed to say how I felt.
Being a runaway a lot, I saw people get shot in front of me multiple times, running from shootings, and it’s in the nineties. Murder was like a common thing. And one of my best friends from childhood was murdered and it kinda changed me. And then at 15 I got pregnant.
God saved me because not only was I pregnant, but my child was sickly. And by her being sickly, I had no choice, but to stay home. Up until she was like five she spent 90% of her days in the hospital. So she had six surgeries. She died twice.
So what I had to do was stay at the hospital with her. They had the parents shower, with a parent bed. And that’s what I did. I went to school from the hospital, left the school, I would do hair on the side for extra money.
I was in band marching band. I did that. I did cheerleading. I did whatever. And then I would go do hair, leave there, go back to the hospital, do homework till the middle of the night, wake up in the morning, take a shower, go back to school. And that was my routine most of my 10th and 11th grade. But that’s how I functioned.
We lived at the hospital and when she came out, she had a colostomy bag, so that had to be cared for a certain way. They care wasn’t covered. So I had to come up with what I was going to do. So what did I do? I hustled. I knew ways to get money from things I shouldn’t do. And I had friends. And one of my friends in particular made sure I was always okay with my daughter.
He, oh my God. He just was like a phenomenal friend. And I did hair. I sold candy at school. I would clean people houses and not only did I do hair, but I would catch the bus to your house and do your hair because I didn’t have anywhere to do it. So then I would charge you extra because I had to come to you. So I just learned that if I hustled, I can get it done.
My daughter’s father, we were in a relationship on and off. His family is phenomenal. His mom helped a lot with my daughter, his family babysat her a lot. My family babysat her a lot for me. Because of my issues, I didn’t trust her with anyone. I wouldn’t let anyone watch her. So as she got older, she was very verbal because I couldn’t hold her. So I talked to her constantly for two years. So she was two years old, letters, numbers, speaking in full sentences. And people laugh because she had her third birthday and they were like, are you sure. Because she would have a full conversation with you and you wouldn’t believe it. And I always say she was my miracle.
And then I got pregnant on my senior year with my son, my oldest son. And I was like, I failed. Because at the time I was working for the federal government on a student program, and it was for the summer and they asked me to stay. And the only thing I had to do was stay, and they would help me with school. I was enrolled in college. I was together, but then I got pregnant. So having my son, I would have had to take the leave to have the baby, which meant I couldn’t do the program. So instead of me saying, let me figure it out and communicate. I decided to just drop it. And I had my son and I ended up eventually getting married to their dad, and it didn’t work out well, but in the meantime, I ended up getting a good federal government job back the same place and I was doing well. But the pressure of my position I was in was so great. I never still learned how to be a human and communicate feelings.
And going through my separation, leading to a divorce, I was extremely overweight. I was 350, 60 pounds at one point. I was eating my feelings and decided it would be a great idea to have a weight loss surgery- not get therapy, but to have weight loss surgery. So in having weight loss surgery, I stopped eating and had a glass of wine. And the glass of wine felt like a bottle of alcohol, but now I was back attractive. I was back single. So I felt oh, this is how I’ll make money. I was actually doing security for a nightclub. I was a bartender. I was working at night and then my government job during the day. And at one point during my separation, I was living in my car because I was so frustrated with my situation, I just moved in my car.
And I lived that fast paced every day, working literally three jobs for three years. And when I blinked and my relationship was done. And I was doing these inappropriate parties participating in cooking for, I had a catering business and my job was if you had a party that was very adult-ish, Sodom and Gomorrah -ish, I would be your caterer because I didn’t tell. And I kept the secret because I was good at it. It was famous people, politicians, all that there. And I catered and I just kept my eyes and my head down, but I was paid well to serve people alcohol, and to keep secrets and find girls to help go to the parties, to work the parties with me, to make money.
And then I realized I had a gift for all these girls need babysitters. All of us can pool our money together and we can come up with a way. Okay, so if you need money and you could be the babysitter this week, and then you can be the babysitter that week, but whatever we make, we’ll all share it. So in my mind, I’m thinking I’m helping them, but then I’m looking back thinking that wasn’t helping them.
Some of the things they had to endure and go through was not helpful. I felt like I was making it safe for their kids because all of our kids were together. And for me being my situation it was a trusted person with all of our kids. We didn’t leave our kids with… this person had an aunt that was on drugs, so she didn’t want to leave him with her. And this person had a husband who was doing wrong… but at least they’re all together at my house and they’re all cared for or at someone else’s house.
And then I realized my drinking became more important than anything because as I started feeling, I was so numb. And as people around me started passing away, I never dealt and I just kept, I was like 30 something and I just was like drinking and partying and drinking and partying to the point I barely remember my thirties. Cause I never got to do it at 15. I never got to be a child. I never got to go to college and party. I never did that.
So 30 hit and I got cute and skinny and it was like free. I wasn’t in a relationship for the first time since 14. So I felt this is when you party. And then someone said, there’s something called happy hour and you get all you can drink for $20. What a concept. And I woke up in the most strange places, like my car, the bathroom of the bar, all kinds of stuff, but ultimately that’s how my alcoholism took off.
I lost my job, my great government job with benefits, making lots of money. I lost it. And when I was there, I was pregnant by then, I had met my son’s father now, and I was pregnant with my son. And part of that, once again, God slowed me down because up until then I was drinking and I still didn’t acknowledge that I was an alcoholic to me. I was like, I’m living my life. I’m partying. This is what I have to do. I would go to work, come home, have a drink till the next day, because I hated going to work good money, but I hated it. I loved my friends there, but I hated it.
So once I met my son’s father and at that point, they told me I could never get pregnant. I couldn’t have children, my 2% chance of getting pregnant. I got pregnant and I was like, dang, oh man, what am I doing? So in that I had to stop drinking. I knew I could not drink and be pregnant. So when I stopped, I started having like issues and dreams and feelings and things start happening in my mind.
And I start realizing, oh my God, you are an alcoholic. It wasn’t until I had got pregnant and had to stop that I realized how much I was using it and needing it. And I think I was like five months pregnant and I was like, I’m gonna have a drink. I was so sick, mentally, physically with myself.
I don’t think I got out of bed for two weeks because I said, how could I do that to my baby? And then the thing that I was mad at my parents for being, an alcoholic and the addict, I became. And it hit me. And I just went into a depression during my pregnancy and it lasted up until I got here. Part of it was, after I had my son, I was breastfeeding because I said, if I breastfeed, I still can’t drink. So I kept trying to think of things to do so I wouldn’t drink. So I wasn’t able to breastfeed anymore. So I started back drinking. So I started being late. I started not being accountable. I stopped showing up. I had new management who happened to look at my file and say, oh my God, no wonder.
Okay, so what’s the plan? So my answer was what Renee always does. I resigned. Like y’all ain’t gonna fire me, I’m going to resign. I have 15 years. I get a pension in retirement. I’m invested. It’s okay. I’ll figure it out.
Not realizing, you never went to college. So the amount of money that these people were paying you, it’s very hard to come by. And it was a slap in the face and it was for me, I was like I did this and I did this and I was at the white house and I did. And then I got more depressed, and I drank more, because then I started feeling the weight of what I did, wow.
And I drank and drank more. And got more depressed. Then my car got repossessed. My son’s father is phenomenal because I don’t know how he tolerated me. I started becoming an angry drinker, which I never used to be. Before, I was a numbing drinker. So I would drink and black out. But then I became the angry drinker. I would get drunk and say things and do things, leaving in the middle of the night, sneak alcohol. And then I realized that I was making him my codependent. Covering for me. What’s wrong with her? She’s sick. Oh, she don’t feel good. Or him basically taking care of our son by himself.
My oldest two children were so frustrated, they literally moved to Vegas. My oldest son, he has ADHD. He has issues with depression. And one day he said at the top of the stairs and said, mommy, I can’t watch you like this. He got on a plane to go visit his father in Vegas and never came back. Because I wasn’t that person when I raised him. So for him, he was like, I don’t know who you are. I’m not feeling it.
My daughter got so angry. She was living with us. She punched holes in walls and left. And next thing, she moved to Vegas. It was hard and I more guilt and I kept drinking more and it was like, I would stop and I would join the church.
And the thought was when I joined the church, I’m going to work for the church because that will make me stop. And I did, but I realized I wasn’t drinking, but I wasn’t fixing anything. I wasn’t going to therapy. I wasn’t going to meetings, I was doing nothing but working for the church. And then as soon as things got hard at the church, what do I do? Run and drink.
And they were dependent on me for so much. I was the head of Christian education. I was the right hand to the pastor. I was responsible for finances and I just turned over my bank card. I was like, I can’t do this. And I’m done. And I felt horrible. So I drank more.
I had another good paying job and the same. It’s the same process. Me drinking me, not doing what I’m supposed to do. And they found out I was drinking. They smelled it on me one day. They let me go. And then told me that I had to get help and I went, I got help. And then I came back and I was good for awhile. I did outpatient, but once work got hard, I got a promotion and everything, and then work got hard and then I drank again, and then they let me go.
And oddly enough, the day they let me go, they said that I smelled like alcohol and I was drinking. And that day I wasn’t. So I was angry. I was like, no, not this time, because this time I’m actually not drinking, but I had put this cream on my body. And I was because I was stopping drinking, like my skin was peeling and I was having, because I didn’t detox.
I’m trying to do all this holistic stuff. I didn’t realize these creams and stuff. Pour out your insides out your skin. So even though I wasn’t drinking, the smell was horrific, and I’m sitting at my desk and people are walking past and I was exhausted, feeling icky. So they assumed that I was drunk and I wasn’t.
And then they went and made me go take a test. I took the test, passed, and never went back. Why? It was good money, good jobs still once again, I don’t know how to confine my feelings. I didn’t want to go back and be embarrassed. So then I drank. What was the point? I stopped drinking and they accused me of drinking anyway. So I might as well drink.
Bad answer, but that’s how I felt. And I drank more. And I think it just got to a point where my volume of alcohol was so high that I would go on job interviews, and I would leave the job interview, did a great job, get the job, but be so drunk. Cause I would leave there and get a drink and be driving drunk to the point I got to my house and I passed out in the street and my family had to carry me in the house.
I didn’t call for the follow-up, so I didn’t get the job anyway. So I just started realizing a pattern of every celebration and every sadness was a drink. And at that point, my body was so stuck and I was so depressed. I stayed in my room completely and I wouldn’t come out, and I would stop drinking because I ran out of money and I would detox myself. But then after two weeks of being sick, I would just go drink. Cause I couldn’t do it. And then I would do that repeatedly for six months. But I was, in my mind, in a better position. And I was doing well.
And then COVID hit.
And I started in February, March came, they shut the building down. My job was to train people in person. My thought was, if I take this job, I’ll be sober because I would not drink and stand in front of people and then have to speak because then they’ll smell it. COVID hit. They shut the building down.
I had to go home. I had to work from home. I was the last one hired. So they said because of COVID, you spent so much time home. We haven’t really got a chance to evaluate you. We’re going to extend your probation another three months. What, how hard it was for me to get through the six months people, without drinking?
So they extended my probation another three months. And during that time I was still not drinking. I was still going to work every day. Then they said we’re going to split you 20 hours with this department, 20 hours with us. And that way we can keep you. Okay. So then the building opened back up, people around us were getting COVID, they shut it back down. They sent me back home and I was like, I cannot work from home. I’m isolated. And I’m a drinker.
Lunchtime would come, I would run and go get a drink. So I can not do this. Eventually they said, you’ll be off your probation tomorrow. So we’re just going to let you go. And I was like, what? So I didn’t drink. I crashed. I was like, I’m done. And it was COVID and I was home and I was homeschooling and I never realized my son’s teachers were awesome because he now he’s six, and I didn’t realize the amount of stress it is to teach a child. Oh my God.
So then I started drinking again, and I was frustrated because I said, every time I think I’m doing the right thing, which is not drinking, I end up losing anyway. So I might as well drink and not remember it or be blacked out. And then I started back drinking again. I drank heavily, it was like October of 2020 through about January. And I slowed down a bit, but I’m still doing this on and off in house detox that does not work. First my brother, he showed up at my door. And when he saw me, he said, you need to check yourself into a hospital, thinking it was my mental illness.
And I said, no, I’m okay. And he was like, do you have, COVID what’s wrong? You just look sick. And then my pastor showed up to my house. What is going on? You’re drinking. You need to get help. My sister showed up to my house. You’re drinking. You need to get it together. One of my church members and her husband showed up to my house and he’s in recovery. And he said, you need to get help. We here. Go get help. My son’s father consistently said it everyday, at least 50 times a day. And they start looking for places for me to go. I said, I’ll go wherever. I’m just done. I just quit in my mind. Like I will just lay here and die because it’s so exhausting to have to drink. So let me go get my last drink.
And I had bottles hidden so much all over the house at any given moment. And I drank and drank so much that my son, I’m supposed to be homeschooling him and he’s home. And I blacked out. I don’t remember what happened, but next thing I know, I was in the ambulance and that’s where I woke up. And I remember hearing a paramedic say, your son saved your life. And I was like, my six year old, apparently called 9 1 1 and had the ambulance come get me from one phone. And the other phone, he was calling his father and saying, something’s not right with mommy. This is not normal.
So that’s scary for him to recognize that I normally drink and pass out, but this pass out is worse than the normal pass out. So when I got back to the house, my sister, my pastor were on the phone with my fiance and they were talking. And my sister said, I found a place it’s called Helping Up Mission. And this girl said it’s a good place.
And she said, they have a spiritual program and you love the Lord a lot. So this is a good place. So I think you’re really get help. But we called and they said, you have to go to Bayview. And I went upstairs in my room and I looked at it and I was so disgusted at the smell, and the thought that I had laid in the same spot in that bed for so many months that I saw the dip of my body print.
And I just got on my knees in that spot and I prayed to God. I was like, please let this help me. I’m done. And when I went to Bayview and when they came back, I was fully dressed and ready to go. I looked crazy, nothing matched insane, but they were like, oh, she’s ready to go. So I’m like, oh my gosh, she really got ready.
And when I got to Bayview and I thought I was waiting all that time I went outside. I was on my cell phone because it was so many people, I didn’t feel comfortable taking my mask off. So I went outside to use the cell phone.
Next thing you know, I woke up, I was on the ground. I said, did I black out? Did I have a drink? What happened? I look up, the side of my face is bloody, my hair stuck to my face. I have scars along with my face. I was like, where’s my phone? My phone’s gone. And I was like, dang, my cash is gone. Come and find out, I was attacked, assaulted and robbed and did not even know it. So then I was in a moment and I just prayed to God. I was like, okay, for normal me, this is the moment where I would leave and go have a drink. This is the moment where I would turn and run.
I’m going to go in here and I’m going to sit down and I sat there another two or three hours, bloody head and all, praying and praying. And then when the lady called me, she saw my face and she said, what happened? I said, I’m here to detox.
It was like in that moment, I really. God needed that to happen, because it’s been thousands of times that I snuck out my house at literally 1:30 in the morning to make it to the bar before they close at two to sneak in the dark in the most horrible neighborhood of Baltimore city, walking past some bad things in alleys, because I didn’t want anyone to see me, to go grab a drink.
And this time I was getting sober, where I was supposed to be, and assaulted. So I was like, okay, you have to persevere. You can’t keep running from this. And as I was there at Bayview, one of the men at Baview said, when you get to Helping Up Mission, see Ms. Nicki, she goes to my church. She can help you.
And he prayed with me and he said, do you need a chaplain? I said yes. And the chaplain came with me every day and prayed with me. And that same guy came every day and he prayed with me. He gave me a bunch of pamphlets about relapse, because I kept saying, my story is I keep relapsing. And every time something gets hard, I just relapse. I can stop, but I don’t stay stopped.
And I remember coming through the door and I was like, this is where I’m supposed to be. And I sat and I cried and I stayed.
And then I found out it was six months. I was like, oh no, I’m not doing six. That’s, I don’t need six months worth of help. And I was like, all right, I’m going to do 30 days. And my pastor said I’m gonna call you every day and I’m gonna pray for you. And she created a prayer circle of women for me. And every day they prayed for me during my blackout. So by the time I got my phone back, I had 30 days worth of prayers that I was able to read for the next 30 days. So I said I’m going to stay for 30 more days because I got 30 days of prayers.
And then eventually I was like, why am I even saying I’m leaving? I’m really not leaving. I was scared to tell them that I was going to stay the six months, because I’m so used to everyone depending on me, and me being the backbone. Like, well, how’s this going to happen without me? How is this? And what’s this?
And I realized, you weren’t doing anything anyway, but being drunk and in your room. They really don’t care. They really want you to just sit down. And my mother was very disappointed and upset. She was like, I see so much potential in you. And you just seem like you’re throwing your life away. Get it together.
Because for her drinking was, one day she just stopped. So she couldn’t understand why is this my fourth relapse? Why am I recovery? What is it that you’re not getting? You’re you talk to God hard enough because I just stopped. I talked to him one time and I stopped. So you should have just stopped. And I had to go through, after being here a while, explaining to her, I gotta deal with all this stuff from three, cause that’s my first memory of it. But it was before then.
And normally, if I would get a flash of what happened to me, I would go drink to go to sleep. And I had to get on medication and I had to start dealing with all that stuff. And then going to spiritual life was helpful, because it was teaching me how to live a God filled life. And then substance abuse disorder class we had with Ms. Vicky was teaching me that I was a codependent from birth, like you have no choice but to be that, when you have two parents that are addicts. And then I married someone who was addicted to marijuana, not realizing I was a codependent in that relationship. And I always took care of everyone else. And I never really analyzed myself, what was going on with me, how I felt. I never set boundaries. I had no self-esteem. I, I would say I feel pretty, but I didn’t mean it. I would say I was okay, because I became the perfect liar of how are you? Great! And could do it with a smile.
And I had to really get inside myself on some things, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, because I really had no clue, until I came here, of who I was. I had pretended so long to be someone else because I had to be…
I had to be perfect. I had to pretend not to hurt. I had to pretend to be happy, I had to pretend that everything was okay. I had to pretend that I could do it by myself and I really… and the women here was so nice, and they would talk to me about what they were going through. And I was like, oh my God, I’m not by myself. And it was genuine godly love, with no expectation. With no ” I’m going to be nice to you today, but tomorrow you better…” It was everything that I ever experienced about friendship and love was a lie till like 8.
I felt at home. And it was crazy because I never felt so comfortable. And people would think sharing a room with 12, with sharing of space with strangers, a bathroom with 12 women, you would feel like, uncomfortable, but I felt most comfortable. I felt like this is my healing. Like I never was a morning person, because I hated to wake up, because every day I wished that I was dead.
So I’m waking up. Good morning. Good morning. I’m singing. I’m happy. I had a reason to get up. My work therapy with Ms. Nicki was helping me because not only was I doing work therapy, but she would be praying with us. She would be talking to us. And she would say, come on, let’s talk. Let’s pray. What’s going on? We got to come on and work through it, talk to me. And it just changed my entire perspective. And the more I see new women come in and I would watch ’em go. “I ain’t staying…” The HUM has magic in it. I’m sorry, you going to stay. “I’m only here for two weeks and then I’m leaving.” Okay.
And I enjoy working in the kitchen because it gave me an opportunity as new people came in to greet them and it’s something and it took me back to what I love to do. I love to cook. I love to make people feel good when they eat. So I just really enjoyed it. And being around everybody every day and talking to them, and then having a personal relationship and it got to the point where people start coming to me for prayer, every.
And I was like, what is happening? My pastor became my prayer partner, and we would pray in the morning, and then I would pray with the ladies. And then I started doing devotion. They were like, what? That was good. And I was like, you know what? This is what I do. I’m a teacher of the word of God. That’s what I do.
When I was drinking, I was so dark. And then it was like, I think it was the first outing with Joanna. She had us go off alone for forest therapy and I was by myself and a red sparrow came and I started singing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and God gave me my voice back. And I was like oh, it was like a weight lifted. And I have never felt like that. And it was really the feeling of the Holy Spirit like I never felt it. And every day it just got better. And it just completely changed. And I’ve watched the miracle of us doing something in spiritual life on a Monday, and then go to a meeting on Tuesday. Here someone would come in, and someone would share something from a different from the 911 program who couldn’t have, they didn’t know what happened in spiritual life, but it all would mesh and matter. And then go to Bible study with my church and the same scripture from spiritual life would be what’s happening. And I start realizing that God ordained it and he was just lining me up to get through it.
And then I start looking back at my life and just analyzing where I was turning back. And I dissected my relapses while I was here. I literally took my relapses apart and said, every time you relapse, these are the things that happened. And I wrote them down and I put them on my wall by my bed and I read them every day.
Because if you feel this, you need to go talk to Donna. If you feel that, you need to talk to Ms. Nikki, if you feel this, you need to see Joanna. If you feel this, or this isn’t working, your sleep isn’t right, this is when you need to up your meds… and I just followed that for myself.
And that’s how I ended up getting out of it, because otherwise I would have been stuck trying to do the same thing, which is be dry and not work in any program. And then suddenly someone talks about Celebrate Recovery and I was like, I never heard of it. And they start coming in on Saturdays and I was like, this is great. It’s a spiritual 12 step program. I’m like, what? Awesome. So two weeks ago I think I went, and it was great because I couldn’t believe it’s actually a recovery place where I can go for me, my fiance can go for his codependency, and my son can go and be with other children who is now a COVID kid. Like he has poor social skills because he wants to be everyone’s friend, because he didn’t have friends, because he’s been isolated for two years.
So he’s excited to go and be around other children. So it’s been a blessing for my entire family. My children do Alanon meetings online. I didn’t know Alanon existed. And I said to myself, if I would have had an Alanon at seven, where would I be? So I made that a priority for my son. I made therapy a priority for my youngest.
My oldest son is moving back to Baltimore tomorrow. He said, I see the change in you. I think you ready for me to come home? And I was like, what? He was like, I was waiting for you to get it together. Cause I wasn’t coming back till you got yourself together. And I don’t like it here. I miss you. I miss being around you. And he’s coming home. So I was like, oh, this is awesome. So it just had a whole ripple effect on my entire family. And now me and my sister’s relationship is like, whoa, because now me being in an actual 12 step program of recovery, I’m being open and honest about everything.
And I no longer lie about anything. If this is how I feel, this is how I feel. I’m sorry if people don’t like it, but this is how I feel. If I can do something I can, if I can’t do it, I can ‘t. If someone asks me to show up, I do my best. Look, I’m a late person. I’m working on it, doing my best. Before, it’d be just I’m late, I’m just not going to go. Now I understand people relying on you. Your word is your word. Words matter, Donna says all the time. So now I choose my words carefully. I think about what I’m doing, the people around me.
And now my new thing is, I graduated and I was like, I’m leaving. And I was like, no, I delayed it, knowing it’s what I need to do, because I still have the support of the HUM. And the process they had for me was great because for the first four months I wasn’t allowed to work, the last two I was. So once I started working, I still could go to work and come back here. And if I had a bad day at work, they were there. I could still go to therapy. I could still talk to Donna. I could still go to spiritual life. I could still be in-between interact with the women. So for those two months, I focused on getting ready to leave, instead of just… most programs you just leave. And I know work is a trigger for me. So if I’m working and something happens, I know I can depend on this place. I know the HUM is there, no matter what.
And then to graduate in here, we got to figure out a way to keep you connected. We got to figure out what we’re going to do. What can you do? And I’m like, I’ll do anything.
Like right now, the job that I have is for a, a retirement plan. And it can be stressful because people are calling about their money. And it’s by phone. And a lot of it is, I’ve realized that before, I didn’t have a understanding of peace. So when somebody would call me or something would happen at work and I would be attacked, I would think, oh, I’m gonna just get a drink. I don’t know what to do. Now, I think yesterday I got cussed out four times in less than like an hour. And I smiled, like it didn’t even hit me, because now every attack isn’t personal. My inner peace is so much different. Nothing about other people’s problems, I don’t own them as my problem. Where I didn’t understand that before. I really felt like if someone else felt bad, I had to feel bad. If someone cursed me out, which, because somebody else processed their check wrong, I just happened to answer the call and get the cuss words and the slander and all that about the company and you people as a whole. They’re not mad at me. It’s the situation. And I’ve learned how to differentiate between a situation and then personal attack. And I don’t take everything personal.
And things go wrong. Like I was in a horrific car accident while I was here. I got hit by a drunk driver, hilarious, in front of my bar that I used to sneak to in the middle of the night. And my car was totaled. I think that is God’s way of… see what happened? This could have been you.
I never had a DUI. And he threatened to kill me. But my only thought was, I’m not mad at him. Look, this was me, raging, upset, confused, lost, and all I could do to stand there and pray for him. Wow. My guys in front of my bar damn, baby girl, they hit your car. They tore your car up, you alright? I’m okay. You want me to do something? No, it’s okay.
In the midst of it, I just, I laughed because I said, God has a sense of humor. Sometimes in that moment, I was terrified. But honestly, when I look back at it, it had to happen that way, because it was another miracle of him showing me that this stuff’s not about you.
So the same way my parents were addicts and my life was just a side piece of their addiction. They didn’t intentionally pick up and think, I’m ruining Renee. The same way, that alcoholic that hit me didn’t intend to say I’ma total her car and permanently damage her back. So I’m not like walking around oh my God, my back is damaged, and now I’m not drinking, and I can’t even take the meds for my back. I was like, oh I guess I’ll just buy one of those nice massage chairs that you sit in and it just massage your back when my money come. And then I got a better car. And this car is bigger. So when it’s time to go to meetings, me and the ladies can fit in the car and we take them to meetings.
So it was a win-win for me. So I really did not lose in that situation. So I start looking at, let me see myself, let me see the world different. Let me see other people different. What is my compassion for, what am I trying to change? Where does my peace lie? But this is what I had to do to get through my path and sobriety, because I need to learn to deal with the outside world. I need to have stress and then figure out how to navigate it.
When the whole world’s falling apart, what do you do? Now I have therapy. I’m on my medication. I go to meetings, I have a sponsor. I have a home group. None of which I never did before.
So I’ve really just learned that it really is nothing negative under the sun. I really believe that. There’s no thing in this world that is meant to do permanent harm forever. And I never felt that way until I got here. Everything is either a lesson or a blessing. Period.
And if you look at life that way you can’t be moved by bad things. There’s nothing that will take you from God when you look at life that way.
If I could talk to myself when I was a younger child, I would definitely say, it’s not your fault. Everything in life that happens to you is not your fault.
You are beautiful, and God does love you.
I think it’s so difficult as a child to see adults do wrong, who are supposed to lead you. And to feel like that’s something you would want to be when you grow up.
I think it would just be grow up and be yourself, just be genuinely you and feel whatever you want to feel and tell people how you feel, no matter what. No matter what, be honest, period.
So the ladies that would come to this program behind me, I would say, stay. Every moment will not be perfect, but there is a miracle here, and you have to stay to see it. It’s no way you can leave before your miracle.
And everyone is worthy of an opportunity to change. Being asked to do things that are outside of your normal is when you grow. So just stick and stay. And I’ve never seen someone stay and do what they were told and fail. Never. The failure comes when you don’t follow good orderly direction. And everyone here loves you enough to give you good orderly direction from God. And nothing is done out of spite, vindictiveness, hurt, or from a place of pain. It’s all genuine love. So follow what you’re asked to do.
A lot of times people don’t realize when they give, where it goes. A lot of times as a giver, you do because you feel like you’re supposed to do. So if anyone has ever given anything to Helping Up Mission in this program, I swear it’s helping people. There are so many miracles. For me, it was coming in not having anything, and getting a Bible and a toothbrush and underwear.
Like just having the opportunity to spend time with the Redeemer ladies and they did like a painting for us, letting us do paint and Rita’s ice and donating things so we can have outings and it’s just been absolutely amazing.
I think ultimately everything that I’ve been given while I was here has been, again, it was like aligned with my life. I got a birthday gift and a card with a handwritten note from one of the donors, with a prayer that was the same prayer, similar to the prayer I said the day when I was in my room, on my bed before I got here.
It’s more than needed to get through this process because those small miracles make all the difference when you are in a position we’re in, and you feel like we feel. Because sometimes it’s that shot of light in darkness that you just don’t get, unless you get something from a stranger, because that’s how you know it’s God.
Vic: Just a reminder to take our listener survey if you haven’t yet. I want to make one of your favorite shows and only way for me to do that is to know what you think. So please follow the link in the show notes. It’s hum.page.link/survey.
This podcast was produced by me, Vic King, with music by Blue Dot Sessions.
So grateful to Renee and the many others who have shared their stories on this podcast and in our monthly newsletter over the years.
Last week we had our ribbon cutting for the new women’s and children’s center, where our pilot women’s program is going to be moving next month. So excited to see all the hope, healing, and life transformation that’s going to happen there.
Thank you for listening… Until next time.
“We have waited what seems to be a long time, for this vision of helping women and children to become a reality. Women struggling with chemical addiction and homelessness need the same kind of help our men at HUM have received for 27 years.
Finally, today the vision is on its way to becoming a fully realized reality.
There is an Old Testament proverb that embodies some of what we’re feeling today. It says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
This building is a longing fulfilled, and it will be, for decades to come, a tree of life for thousands of women and their children.
As the word gets out that help is available, women who now live in shame and despair will no longer have to retreat into the dark places.
They, along with their kids, can now come boldly out into the light and receive the comprehensive help they need to get well and have a bright future.”
— Bob Gehman
2021 Qlarant Foundation Grantee @HelpingUp Mission provides access to health insurance services and an oral health care program for men and women experiencing substance use disorders, poverty, and homelessness in Baltimore City.https://t.co/ar24w4Atax — Qlarant (@Qlarant) November 21, 2021Read More
Watch the full video by clicking here!Read More
Holdren-Serrell dedicates time and resources to Helping Up Mission By Michel Morris on 10/04/2021 Photo courtesy of Carrie Holdren-Serrell https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/johns-hopkins-scientist-gets-colleagues-family-involved-in-baltimore-nonprofitRead More
Listen as Jeremy shares his story of healing from childhood trauma and abuse, and recovery from addiction to alcohol, heroin, and fentanyl.
Vic: From Helping Up Mission, this is A Shot of Hope.
Before we get started, I have a favor to ask. I’ve been making this podcast for over five years now, and I’m always trying to improve, to make it better. In fact, my goal is to make one of your favorite shows. I’d love to know how that’s going and I put together a little survey. Won’t take long I promise.
But even if this is the first episode of this podcast that you’ve ever listened to, I would love for you to fill it out. The link is in the show notes. It’s hum.page.link/survey. It’s a bunch of questions, but they’re almost all multiple choice. Don’t overthink it; just go with your gut. It will help me to make a better podcast. I’ll remind you again about this at the end of this episode, but thanks. And thank you for listening.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Jeremy over the past two years now. He came into the program here at helping up mission, angry and terrified. And he’s living now with more freedom and happiness than I think he ever could have imagined was possible. He also just came on staff at the mission this summer. He’s working as part of our facilities team. So I’m proud to now count him as a colleague in this work.
Jeremy’s story, like all of our stories, starts when he was very young. In fact, the first thing you hear is two of his earliest childhood memories. And they’re not pleasant ones. Jeremy’s life and especially as childhood were marked by trauma and abuse. I don’t know if any episodes of this podcast are what I would call light listening.
But this episode is a particularly tough one. There are some mature themes, including descriptions of abuse. There’s some mature language. So consider this your content advisory warning. I don’t know if I’ve ever given one of those on this podcast before, but like I said, it’s intense. It’s ultimately beautifully redemptive. But can you really have one without the other?
The other thing I should mention is that and a couple of weeks, I’m going to be speaking at the Citygate Network conference, it’s .The national conference of organizations like Helping Up Mission and it’s meeting in Baltimore this year which is kind of fun. I’m giving one session on podcasting. So if you’re going to be there, and you’re listening to this podcast, we should totally talk.
Another one of the seminars that I’m going to be presenting at is about trauma healing. A key part of Jeremy’s process was a group that he participated in called a trauma healing group. And Jeremy is going to be sharing some of his story at that seminar with me as well.
And then one note on the context of this recording. Most of the interviews on this podcast are recorded in my office. This recording was actually in our classroom. Over the course of several classes my colleague Mike and I asked Jeremy to share his story in detail and I stuck a mic on him, with his permission of course, and recorded it. That accounts for both the difference in the audio quality, but also just a little difference in the way he’s speaking. You know, he’s not speaking to one person, he’s speaking to a group. So it almost feels like you’re sitting in on a meeting.
All right. Enough of me talking. Let’s get to Jeremy’s story.
Jeremy: To understand my story you have to understand how it started. So imagine, I lived in Southwest Baltimore in a rowhome. How we ended up with a wood burning stove. I don’t know. We had one. Well, in the summer we would line our yard with wood. and my abuser was my stepdad. He was not just physically abusive. He was mentally abusive. And how he combined the two is the story that I’m about to tell you. In the back of our yard after the wooded season from the summer, we would go chop the wood. You know what a chopping block is. He would put smaller logs on top of that. And at six years old, he’d make me hold the log while he swung the ax at me. Don’t let the wood go, because if you do, I’m going to f*** you up. So imagine at six years old, having someone swing an ax at you, someone that you trust and is supposed to care for you and love, you mentally torture you with the possibility of physical abuse. And then if I did drop the log, I’d get hit. That’s the type of person he was.
I was five years old. And the only reason I remember this is because it was so traumatic. I was in kindergarten and they had two separate classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And I was in the afternoon class. And, my stepdad was asleep on the couch. I’m guessing because he was taking a nap before he had to take me to school. In our kitchen we had this old clock with the analog clocks on it, and it said 11 o’clock and I knew I was supposed to be at school at 11 o’clock. So I saw at 11 o’clock. What I didn’t realize is that that clock was two hours fast. School’s only a couple blocks away. I knew where it was. I knew how to get there. Cause I walked there every day was in my neighborhood. So I didn’t wake my dad, my stepdad up. I walked to school when I got there. The morning class was still in there and I was confused, but the teacher saw me there and she went and called my stepdad.
So my stepdad came in and got me. And, he beat me to the point where I pissed my pants and that was before we got in the car. Then when we got in the car, before he left, he beat me again, then when I stopped at the red light, he put the car in park and he turned around and he beat me again. Then the next red light did the same thing. Third red light, turned around and beat me in my face. Told me to stop crying. How dare you piss yourself. Look at you.
Then he took me to my grandmother’s house. His mother. Beat me again in front of her. She did nothing. What did he do? Was her response. That’s the type of person he was, that’s the type of torture I lived with every day for 12 years. It wasn’t just enough for him to physically abuse me. He knew if he wanted it to stick, which it seemed like he did, he had to ingrain it mentally, and he knew how to do that. And he did. He had this thing where he would put me up against the wall and he beat negative affirmations into me. You ain’t shit. You ain’t never going to be shit. You’re f***ing worthless. And he’d hit me so hard that it bruised my chest. It’s almost like he knew what he was doing.
That went on until I was 12 years old. Cause I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life and remember it, I blocked out so much of my childhood that it’s too traumatic for me even to deal with as an adult. To have somebody tell me that I need to deal with that is, it’s more than scary, it’s life threatening, but that’s what I came here to deal with. That’s why I came to the HUM. Because I know without dealing with that, that trauma, I’m going to stay sick. And I don’t want to be sick anymore.
I’ve always had some basis of faith. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know why it’s instilled in me how I’ve continued to carry it after all that I’ve seen. All that’s been done to me, all that I’ve done to myself. And to still have a belief in God to know that I can pray and he’ll answer my prayers. Where that came from I don’t know, it could have been my mom. My mom and I would watch, while my brothers and sister were watching scary movies downstairs. I hate scary movies. We would go in her bedroom and read the Bible. I didn’t remember any of it. I just remembered that moment being with a loving, caring mom. but then the next day she’d watch my dad beat the f*** out of me. And then she’d take me to church with her to Sunday school. So my that’s where my distortion of God started. How can you do that to an innocent child? That’s just to God. My mom: how could you watch that man do that to me and allow it and then justify it and be okay with it? How insecure are you? I mean, it took me a while to realize, you know, that that was her stuff. It wasn’t anything that I did, even with him, you know, his abuse. That was his stuff. It wasn’t mine. It’s taken me till I got here to realize that, and the spiritual awakening that I had, to see it for what it was.
At 12 years old, I had free reign. Didn’t have to go to school anymore. I could run the streets, stay out late as I want it. I could do whatever I wanted. And what did I do? I did as much drugs as I could do, filled that void inside of me with whatever I could possibly get my hands on. Most of the time I sniffed glue because it made me unconscious to everything in life. My thoughts, my life, how bad it sucked, the abuse that I had been through. It just, it, I didn’t have to deal with reality. My reality was whatever I made it. And I lived like that for, I don’t know, three or four years, until there was a geographical change. that kind of sobered me up for a little bit. It wasn’t long, maybe a year or two. Right off the jump I got, I had abandonment issues. I had trust issues. I didn’t trust anyone.
I was 18. I was at a party. Someone laid out a line of some heroin and said, look, try this. that was it for me. I think I said this in a meeting, that was the warm blanket out of the dryer, wrap it around yourself, lose yourself in it. And I did. Cause it felt too good. I didn’t have to deal with life. I’m an introvert. It made me an extrovert. It made me everything I wanted. Not everything I wanted, everything I thought people wanted me to be. Everybody else’s perception of me. That’s how heroin made me feel. It made me feel like Superman. I could do whatever I wanted. I could accomplish anything, no matter how false that was. Cause it was definitely false. my addiction progressed pretty quickly then, it was just, once a week, every other week, at parties. Then it became, you know, daily and one habit, then it became, I had to cop before work, had to cop after work, maybe once or twice during the day, if I can get away with it. and that was it.
Always had some bit of faith in God. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know how it was, how it’s been instilled. I don’t know how I’ve kept a hold of it for so long after all that I’ve done to myself and that’s been done to me. At 23, I prayed to God. I’ll never forget it. It was, it was new year’s Eve. I was laying alone. Dope sick in my apartment. and I, for once got honest with God, I asked for help. I asked for a real family. I asked for healing. I asked for serenity. I asked for everything I never had growing up. and I went to sleep. And I woke up the next day and believe it or not, my, my prayer was answered. My uncle called and asked me if I wanted to move to Michigan. A geographical change. Great. Nobody knows me there. My trauma can’t follow me there. Hmm. You know, but look, I know some people hate the cliches, but wherever you go. There you are. I thought moving to Michigan would heal me somehow. My addiction would just disappear. So I moved to Michigan. My uncle offered me a job and I met the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met in my life, who ended up being my wife and the mother of my two children.
I had a beautiful home white picket fence. Every material thing you could have or ask for, I had. Six figure income. Wasn’t enough. My kids weren’t enough. I allowed my addiction to tell me that my kids were better off without me, what do I know about love? All I’ve ever experienced in my life was hatred and abuse. I didn’t want to put that off on them, even though I wasn’t that guy, you know, I coached their softball teams, their soccer teams, their 30 ball games. You know, I was that really good dad. Everybody else saw the good in me, the good person that I was, the honest caring person. The most important person didn’t see it. And that was me. I couldn’t see it. I was blinded to it.
Jeremy: I left my wife and my kids 10 years ago. I left because I was in active addiction. I tried to white knuckle it, I mean, I’m sure like a lot addicts did. I didn’t go to a program. I didn’t try counseling. I didn’t do nothing. I’d thought the geographical change would be enough. Ignoring it is the better option because then I don’t have to deal with any of it. That’s exactly what I did time and time and time again. So, it actually got to the point where. My wife was going to have me physically removed from my own home by the police. The police showed up with a writ for me to go to court to prove why I should be allowed to stay in my own home because I bought my kids Christmas presents and I sold them the day after. and I convinced myself that it was okay because I bought those presents and I’ll replace them sometime later. And I understand why my wife did what she did. She was protecting my kids. And I I love her for it, you know, for having the strength and courage to put someone she loved and wanted to spend the rest of her life out.
She wasn’t even worried about her own welfare. She was worried about my kids and I wasn’t. So I talked myself into to running back to Maryland because the solution is here for some reason. It wasn’t, it wasn’t the solution. I knew what I was doing. I was making it so I can continue to use, at whatever cost. So when I moved back here, It made it easier for me to use because now that guilt and shame that I had from leaving my kids and my wife, I could sit in that and justify why I use. For however much longer. And that was 2009. I hadn’t stopped getting high since then. Many trips to jail, many recovery programs, many outpatients, many therapists. Wasn’t enough, it just, it, it wouldn’t stick.
One time I got arrested, I was at the homeless shelter in Catonsville. On Wade Avenue. I go in the bathroom stall at, after lights out and I put one in me. And I, all I remember are like still images of me Kung Fu fighting some poor dude in the dorm. And I wake up. And I’m handcuffed to the chair in the director’s office and there’s a cop sitting next to me. So he puts me in the back of the police car and I have sweat pants on and I kind of remembered, I put the two pills of dope inside the little draw string holes in my sweat pants. I get the bright idea of to lay out a line of dope on the bench seat of the back of this police car. He’s never going to see me. And he didn’t. So I don’t even know how to, honestly, I don’t even know how I did it with with my arms behind my back. But I managed. An addict to find a way. I found a way to do it. so I sniffed this line of dope and think, all right, great. I’ll be good till they let me out of my own recon. He gets me out of the car and he takes me up to the door to take me inside. And he kind of turns around and looks at me. and he said, the f*** is wrong with you? The pill of dope was stuck to the side of my nose. And he didn’t say it to be smart. He said it like, inside what is wrong with you? Do you see the insanity of what you’re doing?
And that, that hit home. I went to court and the judge asked me, he said, well, mr. Bellows, you’ve already been here for 90 days. Your charges only carry 60 days. What do you want me to do with you? For actually the first time in my life, I was honest. I said, if you let me out, I will kill myself or you’ll see me again in a month with a brand new set of charges. I said, I need help. I said, I can’t do it on my own. He got me into a great program in Owings Mills. I embraced it at first. I started my own business while I was still in this rehab. I got everything back, but one thing I didn’t do is deal with the reason behind my addiction. Wasn’t just using. I didn’t deal with the 85%. So, when I left the last rehab that started the run that brought me here. An eight year run.
For me to be willing to get help this time, I had to get broken. I mean, not just mentally and physically, but spiritually broken. And I’ll tell you how that happened. me and my younger brother, my little brother, after my dad had left and my mom, you know, kinda disappeared, we were all each other had. You know, and we vowed to each other that we’d take care of each other at all costs, no matter what. And we did for the rest of our lives, you know, there was never any judgment. We’d use together. We never got clean together. We lived together. we took care of him, you know, for 35 years. No matter what, whenever one of us picked up the phone, the other would always answer. And, I got in my truck when I lived in Michigan, when I heard he was living in an abandoned warehouse down here in Baltimore, shooting dope and coke.
And I came and made him get in my truck and took him to Michigan with me. I mean, those were the lengths that we went to for each other because we knew we were all, we were the only people that we both could trust that wouldn’t judge one another. So I say we were close, we weren’t just close, we weren’t just best friends, I mean, we were more than friends.
I didn’t hear from him for a couple of days. What had happened was, he died, overdosed. They brought him back. They had to hit him like six or seven times and they brought him back. He told me what happened. And then he told me what they diagnosed him with when he was there. His pancreas was bad. He had the early stages of cirrhosis of the liver. And he was diagnosed with HIV. My reply to that was, to him was that, you know, look, it’s not that bad. They have medicine. You can be undetectable. You know, it’s not that bad. His reply to me was, it’s easy for you to say, it ain’t your life, and this is your fault anyway. You gave me the, you gave me Aids. My brother at the end thought that I gave him a dirty needle.
So the last conversation I had with my brother was, you know, him accusing me of being the cause of his, his illness. This was at Christmas. A few days passed after Christmas. January 3rd, 2019, he went home from the hospital. And he grabbed his phone, found the text message I sent it to him, took the two pills of dope and killed himself. And I gave him the dope that he did that with. Somebody I promise to protect. Somebody who I had taken care of my whole life and who had taken care of me. My soul broke that day. When I say that, I mean, I felt something in the core of my body break, and there wasn’t no, at that time there was no coming back for, I decided in that moment that life wasn’t worth living anymore.
I was going to do whatever it took to kill myself. Not by pistol because I’m afraid of pain. If I wasn’t afraid of pain, I wouldn’t be using, but I knew if I used fentanyl long enough. and as much as I could, eventually I’d just go to sleep and wouldn’t wake up anymore. So for the next year, that’s what I did every single day. I wake up in some bando or in some backyard, disappointed that God woke me up. Disappointed that I had to live another day in pain. I can’t even get my death right. Is what I was telling myself. So December 18th, I went and copped 10 pills of dope and I pulled into a gas station across from Mount St. Joseph high school in this little neighborhood up towards Catonsville. And I put two pills of fentanyl in me in the hopes that it would kill me, but it wasn’t enough. I was still conscious. So I loaded three needles up with the rest of the dope that I had. Now what happened next is kind of blurry. All I remember is putting the car in reverse and driving down Frederick Avenue.
And the next thing I remember was waking up with my face in the air bag and the side of my face tore up. My intake picture shows it. and that’s what I said earlier about… I didn’t find this out until I went to court for the charges that I got. but apparently, like I said, I didn’t just nod out. I accelerated before I hit this car because I wasn’t done trying to kill myself. What really hit me is that I wasn’t just trying to kill myself. I could have killed somebody else first. And for what? Because my pain was too much to bear I took, I tried to take somebody else’s life. I woke up on the floor of bookings a few hours later. And you know, this time I didn’t pray to get me out of jail. Get me out of the trouble that I was in. I surrendered. By surrender I mean, I gave up fighting anymore, fighting for my life, fighting for my sobriety. I’m done. My life is yours. Now what? This is my conversation I’m having to God on the floor, surrounded by sweaty meat sandwiches and empty milk cartons. Curled up in the corner.
I get out on my own recon and first thought was go get high. That’s what I did. I went up to Monroe and McHenry street and dope fiended somebody into giving me a well shot and a place to get high. And this guy who sold tools, I didn’t know him from Adam said, you know, I got you. you can go to my place. I’ll hook you up. So I go into this bando and it’s extension cord electric ran from somebody else’s house out, back. I go inside, I can’t think of anything or see anything other than: stop the pain, get high as quick as you can. So that’s what I did. I put what he gave me up in me, and there was no real effect other than a realization. I started looking around at where I, I had. This is where I’m that surrounded by a hundred full piss bottles, a thousand broken and untopped needles. Yellow tops, red tops, purple tops, glass vials everywhere, a pile of clothes that God knows how long they have been there and stinking. And I’m sitting there and this is your life now. This is how you’re going to spend the next 10 years of your life. And in that moment, I was okay with it. I was fine. I was willing to do that. But then something just told me that you’re better than this.
so I called my girlfriend at the time and so she picks me up, and a friend of mine had come through this program twice. and he’s been trying to get me to come here for two years, but I just wasn’t ready and didn’t want to come. But for some reason that night, when she came and picked me up from the city and took me out to her house and said, look, you got to figure out what you’re going to do. My friend called me, messaged me and just asked how I was doing. And I was, again, I was honest and I told him, you know, what had happened and where I was at and that I want to give up. He said, look, he’s like, I’ll make a phone call for you. He was like, but you need to be down at the mission at 6:00 AM. I went to sleep for the first time without having to put another shot at dope in me.
I woke up for the first time not sick. How that’s possible is only by God’s grace. For any addict, heroin or fentanyl addict knows the first thing you think of when you get up is getting that well shot. That’s what I thought every morning, that obsession and that compulsion to just get that one. I didn’t have that that morning for some reason, my only thought was to get here because I needed to be here. When I got here, my girlfriend dropped me off and I come inside the door. And I’m in my pockets and I got my girlfriend’s debit card. And by now I’m starting to get sick and I’m already buying cartons of cigarettes and selling up on the camera streets. So I can go get one more. Because who comes to rehab sober? Nobody I know. I know I never did. I tried to dope fiend my way out the door, but luckily Ben Riggins caught me and said, look man, I don’t think you should go out there by yourself.
After that, I finally get up to where I sleep now. And, at this point starts setting in. Why didn’t I get high one more time? You can’t do this. You know, there’s no way you’re going to withdraw in this bunk for the next, however long it’s going to take. I never withdrew from fentanyl before. Heroin I knew it was like five days, but the horror stories I heard and that I went through when I first got here, my sickness lasted three and a half months. Heavy. I mean, my body weighed a thousand pounds and I had to walk up and down them steps every single day. But I was willing to do it to get better. That first day I couldn’t sit still. the one and only time I’ve ever been in the rec in this building was the first day I got here. There’s no reason for me to be there. I just don’t go there. But that morning something said, go down to the rec. So I’m walking down to the rec and I get right outside of the chapel. And I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what drew me in, but something drew me inside of the chapel and there wasn’t anybody in there.
So I go in there and I sat down and, yeah, I actually, I looked up at the cross and I said, okay, now what? And I heard a voice, not an audible voice, but like, you know how everybody’s got, you got your inner dialogue. How you talk to yourself inside your head? I heard something say, let it go. And when I heard that, I felt, I don’t know what, it was, but I felt my eyes well up. And I sat in that chapel and I cried like a unconsolable child for hour and a half. Letting go of the last 40 years of pain, agony undealt with grief for the passing of my brother, my mother. I mean, just pure sadness. I had never cried in my life like that ever. I mean, I think the only time in my life I ever cried where all my sons were born. And those didn’t even feel as real as the emotion that I felt in that chapel. And that kind of started me on a journey to, you know: all right, what do you want to do while you’re here? What are you going to do? Just getting sober is not going to be enough. Just staying clean is not going to be enough. What’s it going to take to get it this time? So I prayed. For the first time, you know, in a really long time, an honest prayer for help, you know, not to get me out of jail or some bad situation, but for healing, for a relationship, you know, for spiritual healing. Cause I felt broke. I felt really broke when I came. You’ve been here. I’ll tell you all one thing about this building. There isn’t nothing in this building that you can’t accomplish or isn’t readily available for you. Closed mouths aren’t going to get fed. Whatever help you need, find the person who’s got. It might not have to be staff. It could be, you know, one of you guys. I found guys who have what I wanted. In the journey that I started, when I say that I surrendered, I put my life in those guys’ hands. Cause I make horrible decisions with my own life. I made the decision to walk away from my kids. I made the decision to try to kill myself everyday for a year. Those are the decisions I make. I literally told them, look for the next year. I’ll bring all my decisions to you guys and let you guide me on what should be done because I can’t do it. It’s like, with the steps, I can’t, you can. That’s my level of surrender. That’s where I had to be.
And I mean, it’s another cliche, but I had to be willing to be completely honest, open minded and willing. Honest about every aspect of my life and honest to the point where it’s, who are you when nobody’s looking? Who I can be, what type of character that takes, I had to be openminded to want to change and willing to change all my bad habits, willing to change all the things I had been stuck in for years, you know, willing to let go of my shame, guilt, the trauma. Yeah. And willing to pursue a relationship with God, because I knew up until this point that I had been trying to carry all my burdens alone. And they’re heavier than I can bear. I needed help. And there was no one else in my life that was willing to help because I burned every bridge I ever had. You know, I came in this program alone, no family, no friends, no nothing. I knew God was the answer and I didn’t know how to seek him out.
So my TC, he asked me, you know, when I first met him, what it was that I needed to work on. And one of the the biggest thing I needed to work on was the situation with my little brother, my role in his death, and, me not being able to grieve his loss. I wasn’t able to mourn for him at all. I couldn’t face my family. I didn’t go to his viewing because I couldn’t, because I was so trapped in the guilt and the shame that I had for the role that I played. My family blame me to this day for what happened to him. And they don’t know what happens, but you know, even now they still aren’t ready to talk to me.
And I understand because I took something from them that was very important. And you know, it was very important to me too. So I knew that that was the first thing that I needed to get through. The second thing was, I needed a stronger relationship with God because to deal with the third thing, which was the trauma from my childhood and bringing up all those, those feelings and, you know, not wanting to run from them, not wanting to escape all that pain and that agony I needed God first. And I didn’t know how else to do that. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the advice they had because every time I went to them, suggested that I sit with what I was going through. Sit with the sadness, sit with the guilt, sit with it. And I. First I’ve just rebelled against it. I didn’t want to sit with it. Who the hell wants to sit and feel bad constantly all day, every day and not want to run from it. Find some type of relief. And that’s the way I viewed it, but I had to look at it from another aspect that, you know, I had to go through it to get through it.
I sat with it for a long time. And Matt asked me to write a letter. I didn’t know how to process grief. I never had, I mean, I didn’t grieve when my mom died 10 years ago, I was indifferent to it. When she died, I felt no emotion about it. I was, you know, relieved in a sense that, you know, she wasn’t in pain anymore, but I didn’t allow myself to grieve for the loss of my mother. I just avoided it. I put that back to the farthest reaches of my mind, so I didn’t have to deal with it. So Matt said, write a letter to your brother as if he was still here and you wanted to, you know, tell him what your role was in it, how it made you feel, and then, you know, let all your sadness out on paper.
And that was easy for me to do, because to write it down is nothing because it’s just words on paper. And he made me bring it back to him. And I brought it back to him and I thought he was just going to read it and we were going to talk about it, but he made me read it out loud and I couldn’t even get through the first few words without crying unconsolably. Letting all that grief and anger out. And in the moment I was, I was mad that he was making me do it. Because I felt horrible. I felt all that guilt and all that shame. But what I realized now is what I felt was it leaving. I wasn’t holding it in anymore. I was actually letting it go. For me it’s not real until I say it. The words on paper, just that. If I don’t share it with anybody, they just stayed that, just words on paper, but to actually speak that stuff to somebody else, I’m forcing myself. To deal with it, to let it go, to let it out. So I don’t have to keep burying it with drugs or women or money or cars or whatever. I’m actually forcing myself to let it out. And it took quite a while for me to get through that whole letter because I couldn’t stop crying.
I couldn’t really even talk cause it hurt so much. After I was done it, it was a huge release because in reading that letter, I actually was grieving for him leaving, his loss and not being here anymore. And letting go of some of the guilt and shame that I felt for my role in his death. And then I shared it with Rallo and, I didn’t cry as much. You know, it just got easier for me to deal with, the more I shared it, the more I spoke it, the more it became real and the easier it became for me to deal with every time. And not once did I think about running out the door and going and getting high. And that’s usually my first reaction is don’t deal with it. Run from it. Bury it. Who wants to deal with that? I know I sure didn’t.
So we got through that and then the next step was my relationship with God, because I knew I needed him to accomplish the next step. And, what started happening when I started dealing with my relationship with God was I started getting really angry. I mean, not just angry, but rage. When someone would talk to me about God, I grabbed hold of a chair and I, I picture me throwing it out of a window because I had so much anger and resentment inside of me against God for what he allowed to happen to me my entire life. For me I’m a huge believer in predestination. God has a plan from beginning to end. There can’t be any deviation from it because it is at the end, the ending would change and he’s already thought it all the way through from beginning to end. So I think the God thing was one of the hardest for me to deal with, because again, Matt’s suggestion is, sit with it.
And I’m like, what do you mean? And it hurt so much the first time, I got to sit with this too? Because I kept getting blocked. Well, read the Bible? What does the Bible say? Or, you know, talk to God, pray. I might as well have been talking to a wall. Because I wasn’t getting any answers. I wasn’t getting any relief. You know, I’m, I’m actively, trying to seek out a relationship with you. And then I got to thinking about it and you know, the more I thought about it, the angrier I got, because I actually sat in this class over in that chair and Dan, he was sitting in this chair and he said, he said to me that God just wants a relationship with you. He wants nothing more than for you, you and him to have a loving kind relationship with each other. And I raised my hand and I said, how in the hell does God expect me to have a relationship with him when he destroyed my ability to have any relationship with anybody? When I was five years old? And now he wants me to come to him when he allowed all that to happen to me?
This is where in the back of my mind, forgiveness started playing a role in all this. At that point… he did this to me, all that pain, all that suffering, that’s God’s fault. That’s his plan. What’s the pain in that suffering. How do you justify destroying a child’s innocence at such a young age and why wasn’t there someone to protect him? Mainly you? Me talking to God. Why didn’t you step in? Why didn’t you stop it? So I was angry for, I mean, I think I sat with this for, I don’t know, a month, two months, a long time. The more I sought out God, the angrier I became and the more I wanted to rebel against what was happening. But what I didn’t realize that I realize now is that I was praying more. I was talking to God more. I was trying to find answers that I couldn’t, I couldn’t get, but yet I still wasn’t getting any answers. I wasn’t getting anywhere.
So the only thing I could do was flee. I thought about what’s your role in this, Jeremy? Why are you so mad? What’s going on? So I went out to the smoke pit over in 17 and I sat out there and I’m like, God help me. I’m tired of carrying these chains. been weighing me down for so long and I can’t do it by myself anymore. I’m tired of being mad. I’m tired of being upset. And I left it there. I left it in God’s hands to deal with however he saw fit. And I don’t know how, I just let it go in that moment. But I did. There have been three recurring songs that I’ve found since I’ve been here. if anybody knows who Lauren Daigle is, I strongly suggest listening to some of her music. It’s changed my life. It’s a song called You Say, Rescue, and, Look Up Child. And when I went down into the laundry room, I heard, you know, I got down to my desk and I heard this, the song Rescue playing in the back of my mind and specifically where it says, I will send you an army, to find you. And again, it’s like that little inner voice that I heard in the chapel that said, let it go. And like a couple minutes later, God sent me an army of guys to help. The guy, Kevin, he said, look, he said, I found something that might help you.
And it was two chapters, random chapters and verses out of the Bible. And, you know, we sat down and we read them and they had absolutely nothing to do with forgiveness or what I was struggling with. And, I go through the day with no answers and we get up into the trauma healing group and we start talking about, what else but forgiveness again? I started this trauma healing group that they have in here. And I’m like, you gotta be kidding me. F*** forgiveness is where I was at. Just too egregious, too bad. My stepfather don’t deserve my forgiveness. Neither does God. Why should I forgive them for what they did to me? Because in that moment, forgiveness was them saying sorry and me accepting it. That was my understanding of forgiveness at the time. So again, I’m angry, I’m full of rage and I don’t want to hear what any of them have to say about me forgiving my stepfather or me forgiving God or forgiving anybody else who had harmed me in my life. Some people just don’t deserve forgiveness.
Fast forward to the next day. I’m still mad. And I, I, again, no relief, none. Where’s my relief. Where are you? The Bible says you, you walk with us. You’re always here. Why are you not here? Why are you not helping? I’m tired of dealing with this. Please help me let it go. The next day I’m tired and I’m mad. I went to bed and somebody knocked on my bunk and I’m like, who’s waking me up. And it was God knocking on my bunk, just happened to be John Winchester that he sent to do it. So, hey man, you gotta get up and go to trauma class. So I got up, you know, pissed off that I was getting up and had to go. And I went and, again, I didn’t want to hear it. And, for a third time, the topic of the day is forgiveness again. And I’m like, look, I’ve had enough of this forgiveness for a day. It’s not worth my time. I ain’t trying to hear it. So I sat down and I don’t remember what we were talking about, but we were talking about… says in the Bible where God is sorry for sending man to earth and for all the things that we’ve done. When they said the word sorry, something piqued my attention. Sorry is not right. Sorry implies a mistake. There can’t be any mistakes with God, none, so that word’s not right. And for some reason, sorrowful struck in my mind.
And when I translated sorrowful, I saw something. I saw emotion from God, not like I looked at a person and saw him crying or anything, but I saw what emotion looked like. You know, what, what sorrow looked like, sadness, I guess, is a better way to put it. And this is kind of where this whole spiritual awakening, I guess you can call it started when I saw God’s sadness. I started thinking about, you know, whether God had the ability to have emotion. And I thought I knew right off, he has to, God can’t give us anything that he didn’t experience first. How would he even know what that looked like unless he had the ability to feel it and just share it.
And that’s when I saw, you know, the emotion of what sorrow was. After that, we started talking about kids and how, we teach our kids certain things, how we discipline our children, Laura Scott did. And when she said kids, something immediately clicked inside of me that became relatable. And it was, think of it like, When you punish your kids and you make them cry for you guys who have kids, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you, was the first thing that popped into my mind. I heard God saying that to me, this is going to hurt me more than it hurt you. And I said that. That immediately became relatable to me. I immediately understood what he meant. I took that personally, the trauma that I went through, it’s going to hurt me more because I had to put you through it. But in the end, it’s going to make you stronger, more character. And I saw these things.
So we got to talking about that. And we, we split up in these four groups. The next moment, what they do is they give us these chapters and verses and they split them up and give them to everybody random, completely random. I sat down in the group and Matt handed us ours. And when he gave me the chapters, the two chapters and the verses, they were the exact same two that that guy gave me five o’clock that morning, exact same two. Again, I heard this inner voice say, are you ready? Here it comes.
And it gave me cold chills. And I got to thinking, okay, what? I felt a physical feeling. I don’t know what it was. I thought it was just, I don’t know how to explain it other than the Holy Spirit came into me to give me insight, knowledge, to be able to see what I needed to see. But it wasn’t just that, it was my soul being mended. Because I remember when I told you how I came here, my soul was broken from what happened. I felt healed in that moment. And I think the only reason that happened was because I was able to experience the Holy Spirit inside of my body. I stayed with that feeling and I’m sitting and trying to process all, everything that’s happening. Cause it happened pretty quick and, we start talking.
I don’t even remember what they were talking about, but I was, I was stuck inside of like a movie. I started to see visions. Like you recall certain memories in your head. They’re just pictures, they’re not constant movies. But I’m sitting there trying to think of what was going on inside of me and what I felt, what I saw as I looked up to God. And I saw God. Not looking directly at him. I saw something that I perceived to be God. And I saw him crying. I saw that sorrow in his eyes for the trauma that he put me through, then I looked down to my right and I saw Jesus being crucified on the cross.
I saw his back being opened by them, beating him. And then on my right on my left, I looked over and I saw my dad beating me and I felt the same pain. I just looked back to Jesus and I see him getting hit harder. And I look up to God and I see God crying harder. I saw more than just sadness, more than just sorrow. I saw true pain and I looked at Jesus and I saw him taking it like a champ. And I looked at me crying as a little kid with my back being broken open by my father. And I looked forward and I looked at my dad, my stepdad, my abuser, and I was able to look forward a little further. And I saw his dad doing it to him.
And again, I heard a voice inside of me say hurt people, hurt people. And I realized what that meant, what it was. That I don’t think he knew what he was doing. And when that happened, I forgave him for what he did to me. Not only did I forgive him, I thanked him in that moment. Because without what happened to me and what was done to me, I wouldn’t have seen what I saw. I wouldn’t have a solid foundation in my faith. I know God exists. God was with me in that moment. God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus, all three were in that room with me, helping heal me from all that pain, all that torture, all that trauma.
So for that, I was thankful and I forgave him. I mean, the forgiveness is just a small piece of it, but to be able to thank your abuser for doing what he did? That was what I needed. That was what I needed to get past all that. I’ll read this last thing what I found. After I left that class after I left the trauma healing group, right after that, I do individual sessions with Laura Scott cause you know, two hours of trauma healing is not enough. I need three. I always go down there and I’d look out the window, and next to her window, I found this little poem.
I’ve always liked my people a bit damaged, a bit rough around the edges, a bit difficult to stereotype, a bit stranger than the normal crowd. I like people whose eyes tell stories and whose smiles have fought through wars. If you’re perfect, chances are we aren’t going to get on. If you’re one of the cool kids, chances are you won’t like me. You see what I want is authentic. What I want to see is your purity. I want to see the way you wear your scars. I want to see how brave you are with your vulnerability. How emotionally naked do you let the world see you? Your damage may not be beautiful, but it has made you exquisite. It makes you original. Different. And one of my kind of people. Because people like you are the most incredible thing about this world.
That was God sending that to me, telling me that my scars make me beautiful, everything that I’ve been through makes me unique and exquisite.
And I think that’s pretty much it.
Vic: And that is Jeremy’s story. Thanks so much for listening and just a reminder, even if this is the only episode of A Shot of Hope you’ve ever listened to, could you fill out the survey? It’s a few questions to help me make this podcast better. My goal is to make one of your favorite shows. And the only way I can do that is if you share your thoughts. So the link is hum.page.link/survey. It’s in the show notes as well. I really appreciate it. All questions on that survey are courtesy of the brilliant team at Edison Research and the form, the Google form, is adapted from one created by the inimitable Evo Terra. Thanks to Evo and the Edison research folks for that. This episode was produced and hosted by me, Vic King, with music by Blue Dot Sessions. Thank you for, including me and for including Jeremy in your day. It’s good to be included. Catch you next time on A Shot of Hope.