Today Carla’s Room is Beautiful Again 

“I always had pretty walls and beautiful surroundings. Today my walls are beautiful again.” 

Carla, age 49, was born and raised in Cecil County, Maryland. “It was good being me as a little kid,” Carla recalls. “I did not like Barbie dolls and stuff like that. I was a tomboy, but my bedroom was really pretty. I had pictures of horses, puppy dogs, kitty cats, and arranged my closet in a rainbow. I was the oldest of three sisters and we were always together wherever we went. I was taught to protect my sisters. But when I was 8, I was sexually abused. I felt responsible for my sisters, and I thought that I was going to get in trouble. So, we did not tell anyone. I went into my room, and I remember ripping down all my pretty pictures. It became dark black and hard to understand. I had resentments and I did not understand why.” 

“I grew up as a rebellious little girl and when I was 12, I smoked marijuana. I told my family at the dinner table that I smoked ‘weed’ and what were they going to do about it? I was emotional, angry, and hurt. I did not know what to feel. I did not feel like I fit in, and as I grew older smoking ‘weed’ made me feel good. I started dabbling in other substances as I grew older. At age 18, I got pregnant before I graduated high school. I started drinking heavily and gained a lot of weight. I turned to drugs to lose the weight and when I was 24, I started using heroin. I quit drinking completely. The heroin made me feel okay, and it was controlling my weight.” 

“Heroin and incarceration eventually took me away from my family and my kids. When I was locked up, I was okay, but when I came home, I would continue to use drugs. I spent years back and forth like that. I overdosed on heroin 21 times and had to be revived with Narcan 21 times. Once again, I was in a real dark place.”  

One night, while waiting for drugs Carla was attacked by kids with baseball bats. “They beat me up really bad and I had to get rushed to a trauma center. The girl giving me my CAT scan recognized my name, but not my face. We went to high school together. She asked me if I wanted to get treatment and I said yes. I went to a treatment center, to a detox center, and back to a 28-day recovery program.” 

“When I was getting discharged from the 28-day program, I told the lady that I needed something more. I was homeless and destined to return to the methamphetamine lab that I was living in if I did not seek more treatment. I could not go to another month long, or even a six-month program. I needed something to transform my life and that is when she told me about Helping Up Mission (HUM).  

HUM puts together the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of recovery. I never put those three things together. I enrolled, did my black-out period, and went back home to Cecil County to see my grandson. But when I got back home the same life pattern began and soon, I was isolating and not returning phone calls.” 

“Finally, Women’s Program graduate Cindy got a hold of me and asked me where I was. I told her that I was in Cecil County at my meth dealer’s house and that I wanted to come back. Please come get me! Cindy said, ‘I am on my way!’ When I came back, I had to go into another 28-day program which really helped me.  

“Most of the time my fear comes out in anger. So, if I am angry, it is because I am fearful, and I become protective. It leads me back to being a little girl and not knowing how to deal with that feeling. I do not want to be hurt again. Now, it is important for me to tell others how I feel. God has done a lot in my life, and He has surrounded me with people that love me and accept me. He loves me no matter what with His Grace and mercy. I call out to Him when I am troubled knowing the consequences could be death.” 

“I have hope now. I want to go to school for art. God did not give me this talent to just do nothing with it. I have a creative side and I like to express myself with color. I think creatively. Now I have a clear mind and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I can do art therapy to help little kids through traumatic experiences.” 

“HUM provides real friendships, real relationships, and real love. I am in a safe and healthy environment where all my needs are being met. It is life-transforming not having to want for anything. Without the donors’ love and concern this would not be possible. My sponsor Kelly is my beacon for teaching me the way she learned recovery.” 

At the end of the day the most amazing thing in Carla’s journey brings us back to childhood. “I always had pretty walls and beautiful surroundings. Today my walls are beautiful again. They are filled with things that I drew. It is serenity.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Because of your generosity, Arthur Friday (age 37), has another chance to recover from addiction! Arthur was born in Baltimore, the oldest son of ten kids. Arthur’s life changed at age 9 when his father passed away, leaving the family reeling from the sudden loss. His mother, struggling with active addiction, was left with the daunting task of raising ten kids as a single parent.  “We were hungry, not going to school, down and dirty. My oldest sister “dumpster dove” to feed us.  Shortly thereafter, our conditions were reported to Social Services and all ten of us were placed in various stages of foster homes, group homes, and institutions,” recalls Arthur.

The oldest children, including Arthur, were placed in the KIVA House, a group home for 11 to 17 year olds in Arnold, MD. Arthur attended Severna Park High School, where he was a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball, and track. It was during this time that Arthur began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana to have fun. Arthur admits, “Alcohol was my “trigger,” drinking was my gateway to other drugs.” His addiction progressed from there. Having graduated high school and attending Montgomery College to play football, “having fun” changed to owing people money for the cocaine he started using.

At age 23, Arthur returned to Baltimore and started living with his mother, then clean from her own addiction (she now has 18 years of sobriety). “My unmanageability was growing. I started lacing marijuana with cocaine. I wanted more and more and the cravings grew. I also started smoking crack cocaine. Within 30 days, I lost everything – my job, respect, money, and my responsibilities.”

“My mother’s boyfriend had been a HUM client and told me that HUM ‘would be a great place for help.’ In 2009, I came to HUM for the first time, but I stayed just 45 days.”

“I came back to HUM in 2011, this time as a member of the Johns Hopkins 9-1-1 program. I graduated from the program, but I was not done using drugs…I relapsed. In 2017, I spent nine months at the Mission. But I was selfish and moved in with my girlfriend. I eventually ended up at the Salvation Army, where I graduated from their six-month program. They offered me 3 different jobs, but I turned them all down. The same scenario unfolded, and I got selfish and relapsed again. Finally, six months ago I walked through the familiar doors of Helping Up Mission, hopefully for the last time.”

“The Spiritual Recovery Program (SRP) leaders gave me another chance. The staff at HUM have tremendous faith and will not give up on a person. They recognize addiction as a lifelong disease, and all that you have to do is apply the tools that they freely give you. The  program has provided me with mental health counselors who help me open up about the real issues that got me here.”

“My Treatment Coordinator Steven Gallop, a HUM graduate and staff member has helped guide my recovery. I’ve spent countless hours in the HUM gym, getting healthy again. Donors have provided all of the clothing and personal care products that I need. When it comes down to it, living at HUM means having all of your physical needs met so that you can pursue your spiritual needs.”

Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

“My favorite quote from the bible is from Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Now when I have a choice, I choose God.”

“The SRP has provided me with the life skills necessary to look forward to graduation. I want to use these skills in the field of recovery by becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist. I plan on taking the classes that our Workforce Development Program provides in order to help the men who like me, are struggling with this lifelong disease.”

Thanks to YOU and countless other donors and volunteers, Arthur and 540 other men and women have the chance each day to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness.  You are saving and transforming lives through your compassion and generosity!

Frank, 39, was born and raised in the Towson area of Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up in a loving Catholic family that provided him with everything that he needed. A talented soccer player, Frank eventually joined the Maryland Olympic Team. “I thought that I had everything,” he says.

At the age of ten, Frank was offered his first drink. An older family friend brought him a six-pack to help celebrate New Year’s Eve. “She was like an older sister to me, and I brought the beers up to my room and drank them alone. I immediately liked the feeling,” he remembers. This early introduction to alcohol led him to begin drinking regularly, and he even started drinking at school. Frank would sneak a couple of beers during his middle school dances, and noticed that the beers no longer affected him. His school drinking progressed. During his freshman year at Calvert Hall, Frank brought a water bottle filled with alcohol to a dance, which led to suspension. It was his first time getting in trouble for drinking.

To Frank, drinking was a way to fit in at first. ”I really enjoyed the feeling that alcohol gave me. It was my solution for social anxiety and any pain that I was going through.” As much as Frank believed that alcohol helped him socially, it had the opposite effect in reality. Soon he was drinking by himself in his room.

Having developed from such a young age, Frank’s addiction began to interfere with his life. Frank received his first DUI before beginning his freshman year at Essex Community College. He received his second DUI one week later, and a third before the end of the year. His drinking was starting to affect his ability to play soccer, which was stressful for him.

In 1998, Frank’s family recognized his continuously growing problem, and he attended his first recovery program. Soon he met a girl who was also in recovery, at the recovery house he managed in Frederick, MD. The relationship progressed quickly, and the newly sober couple got married shortly after she got pregnant. “I was young and started drinking again. I couldn’t stay stopped. My life was unmanageable. We had a second child and the marriage soon crumbled into an unhealthy relationship,” Frank remembers. Due to his drinking, Frank lost his job in the Steamfitters Union and moved back to Baltimore.

In 2017, Frank was sick and tired of being sick and tired. “I tried every way to get my life back on track—my behaviors, jobs, and relationships. I knew that my friend from Calvert Hall, Matthew Joseph, was working at Helping Up as HUM Treatment Coordinator, and I talked to him about coming in. Three times I walked through the door. The first time, I wasn’t ready; the second time, I needed detox; and finally on the third time they let me in. It was hard coming through the doors. I wasn’t proud to be a HUM guy.”

Today Frank has a very different perspective. “I can help somebody else by showing them what I’m doing. My life is in a better place because I’m here.” Frank is now an intern in the Workforce Development Program. “If it wasn’t for being an intern and having the guidance of Brett Hartnett, Education & Workforce Development Administrator, and Matt Brown, Education and Workforce Development Manager, I would have left HUM. They gave me purpose,” Frank says.

In December, 2018, Frank graduated our one-year Spiritual Recovery Program and now accepts life on life’s terms. “HUM has transformed my life and changed who I am today. I’m a different person, and I enjoy helping the men through career development, applying for jobs, and taking assessment tests. I like showing them that they can take the worst possible things in their lives and turn them into assets.” Frank started taking Peer Recovery Coach classes and also graduated from the Community College of Baltimore County with his Associate’s Degree. Soon he will attend The University of Baltimore to pursue a degree in Business Management. He plans on staying active in the substance abuse recovery field.

”I’ve become mentally, physically, and spiritually better at HUM, and being here has given me the time to recover. I grew up Catholic, and the presence of God here at HUM is everywhere. God is back in my life, I can feel Him. Here, God works through so many people and I thank Him for bringing tears to my eyes. Tears of Joy.”

Thanks to You Frank has Tears of Joy.

“I like showing people that they can take the worst possible things in their lives and turn them into assets.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to Eric tell his story on our podcast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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