Your Support Gave Jeremy the Chance to Forgive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Robert is 67 years old and just recently celebrated three years of hope being clean and sober after fifty-two years of addiction. Better known as Blue by everyone at HUM, he explains that someone once joked about him being one of the Blues Brothers and while he didn’t see the resemblance, he loves the blues so he let the nickname stick.

Blue was born in 1950 in Baltimore. He started drinking and smoking by the time he was twelve. At the age of fifteen, a friend’s older brother introduced him to heroin. He explains, “It was just the sixties. I was a hippy. I was high through the whole time. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was getting high off of something.”

Blue recalls, “This is the era of Vietnam with the draft. So, guys like me didn’t really have anything to look forward to. None of us wanted to fight in some jungle that didn’t make sense. So, when I went down to the draft board I was extremely high, and I never got drafted.”

Blue was arrested for possession of heroin.

In 1968, a month after graduating high school, Blue was arrested for possession of heroin. Blue said, “I went on methadone after I got busted. My mother and father didn’t have a clue what to do.” They took him to a psychiatrist who prescribed the methadone.

During this time, he met his wife and fell in love. They were both on methadone for ten years, and then he detoxed off of it. His wife was taken off of it abruptly and overdosed a few days later. Blue gave her CPR and brought her back to life. After a few days she overdosed again, and this time, he could not bring her back. Blue was devastated and did his best to bring up his daughters without their mother.

“I got high for fifty-two years.”

Blue explains, “I was jumping from one thing to another. I was in a program; I wasn’t in a program. I was shooting dope; I wasn’t shooting dope. I was drinking because I would go to that when I didn’t want to do dope because I would get strung out on it. I smoked a lot of weed. I got high for fifty-two years. I didn’t get high off of any one thing for fifty-two years, but I was getting high off of something for fifty-two years. I didn’t go three months where I didn’t get high a couple of times.”

“I got so cold.”

In 2000, Blue lost his job because he was shooting dope and couldn’t work without it. He ended up homeless and set up a makeshift shelter between two buildings. After about a year of living on the streets, he found an old broken-down hearse in a parking lot. The back was unlocked and he moved in. He remembers, “I almost froze to death on Christmas Eve in 2004. I was dope sick. I didn’t have any money. I went into the back of the hearse and covered up with every piece of clothing and blanket that I had. I got so cold. I will never forget that.” He went into a shop and sat there to try to warm up, but was forced to leave. As he was walking down the street, a lady saw he was distressed and let him sleep on her couch and get warm. “It was quite a Christmas. It is not something I am trying to go back to ever. When I see [homeless] guys come in here at night, I know what it is like.”

Blue had been in and out of programs so many times

In January 2014, Blue went to Bayview Hospital to detox. He had lost so much weight and gotten into such bad shape that he couldn’t walk. He was sent to a rehab center to regain the ability to walk. He was physically getting better. But in September of 2014, he took some pills and drank a pint of vodka and woke up in an ambulance on the way to St. Agnes. The social worker at St. Agnes told Blue’s wife about HUM. He had been in and out of programs so many times and had always focused on the physical and mental health side, but never had he thought about the spiritual aspect of recovery. When he arrived at HUM, they told him that it was a year-long program and he was not ready to commit to that. He admits that he thought, “Oh no! I am gone. I headed to the door. The only reason I came back is because my wife stayed at the desk and stared at me.”

“I was in really bad shape, really.”

The first three or four months Blue struggled and did not sleep much. “I was in really bad shape, really.” When asked what changed for him, he explains, “I stopped fighting God. It sounds like something you would say because it sounds good. Just the difference of not having to fight.” His entire life he had been an agnostic. He could not explain the existence of God and the existence of bad things at the same time. Now he says, “It has been a relief not to have to understand, I know what I know. I learn what I can. I help whoever I can. I do the best I can.”

Each week, at the graduation chapel, Blue sits in the same place and jumps up to give a hug and hope to those who are celebrating their graduation from the one-year Spiritual Recovery Program. He explains, “I feel very strongly emotionally about what is happening here. I know what it took for me to do it – to come in here and go for a year. I’ve been out there for so many years, and I’ve seen how this struggle is with drugs and alcohol. To me, a year is a miracle. So, yeah, I hug them guys when they make that year because you started something, and you finished it. We don’t do that a lot. We’re good at starting things, but not finishing them.”

“I came to understand that God kept me around…”

Blue is a graduate intern here at HUM as a Treatment Coordinator Assistant and sees his role now as to help others who are struggling to get clean. “I came to understand that God kept me around through all that stuff. God let me survive all of that. So what’s the purpose? I am 67 years old. I spent 52 of those 67 years getting high off of everything. So, I can look at my life in two ways; I’ve wasted my whole life. Or no, I’ve put 52 years of hard experience to understand the stuff nowadays. So, I choose the second.”

Blue is well known at HUM. He explains, “I am a firm believer that the small things in life make the difference. The big [things] are going to happen to everyone. The little ones are gifts. When someone talks to you and they actually care, it’s something you remember. It can make a huge difference in the rest of your day. It might make a difference in the rest of your life. Care might be the difference between life and death.” This New Year, Blue will continue to do what he can to offer hope to the hurting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download MP3

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.

Download MP3

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.

Download MP3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download MP3 (23mb)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troy is pursuing his dream of owning a restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

Auto Draft 24

 “My life consisted of lies until I got to the mission….I would have never imagined that I would be where I am today.”  I grew up in Knoxville. My addiction started when I began using alcohol when I was 17 years old, after my grandmother passed away. I have no knowledge of my biological father. My mom remarried when I was five and and started working. With nobody at home my grandmother played a big role in raising me.

I was involved in church as a young child, but when my grandmother passed, I was mad at God and wanting to numb my pain. I started smoking marijuana and trying anything. My grades slipped but I still excelled at soccer and got a scholarship to play in college. On graduation night, my best friend was killed in a drinking and driving accident – that’s when I started running and left Knoxville.

“All I cared about was partying…”

[College} was the first time I was away from my family and on my own. I failed out and moved back to TN.  All I cared about was partying and soccer. I moved across the country and back again. I got into pills and cocaine. I would pick stuff at jobs quickly and then flame out.

I always had friends and family tell me that I could accomplish whatever I wanted to. But, I wasn’t passionate about anything, other than playing soccer. I was lost. I had accepted that I would be a drug addict the rest of my life, numbing my pain.

I didn’t want to  end my addiction.

I moved around a lot. I thought if I started fresh, I would stop using. So, I got the brilliant idea to join the military. I detoxed off of alcohol while I was in boot camp.  I ended up choosing the ceremonial guard, where I got injured and was proscribed Percocet. That was the end of it. I met a fellow shipmate who was injured; he introduced me to heroin. I started stealing from my shipmates and that is when it got bad. They put me into Walter Reed pysch unit for 3 weeks and then 28 day rehab in VA. I didn’t want to  end my addiction. After everything transpired, I was given an “other than honorable discharge”.

I could have gone home, but I didn’t want to put my parents through that again. I went out to Colorado and lived with a friend and his family. [It didn’t work out] and he bought me a ticket to Santa Cruz, CA. Eventually, I met up with a high school buddy and got a job working on a legal pot farm, making $500 a day. In Santa Cruz I was introduced to black tar heroin and crystal meth; I started getting arrested – 22 times in 3 years.

In his addiction James had no hope, no love, no faith, and no direction

My last arrest was June 22 of last year; my sobriety date is June 28, 2015. I weighed 150 lbs.and I had no hope, no love, no faith, and no direction. I attended church in jail and met a little old lady who reminded me of my grandmother. She told me that God loved me.  I asked God to come into my life and guide me. I had my first spiritual experience in a long time. The next day, the withdrawals were gone and I called my mom and told her I was ready to come home [when I left jail]. It was emotional to leave; I had become addicted to the lifestyle.

My first night home was the first time I had seen my parents in 3-4 years. Getting into treatment was part of the deal. I went to the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission (KARM), but I needed a long-term program and they [referred me] to Helping Up Mission.

“I was ready to change.”

Settling in, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I was ready to change, whatever it took – I knew it was better than jail and it was time to get honest with myself.  Eventually, I felt peace and could walk into a place and not be judged. I could lay my head down and fall asleep.

Mental health counseling has been key for my recovery. When I was first assigned to mental health counseling, I had no idea what it was about. Before, I had no feelings, connection; I was a zombie. Mental health counseling was the first time in my life I could be honest about my feelings – my anger, fear, grief. It opened the door to get honest about my pain. This has led me to trusting others, rather than lying about everything and being suspicious of everyone. It’s led to genuine relationships with others, and I know that guys look up to me now. Spiritual Life staff, my sponsors, mental health counselor, parents – are all part of my recovery, opening me up to HOPE, and becoming more whole.

“I’m dealing with my emotions.”

Physical training has helped to create whole life transformation, too. When I was younger, I used exercise as a coping mechanism, running to escape. When I was injured in the military, that coping mechanism was no longer available and I used drugs to escape and numb the pain. Now, exercise and physical fitness still has great benefits, but I’m not using it to escape because I’m dealing with my emotions. I’m training to run the Baltimore Running Festival’s half marathon in October, so that I can bring awareness to men experiencing addiction and contribute to what has benefitted me so much.

My recovery changed last November. I posted my before and after picture on my Facebook page and it went viral.

James W

Before and after transformation.

“I have worked my program.”

I wanted to show my friends and family that I was doing well and change was taking place, not only physical, but mental change as well.  I have worked my program.  Today, I am honest, open-minded, and willing.  I have so much joy and love in my heart today.

I’m going to stay in Baltimore. I love the city and am being blessed on a daily basis. This is where my support is. I want to take care of my financial debt and go back to college to get a business degree.

Even through my addiction, his family has never given up

I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends and family in my life.  Even through my addiction, they have never given up on or stopped loving me, even when I stopped loving myself. I never imagined that I would be where I am today. I [am] most thankful for the ability to accept change in my life!

Download MP3

 

 

Download MP3

I grew up in West Baltimore – in Sandtown. There was my mom, my younger brother and his dad in the house. But, I didn’t know he was my step-father; I thought he was my dad until I was 12 when we moved out to Park Heights. It was hard when I found out he wasn’t my biological father, but I realized eventually that he was my “dad”.

My relationship with my mom, even in the middle of my mess, was good. She would always try to find a way to help me get better.

I started trying drugs when I was 8 or 9 – marijuana. But, it wasn’t an every-day thing until I was 15 or 16 because of limited access – by then I had a job and associates to get it from. I started using cocaine at 17.

I put myself out of school when I was in 8th grade [by acting out]. My mom wouldn’t let me be in the house unless I was learning, so the principal that expelled me from Greenspring Middle helped me get into an alternative school. Just two weeks from completing my GED, I got in an altercation and got myself put out again.

I left home when I was 19. From 17 on, I was back and forth with girlfriends and families in a couple places. I met my daughter’s mother and she had my daughter. Her mom didn’t want anything to do with me because I didn’t have a high school diploma or college. But, I always kept a job.

I could always go home, but I chose to live on the streets. Whenever I would call my mom, she would say I could come home. But I told her I was alright, and I was under the illusion that I was taking care of myself.

I first came to HUM in 1998, when I was 28 years old. I only stayed for a week. I tried other recovery programs over the years, including another time back at HUM. I spent time in jail – for things I did and for things I did not do. I had jobs on and off – which also provided access to substances.

On Memorial Day 2012, the love of my life was taken away from me. She was murdered, and I lost my mind. I tried everything not to feel what I was feeling. Marijuana didn’t do it. Coke didn’t do it. As I was on my way to go buy some coke, an associate asked how I was doing. I said that I was trying to find something to numb the pain. He gave me a gram of raw dope. I didn’t like the way it made me feel, but it took away the pain. What I didn’t realize was that my using heroin to take away the pain was causing me even more pain. I came home one day and the locks were changed.

Eventually, in March 2016 I found my way back to HUM. I didn’t talk to other people when I came here; just the people who came in with me. We made a pact to be here for the year. Since I have been here, I’ve been dealing with my anger and changing my heart.

When the euphoria of getting high was gone, I became a very, very, very angry individual. I was angry at myself, angry at the world, and angry at the dude that took my wife from me. In my second week here, I was going to leave, but my Father [God] sent my Treatment Coordinator to come talk to me. I told him, “It’s my birthday and I don’t want to feel what I feel. The only way that I know how to deal with it is to get high.” He suggested I talk to the Director of Spiritual Life about my anger. I was looking for the quick fix – I thought he would give me a verse or a book to go read, but it wasn’t that simple. He gave me a bunch of reflective assignments. Every time I was in the recovery process, I thought it was about changing my thinking. But for me, it wasn’t about changing my thinking, but about changing my heart. And everything else will follow.

Now, I’m staying at HUM; I’m working on getting my high school diploma and I’m responsible for the housekeeping in three buildings. I’m working on other things, like vulnerability. I don’t have a problem being vulnerable to the Father because I know he is not going to hurt me and has my best interests; my problem is being vulnerable with people. Learn to distinguish which people who have your best interest at heart. The people at HUM have my best interest at heart. But I resist it; I don’t want you to know that I have any vulnerability in me. I don’t want you to know that I have the fillling of a Twinkie in me. Sometimes there’s a time to be angry, but I just don’t want to be angry anymore.

I don’t know what’s next for me; I just go where my Father tells me to go and do what He tells me to do.

Here’s a WBAL news segment that featured Anthony early in his time at HUM: