“I remember one day, we had nowhere to go,” Katherine recalls. She and her baby boy were homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore. And they’d been riding around town on a bus all day to stay warm and safe.
“It was late and we got off the bus at the very last stop of the day,” Katherine continues. “It was 3:30 in the morning. Across the street, there was a bus bench. I laid my baby down on that thing and I slept and just waited until it was light again. At 5:30, the bus started back up again, and we got back on.”
Katherine and her son spent most nights sleeping outside, vulnerable to all kinds of danger. Most days, they would stop by a spot where they could get a quick shower. And maybe they’d find something to eat at a soup kitchen. But finding help was difficult.
“There were no centers for women andchildren,” Katherine says.
Eventually, her son’s father received custody of the young boy, and Katherine found herself alone on the streets, panhandling to get money for food — and her ongoing heroin addiction. For years, she struggled to make it to the next day and the next high. But not long ago, something happened that would change Katherine’s life forever. She became ill.
Sick and dehydrated, Katherine went to a local hospital to get checked. They put her into detox, and it was there that a counselor recommended she come to Helping Up Mission. Our staff was happy to pick her up and to welcome her into our women’s program.
Katherine hasn’t been the same since. She’s been clean for six months, she loves her Bible and life skills classes, and she’s reconnected with her son, now 26, and speaks with him daily.
“I had nothing when I came here,” Katherine says. “But HUM lifts you up. This place has been an answer to prayer.”
Your support of our new Center for Women & Children will be an answer to prayer for countless more women like Katherine. Thank you for standing with us on their behalf!
“God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen.”
Struggling with addiction for over 20 years, Ramon (39) asked God for help, “God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen.” Thanks to generous donors like yourself, Ramon’s prayers were answered, and he came to Helping Up Mission (HUM), where he has healed, “spiritually, mentally, and physically.”
Born in Guatemala, Ramon’s family moved a lot: from Costa Rica to the Dominican Republic, to Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. His father, a preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist church, and his mother did a good job of making his family feel safe during the many moves. “I never liked to be in one place for very long. I got used to moving and liked meeting new people and discovering new cultures,” recalls Ramon.
Being raised Seventh Day Adventist, with a strict ethical code against the consumption of alcohol, Ramon did not have his first drink until age 19. That all changed while in college. “That first night, I drank two forty-ounce beers. After that, I never drank casually. Drinking was all or nothing and I always drank to get drunk and I didn’t care about the consequences.”
Ramon’s “no-care” lifestyle would continue for another 15 years. Much like his childhood relocations, Ramon would often move to change the situations, yet his addictions would resurface. “Through the geographical moves, I now realize that I was the problem. I had always blamed my situations on other things.” Ramon moved to California to live with his sister, but his addiction resurfaced and he moved to Texas with his brother. “I thought that if I were around my brother, everything would get better. But I wasn’t happy and quickly started isolating myself. I moved back with my parents who were living in New Jersey, and repeated the process. My father got transferred to Maryland, and I moved too. The pattern repeated: I got healthy again but started drinking.
In Baltimore, Ramon got arrested and while in detention asked, “God, this is it, I’m done. Please make something happen. That is when I met John. He said that he knew of a place that would help me. I did not see him again and I was released. We never exchanged information and I did not know how to find him. But through coincidence, or more likely by GOD, John was there when I returned to get my things. And that is how I found Helping Up Mission.”
“The hardest thing about the Spiritual Recovery Program at HUM is living in a dorm with 30 guys, although it is cool how the men come from all walks of life. Learning to stay still, letting the ‘fog clear’, and taking direction were also hard at first. But they (staff) provide us with so much and there are so many opportunities to carry us through the year. I joined the choir and connected with the group Brothers in Prayer. I signed up for everything that HUM had to offer, like backpacking. I joined a recovery homegroup and attended Celebrate Recovery.”
Throughout the year I also stayed connected with John. He said he had a job opening for me when I was ready. At first, it was hard to find a job because of my past. But HUM helped me expunge my criminal record, and I work for John now at Sofi’s Crepes Fells Point. A job that I can walk to! It has been a blessing.
As Ramon looks ahead to his future, he is thankful for HUM teaching him to sit still and just letting God lead. “I passionately want to be a Peer Recovery Specialist. I want to help people get over the hump of addiction. I know what they are going through, and I want to show them how they can start from nothing and relearn what they know about God, religion, and recovery.”
“My relationship with God today is very personal. Recovery has really helped me see His love for humankind, but we must find out how to love ourselves first. God has given me the gift of being comfortable around people. Because of my upbringing, I trust people, and that is what I want to help instill in others. By trusting in God, like when I prayed to him from the detention center, He opened the door and placed John into my life.”
“Today, I am most thankful for my health and my life. My family stuck with me, even when I was reaching a point in my life where (it seemed) there was no coming back. I am thankful for God bringing back my sanity (Recovery Step 2). And I am thankful for love allowing me to adapt to and accept people where they are. I am grateful for HUM healing me: spiritually, mentally, and physically. If I had the opportunity to go back and talk to myself on my first day I would say, ‘Ramon, you are at the right place. God brought you here. It’s starting now!’ “
Thanks to donors, volunteers, and partners like you, Ramon is well on his way to becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist. His true life-transformation is a testament to your generosity on many levels. And the hope that Ramon provides the men and women that we serve is immeasurable.
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.”
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!
Family values were extremely important in Manny’s upbringing. His mother is from Manning, South Carolina, and she made sure that he and his five siblings maintained “old country” values. Manny’s mother was a hard worker and expected nothing less from her children. The second child in the family, , Manny and his older sibling had a close look at their mother’s work ethic.
Even when his mother would do housework, “She would always give us something to do, like clothes of our own to wash,” Manny says. “Once we were sitting on the front porch, my siblings and I, and we had buckets scrubbing our own clothes.” Manny remembers that each of his siblings were given a white shirt, a pair of socks, and underwear. “As I got older, I realized that my mother was inside doing loads of laundry, cleaning up, and cooking dinner all at the same time.”
Manny grew up in the Fairfield area of Baltimore, near Brooklyn. Family outings and gatherings were a weekly event, especially on Sundays at Southern Baptist Church.
Manny’s mother became a reverend three years ago, but has been an ordained minister for 17 years. “Church was the key to our family, and sticking together instilled a strong sense of responsibility in us all,” says Manny, “looking out for each other and preserving the family institution was important.”
Addiction has no respect for family values. It does not discriminate no matter your race, age, sex, or socioeconomic status. “I went straight from being a teenager to using drugs, “ Manny says. Manny’s mother was cleaning his room one day, with an ulterior inspection motive, and she hit the jackpot. Her suspicions were confirmed when she found drugs. “She asked me when I came home: What is this?”, as she stretched her hand out toward him holding the small clear bag. She had found powder cocaine. “Well, what is this?” she exclaimed. Manny’s only response was, “Why were you in my room?” Manny’s mother explained that she couldn’t have drugs in her home, and especially not around her younger children. Manny had to make a choice.
Manny remembers, “She was like, well, you’ve got to choose the drugs or your family.” Manny chose drugs, which would see him abandon his family, lose his job, and become homeless. Manny’s homelessness lasted for seven years. At first, he stayed with friends, but “couchsurfing” was his least favorite. “I don’t like to feel as though I’m asking anyone for anything and I wanted to maintain this image of a self sufficient man,” Manny says. He preferred to stay in an abandoned Baltimore City school, or in abandoned houses.
”I even stayed under the Charles Street bridge, because it was right near Penn Station. I found a way that I could get around the fence when no one was looking. I would get down there and daydream while looking at the cars pass on 83,” Manny states. Those seven years were the longest seven years in his life, but at age 25 Manny returned home and began his road to recovery.
A month into his sobriety Manny returned to church. With his mother and God at his side, Manny’s faith grew and he prospered spiritually, personally, and professionally. But addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. Manny’s 17 years in recovery culminated with a relapse. Manny disappeared again. This time, thanks to the Grace of God, for only three days. He stopped contacting his family, and began demolishing his rebuilt relationships. “My phone kept ringing and receiving text messages, but I never responded,” Manny remembers.
Getting to the Helping Up Mission (HUM) was a relatively easy process. Manny finally mustered up enough nerve to return home after family, friends, and church family put enough pressure on him. He spent a week in solitude with his family members, getting honest with himself and his family. After that week of soul searching, Manny put on his best suit and walked through the doors of HUM. His pastor at the time had made donations here and suggested it to Manny as a place for him. It worked. Manny graduated from the one year Spiritual Recovery Program on February 15, 2019. He is also the Spiritual Life Intern at HUM.
The HUM has helped Manny combat his shyness and people pleasing tendencies. The “inside work” as he likes to refer to it. “That part of me that connected to God was missing, because even though I was in church, you know, the church wasn’t in me,” Manny expressed, “My spiritual life is now back on track and I’m actually looking into Human Services. HUM has given me so many opportunities. The sky is the limit, I would tell to any man that walks through these doors.”
Because of you Manny has been given a second chance to get it right.
Your generous contributions have enabled him to pursue schooling and professional training opportunities and he gets to live amongst men flourishing in their new-found spirituality.
“That part of me that connected to God was missing.”
Chris, 56 years old, is one of three sons of an army officer. Chris considered his father his hero. He grew up in thirteen states and three countries before settling in Maryland as a tenth grader. His father was away about eight to ten months a year at that point, so Chris was mostly raised by his mother.
He was very athletic and played football growing up. When he moved to Maryland, he became the starting quarterback on the high school junior varsity team and then quickly was pulled up to the varsity team. As the varsity quarterback, Chris was introduced to drugs and alcohol and a lifestyle he had never before experienced. He found that the drugs gave him the attention and a euphoric feeling of love that he was missing. Although his parents would ask about the drug use, there were no repercussions or accountability. “I was able to do what I wanted as long as I wore that jersey,” Chris recalls.
After high school, Chris started working in the service industry in restaurants and high-end nightclubs. He moved to Colorado to help a friend with a sandwich shop that was having problems. Chris’ father, who was always trying to offer support, bought the shop for him to run. Unfortunately, Chris ended up losing the shop and everything he had because of his drug use. He was homeless and alone, so found his way back to Maryland.
Upon his return to Maryland, his family accepted him, and again Chris had no serious repercussions. The drugs were still how Chris found acceptance and love. He started working back in the high-end restaurant business where he met a woman who he says, “saw my mask. She saw what I was trying to hide.” She called him out for his cocaine use. When she found his cocaine, she told him, “Either do this or be with me and flush that down the toilet.” They got married, and Chris gave up using for several years. When the relationship ended, Chris started using again.
For the next few years, as Chris became disillusioned at work, he started hanging out with a drug dealer and eventually began selling with him. After several arrests and many years of use, Chris saw his friend get arrested once more and realized that he didn’t want that life anymore. He walked away from selling and became homeless. Chris was lucky enough that his girlfriend offered to let him move into her basement. As he sank into depression, she told him that he needed to do something; that Chris was worth more than he was making of himself. He had heard about Helping Up Mission and did some research, but still hesitated. Eventually, his girlfriend brought him to Helping Up Mission, which Chris believes saved his life.
I was broken into pieces
Chris says that he felt like Humpty Dumpty coming into HUM. “I was broken into pieces. My life was just shattered.” After a few months in the program, Chris experienced grace after a mistake and decided to commit to his recovery. At HUM, Chris experienced the healthy repercussions and acceptance that he never completely felt growing up. It has allowed him to understand what he wants for the future. He explains, “I don’t want destruction anymore. I don’t want disintegration anymore. I want Chris back. Not a confusion of euphoric love, but true love. I have found it in so many places here. This is a type of love that will never leave me.”
During his time at HUM, Chris has had multiple healthcare procedures, including a new set of dentures that allow him to speak in public without shame. He also focused his time on preparing for a job that would help him with a new start. “I can give every staff member and everybody I have come in contact with praise for me being responsible again, me being proud of myself, finding my spirituality, opening my eyes.” Chris just started working as a truck driver and is beginning his new life with his focus on the things that are true.
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.
Nick has been able to rebuild his relationship with his mother and brothers, and now he can help others do the same!
Nick is the youngest of three boys whose parents divorced when he was young. He admits that he was spoiled and played both parents to get what he wanted. His brothers stayed with his mom most of the time, but Nick would go back and forth between both parents. He liked to stay with his more lenient dad, who was also an addict.
At the age of ten, Nick started drinking alcohol and using marijuana. When he was twelve, he was using regularly. His addiction got worse, and by the time he was fifteen, Nick’s mom sent him to a recovery program in Utah. He hated the program, and was angry at his mom for sending him. He explains, “I always loved my mom, more than anything in the world. She was a wonderful lady, but I was always mad at her for that.”
While he was in Utah, Nick didn’t use, and completed two years of high school. He thought he had recovered and wanted to return to Maryland to be a normal student and play sports for his senior year. Nick convinced his dad to get him out of the program and let him come back to play football and baseball.
Upon returning, Nick earned the starting quarterback role on his varsity team. He drank occasionally, and once the football season was over, he drank frequently. During baseball season, Nick hurt his arm and started taking pain medication which he became dependent on..
He played baseball for a year in college, but his reliance on pain medications led to a heroin addiction, and soon, Nick didn’t want to do anything other than feed his habit. He quit school and managed to survive for several years with the help of his father.
He eventually moved back with his mom, but he wasn’t able to hold a job or have a relationships. Again, his mom tried to help by bailing him out when he got in trouble and sending him to rehabs. One of the programs had a spiritual focus, and that was where Nick discovered his desire for a relationship with God.
Unfortunately, he returned from one of the rehab programs to find that his brother had started using, too. Nick returned to his old ways and even began to sell drugs out of his mother’s house. His mom had finally had enough and said they couldn’t live there anymore. Enraged, Nick went to Las Vegas to live with his father. “I was not nice about it at all. I could not control my emotions. I am a completely different person now. I don’t even recognize the guy that I used to be.”
Nick lived two and half years in Vegas. He was always high, repeatedly arrested, and at one point found his father on the floor unconscious from an overdose and with a blood infection from shooting up. In the end, Nick was living in a trailer that didn’t have power or water. He was exhausted, and when his aunt came out to bring him home, he returned reluctantly to the East Coast.
Nick has a family friend on the Board of Helping Up Mission who recommended that he and his brother come to HUM. Although Nick was not ready to stop, his brother was ready, and came to HUM’s Spiritual Recovery Program. He recalls “I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to.” As Nick went through several other programs, he realized, “I didn’t really want to live. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to do what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.” He kept trying and kept slipping up, but all of those places helped keep him alive until he was ready to stop. “I always believed that once I was ready to stop, I could with God’s help.” Nick called his brother after he had messed up again, and his brother suggested he come to HUM.
Nick remembers walking through the door and just crying. He was worn out and wanted to stop. When he came in it felt good and safe, and he could finally let his guard down. At HUM, he could focus on what he needed to do to get better. He had the chance to address the root causes of his addiction. For the first time, Nick didn’t immediately seek out a social circle. Instead, he focused on his recovery and did the work he needed to recover.
One thing Nick had to work on was his relationships. He was tired of hurting everyone. When his mom came to visit, it was tough to see her, and they both cried. She visited every week and welcomed him home.
There were years that Nick didn’t communicate with his mother, and there were times she enabled him, believing she was helping him. Eventually, she made the tough choice to say “whenever you are ready, I am here.” It was certainly tough for him to hear, but now Nick proudly declares that his mother is “the best woman I ever met. She is loving and caring and always did everything she could for my brothers and me. She always put us first.”
It has been almost a year since Nick graduated from HUM. He now works as an Intern in the Program Office at the Mission and helps other men find their way. Thanks to you, Nick has been able to rebuild his relationship with his mother and brothers, and now he can help others do the same!
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!
“Just a little over one year ago, I was worried about where my next meal was coming from, and how I could keep myself from freezing to death. After wandering around, with no real purpose, I had nearly given up. All hope was gone, so I began to look for a building tall enough to jump from.
“I then decided that if there was a God, I could at least ask for some guidance in what appeared to be my 11th hour. I spent a few nights sleeping on a steam grate after a bit of hope filled my spirit. I went to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the very place I was born. I told them that I had contemplated suicide in the recent weeks, so they kept me for the standard mental evaluation. After that, off to the HUM I went.
“Upon entering 911, I was greeted by Pete, who is cooler than the other side of the pillow. In all seriousness, I had struggled with my faith for some time. Pete would talk about God, and after watching how he carried himself, I started to believe that he believes.
“Between Pete, and my sponsor, and a few other genuinely good people, I started to believe for myself. For me, this evolved into daily prayer. I began to seek the love within all of us that binds us together so tightly, to overcome the fears that would tear us apart.”