“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.”

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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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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!

Wes, 33 years old, was born and raised in Baltimore.  His family sent him to an all male private high school to allow him to get a good education. “While I was there,” he explains, “I probably didn’t enjoy everything about it. But after graduating, I really appreciate having the opportunity to go somewhere like that.” However, while in high school, Wes started gained access and started using substances, like Ritalin and Aderall – taking prescription medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, even though he was not diagnosed with ADD. From there, he moved onto other drugs, including marijuana, hallucinogens, and OxyContin.   

Wes graduated high school and moved on to Towson University, where his addiction intensified.  He was eventually expelled for selling marijuana from his dorm room. For several years Wes worked dead-end jobs in order to support his habit. Then he started selling again. “I kind of felt like it made people need me in their lives,” he explains. “I always had trouble making friends on my own, so I figured…if I sell addictive substances, they’ve gotta be my friend.”

Eventually his house was raided, he was arrested, and he moved back in with mom. At that point, Wes knew he was on a downward spiral. He was only twenty-eight years old. Wes was going through what he called “spiritual decay and just feeling tired with life.” At this point he knew, “I had nothing to sell; I had nothing to give; I was just really taking everything… trying to fill the void inside with drugs.” 

Wes went back to Towson University, managing to get good grades despite continued drug use, and earned his degree in Environmental Science. But even after earning his degree, he getting dead-end jobs, staying up all night using and sleeping all day. He thought it was the chemicals that caused the schedule, but since he has been at HUM he has realized: “It was really a lot of self-image and self-esteem issues, being ashamed of showing my face outside in public. I didn’t want to see the light of day, or the ‘normal’ people going about their business.”

Thanks to you… Wes is gaining confidence to live as the man he was created to be!

At one point, Wes went to ask his mother for money. She suggested he get some help, but Wes protested that he didn’t have insurance or any way to pay for a treatment program.  But, his sister’s boyfriend had been to HUM and told him about it. Wes spent that night in his mother’s basement, thinking, and finally decided he was ready for something else. So at the age of thirty-two, he started his recovery journey at HUM. 

When he first arrived, Wes was in a fog, but was ready to surrender. He was surprised that everyone seemed friendly and willing to help him. It took a while to settle in, though, because he was used to the schedule of sleeping during the day and staying up at night. 

At about four months, Wes started to acclimate to recovery. “Making regular class attendance, grudgingly waking up for work therapy, and at least trying to do the best I could do” are all things he says have helped.  “It really has gotten easier. As somebody who would go to sleep before the birds wake up, my work therapy [has me] wake up with the birds and go clean up cigarette butts on East Baltimore Street. I am out there dancing around with my music on, and I am having a blast.”

Besides his work therapy, Wes suggests that other aspects of life at HUM have really helped, especially the sense of community. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he says. During his time here, Wes has also taken the opportunity to meet regularly with his mental health counselor. “The mental health coordination is great. I can be honest with my counselor, tell them whatever is going on with me inside.”

For Wes, one of the most meaningful parts of the HUM community has been the choir. It took him some time to gain the confidence to join, but once he did, Wes found he was in his element. “The people who sing in the choir get a lot out of it – finding some purpose – helping us to realize that we need to trust God and just do the best we can. I love getting up there. I have always been an introvert, and never thought my skills would be enough to be on a showcase. But, I love getting up there and showing off my moves.” Through the choir, Wes has had some additional leadership opportunities which have been personally affirming. It has been an encouragement to Wes to realize that “people see more in me than I can see in myself sometimes.”

Wes graduates in a few months, and he is waiting on God as he discerns the best way to move forward.  Wes is thrilled to have a better relationship with his family. Where he used to be a hindrance, he is now a help.  His self-image issues have come a long way, and he is learning new ways to live in confidence and freedom. While he would eventually like to work in his field of study – Environmental Science – Wes is not anxious. “I can take this time, figure out what is best for me, and set things in motion.” He knows that God will make a way for him.

What does Wes think of HUM? “It saved my life, and I think it can work wonders in anyone’s life, even if they don’t think it can.” To all friends and supporters of Helping Up Mission, he has this to say: “Thanks for showing me that God loves me!”

WesR

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Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, Doug Coffield’s parents divorced and he was raised by his grandmother at age five. “Grandma was like mom to me and living with her was the happiest part of my childhood,” he recalls.

But, at 12, he was sent to live with his now-remarried father and there was constant strife between Doug, his stepmother and stepbrother. So, by age 16, he started experimenting with a variety of chemicals – and alcohol became his drug of choice.

Looking back, Doug says, “I wasn’t addicted yet, just trying to fit in with friends. I was really shy and it gave me courage.”

Out of high school, he started working construction and quickly moved to driving trucks. “The big rigs came naturally to me; like I was born to do this,” Doug says. He became a professional long-distance truck driver.

He also kept up his drinking and using drugs. “Looking back,” Doug says, “I’d become an alcoholic in my early 20’s. I had to have a bottle of Jack Daniels with me in the truck all the time. By this time, I was getting high on almost everything – including doing speed (methamphetamine) to stay awake driving all night.”

Doug found peace

Then, at 33, Doug had a spiritual moment of clarity – in a prison cell in Hagerstown, Maryland! “One night in a bar, a guy disrespected my girlfriend (now my wife!). We got into a fight and I ending up shooting him in the thigh!” Charged with assault and attempted murder, Doug received a 50-year sentence, with all but 5 years suspended. He served 2 ½ years and was released on parole for good behavior.

During that prison time, Doug knew he needed the Jesus his grandmother had introduced to him. He started praying, reading his Bible faithfully every day and attending every church service they had. “It was a true spiritual awakening for me,” he says.

Upon his release, Doug shared it all with his wife. Together, they started attending a small country church regularly and Doug became very active, attending Sunday School classes, participating on the church council and singing in the choir.

“But the pressures of life started to build and I didn’t know how to handle them,” Doug recalls. “My wife would use drugs from time to time and my spiritual focus began to deteriorate. After about 6 months I started using again.”

“Sadly, that’s how our marriage has been from the beginning. One of us gets clean and the other doesn’t – then we both wind up using again, together! In my 40’s, we both got hooked on heroin. I was in and out of recovery programs – both in jail and on the outside.”

First arriving at Helping Up Mission in 2014, Doug really wanted to stop using – and he did pretty well here, but left and eventually started using again.

When he felt like he just couldn’t take it any more, Doug came back to HUM, willing to do whatever necessary to stay clean – for him and his wife’s sake! He says he knew he could not do this himself and really needed God’s help. “I’m going to do whatever it takes; I’m done. Take me and I will do whatever you want,” was his prayer.

That was the summer of 2015. He was 59 years old…and it was surrender!

After being back here a while, Doug says he got peace and joy back in his soul. He started singing in the HUM choir. “I love to sing and try to always do it from my heart – others can feel it, too! It’s an important part of my recovery,” he says.

This summer – and now a HUM graduate – Doug was invited to help lead an evening Bible-focused recovery meeting on campus. Doug recalls the night he was to lead it by himself. “I was scared to death and it was hard getting started. But God helped me and the guys encouraged me.”

“I just tried to talk honestly about myself and how God is helping me. I also shared that I don’t really know what God has for me, but am waiting patiently. Afterwards, one guy said to me, ‘God is already doing something in you and through you.’ That helped!”

Doug says people have started to respect him now. “That’s pretty amazing because for the longest time, I didn’t even have respect for myself.”

Beyond his service here at HUM, Doug is also involved with a community outreach in Brooklyn Park, where people whose lives God has transformed, are available to help transform others. It’s been very meaningful to him.

This fall, Doug also enrolled at Faith Theological Seminary, working toward an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. “I want to be ready for whatever God has for me,” he says.

“My wife is doing well these days, too!” Doug is quick to add. “She’s working and this is the first time in 
our lives that my wife and I have 
been clean together – God is doing something new!”

Doug laughs a lot more these days

Yasin Abdul Adi was born in Detroit, MI but, while still young, his family moved to Knoxville, TN – the places he considers his “hometown” today. Yasin says he always felt a God-connection and tried many things to deepen it – including 25 years practicing Islam. Here’s his story.


My high school graduation present was to be allowed to hitchhike to California and that’s when I experimented with marijuana, alcohol, LSD and heroin (but didn’t like the latter back then). In those days I associated getting high with new life and experiences.

Later on in life, we would sit around and get high, talk about the country and how bad it was; how it was for black people. I started using injectable drugs and eventually got around to shooting heroin.

I had some pretty good jobs during those years – iron worker, welding and data processing. But in 1984, after going through a divorce, I was put in jail for public drunkenness. Later charged with armed robbery – I received a 35 years! But I wasn’t a bad guy and, after 10 years, was paroled for good behavior.

I completed two years of college while in prison and, when released, enrolled in the University of Tennessee – earning a degree in psychology. With my psychology degree I worked as a youth teacher/counselor, wilderness therapist, crisis interventionist, community health coordinator and supervisor at a residential youth house.

But one of the things I struggled with was setting proper boundaries in relationships – I tended to get too involved. So, after working four years, I relapsed. And for the past 20 years it has been a cycle of crack cocaine and alcohol, getting locked up, getting out, using again and getting arrested again. It seemed like whenever I used drugs I broke out in handcuffs.

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When I was released from prison in 2013, my mother had Alzheimer’s. I’m really proud of her – she was the first registered black nurse in Tennessee and later joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee. I tried to take care of her and did well for a while…but eventually relapsed and wound up back in jail.

Upon release I went to Knoxville Area Rescue Mission (KARM) and joined their program. It was working for me but I relapsed again. KARM put me in contact with HUM and that’s how I arrived here early in 2016.

Along the way, I had given up on Islam and came to realize that there was something different about Jesus. He personified mercy, grace and forgiveness to all of us – even though we continually fall short. I had a transformational moment at a tent revival in Nashville when they sang “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” – and I surrendered. It wasn’t emotional…it was just time. Jesus is the only One who personified mercy, grace and forgiveness, while we continually don’t quite hit the mark. That resonated with me.

I love Gospel music…because I love Jesus…and was so grateful to be able to join the HUM band when I arrived here. Knowing I always do better in recovery when I stay involved with physical activity, I also joined the Back On My Feet running team (BOMF) here at HUM. But BOMF isn’t just about running – they also offer financial literacy, resume classes and community service.

So in October I’m running the full marathon in the Baltimore Running Festival, representing HUM and BOMF. I need a team because of my loner tendencies. And I’ve learned a lot from running – I’m learning to slow down.

I’ve benefited greatly from my mental health counseling here at HUM. So I’ve started working on a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling which will count towards my masters in applied psychology and counseling. It will take a couple years…I’ll be 66 when I am done!

But I’m excited to help other people my age gain insights into their own possibilities – of training, of enlightenment, of being aware of all they can still do and be!

Yasin

 

Drew Dedrick, age 43, was raised in Columbia, MD.  “I grew up in a good Catholic family,” says Drew.  “I did well in school.  I played football, baseball and painted scenery for the drama club and was an artist for the newspaper.”

“I had always been a normal guy. As I entered middle school I got glasses, braces and crazy hair due to my many cowlicks. I wasn’t cool anymore. I desperately wanted to fit in. I felt like good students were nerds so I started making an effort not to get straight A’s.

“After high school, I enrolled in UMBC and joined a fraternity.  I did nothing but drink my entire freshman year.  I felt like it was required to be part of the crowd and it helped me to feel accepted.  By the end of my freshman year, I had failed out of college.

“I started working at Toby’s Dinner Theatre as a morning dishwasher.  Within weeks I was promoted to working with props and stage managing.  From there I became the technical director and finally a sound designer.

“In 1999, I married my girlfriend — an actress I had met at the theatre. We had a good life together. She eventually left the theatre and got a job as a teacher.

“Our first son, Martin, was born in 2004 and our second, August, arrived in 2007.  After August was born, she wanted me to get a “real job.”  She didn’t think that my job at the theatre had the long-term security that a day job could provide.  But, I was comfortable at the theatre and knew that I was very good at what I did.

“After August was born, the disconnect between us grew.  She had matured and become a proper mother but I hadn’t made that adjustment with her.  She kept asking me to drink less.  I hesitantly agreed but never made any real changes.

“We reached a point of crisis in our marriage.  She gave me an ultimatum that I needed to quit drinking, quit smoking and get my health checked out.  I told her that was a lot to ask for and I didn’t know if I could do all of it.  I went to the doctor the very next week.  I tried to quit smoking without realizing how hard it would be.  I never was able to stop drinking.  After six months, right after Thanksgiving 2013, she kicked me out. At first I fought for her and our relationship but eventually realized that it was futile — she was not going to take me back. Not being able to be with my boys was devastating.

“I still had my job at Toby’s and I would sleep in my car and at friends’ houses.  It was freezing cold and so I drank to keep warm.  My wife told me I couldn’t drive the boys anymore.  Once that responsibility was gone, I drank whenever I wasn’t at work.  I drank all day long.  I got to the point where I would shake if I wasn’t drinking.  My doctor prescribed me anxiety medication.  Because I was taking it along with drinking, I started blacking out.  I started getting progressive warnings from my boss about showing up drunk to work.

“From May to October my life was just shame upon shame.  I was hallucinating.  I was very paranoid and stopped talking to people.  I thought I was going to die – I didn’t believe I had any chance to control my alcoholism.  I was only getting ½ hour of sleep every night and drinking didn’t even get me drunk anymore.

“I finally realized that I needed help.  My step-mother helped me look for programs and found Helping Up Mission.  She brought me to HUM and I was an emotional mess.  I had been isolated for so long.  Suddenly, I was in a community of guys all working on the same thing and it was like an enormous weight had been lifted.

“I surrounded myself with good people.  For the first time in my life, I started following the rules.  Anything the staff asked me to do, I did.  I got a sponsor, a home group, developed a great relationship with my treatment coordinator, fully used my therapist and started attending church.

“As I progressed in the program, I had to decide about going back to work right away or waiting.  I prayed on it and decided to accept a work therapy assignment in HUM’s treatment office.  I wanted to give back to the place that had saved my life!  I eventually accepted an internship in the Philanthropy Department.  My family wrote a letter lashing out at me for taking an internship instead of a full-time job.  They wanted me to re-enter the workforce and provide for my boys.

“I recently was offered the opportunity to interview for a position in HUM’s Philanthropy Department as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator.  As I read the job description, I was amazed – if I could have written it myself, this is the ideal job description I would have written.  A couple of weeks later, I was offered and accepted the position.  Working at Helping Up Mission is a calling.  It’s a place where I can help save lives.

“Because I am able to live at the Mission as a residential staff member, I am saving money and able to make financial amends to my ex-wife.  My family apologized to me for writing that letter and doubting me.  They now realize that I was doing the right thing all along, by surrendering to God’s will  and am now in a position to give back to my boys immediately.”

Watch Drew’s interview at our 2016 Graduation Banquet:

https://youtu.be/Z7XY9OguvbA?t=2m21s

Michael Knighton, age 54, grew up in East Baltimore. “When I was a young boy, I got into boxing because of my brother,” says Michael. “My brother had me out on the corners getting into fights with other kids to earn money when I was about 7. My step-father found out what was happening. He took me off of the corner and to a boy’s club where I could be trained in boxing. I was excited about training and did a lot of amateur boxing.

“When I was 10 years old, my step-father took my mother and brother and I on a boat ride. My step-father saw a little boy in distress in the water. He jumped in to save the little boy’s life. He saved the little boy as well as the boy’s parents. But, on his way back to our boat, my step-father was caught in a current and drowned. I wanted to try to save him but my mother held me back.

“I used to take out my anger in the boxing ring. Boxing was everything to me. When I was 19, I threw a punch and blew my shoulder out. I was rushed into surgery. That surgery led to subsequent surgeries and many pain medications to try to control the pain.

“Boxing had been my outlet to deal with my anger. From that point on, I was heavily into pain medication. I started getting into trouble – forging prescriptions to get more medicine. I was breaking the law all of the time to feed my habit. I was in and out of jail a lot. Eventually I moved from pain pills to heroin.

“For 30 years, I lived dependent on drugs. My body was so used to opiates that, without them, I didn’t feel normal. I was homeless and alone. Earlier in my life, I had gotten two teardrop tattoos on my face. As I walked the streets, I felt that people were always judging me because of my tattoos. I didn’t feel like a normal member of society.

“I finally told myself that enough was enough and it was time to get clean. If I could lie on a prison floor and sober up, I could do it on my own. I went to a methadone program but they wouldn’t accept me.

“I started walking with nowhere to go. I came to the 1000 block of East Baltimore Street and saw the sign for Helping Up Mission. I remembered the good things I had heard about this place so I decided to stay for the night. After hearing about the Spiritual Recovery Program, I decided to give it a try. I had nothing to lose!

“My body was in agony for the first two months that I was at the Mission. My nervous system was a mess as I went through withdrawals after 30 straight years of heroin use. My legs would twitch at night as I tried to fall asleep. I felt like my body had been invaded by an alien being who jumped up and tortured me whenever he felt like it.

“I was assigned to a mental health counselor. I started talking about things that I’d never opened up to anyone about – private matters that I never felt comfortable dealing with. I started to learn to trust people and began to realize that not everyone was judging me. I started to get the sense that people were starting to view me differently and I began to feel accepted.

“As I started to view myself as a different person, I wanted my body to reflect the changes that were happening inside. I decided that it was time to get rid of my tear drop tattoos that, for so many years, had been a visible symbol of my pain.

“My mental health counselor helped me look for a place that could help me with that and she reached out to Maryland Laser Skin and Vein. She explained my situation and how I was working to change my life.   They agreed to do the procedures for free. When it was done, the doctor told me the staff was proud of me and to continue on in my good work.

“The first day that I walked around without the tattoos on my face, I finally didn’t feel like an outcast anymore. I was able to walk in stores and not feel like I was being judged as a gang member or trouble maker.

“About that same time, I started working out again. I started out slowly and got back into my old routine before long. I started giving exercise advice to the guys who were in the fitness center with me. It felt great to be able to help them.

“I also started getting dental work done through the Mission’s dental program. When I entered the program, I didn’t have any teeth at all because of an issue with a mouthpiece during my boxing days. Now, I have a full set of teeth!

“I feel so confident these days and am walking with my head held high. People look at me and acknowledge me who would have never given me a second glance a year ago. But, my change isn’t just on the outside. On the inside, I can feel everything going on. My feelings and emotions were sedated by my drug use for so many years. Now I get emotional in ways I never had before.

“I was 19 when my son was born. I was in and out of his life. His life has been filled with a lot of my broken promises. After I came to the Mission, we started communicating again and we are working on our relationship.

“Since I’ve been at the Mission, my relationship with God has grown. I can clearly see how He has been working in my life – no one else could make the transformation happen but Him.

“HUM has become family to me. Every day I look forward to being with the other men here. I find ways to help someone and that means a lot to me.

“I’m so thankful to all of the donors that make HUM a reality. Because of them, men like me and the other guys at HUM get a second chance at life. Helping Up Mission was put here as a gift from God so we get a chance to mend our lives and our relationships with others we have hurt in the past. Today I am the man I always knew in my heart that I could be.”

Wayne Chisolm, 44 years old, was born in Brooklyn, New York. “My Grandmother raised my 5 siblings and I,” says Wayne. “My Mom lived nearby and was in the picture but she didn’t live with us. She had a very bad drinking problem and was doing the best that she could. My Dad was very abusive to my Mom and was barely in the picture. By the time that I was 11 years old, he was gone.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t really drink. Whenever I drank, I always got sick and I hated getting sick so I didn’t do it.

“I fell into the wrong crowd at school and played hooky a lot. I got my first job when I was a junior in high school. I loved it so much that I stopped going to school.

“In 1998, I started dating a woman that I had known since we were young. We eventually became engaged. In 2000, I moved to Maryland. I was happy with my life – working jobs and living a good life.

“In 2013, at the age of 43, I started hanging out with bad company. They were smoking crack cocaine. They told me not to mess with it but I thought that I was a man, I could handle anything. I could do it once – no big deal! I was wrong – after I tried it once, I was in love. I had 5 months of hard addiction and ended up resigning from my job.

“I hadn’t lost everything yet but I knew I was out of control. I called a friend and admitted my situation to him. He told me about Helping Up Mission and I was ready to go – I was willing to do whatever it took. I told my fiancé I was going to get help. She told me she had known all along and was waiting for me to tell her.

“When I first arrived at the Mission, I was impressed with how welcoming it was. To be honest, it took me a few months to mentally commit to completing the program. I had money in my pocket and, as I looked at the doors, I knew they weren’t locked. I could leave any time I wanted to. But, I came to realize that that would defeat the purpose. I could choose to fight or surrender. I am happy to say, I never walked out that door.

“Soon after arriving, I received my first work therapy assignment – cleaning one of the bathrooms. I didn’t like it one bit. Over time, I stopped looking at it as cleaning toilets and started looking at it as a part of cleaning myself. I took that time cleaning the bathroom to think about how to work on myself. Over time, people started to notice a change in me.

“At first it was hard to get used to the other people here – there are so many different characters. That was a challenge at first for me because I used to not put up with that many people. But, I started to remember that they are human too and we are all here for the same reason – to fix ourselves.

“In addition to my work therapy assignment, I volunteered to work in the kitchen. After 4 months, my work therapy assignment was transferred to the kitchen. I love interacting with the guys in the program when I work in the kitchen! After a few months, a few intern positions opened up. I was shocked to learn that I had received one. I love being able to encourage and give advice to the men that work in the kitchen with me. It’s not just a job for me – I am invested in helping them with their life and their recovery. I know it isn’t easy to open up to people and I don’t take it for granted that they confide in me.

“I am working on getting my high school diploma. I’ve always wanted to get it but, because I always had a job, I thought I didn’t need it. I realized that if I didn’t make the time to do it now, I’d never do it and I decided to go for it.

“I joined the Helping Up Mission chapter of Back on My Feet. I had always wanted to be able to run a couple of miles and I admired the cool track suits and sneakers that the team members had. Once I joined the team I realized it was so much more. It’s about teamwork, effort and owning up to your word. When you are part of a team, people rely on you. I was worried about running because I had gained weight but no one laughed at me. It’s such a great group of people!

“My relationship with my fiancé today is amazing. After arriving at the Mission, I started talking with her over the phone. We talked every single day – praying and reading the Bible together. We waited till I was in the program for 6 months before we met up in person.

“When she first saw me again for the first time, I could see the excitement on her face. She said that I was the man she had missed. We went out to dinner and sat and talked for hours. We are still together and are doing even better than we ever had before. She is my best friend.

“I love where I am today. I like this new Wayne and I know that I will never go back to being that old guy again. The old Wayne has been cremated and gone. That’s a non-negotiable – I will never go down that route again!