Michael, age 69, was born and raised in
a small rural farming town of West Grove,
Pennsylvania. The youngest of five children,
Michael learned to be invisible. “My dad was
a heavy disciplinarian,” recalls Michael. “We
were very well behaved, scared actually. My
mother was emotionally distant. I spent all my
time alone in music, electronics, and books. In
second grade my teacher wrote my parents to
tell them that I just stare out of the window.
She thought that I was not paying attention,
when really, I was somewhere else.”
“I had my first drink at age 11. I would go
downstairs after one of my parent’s pinochle
games and drink any leftover beverages. I
never got a buzz. In high school, I started
smoking weed, taking speed, and dropping
acid. All my friends were into music, and we
would sit around, get high, and play. As soon
as I graduated from high school, I moved out.
At the time, I thought the trauma from my
parents was normal for everybody. I had no
idea that the abuse was not normal!”
“When I went to technical school for my
associates degree, I started working with bands
as a sound engineer. I was good at it. When
you are working with a rock and roll band, you
are at a club or bar every night. I drank, but
never to excess. I had a job to do.”
“My brother Joe did three tours of Vietnam.
He came back from the war a changed man,
but we became close again. 23 months later,
he committed suicide. My dad called me up
and told me to get my brother. I went into
the woods, found his body, and it destroyed
me. It took me 10 years in and out of mental
institutions to be able to function properly.
During one of my stays, a fellow patient was
given a lobotomy. They wheeled him into my
room with his eyes wide open and nothing
going on in his head. The orderly told me ‘if
you do not straighten up, this is how you are
going to end up.’ “
“My sister Jane had diabetes since she was eight,
and eventually would need a kidney transplant.
We made a pact, that when she was ready, I
would donate my kidney to her. One day
she called me and said, ‘Michael it is time to
come home.’ The first thing my mother said
to me was, ‘You can’t give her a kidney. You
do drugs!’ My sister was so mad at our parents
for trying to run her life, that she overdosed
on insulin the night before her transplant. 12
years after my brother Joe killed himself.”

“Eventually, I met a lady named Carol in
1983, and we were married for 22 years.
We started drinking excessively, but I
was a functional drunk. We began using
methamphetamines, which we would use
for the next 20 years. Eventually we got
busted. The cops came in, stuck seven
guns in my face, and off we went to jail.”
“By 2001, all that I wanted to do was lay
around and stay high. In 2005, Carol could
not take it anymore and told me that I
had to leave. I tried to commit suicide
two times. I do not know how I survived
even one of the attempts but ended
up at a hospital where they gave me a
dual diagnosis of drug abuse and bipolar
disorder. Shortly after my diagnosis, I
ended up at Water Street Rescue Mission
in Lancaster, Pa., where I began my
relationship with Jesus.”
“In 2017, I got pneumoococcal pneumonia.
It took a year for me to function again. I
could not work anymore and retired at age
65. To “change places,” I moved away and
abandoned my recovery network. I started
using meth and drinking again. And
then Covid happened. I started drinking
daily. I was not drinking to get high; I was
drinking for oblivion. After 3 years of this
lifestyle, and three black out trips to the
hospital in Elkton, Md, I finally heard about
Helping Up Mission (HUM). My nurse
gave me a number for Jason at Maryland
State Health. Jason told me about HUM,
picked me up, drove me to Baltimore, and
dropped me off.”
“At first, I was scared and not thinking
clearly but, everybody was so nice and
helpful. I was so angry and irritable that the
other clients called me ‘grumpy old man!’
By the third week, I knew HUM was where
I was supposed to be. There is a feeling
here that you know you are safe. I got out
of my comfort zone and joined the choir.
One day I was talking to the Treatment
Intern about the Bible, and he asked me
why I was here. I opened up about my
trauma from my dysfunctional family and
the deaths of my siblings. Soon, I was
talking to my Treatment Coordinator Todd
Starkey, and he helped me forgive them.“
“Really talking about my trauma made me
aware of other traumas in my life. HUM
offered a spiritual healing trauma class
which was helpful. I then read a manual
on trauma that was just neurological.
Soon, I was mentally able to absorb both
the therapist’s and survivor’s viewpoints. I
have been working on trauma a lot in the
past six months and just for myself, I took
HUM’s trauma class again.”
“I would like to thank the donors sincerely.
Without your support, this beautiful place
could not happen. You are changing
people’s lives.”
“To the guys like me who need help – If you
are not familiar with the Bible, and you
do not know much about Jesus, I would
look into it. The Bible has strengthened my
relationship with God.”

Lavell, age 43, “a country boy,” was born and raised in southern Maryland’s Calvert County. Growing up on his uncle’s small farm with his two brothers, mother, and father – Lavell was a loner whose best friend was a cow named Joe. He had a good childhood. “I was raised in the Methodist church, went to Sunday school, and sang in the choir,” Lavell remembers. “I got my first car at age 15, was in gifted and talented programs, and graduated Northern high school in 1995. As a graduation gift, my father gave me a sports car and it blew up from there. Before I graduated, I had become popular because I drove, worked at a liquor store, and could provide alcohol for parties. I started drinking from that point on and for many years, my life was pretty cool. I just partied.”
“That same summer, I began smoking marijuana. Everybody around me smoked “weed” so I started smoking and drinking every day. While I liked to party, I always prayed. I always read the bible. I knew the things that I was doing were wrong, but I just wanted to fit in. I would do bad things and then go around the corner and say, ‘Lord please help me.’”
“When I turned 21, my uncle passed tragically. I helped my grandmother find him by climbing in the window only to discover his body. Seeing him dead devastated me and I remembered a friend telling me to have a drink of wine in order to deal with my emotions and relax. That glass of wine put me to sleep and soon thereafter, I was drinking four packs of wine, which turned into bottles of wine. By age 22 I had transitioned to cocaine.”
“At age 28, I met my partner. They were well off and we had a strong attraction to each other. But due to the financial situation, cocaine was always around. Cocaine became life. The tumultuous relationship was filled with alcohol, drugs, and infidelities. We moved to California with the hopes that a new environment would help alleviate the pressures of our relationship. At first, the partying dropped off completely. But the reprieve was temporary as old ways resurfaced and ‘cocaine-fueled’ antics returned. “
“I was miserable on the inside and thought about walking away from this lavish life and trusting God’s plan for me. One night, when I just couldn’t handle the situation any longer, I was “coked-up” and had a loaded shotgun in my bedroom. We were arguing a lot and they kept calling me ‘crazy’ and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I put the loaded shotgun in their mouth and said call me ‘crazy’ one more time. His eyes got really big and he left. I then put the shotgun in my mouth, but it would not go off. I tried to kill myself. I kept pulling the trigger four or five times, but the gun jammed. I blacked out and woke up in my room with the gun gone. I immediately booked a flight home to Maryland. I packed my duffle bag, trusted God, and left.”
A few years later, and after his fourth DUI, Lavell finally heard God’s plan. “One day I hit rock bottom, woke up and said that I am done living this life. I called my best friend Lisa and she already knew what I was going to say. She put me on the phone with John Mister, a staff member at Helping Up Mission and as I was talking to him, I instantly knew, God said ‘HUM is where you are going.’
“I asked God to take away my taste for chemicals, including cigarettes. And I am a firm believer, that if you ask Him to take something from you, He will.”
“When I arrived at HUM, I went from being a little scared country boy to having a true brotherhood with the guys and staff. I broke out of my shell and started singing in the choir. It was the first time that I sang in front of people, sober, in twenty years. Members of the choir and I joined a group called Brothers in Prayer. They became my core group of accountability partners. We love God and the gospel. I could finally just be myself.”
Last March, when the pandemic began, Lavell was worried about how the 500 men at HUM would be served. “All that I could think about was the coronavirus was going to hit HUM and we would be screwed. I didn’t know if we were going to go into lockdown or be discharged. So, I made the decision to leave my work therapy assignment in Philanthropy and go back to work. I was worried about having no money and no place to go. At my new job, I was tested for COVID-19 every Monday and Thursday. Thank God, I never did end up catching it. In the end, Helping Up Mission was a safe haven. Their attention to detail, cleanliness, and their response to the coronavirus has protected me and the other clients during this pandemic. There is no other place like Helping Up Mission and that is all that I need to say.”

“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.”

Terrance McBride, age 47, grew up in Baltimore, MD. “My parents were divorced,” says Terrance. “My Mom raised my sister and I by herself. She struggled but did the best that she could. When I was 16 years old, she decided that she was done raising kids and sent us to live with our father.

“My Dad and his girlfriend were both alcoholics. They lived in an urban neighborhood very different from the neighborhood I had grown up in. I had never been in that type of environment before and felt like a fish out of water.   As part of my attempt to fit in, I tried alcohol and marijuana… and eventually cocaine and heroin.

“I ended up mostly drinking and smoking marijuana. I didn’t think I had a problem. I kept mostly to myself because the drug usage and violence in the neighborhood were intimidating to me.

“After 2 years, there was an incident with some of the guys I was hanging out with. My Mom brought me back to Virginia to finish school. There was a neighborhood lady there who used to take me to church. That’s when I was introduced to Christ. I was baptized and became a member of the church.

“After graduation, I moved back to Baltimore and lived with my Grandmother. We got along well and she was my rock. I started going through my loneliest periods. I didn’t realize how introverted I was becoming because of my marijuana use and I suffered through a long season of depression.

“In 1995, I tried to kill myself for the first time after a rough break up. I got through it but I was never treating the depression – just going through the motions. Marijuana became a medication for me. As long as I was high, I could deal with my demons but I wasn’t able to function sober. I was working but I had no social life. I rarely went outside except to get marijuana and cigarettes– some days I would play video games all day long. Life was a struggle for me. I would wake up irritated that I was alive and had made it through the night.

“In 2001, I started working at the Starbucks inside BWI airport. I loved it and started interacting with the customers while I was working. After a year, I was given the opportunity to transfer to a new Starbucks inside of a downtown hotel. I was there for 5 years and was given the opportunity to supervise a location.

“I had gotten my own place and was doing well on the surface. But, my marijuana use and my mood swings were increasing. I was overwhelmed by depression and loneliness and eventually lost my dream job. I was on very shaky ground and started contemplating suicide again.

“In November 2012, my Grandmother passed away. I was angry because I felt like she left me. I never was able to get back any sense of footing.

“I was looking for jobs unsuccessfully. I didn’t have anywhere to live so I moved in with my Aunt. She was dealing with depression herself and our relationship struggled. One day, in the height of my struggles, I tried to strangle myself. I was unsuccessful and ended up calling the suicide hotline.

“I was hospitalized for 6 days. While I was there, my Aunt called to tell me that I would need to find somewhere else to live. I had no idea where to go and decided that I would kill myself after I was released from the hospital. I started thinking about how I was going to do it. I didn’t have any money so I wasn’t smoking marijuana. I was in a deep depression and didn’t see any hope for my future.

“A psychiatrist at the hospital told me they were trying to find a place for me to go. He told me about Helping Up Mission. I was unsure of what to expect but even the prospect of a place to go started to relieve some of the weight on my shoulders.

“I didn’t realize till I arrived at the Mission that the program was a spiritual program. I was so excited to learn of this unexpected blessing. I felt right at home and knew that I would be able to do it! I was very comfortable talking with the pastors on staff and could see that this was a brotherhood.

“I got into counseling and started getting things off of my chest. I learned techniques that enable me to get through bad moments. I started reading the Bible. Little by little, life became easier.

“I’ve really experienced a total transformation. I don’t expect that life will be a picnic in the future. I realize that even after I graduate from the Spiritual Recovery Program I will face challenges but I know that I’m making good decisions now.

“My worst days are gone. If I’m ever feeling down, I know how to deal with it. My counseling appointments are so helpful. I now have the tools to deal with my depression and bad feelings. I don’t have to smoke marijuana and play video games to escape anymore.

“I am studying and reading books and thinking about becoming a behavioral counselor. I enjoy interacting with the guys at the Mission and letting them know they are going to be okay. I see myself in the guys who have newly entered the program.

“I’m involved in work therapy here at the Mission and I set little goals. I set a goal to become an HUM intern and I’m now an intern in the rec room. I’m having more fun sober than I did on my best day while I getting high. I relate much better socially now. I spend time with my Aunt and Uncle – they are very supportive of my journey here.”