Stories of hope...
Peter’s Story …
"I am much happier with myself."
Peter grew up in Northern Ireland, where one thing was the cultural norm: drinking. Before he was even 10 years old, Peter would drink a Shandy (beer diluted with lemonade).
He moved to the states in his early twenties and maintained a comfortable life. “They call it a higher functioning alcoholism,” he says, “where you protect your work… and you let everything else sort of go away.” As a result, Peter’s relationships with his wife, children and friends were crumbling, but it took awhile for Peter to notice. “All those years, I had this funny sense of normal. I work, I drink, I work, I drink…”
Eventually his health started to deteriorate too. Peter’s son worked at the Mission and suggested he go to the Addictions Crisis Center—a triage for those battling substance abuse. There, he found that, in addition to alcoholism, Peter was suffering from mental exhaustion.
A nurse read him Proverbs 24:16, a verse about falling seven times and rising again. “That gave me a lot of peace, and I started to seriously think, ‘Maybe I needed a little bit more help,’” he explains.
Peter wanted to join a spiritually based program that would make him feel safe and close to his family. He found all of that at the Mission.
In our program, by learning life skills, overcoming his addictions and rebuilding his relationships, Peter has thrived.
Peter can see the worth of the Mission. “There is an opportunity here for folks to get their lives back together again, and not be a burden on society. There’s so much good here… helping people leave a positive impact in the community.”
With a heart of thanksgiving, Peter moves forward into a new life. “I’m recently discovering who I am, and the whole foundation for that was the slow, steady peaceful time that I had here.”
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Finding a New Life
Tommy started using drugs when he was only eight years old. “I got into crack, cocaine, heroin – anything I could get my hands on,” he says. “When I was 10, I started using meth.”
His mother sent him to live with his grandmother when he was 15, hoping it would help, but things only got worse. “From the time I was 16, I was in and out of foster homes, group homes, and jails. I quit school, lied, stole and hurt people, and I didn’t care,” Tommy says. “Then I started making and selling meth and coke, and the more I made, the more I wanted it.”
Tommy served a 10-year prison sentence for manufacturing and selling drugs. After his release, he went on a drinking binge. It was then his parole officer suggested he come to Rescue Mission of Utica. Tommy decided it was worth a try.
He didn’t believe in God when he arrived at our Parker House Aftercare Program, but when he saw the joy of the others in the program, he wanted what they had. “I started praying for forgiveness and I got baptized,” Tommy says. “Now, I pray every morning and read my Bible, and God has been showing me the right things to do.”
Tommy has now earned his GED and plans to go into Phase 4 of our Aftercare Program, where he’ll receive spiritual mentoring while training for work in asbestos removal. “Without the Mission, I’d probably be back on drugs, on the street, in prison or dead,” he says. “They’ve shown me how to get close to God and given me the tools to stay clean.”
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A New Sense of Direction
Chris describes his father as an alcoholic. “All I knew how to do was watch him drink,” he recalls. “At the age of 9, I picked up my first beer… and I loved it.”
He started stealing his dad’s liquor, and by 14, the onset of addiction began to take its toll. Chris was getting into trouble and letting his grades slide. Athletics became an outlet for his frustration, and he excelled at baseball. He dropped out of school his senior year and tried out for the major leagues. But when a shoulder injury ended his hope for a career, his drinking escalated and his life spiraled downhill.
Chris started experimenting with drugs and couldn’t hold a job. “I got arrested… I was in and out of jail… in and out of rehab,” he says.
It was a miserable existence that lasted 20 years. But along the way, he heard about Rescue Mission of Utica. Finally, after seeking our help, he gave his life to the Lord.
“I accepted the Lord fully and completely,” Chris says. “I’m staying sober and I understand now that I can pray and rely on Him instead of taking charge myself.”
With a new outlook on life, Chris strives to excel in everything he does and willingly accepts both criticism and compliments. His positive attitude and behavior have paid off. He was recently offered a position at a company where he began as a volunteer. “Because of the work they’ve seen me do, they gave me a job,” he says with gratitude.
Chris is grateful for the many other virtues that have changed his life so dramatically – and that he was able to develop them through your support of our programs. “The Mission built my self-esteem… my confidence… my humility. It built responsibility, respect and patience,” he says. “The Mission gives you a base… a firm foundation to build yourself up.”
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“They’re my family now. I’m not alone.”Sean was in second grade when his parents divorced. “It bothered me deep inside that my father wasn’t there all the time,” he says. “I was dealing with depression.” He started smoking marijuana in high school to “escape” from his sadness and, after he went to work, turned to alcohol. But when he was arrested on a substance abuse charge, he realized he truly had a problem. After that, Sean went to a number of rehabs, but he always relapsed. “One weekend, I started drinking after work on Saturday and by Monday, I realized I couldn’t stop,” he says. Sean lost his job and his apartment, and slept on friends’ sofas for several months until he wore out his welcome. “I ended up sleeping on a porch and that’s when the police came and brought me to the Mission,” he says. Sean was in our Addiction Crisis Center and then moved into Parker House Aftercare and began our Spiritual Life Program. “I was just trying to conform and get out as soon as possible,” he says. Then he took on the assignment of giving a talk about five reasons he was going to heaven. “I searched the Bible for a couple of days and something happened to me,” he says. “The words came alive. Since then, it’s become part of my identity and my relationship with God keeps getting stronger.” Sean graduated from the program, has his own place, and is attending community college. “I’d like to go to seminary so I can minister,” he says. Sean is grateful to the Mission for helping him change the course of his life. “Seeing how these people live their lives gave me hope,” he says. “They’re my family, now I’m not alone.” Download our latest newsletter in PDF format.
"THE WORLD TEACHES YOU THAT ‘SEEING IS BELIEVING,’ WHEREAS WITH GOD, ‘BELIEVING IS SEEING.’ "Over the course of 12 years, William tried living every which way but God’s way. “I was full of pride and ego,” he admits. He went to church when he was young and had some Biblical understanding. “But I got wrapped up in the world and did what I wanted to do.” Which, for him, was alcohol and drugs. His growing addiction led to carnal and selfish behavior that separated him from the people he loved and left him believing he had little to live for. Eventually, he ended up in a mental hospital, suicidal. “I was at my wit’s end,” he says. “I was so tired of my life and the way things were.” When he learned our Parker House residential aftercare program had an opening, he felt a spark of hope. “I honestly feel it was the hand of God on me, trying to nudge me into His family,” William recalls. He decided to give God a chance. “That was the start of my walk with the Lord,” William says today. His desire to use alcohol and drugs is gone...and he’s thinking about going to a Bible college. “I’m figuring out what the Lord is calling me to do.” And he’s grateful for friends like you: “Your prayers and the money you donate are helping people who want to be helped. God bless you for all you do.” Download our Thanksgiving 2016 newsletter in PDF format.
“My drinking got to a point where I lost everything.”
Every morning, Matt woke up wondering what he’d done the night before. “My drinking got to a point where I lost everything.” He moved in with his sister, thinking a location change would change him. But as he says, “The drinking came with me. After two weeks, she kicked me out.” Matt ended up wandering around Syracuse with only a backpack. “I had no hope...no clue where to go.”
He ended up next to a railroad track. “I was waiting for the train because I was going to jump in front of it and end it all.” But God was at work in Matt’s life, even at this darkest moment. Without realizing it, Matt dialed 911 on his phone. An operator dispatched an ambulance to come get him. As it pulled away with Matt in the back, the train sped by and Matt was amazed at how close he’d come to a brush with death. Because of a referral to Parker House, he showed up here. He’d been to detox before, but had never tried a Christ-centered recovery program like ours. “Parker House is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Matt says, smiling. “Not just Parker House, but the Mission, too. I’m so grateful for all they’ve done. You can feel how much the people here really care.”
Matt had always numbed his anger with alcohol. But as he let Jesus fill the void in his heart, something amazing happened: “Jesus said, ‘I got you,’ and it felt so much better...I didn’t have to drink away my problems.”
Today, Matt’s part of our Phase 4 program, which gives men a safe place to further their walk with Christ and prepares them to transition back into the community. He also volunteers here at the Mission 20 hours a week. He’s working to get into community college, but Matt’s main goal is to stay focused on what matters: a steady, sober life with God at the center. “The Mission has completely changed my life and my attitude. It’s awesome to be happy.”
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"I Didn't Want to Be Rescued"I could almost see the bridge ahead. I was drunk and driving about 120 mph, and I knew I could easily crash through the rail, and plunge into the water below. Then it would all be over. All of my darkness and depression. A cop car pulled in behind me, lights flashing. So I pulled over. If I had gone through with it, they’d jump in and rescue me. And I definitely did not want to be rescued. My downward spiral started when my parents divorced. I was 3, and I ended up with my dad, visiting my mom on weekends. She spoiled me, buying me everything I wanted. Dad died of a heart attack when I was 15, and I started drinking, getting drunk on weekends. But I wasn’t an alcoholic . . . yet. After Mom died, when I was 25, I was so devastated I started drinking all the time. Over the next 16 years, I considered suicide many times. But every time I tried, someone would “interrupt.” I wanted to be alone when I did it. When the cops pulled me over that night, I was arrested for DUI and spent 3 weeks in jail. But as soon as I got out, I bought some beer and got drunk. There was a heavy snow that day, and three snow plows were going up and down the street. I decided that when they circled back around, I would jump out in front of them and kill myself. But they never came back... I figured God must want me alive. So I checked into rehab that day and spent three months there. After that, I wanted a faith-based follow-up, so I got into the Mission’s Parker House Aftercare program. I haven’t stopped smiling since I’ve been here. I feel better than ever. I’m getting the spiritual nourishment I’ve needed. I have real friends for the first time. And I’m having fun that’s not based on booze and partying. I’ve dedicated my life to Jesus, and I’m doing very well. Thank you for making that possible! Thank you for rescuing me. Now I have a future filled with hope!
"Fully Committed this Time"
My dad spent a lot of time in bars — way more than he spent with his family. He was what you might call a “functioning alcoholic”. He kept a job, owned a home, paid his bills. So what could be so wrong, right?
Since I grew up observing that lifestyle, I assumed it was okay. I was drinking regularly by the time I was 13 and I became sort of a problem child. In fact, I once hit my cousin in the head with a 2x4.
Because of my outbursts and behavior, I was put in foster care. But once I turned 14, I ran away and lived on my own. I was devastated to hear my older brother Vinnie died from being hit by an 18-wheeler. This sent me into a deep depression. To numb my pain, I turned heavily to drugs and alcohol and kept getting into trouble, which resulted in nearly seven years in prison.
I later married and had four kids, but that fell apart too! For years, I kept hanging with the wrong crowd. I’m easily tempted and led astray. There was a time that I was sober for nine months, and then I met a woman who used drugs — and I ended up using, too. Not good!
Over the years, I came to the Rescue Mission of Utica several times, but I ended up leaving and relapsing. When I turned 45, I realized my life wasn’t going anywhere, and I decided to try the Mission again.
Fully committed this time.
Now I’m more committed than ever about turning my life around. I’ve learned that unless you’re fully committed, you’re not going to get any better.
I think God brought me here for a reason. Maybe to get closer to Him. I’m not sure. I’m still searching.
But I do know this: When I’m here, I feel loved. They take care of me. I learn from Scripture, and I learn how to make good decisions. And now, I can feel change taking place inside me. Because I’m ready for it.
Thank you for making it possible. “Thank you for giving me another chance to find God and turn my life around!”
The High Cost of Coke
Cocaine is expensive. I’m not talking about street value. I’m talking about how much it cost me personally — two marriages, my family, my home, several jobs, my self-esteem, and almost my life.
There was the time I drank a bottle of bleach to end it all. Or the time I stepped out in front of an 18-wheeler. The bleach failed; the truck stopped. Maybe God wanted me alive for a reason.
I didn’t set out to become a coke addict. I grew up in a Christian home. I wasn’t rebellious, but I was curious. Some friends had tried cocaine, so I decided to try it too . . . and I couldn’t put it down.
I was addicted for the next 30 years. I left God, but He never left me.
Over the decades, I was in and out of prison, but I never straightened out. I tried rehab a few times, and I even went through a few programs at rescue missions. But always for the wrong motives, always to try to please somebody else. I never really wanted it myself, from within.
Finally, I moved away from my hometown to try to escape all my old haunts and temptations. I came to Utica for a new start, but I relapsed. I was homeless for a while, sleeping on friends’ couches or in the bus station.
Then, when I came to the Rescue Mission of Utica a year ago, I had reached rock bottom and I really wanted to change. I got into the recovery program at Parker House, and I finally overcame my addictions.
Now I’m hoping to get my own place, and maybe go back to school to get my license as a drug counselor. I want to help people like I’ve been helped, because I’ve walked in their shoes.
The Mission saved my life. Without them, I’d be locked up or dead somewhere. Thanks to supporters like you, I’ve changed completely. Every day may not a good day, but every day is a blessed day!