Every man going through our addiction recovery program has a unique story about how God led them to Springs Rescue Mission and changed their life. Dennis Smith graduated from our New Life Program on May 3rd, 2017. He sat down with me and shared his uplifting story.
Like everyone transformed by God’s grace, Dennis has a new life now, but there are still remnants of the life he left behind—some good and some bad. He opened up about what life looks like moving forward, and what he prays God has in store for him in the future.
What was life like growing up?
Before I came to Springs Rescue Mission, I had no hope. I had no future.
I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. It was a highly abusive situation and there was no God whatsoever. My mother was into paganism and witchcraft.
I had no work history, no driver’s license, and I was a violent felon. It was hard to get a job and an apartment. I was living at Labor Ready and staying in shelters or tents.
I really didn’t know God. What I conceived of God was a person or a being that didn’t step in when I needed Him the most. So, it led me to bitterness, thinking that if there was a God then why didn’t He help me?
At the very bottom of my brokenness, however, I reached out and I made my peace with God. Especially when I found out I was a father.
How did your life change when you found out you were a father?In 2014, my girlfriend and I were living in a tent, doing drugs. I suspected that she was pregnant because one day she turned down the drugs. That, and she was always hungry.
I thought, “Something’s amiss. I think we should go to Planned Parenthood and get a pregnancy test.”
It was Valentine’s Day. It was a very magical day. She came out of the office and smiled from ear to ear. She told me I was a dad. From that day forward, I tried everything in my power to change. I quit the drugs, went to rehab, and got a full-time job.
But things happened.
I got into an argument with my girlfriend that led to a shove, and I got into a fight with a witness in the parking lot that turned out to be an off-duty police officer. So, they gave me a restraining order until 2099.
But my girlfriend came over to my house because her mom kicked her out while she was pregnant. Trying to keep her off the streets, I was cited for several restraint order violations. By the time my daughter was born, I was facing five years in prison if I violated the restraining order one more time.
While I was in jail for four months for a separate issue, my girlfriend’s family took custody of our daughter and they wouldn’t let us see her. I decided to leave Washington state because I wanted to get my life back on track so I could see my daughter again. But two hours after I was released from jail, my girlfriend found me and she said she wanted to start a new life with me.
So, we headed southeast towards Colorado.
It wasn’t long before I got into a fight with somebody here in Colorado that led me to face prison time. The judge and prosecutors knew my story, so they gave me a second chance by going to Springs Rescue Mission’s New Life Program.
What was the New Life Program like?
When I joined the New Life Program, I had a very short fuse.
The New Life Program taught me temperance and patience. They taught me to trust God.
The program isn’t easy. They challenge you mentally and spiritually. They get under your skin. They want to know what makes you hurt. They want to make sure that nothing triggers you into relapse or further anger issues.
My counselor and I locked horns a lot, but he saw me through. He was very patient with me. He taught me perspective and told me to look at things from a positive point-of-view instead of being defeated by the negative. The chefs that I work with have been very patient with me, as well. They’ve taught me a lot of things and I really enjoy what I do.
I’ve been blessed ever since I’ve come through the doors of Springs Rescue Mission.
My goal is to become a world-renowned chef, now. I could go anywhere in the United States and get a really nice chef job being a baker, cook, saucier, or whatever. I’d like to learn it all. It’s neat to have a job where no matter what happens in the economy, people are always going to want to eat. It’s good job security when you know how to cook and cook well.
Everyone at the Mission greets me with smiles and they’re always concerned with how I’m doing—how I’m holding up. It’s great to have friends that are not concerned with what’s in your pocket or what you can give them, but they’re interested in how you are doing.
When will you get to see your daughter again?
While I was in the New Life Program, my girlfriend left me for a drug addict and she’s living somewhere in a tent, shooting up meth. I found out that her family bought her a Greyhound ticket to go home, but she didn’t get on the bus. She doesn’t want anything to do with her family and she doesn’t want anything to do with her kids. So, it’s solely up to me to change my life for our daughter.
My daughter was two months old the last time I saw her and she’ll be three this August. It’s killing me. The only thing that gets me out of bed is the hope that I’ll see her one day. So, I’m progressing and I’m doing all I can.
It will be a very happy day when I get to see her again. My daughter means more to me than anything in the world.
I’m trying everything in my power to become a better man for her.
Even if fate is cruel and I don’t get to see her soon, I know one day I’ll get that knock on my door. And who is the person I want her to meet when she meets me?
So, I keep my head up high and I pursue my career, attend church every Sunday, and I’m doing everything I can to be a better person.
How can we continue praying for you?
I’m just praying that my girlfriend’s family doesn’t play with my daughter’s head or poison her too much against me. It’s a constant fear. There’s always that chance that she won’t want anything to do with me.
My girlfriend never knew her dad. They kept her away from her dad until she was twenty-one. When we got together, we hitchhiked down south to introduce her to my father, and on the way, she said, “This is the town that my dad is in. Can I try to get a hold of him?”
We stopped by and they reunited. But because of all the drugs and stuff, he didn’t want anything to do with her until she cleaned her life up. That was the last time she saw him. About a year-and-a-half later, he died.
So, there’s a lot of insecurity. There are also a lot of regrets. I wish I could rewind time and do things differently. But I have this feeling that if I was a different person back then, I probably wouldn’t have my daughter now. And I love my daughter. I just wish circumstances were different.
How has your life changed since you graduated?
I know what I’m aiming for. My career. My kid. My future.
Nothing else matters.
I’m done with people that do drugs. I’m done with dysfunctional. I want stuff balanced in my life. I’ve had too much negativity and hurt.
There was no way to get out of the hole I was in. But when I joined Springs Rescue Mission’s New Life Program, they made sure that I had a job, a career, and they’ve taught me how to keep my temper. Things have been really good since I joined Springs Rescue Mission.
This is only the beginning for Dennis
Through hard work, determination, and God’s grace, Dennis has a new life with a world of possibilities ahead of him. Dennis is now working as a chef for Mission Catering, a social enterprise of Springs Rescue Mission, and refining his culinary skills every day.
Every cookie he bakes and every meal he prepares brings him closer and closer to holding his beautiful daughter again. You can taste his love, passion, and fatherly devotion in everything he cooks.
In fact, Chef Victor Matthews, the founder of the Paragon Culinary School in Colorado Springs and a United States Culinary Ambassador, recently met Dennis at a pop-up bake sale. Chef Victor was so impressed by Dennis’ baking skills and his story that he invited Dennis to attend the Paragon Culinary School with a full-ride scholarship, worth almost $35,000.
Dennis is working hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a world-renowned chef. But most importantly, he’s on the right track to be reunited with his daughter.
Every day, around 34 men are living on our campus, working hard to overcome addiction, acquire new job skills and start a new life. Their 14-month residential rehabilitation is completely free and the Mission covers the cost of housing, meals, and counseling. We rely exclusively on neighbors like you to make this all possible.
Learn more about the New Life Program and how you can help change lives.