Shawn goes by many names at Springs Rescue Mission: Big Shawn, Chef Shawn, “success story.”
But that wasn’t always true. For years, he was known as an addict, a bum, a dealer — a lost cause.
Shawn was born and raised in Colorado Springs, and for the first 32 years of his life was a responsible member of society. He was polite and hospitable – a good son and loyal friend. But meth quickly and savagely took hold of his life, leaving him homeless and alone.
After two years on the streets, doing and selling drugs, he was ordered by the court to seek addiction recovery in the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission. He graduated in November 2017 and has been sober for three years.
Now, he’s returned to his roots. He works hard, gives generously and encourages others. He remains a regular at the Mission, eating lunch with current NLP men and handing out snacks at the resource center.
We spoke to Shawn about addiction, homeless, recovery and faith.
What was life like growing up?
“I grew up in a real nice family – they were caring and loving. … In high school I did track and field, always enjoyed mountain biking, snowboarding, camping, fishing and things like that. … I started working at the Colorado Springs Country Club when I was 15 – washing dishes, waiting tables and later bar-tending and doing some event coordinating – and worked there until I was 32.”
What did you do after high school? Did you go to college?
“I went to PPCC (Pikes Peak Community College) and studied culinary arts – wilderness cooking and survival. … I thought it would be really interesting to do the dietary work along with the guide work. I could take someone on a camping or fishing trip and help provide them with the nutrients along with the knowledge and skills of how to survive — and show them beautiful Colorado.”
“Alcohol and marijuana were always around, but those were never a big factor in my life. My drug of choice – the one that was really bad – was methamphetamine. … When I stopped working [at age 32] and became homeless, that’s when I really became addicted to it.”
How did you become homeless?
“When I got on drugs, I didn’t want my mom to see that – so I left home. … I camped for two years on Patty Jewett Golf Course and made a survival shack with wood, cardboard, mud, dirt and trees. I had a sleeping bag and it was just enough for me to keep warm through two winters. … I felt safe when I was by myself.”
How did you end up in the New Life Program?
“My addiction led me to become a dealer. I ran into an undercover police sting operation and sold them a little over $10,000 worth of methamphetamine. … It was a pretty large charge. I spent seven months at CJC [El Paso County Criminal Justice Center] and ended up finding out about Springs Rescue Mission. I applied and got accepted into the NLP program and left it up to the judge’s discretion. Luckily, that judge chose rehabilitation, rather than incarceration.”
You seem to have a kind of hospitality about you. Did you lose any of that when you were on meth?
“Even when I was homeless and addicted to methamphetamine, I was always trying to love on others. … I had a backpack and I knew where to get food. … So I’d walk around with pizza in my backpack and hand it out to other homeless people. Now, rather than a pizza from a trashcan, I make them meals at home.”
“I really bonded and made friendships with a lot of the people here. … I worked in the kitchen. It was really neat being able to do meal planning, cooking and serving the people at the Mission. I went out of my way to make the best meals I could for them. … It was about more than just a meal – it was about letting them know someone cares about them.”
Tell me about your job at Wine Punts?
“I love my job. I started working at Wine Punts in work readiness when I was still in [the New Life Program]. At first, I was a bottle washer. Now, I oversee our shipping and receiving. … I work with really amazing guys, and they love me over there. It’s really cool that they trust me and have such high esteem for me. I’ve been there two and a half years now.”
What role has the Mission played in your story?
“The Mission has brought me into the light of the Lord, and it’s allowed me to rediscover who I truly am. Now, I’m focused on what really matters – being compassionate, loving and caring. … When people ask how I’m doing, I say “I’m inspired and desired by the Lord,” or that “I’m blessed by the best.” I have the love of the Lord in my life and He looks down on me and sees a good and honorable son.”
What are you grateful for?
“I’m grateful for the grace and mercies of the Lord, I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for my health, I’m grateful to have loved ones around me and I’m grateful to have the ability to care for others.“
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