At age 59, Charlie had an epiphany: a sudden realization that he’s no longer alone.
“For years, I was sick, sad and lonely,” he said. “Now, I have people that I love, and they love me. I may have hard times, and I may even fall; but now I know I don’t have to fall alone. I’m surrounded by people who care about me and who love me and who want to help me.”
Charlie was born to a single, teen mother on the South Side of Chicago. As a kid, neighborhood kids would pick on him because he was biracial with a white mother and a white brother. His response was to toughen up, and by age 13 he was running with a gang.
“We started extorting money from people and eventually we got into selling drugs,” he said. “We tried not to be too bad about it: we weren’t breaking into grandma’s house, or robbing people, or beating people up. But we were still a gang.”
Charlie and his friends may have sold drugs, but they wouldn’t let each other do them. At that point, they still had a grip on their principles. “We looked out for each other,” he said. “It was about being a man, a son and a brother.”
“That’s when I decided to clean up my act,” he said. “I was learning a better way to live.”
Charlie tried to live right for his new son, but good intentions only took him so far. Just a year later, he became addicted to cocaine and replaced his old friends with big time dope dealers.
“I didn’t lose everything at once,” he said. “But when I did, I was shooting cocaine in an alley, I had a heart murmur, and no one I knew would talk to me. My girlfriend moved away with my son and my mom didn’t want me around. It was a terrible place to be.”
The next few decades were a series of ups and downs for Charlie. He’d clean up for a while, get a good job and settle down — he even got married and had a daughter — but his addiction always caught up. Just when things seemed solid, relapse would creep around the corner. He tried running from his troubles: first to Florida; then to Texas; and finally, in 2014, he rolled into Colorado Springs with a brand-new Audi and $8,000 in his pocket.
“I came out here for the marijuana, but I got into speed [methamphetamine],” he said. “I lost everything. For five years, I was living in a tent. There was nothing I had to hold onto anymore — nothing to separate me from the bottom.”
But at the bottom, God was waiting.“I looked up and told God I’d do whatever it took to get better,” he said. “Then I got arrested and went to jail, and that’s where I heard about the New Life Program [men’s residential addiction recovery].”
Charlie had come to the Mission numerous times over the years, but never knew the important role it would play in his story. For 18 months, he worked hard in the program to improve his health — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — and his whole world began to change.
“They came alongside me and led me to Christ,” he said. “I am so thankful for where He has brought me. What matters is that I stay on the path God wants for me, and that I do my best to please him.”
Charlie is now two-years clean. He lives in a men’s sober home, attends church and Bible studies, and is rebuilding ties with his two children. In December, he was hired by the City of Colorado Springs as a heavy equipment operator and is now in the process of earning his commercial driver’s license.
“I’m grateful to have a job, I’m grateful to be alive — I’m just so grateful,” he said. “When I started the program, I didn’t know I’d be this happy. And it’s because my faith has grown exponentially. God is working in my life so vividly; I can’t help but see it.”
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