Prior to entering Springs Rescue Mission’s residential recovery program for men in December 2018, Charles spent years in active addiction and homelessness before eventually ending up in prison. By the time he was released, Charles was looking for a way to better himself — and grow closer to God. So he came straight to the Mission.
“I was addicted,” he said. “Not just to meth, but to crime. I was at a place where I had to learn how to live differently, and the first step was to own my own stuff — take responsibility for the things I’d done. After that, things were different for me.”
He found the help he needed in the program, surrounded by men of similar circumstance and staff willing to help him to recover and thrive in sobriety. After graduating in November, Charles found full-time employment as a concrete finisher and heavy equipment operator, and he is now staying in a sober living home. His life is transformed.
“I’ve stayed close to the Mission and want to continue doing that,” he said. “I like being around these men and staying connected is very important to me. They’re my family.”
During his time in the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission, Charles wrote a series of personal essays. Now, he’d like to share them with the world. He hopes that by doing so, these words will touch people have — or are still — going through similar situations and struggles, and to show others how his perspective has changed throughout his recovery.
*This is the first installment of a two part series based on Charles’ personal essays. The second part will be available tomorrow and will include a present-day account of his transformation from addicted felon to an honest, hardworking and sober man with an ever-growing relationship with God.
MY TRUE CONDITION
I have been in the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission for three months, yet last night was the first time I’ve really felt where my brokenness has brought me.
I’m not talking about a physical address or geographic location, but a life situation. I am in a recovery program at a homeless shelter. I just got out of prison after a considerable stay and I am on parole. I’m a “lost soul,” some might say. But the people here don’t treat me that way. They don’t look at me as though I’m irredeemable. I am treated like I truly have value.
How do I, personally, deserve this treatment? Honestly, I don’t. I have lived a long criminal life, turned from God, and I’ve victimized the innocent. Yet, here I am. I’m loved and accepted, cared for and helped, counseled and treated with respect. I am beginning to feel like a real person again.
It is all very alien to me. Sometimes, I just don’t know how to act — how to respond to the grace and forgiveness I’m given. Sometimes, I just stay in relationship with God through his Word.
I don’t have the answers to what tomorrow will bring for me — or anything else! I am just going to trust and walk with a little faith. Hard as that is sometimes, all the plans and ideas I have had in the past have turned to dust. So, I’m just going to trust the Lord to direct my steps and lead me to new life.
I pray and I read the Bible, but the rest I leave for God to handle. Obedience is not easy for me — it doesn’t feel natural — but I’m working hard to change that. The hardest part of this program is learning how to feel again and dealing with those feelings as they arise. Every day is a new challenge. And I’m up to that challenge.
I am truly grateful to the people here to who don’t write me off; the people giving me another chance; the ones who love me in spite of myself. They’re helping me get my life back.
For the first time in my adult life, I feel like things are going to be OK. I feel like I will be OK, and like the future is mine for the making. I don’t feel like I’m just waiting for the next prison sentence, or for my funeral. Someday, when I leave this world, I now know where I’ll be. And I owe much of that to the love, help and hope I’ve received here at Springs Rescue Mission.
In this world, we all have our struggles, for each the details may be different. However, the causes are most often similar. I believe that although it may feel that my problems are so poignant and specific to me, most interpersonal issues are universal to one degree or another. In short, I may want, in some narcissistic part of my mind, to be misunderstood and unable to identify with others, it really is just that I am being foolish. Help and guidance is available, if I am just willing to accept it. Pride I believe is the core issue that keeps people, me specifically, from asking for and/or receiving guidance. I do not like being vulnerable, and I absolutely despise showing vulnerability, to anyone. In my mind it equates to weakness, and the weak are prey to the worlds strong. As a little boy I was taught to never cry, to protect my sisters and stand up for those weaker than myself or bullied. In my view, vulnerable and strong are two diametrically opposing paradigms. Turns out my view is skewed. Jesus Christ, whom we should, and I am, trying to emulate, teaches love, vulnerability and meekness are strengths. A drastically more healthy and sustainable way to live, than my previous and stubbornly persistent view.
Selfishness is a major hindrance to my growth. I am working on identifying it in my social interactions, it seems to shadow all of them in one way or another. I do not accept that it is part of the “human condition.” I will continue to fight it. I know that it just is an insidious form sin has manifested in my life.
I am sure that I will continue to struggle with myself and my issues until my last day on this earth. I will continue, through study, contemplation and fellowship, to work towards a more Christ-like walk.
I pray that my walk will not only lead myself to a healthier life, but maybe it will help others to see that they are not trapped by their past. A new and beautiful life is possible — one of love, humility and honest insight — with God’s help.
Life is a struggle. I just need to approach it differently, trusting that God is with me and will provide for all my needs. I must do my part though, letting God direct my steps, not me. The Holy Spirit is my guide, my helper and my confidant — I am not alone in my journey. I am so thankful for my struggles, they have allowed me the time, and provided me with the mechanisms to allow me to identify and work on my issues. Growth is not easy; but relearning how to live isn’t as impossible as I thought. Following the lessons of Christ and building upon the foundations of faith and integrity make a New Life possible.
This is the second installment of a two part series based on his’ writings. The first installment included two personal essays he wrote while in the New Life Program.
Now, he’d like to share a follow-up piece he recently wrote for Springs Rescue Mission. He hopes that by doing so, these words will touch people who have gone — or continue to go — through similar situations and struggles, and to show others how his perspective has changed throughout his recovery.
Click here for part one, which includes a brief overview of Charles’ story and two of his personal essays.
MY NEW LIFE
After a year in the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission, my life is transformed. I went from being a convict with almost no chance of living a functional, healthy and free life to a man with a bright future. I even got off parole almost a year and a half early because of the transformation I was able to achieve with the help of Jesus Christ and the patient love and help from people at the New Life Program. I have a job, I still live in sober living and I actually have healthy relationships. I can only attribute all these things to God and to trusting in Him.
Things have not all been easy. In February, I slid on some ice and my truck — the first legal, paid-off vehicle I’ve had in 25 years was destroyed. But I trusted God and I am working on replacing it. My relationships have been a struggle; it’s been hard to rebuild those. At least my daughter and I talk. I’ve come to realize my most important relationship is with Jesus. When everything seems too big and overwhelming, I can always find Him. All I have to do is open my Bible. With Him, all things are possible.
I don’t want my old life back. I’ve learned that I had to turn away from all of it. I had nothing in common with the old people and no desire for old friends or behaviors. I have a new family at Springs Rescue Mission, and I still visit the New Life Program regularly. I still talk to my friends from there, I still read my Bible and I go to 12-step meetings on a regular basis.
I know that a new life is not a destination — it’s a process and a journey. I don’t have to walk this path alone anymore. I just have to walk in faith and trust in God. Walking alone only brought me heartache, addiction and prison. I instead choose life, love and happiness. I choose God and a relationship with him.
Life here on earth isn’t easy — it’s not supposed to be. This is where we all prove our devotion (or lack thereof); it’s where we show others what we’re really about. As Paul says, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
I don’t know what my life will look like a year from now, but I know I won’t get complacent. I will trust God to direct my steps and I will continue to pray that I be a blessing and a good example to those around me.
I pray for my brothers at the New Life Program and for my fellow man. I keep in mind the advice of Paul: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life; you should mind your own business and work with your hands, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so you will not be dependent on anybody.”
I thank those who have accompanied me on this journey — and I thank God every day for the new life he’s given me.
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