For decades, Ross awoke each morning not with hope but with despair.
By the time he came to the Mission in 2018, he had spent nearly two years sleeping on the cold streets of Colorado Springs and the better part of his 58 years struggling with addiction.
“I mismanaged my life,” he said. “I lived recklessly, carelessly, and was very self-centered. … No matter what I was striving for and what I was trying to achieve, there was always that desire to use. Everything else came second. … All of my energy went to drugs. I basically pulled the rug out from under myself and lost it all. I ended up alone and became someone destined to end up in a shelter.”
Originally from New York City, Ross moved to Colorado in 2016 to start fresh. He had burned too many bridges back East — the weight of lost relationships and disappointment of failed career opportunities had become a heavy burden to bear.
But when addiction kept Ross from work and his housing prospects in Colorado Springs dried up, he was left to fight Rocky Mountain winters and his old demons.
“The stress of being homeless is immense — it hurts just to survive,” he said. “You’re freezing cold and angry with yourself and dwelling on the situation that got you there. You work really hard to stay warm and dry, and to get a few hot meals in you during the day, so your days are spent taking care of those needs.”
For Ross and so many others like him, Springs Rescue Mission became a place of second chances; a place where whatever hope he thought he’d lost was still alive.
“Once I got to the Mission and was introduced to all the programs that are available, I went from having no hope to feeling like there is a way forward,” he said.
Ross took well to shelter life. He almost immediately joined the Work Engagement team as a housekeeper at Greenway Flats, and his amiable temperament kept him in good standing with staff and his fellow guests.
“I finally found something to get me up and out of bed in the morning,” he said. “Working at Greenway Flats was good for my integrity – it made me feel good about myself.”
In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ross began making strides toward sobriety and a new life. In the same month, he was offered a room at a sober living house and invited to participate in the Mission’s new Intensive Outpatient Program for drug and alcohol recovery — designed to be a middle ground between inpatient rehab programs and 12-step meetings.
“I reached a bottom and was forced to rediscover a desire to help myself,” he said. “Staff could see that I was struggling and that I needed help, so I signed up. It’s been wonderful and helps me so much. The whole idea is that you find the tools to stay sober and learn how to live life again. It’s a blessing.”
This is the first time in four years that Ross has had a bed of his own and a place to be every morning. This is the first time in decades his outlook has been entirely hopeful.
“I feel confident, and I haven’t felt that way in a long time,” he said. “I don’t feel like I have to do it alone. I never thought I’d have hope again — and the fact I do is amazing. If I can feel this way — having lived the life I’ve lived up to this point — then anybody can.”
The miracle of sobriety, the gift of hope and the transformation of his life have led Ross to discover a faith that had laid dormant inside him. He let go of despair, and let God in.
“My faith is 100 percent, and it has to be,” he said. “I get help from the people here, but I get so much more from Jesus.”
Until recently, survival mode made it difficult for Ross to look ahead. The stresses of homelessness and anxieties of addiction kept dreams and aspirations pinned down. Now, sobriety, faith and holding onto life are paramount in his heart and mind.
“I was so tired of digging holes for myself to fall into,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s a pretty good place to be! I don’t want to give this up.”
Someday in the near future, Ross hopes to make amends to his beloved parents back East — rebuild the bridges he burned — and work for Springs Rescue Mission. He hopes that his story might one day bring hope to others who have lost sight of it.
“Everybody has a story about how they ended up [at the Mission], and nobody wants to repeat it,” he said. “But if you know a way out and you share it with others, and then they pass it along: that’s the real story; the one worth repeating.”
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