Addiction and Substance Abuse

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Casey, Denver CO

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When Casey began her work therapy at the Mission’s Ministry Outreach Center three years ago, it was like stepping into another world. Instead of days that began with drugs and ended in domestic abuse, the Champa House graduate attended meetings and refined her accounting skills with the help of employees who saw great potential in the bright young mother. 

“The Mission paid for me to go to the Accounting and Business School of the Rockies, and my work study was in their accounting department,” Casey explains. “Just seeing what real business people do with their life everyday—showing up to work on time, what they wear, how they act; it was all new to me.”

Within a short period of time, Casey adjusted to her role at MOC, reconciling bank statements for the Mission’s outreaches and learning the role diligence played in the workplace. “The people I worked with were so patient and taught me to have determination even if I’m struggling,” Casey says. “It was an amazing experience because my prior relationship made me feel like I was worthless.”

Now employed at a local default firm, Casey in amazed at the transformation guided in part by her time in work therapy. “Having people count on me at work is something I’ve never experienced before,” Casey reflects. “It feels great, and I can’t wait to give back to Mission for everything they’ve done for me.”

For those battling homelessness and addiction, employment often means more than “just getting a job;” it signifies a transition from chaos and hopelessness to stability and success. With this in mind, we thank you for supporting New Life Program participants involved in our work therapy program. Together, we can teach these men and women valuable employment skills that will keep them off the streets and in the workplace. 

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Mike Carr, Broomall PA

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I consider a testimony, a journey, a story, like “How did you land here, Mike?” So I’ll just walk you through it all.

I grew up in Drexel Hill, PA and was the third of six kids. We were pretty poor and my faith really depended on my parents. They sent me to Catholic school and, over the years, I became to know God as a God of guilt and fear.

Part of my “dark world” really started when I was 14 when I started drinking and drugging. Throughout high school, I partied a lot – like way, way too much. Growing up I was insecure and I just found that I could disappear through alcoholism. My problems continued when I went to Temple University and got into a really bad fight with a guy – a fight that eventually led to me dropping out of college.

After dropping out, I got into the real estate business and got married. I was only 21. My ex-wife was 20. But my life was going nowhere because of the alcoholism. I made my ex-wife’s life miserable – many nights she didn’t know if I’d make it home. I made a habit of blackout drinking all the time. So my marriage was a wreck, my health was really bad, and I was $50,000 in debt, and my life was crumbling.

But Super Bowl Sunday, 24 years ago was my last drink. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember vividly holding my ex-wife’s hand, walking around the block, promising her I’d not have more than four beers. From the bottom of my heart, I meant it, but in the back of my mind, I also knew I wouldn’t have to work the next day but she would leave the party early because she would have to work in the morning.

The next thing I realized, it was 2:30 in the morning and I was in my brother’s garage, weeping about how my life was a complete and total trainwreck. I then headed home and stumbled into my backdoor and had what seemed like a revelation – although I was incredibly intoxicated, I just had this conviction on my heart that if I wanted to get my life together, I had to stop drinking. It made no sense for me to think this way, considering the alcohol, but I now realize it was God.

I called my older brother and asked to go to an Alcohol Anonymous meeting with him (he had already been in AA). I had always been stubborn about going, refusing so many times before. I went and again I didn’t want to be there. But it was a new beginning for me. They had a saying that “God led me to AA and AA led me back to God.” And after a while, through AA, my faith started.

Originally, when I landed there, I was very anti-God. I wanted nothing to do with praying and god-talk. One time I told this guy named Bob, huge guy, lots of tattoos, “Hey Bob! I have a drinking problem, not a God problem! So don’t give me any of that God stuff!” And Bob just smiled and said, “Mike just keep coming back.” And what happened was that I slowly came into the belief. At AA, marriages were being restored, people were recovering, and after a few years, I found that I was still miserable. My own marriage had collapsed and my life wasn’t going anywhere still. So I gave in and one day decided to give up and just pray. And the shadow over my heart and over all the struggles I had started to disappear.

My kids moved in with their mother nearly an hour away from me. I remarried after meeting my current wife at a 15 year high school reunion. Things are going well. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still face hardship.

The second part of my story is my son Patrick’s story. He is currently in the state penitentiary. Patrick is 31, I have a 28 year old daughter, and a 17 year old from my second marriage.

Patrick was a normal public high school student, enjoying playing on the wrestling team. He switched to a catholic high school And that’s when things started to go downhill, not because he went to Catholic School but because he was taken out of his comfort zone. He entered a school where he didn’t fit in with anybody and so he almost immediately fell into the wrong crowd. He started drinking, drugging, and over time did pretty much everything but heroin. By the age of 24, he had wrecked five cars, rolled three. He had been in four rehabs, a couple of detoxs, and I lived for years scared to death that the phone would ring at two or three in the morning and I’d receive news that he was in jail or in the ER.

One day, I received such a call. It was Patrick’s girlfriend. She was completely hysterical, barely understandable, screaming, “Pops! Pops! I think we’ve lost your son! Call me, call me!”

By the end of his addiction, he was taking sixteen OxyContin a day, which would have killed most people. He was dealing drugs out of North Philadelphia and selling them in Bucks County. His habit got so bad that he couldn’t afford it… One time a drug dealer put a gun to his head. He owed the guy $16,000.

Patrick ended up robbing four banks and a drug store, which is armed robbery x 5.

He was arrested by the FBI. You never want to get a call from the FBI, especially about your son. There was a period of about five days where we couldn’t talk to him. Thankfully, he admitted to all of his crimes right out of the gate. He waited in prison for sentencing.

It took a year to get to the sentencing. And that was a long, long, long painful year – talking to lawyers, but mainly seeing him in prison. There’s nothing worse than seeing your son in a jumpsuit, handcuffs behind his back, shackled at the ankles, and watching him walk to a phonebooth, to talk to him for 20 minutes with cuts and bruises on his face, knowing the pain he must be enduring from getting beaten-up in prison.

I crashed and burned that year, hard. I badly wanted to drink again – drink like I hadn’t in 24 years. I eventually stopped going to the gym. I stopped going to AA meetings. I stopped praying. I hurt my back twice and I was also diagnosed with depression. I loved to barbecue, I loved to fish, I loved to play in the yard, but I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t move off of my pillow – it was just so painful.

When the day of the sentencing came, I just wept. The judge sentenced Patrick to 7 ½ to 25 years in prison. It’s hard to say that even today. But the good thing was that the sentence was not stacked – they were concurrent. And really, we made out good. Had the FBI kept the case, he would have been sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

I’ll never forget what a man named Craig said to me. He pointed out, “He’s in there for at least 7 ½ years and this is a marathon, not a sprint. Many, many prisoners go away and their family and friends forget them. Don’t ever, ever, ever let him feel forgotten.” So I said that day that I will never, ever let him be forgotten.

But that wasn’t easy. Patrick was moved five hours away from me to a western Pennsylvania prison. Earlier in the process, they promised he’d been moved to a prison close to home, but something went wrong and he landed nowhere near me. I was speechless, numb, and so upset, and I thought, “How can I physically do this?”

It’s been six years and I’ve had 109 trips out there. Sometimes I go by myself, sometimes with friends and family; I’ve watched every rest stop on the turnpike be rebuilt, I’ve been through storms in western Pennsylvania I didn’t think could exist. And it’s all been worth it. I’ve seen Patrick go from a skinny, scrawny drug addict, fighting in prison to a man with morals and values.

It all came down to really surrendering him to God. That’s hard when you want to have control of your own son’s life, but big changes came when I did.

There’s a guard who “adopted” my son. He got Patrick a job, watched over him, and hooked him up with a good counselor. The guy just rocks. He called me once when the prison was locked down just so I didn’t have to waste a trip out there. That’s how good of a friendship he had with my son.

Patrick now is a committed member of Narcotics Anonymous. He’s in college now (in the prison) and wants to get to Associate’s Degree before he leaves. He’s an avid runner. And I couldn’t be more proud. I once wrote him off for dead, but God has taken him through so much. And there’s hope. I asked him a couple of months ago where he’s at with God, and he said, “Dad, I got on my knees and prayed today. I’m not quite sure what it’s all about. But I’m praying and I’m believing.” To me, that’s God showing up.

We hope to see him released in November.

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Sarah, Denver CO

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“I didn’t know God to be a loving God or a redeeming God. I thought He was a punishing God,” Sarah says, reflecting on how she felt a year and a half ago.

After a decade of abusive boyfriends, a life-crippling addiction to methamphetamine, stints in jail, and giving birth to two children, she was lost.

She had grown up in a loving home, but no matter how much help her parents extended to her, she kept running into the arms of men, seeking approval and trying to find her identity there. By the summer of 2012 her family had done all they could, and it seemed there were no options left. But with a six-week-old son, Sarah made the hardest and most life-changing decision she could: she moved into Champa House.

“There was no more putting it off. I needed to start over. I needed to leave everything I had known  it was all unhealthy and toxic,” she says. She was reluctant because moving to Champa meant leaving her older, 7-year-old son in Greeley with her parents. It meant that anything that ever brought her comfort, however temporary, would be off-limits. No drugs, no parties, no boyfriends. Just a house full of women she didn’t know and a set of rules she was unfamiliar with.

But she still went. Slowly, she began to find freedom within the rules, and strength within herself. And most importantly, she found an unexpected love from those around her.

Chaplain Elaine Phillips was instrumental in Sarah’s journey of healing. “She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She pushed me at rekindling my relationship with my parents, who I love spending time with now,” says Sarah.

She continues: “The whole staff has been so key in helping me. I came here feeling devastated and abandoned. I was oppressed by my choices and believed a lot of lies about myself. I think that just seeing the Lord in the staff here has given me the opportunity to be honest and vulnerable. They taught me that my identity is in Christ.”

When a woman is enrolled in the New Life Program, she’s matched with a mentor. Sarah’s has gone above and beyond the requirements of the relationship by taking initiative in Sarah’s life. “My mentor Lisa and her family have loved on me and my family. She is so awesome,” she says, finding it difficult to express her gratitude.

“The most surprising thing that has happened to me here is that God has truly changed my heart, although I am a work in progress. I struggled in my brokenness for a long time, but I eventually learned to forgive others, and mostly myself,” she says. She opens her Bible and reads the whole chapter of Hosea 2. She reads about an adulterous woman and a forsaken Israel: how God takes away all that they had made an idol, how they are no longer his people, how he will block their path with thornbushes.

She remembers her own idols: “All those relationships were idols in my life. Drugs were an idol, possessions, my job. I think of everything that I valued and put above the Lord.” She draws a comparison to her life and the lives of the other women at Champa: “If you come to Champa, you’ve lost everything. There are thornbushes all around you. There are rules and firm boundaries set in place to protect you.”

But she looks back down at the Bible and with tears welling in her eyes, continues at the end of the chapter: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”

“I believe God led me to Champa just as he led Gomer to the desert. When I got to Champa, that is where he began speaking tenderly to me. Looking back on my life I see his hand in everything. Little by little, he took things away from me, trying to bring me back to him. It was finally when I was left with nothing that I saw his love. He is slowly giving me things back and they are so much better because I see him in them now.”

After finishing a Legal Assistant Program in only six months, Sarah landed a job as a paralegal, fulfilling a lifelong dream to work in the legal field. “I love the people I work with. I love having responsibility. I think it’s hard when anyone is going through any type of legal issue. They need somebody that is going to be empathetic and guide them through the process,” she says, proud to be the person others can lean on.

Reprinted by permission of Denver Rescue Mission.  Please read more of their stories at

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