All my life, I felt alone, isolated, like I never really fit anywhere. Even in my own family. Instead of connecting with friends, I retreated into a world of art and fantasy. From the age of 3 or 4, I would spend hours, or even days, drawing characters, making up stories, living in a world that existed only in my head and in my art.
My parents didn’t understand and tried many different ways to change me. So as a teenager, I rebelled — dabbling with LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, whatever I could get my hands on. Hallucinogens brought my art to life. And I loved it. Before long, I was eating 50 to 100 hits a day.
Then I found crystal meth. And that was it. Meth enabled me to focus on my art at a whole new level. Not only that, I could draw for three days straight, until my body would collapse from exhaustion. But I craved it.
Somehow, in all that insanity, I got married in my early 20s. My wife even gave birth to two sons. But both were born with serious health problems. My first son was born with DiGeorge Syndrome, kind of a cross between autism and Down Syndrome. My second son was born with an incurable heart condition and I had to make the heart-breaking decision to take him off life support. When he died, so did my marriage.
The Loneliness of Homelessness
After that, everything fell apart. My wife fell into prostitution and heroin addiction. My surviving son ended up with my wife’s aunt. And I ended up living on the streets for the next seven years, isolated and alone, disconnected from everyone but my drug dealers.
But as I grew lonelier and more exhausted, I wanted to change. That’s when I came to Union Rescue Mission. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but when I walked inside the building, the compassion and love I felt brought me to tears. I felt known, like everyone here could see me — the real me. I wasn’t alone anymore. And something about that made me want to be the best man I could be.
The Real Me
I gave my life to Jesus that first day and I have never craved drugs since. I took advantage of every service the Mission offered, from health and dental care, to counseling and spiritual care. They met every need I had. And I have never felt so alive physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve rebuilt relationships with my family, and even my son. And, I returned to school, and I’m now working full-time as a graphic artist.
I never knew this kind of life was possible, and I never would have experienced it apart from Union Rescue Mission. Because the people here were willing to show me compassion and love me, I am a real person now. URM didn’t give me my life back. The truth is, I never had a life. What I can say is, thanks to URM, I now have a life.
Men and women trapped in homelessness often have significant barriers to overcome before they can return to a productive life. Agencies like Union Rescue Mission offer structured, long-term recovery programs that have helped thousands of individuals and families address and overcome their obstacles and return to the community as productive citizens.
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Notes from Andy
Healing the Past — Building for the Future
Brian, who tells his story in this issue of The Mission, is one of those guys who’s so sharp and “with it,” it’s hard to imagine why he lived the life he did. But in many ways, he reminds me of my son Isaac.
Like Brian, Isaac struggled through adolescence. It wasn’t easy for him to be my son, and for many years he walked a different path than I would have. Honestly, I spent those years parenting from my knees — praying. But like Brian, Isaac found his way. And today, Brian and Isaac are both fine young men.
Transforming lives like Brian’s is what Union Rescue Mission is all about. We embrace people experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ, offering them hope and healing, and helping them find their way home. We help them heal the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds that led them here in the first place, through counseling, legal aid, medical and dental care, and spiritual nurturing. But then we also offer them building blocks, like education and job training, to help them construct brand new lives.
Body. Mind. Soul. Spirit. It’s what our Mission is all about. But it’s not just our Mission. It’s yours, too. You are the Mission. And nothing happens here apart from you. Thank you.
Rev. Andy Bales