The Mission Gave Me a New Life
Hello. I’m James. At the Mission I have a sponsor, a church, a therapist, medicine, and a group to guide me through recovery. I’m six months clean, and share my story with others who struggle. Today I feel like I have it all. But through a lot of my life, I had nothing.
My story starts at an early age with my mother and four brothers. My dad was a quadriplegic and an alcoholic, and wasn’t a lot of help. Our family was very poor, moving from place to place, from family to family just to survive. It seemed like we were homeless all the time. We lived on the street, in cars, and across seven different states, hitchhiking and begging for food along the way.
Learning wasn’t easy. All the schools had different systems, and nobody could help me understand. Mental illness runs in the family and made all of that harder. Mostly, hunger and homelessness made me feel different from everyone else.
At around 10 years old, I noticed that when my father and grandfather were together and drinking, they always looked silly and happy and at ease. One day I had a beer too, and it was the best feeling I’d ever had. From age 10 to 12, I drank heavily. Nobody told me beer was a bad thing. Then I got busted and went to a foster home, where they understood my situation. That started a cycle of entering and leaving foster homes, and drug use. I smoked weed at 13, tried Percosets at 14, and LSD at 16 along with the regular alcohol use. At 18 I picked up cocaine, and then crack. What brought me to my knees was cocaine, suicide attempts and a diagnosis of bipolar and anxiety disorders.
In my first detox, I thought I might have a problem, and others helped me to see it also. At 25, I had a taste of recovery, and became childlike—the boy who wanted to live again! When I stayed away from alcohol and took care of my mental illness, I could be happier than I ever was.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the tools I needed to stay sober, and struggled for many years as a result. After I lost my father I hit a low point. I lost my shoes, didn’t shower or eat for days at a time, and slept on a lot of benches. Then I made a promise to God and my family that I will get out of this. I went to the hospital and begged them to let me in, which they did.
Soon after I found the Boston Rescue Mission, and I’m doing so much better. They welcomed me into the community, and into the kitchen. I quickly picked up cooking skills, which reinforced my work ethic and gave me purpose throughout the days. When I’m serving meals to others, I get to see the other side. People see me as an example of where they can be themselves. Even if they can’t do it themselves, they can experience healing through my story. At least 15 people said they loved me the other day. That doesn’t happen on a park bench.
Now I’ve extended my recovery farther outward. I work with Back on My Feet, a running group for people in recovery, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), helping to motivate others with my story. Mostly, I’m rebuilding ties with my family members, and trying to be accountable to others.
The Mission’s financial sponsors, volunteers, and everyone with the compassion to help others live a better life brings a big smile to my face. Thank you so much!