A little more than two years ago, I graduated from the HOPE for Prisoners workshop. It was a pivotal moment in my life and a memory that makes me smile when I look back on it.
When, I was in the midst of my troubles, my addiction, I was neglecting everything important in life–especially my own well-being. I lost what I can only pray will return to me in time. I had put myself in such a bad place that I had no choice but to relinquish my rights to my first born daughter, Jaden Rose. Probably the greatest example of where drug addiction places your priorities. I had reached such a low point that I was bouncing couch to couch, pushing a cart around, with whatever belongings I had left, and just searching for a place to crash my head or put another needle in my arm. I’ve been in and out of jail so many times that it probably would equal about 2 years of my life if not more. I haven’t been to prison, but if anyone is familiar with the lyrics of the band Creed, “I had Created My Own Prison”. I was in all the wrong places and involved with all of the wrong people.
My last and final arrest was a blessing in disguise. I received another felony, hit my rock bottom, and realized that I needed a change. When I first came to HOPE for Prisoners, I didn’t have any idea of what a normal life could be. I was sober from drugs for the first time in seven years. First I got myself into NA which helped me understand what it really means to be an addict. I appreciated what NA gave me, but it was not enough. My brother had enrolled into a week-long motivational class with a commitment of 18 months of follow-up. I now call that same place the home of my second family, HOPE for Prisoners. I graduated on August 23, 2013. The week of motivation did a lot for me, but a problem that I had not yet addressed was holding me back. I was one that would simply blame others for my shortcomings. Although HOPE was doing their part to help me do better, I was pointing blame at Jon and Mickey, my case manager, for where I was falling short. Actually, I think that Jon may have been close to asking me to find another means of help elsewhere because of how I treated Mickey one day. He wasn’t happy with me. But Jon is a loving, caring, and patient man. He is 110% committed to what he has built within HOPE for Prisoners and what he hopes to do for your lives. It was not until later in a Huddle meeting, Gregg Ketter, said something that just stuck with me and changed my perspective. He said “we control our own weather” and just like that my attitude started to determine my altitude. After hearing this concept I know I could no longer blame others. If you want, need, or seek change, you are able to make the change.
Sometimes these changes do require a push or some encouragement. This is when we seek out mentors in life, like Jon Ponder and Bill Kendrick who was my mentor. I was blessed with the brief but wonderful mentor, the late Bill Kendrick. I don’t think I have ever known anyone as high-spirited and absent of judgment as Bill. Even through the times when I did not stay connected with him because of what of I was going through, he never stopped reaching out to me, sending me messages of encouragement. He was there for me through one of the most difficult times of my life — through my father’s death and I was there in the time of his. He left a mark on my spirit along with many others.
One thing that I have learned in my life is that the path to a better future is a constant work in progress. As soon as you lift off of the throttle, it is that much more distance you have to make up for. I am still far from where I want to be, but I am so far from where I once was. I know that if I stick to my plans and I can achieve my goals, where I want to be doesn’t seem so far away.
It is important for me to tell you that you will get out of HOPE for Prisoners what you put into it. I will use my brother as an example. He led me here to HOPE, but decided that it wasn’t for him. He distanced himself, went and got a job and did well for a short while but ended up right back in the thick of his troubles. I struggled a lot at first, but I stuck with it. I went to the Tuesday night Huddles, stayed on top of searching for work and was always in contact with my mentor.
I am now working two full-time jobs and supporting my family. My bills are paid and old debts are slowly being reduced. I just threw the biggest birthday party last week for my daughter Emma who turned 1 year old. Her party really reminded me of how far I have come from where I once was. I want to encourage each one of you here to stay connected and do your part to succeed. You will be here one day, like me, looking back on everything that you have accomplished.