“The separation is what kick-started it,” James explains of his descent into addiction and homelessness. “My ex-wife left. She ran off with someone else and that caused me to spiral into a downwards depression. I lost everything. I lost my house. I lost custody of my kids and I didn’t much care. I started using drugs and started going in the streets. I lost all sense of hope. I had nothing.”
Before long, using drugs was all James cared about. During his three years of struggling with addiction, James lived on the streets. He wanted to change, but with the availability of drugs on the streets, he couldn’t stop. “I’d be so angry at myself that I couldn’t stand it, so I would use more drugs,” he says. “I would get more depressed.”
James says his last winter (2019) on the streets was “especially tough because we had a blizzard. I didn’t even have a blanket to sleep under.”
“I wanted it to end”
Struggling with drugs and homelessness, in the midst of a cold winter, James’s depression got worse. “I wanted it to end,” he says. “I was cold. No one cared about me. I was all alone and I really wouldn’t care if I had woken up or not. And when I did wake up, I was very angry, because it was just another day to go through this again.”
James says the constant hunger was “almost like having a hole in you. You can’t fill it and it’s hopeless. You’re in pain constantly. You can’t barely walk. Your body literally starts eating itself. You start developing infections … It’s the worst feeling you’ll ever imagine or experience.”
One day, after taking a “bad batch” of drugs, James became paranoid. Believing that people were after him, he ran onto a freeway and was hit by a truck, breaking his leg in four places. He ended up spending six months in the hospital, undergoing two corrective surgeries.
Upon his release, James had two options – to leave the state, or enter a treatment program. He chose the latter and ended up at the Mission. “They told me about this program … and that the success rate is greatly higher than most rehabs, so I decided to come here,” he says.
“I felt a sense of belonging.”
James’s first day at the Mission was scary to him. “The hardest part is taking that first step,” he says. “Then as I slowly got used to my surroundings, I saw how people were very nice … I felt a sense of belonging. Then eventually that grew into a sense of family because I really don’t have anyone left.”
James has grown in his faith, and now sees himself in a different light. “The Mission taught me that I shouldn’t measure my success in how I think of myself or how the world thinks of me,” he says. “They gave me a strong background and a belief in Jesus … I’ve come to love myself and love others. And that could never have happened without constant help and discovering Jesus Christ.”
James is grateful for what the Mission does for people like him. “I believe the Mission sees people that are homeless or even with addictions … in a sense of love,” he says. “They don’t see them as an outsider, and they didn’t see me as an outsider. They treat them like a person, and they spread the gospel of Jesus to them.”
James is working to reconcile with his family, from whom he is estranged, and he hopes to get his kids back. Upon graduating from his recovery program, he wants to intern with the Mission’s culinary hospitality program. “Hopefully, I will get a job with the Mission after I’m done,” he says, “I’m looking forward to being able to serve people and let them know that they’re loved, and they’re cared about and that Jesus loves them. Because, sometimes that’s all you need.”
Reposted courtesy of United Gospel Mission
James was at Riverton Place, UGM”S Men’s Recovery Program in Burien.