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4 min read

“What I really needed…” Former Addicts Discuss the Choice to Change.

We know people need love. People need a safe community, connections to housing, medical care, and jobs. They need to know they’re not alone, they’re safe, and there is hope for their futures. But how do we help people lost in addiction or sleeping under bridges know there is a place where they can find these resources? We do not simply want to communicate that UGM exists, but that each individual in need is worthy of finding help, hope, love, and a new life.

In these articles, three former UGM residents share what they really needed in their darkest hours, what it took to bring them in, and what they’d say to someone living rough today.

Eric, formerly homeless addict

I truly was lost in my addiction. I didn’t understand that phrase before—lost in addiction—but that’s exactly what it is… you get lost. Your lens gets distorted.

Back then, if someone had told me I needed to get help, I would have said, “Who do you think you are?” I did not think that people could understand what I was going through. My life was really just a beautiful mess.
EricHope. All I wanted was to find a taste of hope—hope that it wouldn’t always be like this. But I was looking for it in the numbness of drugs and alcohol—looking so hard for hope but only finding emptiness. I needed better coping skills, and I needed people to push me in the right direction. But I wouldn’t let people in.

I remember coming out of the fog, waking up in a tattoo shop, afraid I had alcohol poisoning. I finally had the thought that nothing was going to change unless I did something different. I came to the Mission at a low point. I didn’t think I was worth their help, but I knew I needed it.

I learned that what I needed more than anything was people. You can’t have a full and meaningful life without being open with the people around you. At UGM, I discovered value and worth for myself and for others. I learned how to love myself again. I learned that I can be forgiven. I learned to love people and be loved.

If I could speak to someone lost in addiction, I’d say: Don’t give up on yourself. It isn’t easy, but God has us growing through the challenges. Have patience. More than anything, I’d say let people in. You can’t do life without them.

“Let people in. You can’t do life without them.” - Eric

Elizabeth, former addict

I want people to know how close they are to a breakthrough.

If I were to describe myself today, I’d say I’m a child of God, a successful businesswoman, a wife, and a mom. But just four years ago, I’d have told you I was nothing but a failure—a repeat felon, unavailable to my kids, completely hopeless. I never imagined I’d be where I am today.
ElizabethEven in your darkest hour, at rock bottom, you’re never more than a couple decisions away from finding hope, from experiencing God pulling you out of the pit. He can do it, and He wants to. And there are people out there who want to help.

“You’re never more than a couple

decisions away from finding hope.” - Elizabeth

You can’t receive help until you start believing you’re worth it. For a long time, I couldn’t even accept the hope other people had for me. I’d tried to get sober, and it hadn’t worked. I was too far gone. When I was sober, the pain of everything and the new reality I had created would chase me right back into addiction. I didn’t want to feel the heartbreak of being separated from my kids. I didn’t want to face all the things I’d done while I was using.

I didn’t believe in myself, and I didn’t believe anyone had any good intentions for me. I only came to UGM because I’d been arrested again, and my husband insisted. At the orientation, I remember thinking, “I’m sure God has plans for everyone else, but He doesn’t have plans for me.”

The process of change was nothing like I expected. I’d never changed from the inside before. Looking back, what I really needed was Jesus. I needed to see how much He loves me and how His love is what gives me my worth. I needed people in my life who mirrored that and mirrored His unconditional love. That’s what changed my life.

If I could speak to myself back then, I'd say: You have nothing to lose at this point. Why not just give it a try? Let God lead the way and see how much your life can change.

Jennifer, formerly homeless

Before UGM, I was all over the place. I was alone. I was hibernating. I wasn’t living. If someone had told me I needed to get help, I would have said, “I know.” I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know where to go. My heart wasn’t open to love. There was a blockage. Even now, thinking back, it’s like stepping into a cloud and I can’t see clearly. I couldn’t see clearly through all of the trauma.

I was terrified—terrified that I was sleeping by the river. It was winter. I prayed a lot. I really loved praying out loud. I’d pretend I was in the shower, I’d close my eyes and let the thoughts and words flow. I could escape the pain for a little while. And I’d go outside my tent and look for any little sign that God was there. I’d say, “Lord, do you see me?” Sometimes I’d see a bird, and it would fill me with hope. But often, it was nothing. I felt so alone. bg_jennifer-1All I wanted was to be safe, a soft place to land. My addiction wasn’t my problem. I wound up quitting it in a matter of days and never looked back. My problem was my inability to receive love. I kept getting with men who would beat me.

COVID saved my life. I’d come and gone a lot to the UGM Crisis Shelter, but in 2020, I’d made it to Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall. But I was a runner. I never committed to long-term help. But COVID closed our doors and we hunkered down together. I would not have stayed in program if it weren’t for the shutdown. By the time we were released, I’d opened my eyes and my heart to love.

At UGM, I learned that God didn’t abandon me. The sisters I have now clarified that for me. I am in love with Jesus Christ – absolutely. I thought I was going to be so lonely all my life. I am so not alone.

What I’d say to someone in my position back then, is: Can I give you a hug and a bus pass? Some clothes? And I’d ask what their situation is. People need to know they’re not alone.

“People need to know they’re not alone.” - Jennifer

The army of community members who support UGM are making a way for those who are lost, lonely and afraid to find hope and healing. Thank you for providing a pathway out of homelessness.

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