Summer is a time of celebration at UGM. At the annual LIFE Recovery Commencement, we honor the most recent participants who have reached the end of the 16-month residential program and moved into housing of their own, employed and free of addiction. The miracle of life change is never more apparent than in this season of reflection. How do men and women end the harmful cycles that have kept them stuck, embrace healing and step into a new way of life?
We asked this year’s 28 Commencement honorees what it was that made real change possible for them.
Awareness is the first step
“I came here looking to get out of the desperation and the shame and the pit that I was in.” Ruschell knew she needed help and she knew where to go.
Derick came to UGM because his loved ones insisted. “I was struggling with addiction issues for a long time, so the people I loved most in the world told me some hard truths, and it brought me to the place where I knew I needed to get help.”
“...the people I loved most in the world told me some hard truths, and it brought me to the place where I knew I needed to get help.” -Derick, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumnus
It's impossible to take steps toward positive change without first admitting something is wrong, and it's equally important to have a place to go for help. UGM strives to make services available to as many people as possible. The four clean-and-sober shelters offer a safe-haven for men and women choosing to pursue a better life.
It take two cogs to move forward: courage and perseverance
Real change doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen easily. Forming new thought patterns and new habits feels impossible to most guests when they first enter Recovery, but through many acts of courage, with the support of their community, they overcome.
Dawn wrote a compelling piece as part of her testimony—a good illustration of courage: “I breathe deep. I am about to become the me I know I am. A healthy fear rushes over me. I know in order to succeed I must become open-minded, willing and teachable in all aspects of my life. But as I board the van, I doubt I am making the right decision. Reality sets in, and the fear I feel now is far from healthy. Will I be able to accept this newfound success? Will I even be able to succeed at all? Am I worthy?”
Beverly was brave enough to fall apart, cry, mourn and lean heavily on her new mentors and peers. “I learned it’s okay to not be okay.”
“Will I be able to accept this newfound success? Will I even be able to succeed at all? Am I worthy?” -Dawn, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumna
Machen gained confidence through bravely trying new things. “I learned that I have a voice, and my voice matters.”
Most former residents admit that sticking with their recovery is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.
“Program was hard. I’m not going to lie. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But it was also the most changing thing.” -Rachelle
“It’s been a hard road, but I’ve learned to surrender to the Lord. I love who I am today.” -Shanena
David said, “It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but definitely the most worthy thing I've ever had to do, too....I figure if I can do it, you can do it. If I can change, you can change.”
“It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but definitely the most worthy thing I've ever had to do, too....I figure if I can do it, you can do it. If I can change, you can change.” -David, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumnus
Healing and forgiveness go hand in hand
Receiving the grace and forgiveness of Jesus and extending forgiveness toward those who have hurt us frees our hearts and minds to heal and recover from trauma and shame.
“I got to go back to my family of origin and learn why my parents and grandparents did what they did. It helped me lose resentment and understand why I did what I did. And into phase two, I got to change those behaviors that I had. It was life changing.” -Teri
“In program, I feel like I've had the opportunity to get down to some of the major issues of pain and trauma.” -Krista
Justin said, “I started to learn different ways to overcome the trauma.”
Through forgiveness, Andrew let himself off the hook so he could really heal. “I learned that I didn't have to condemn myself for all of my past mistakes. I've condemned myself enough. I found forgiveness here. I found a lot of self-worth.”
“I found forgiveness here. I found a lot of self-worth.” -Andrew, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumnus
And Robert leaned on his newfound community as he learned the meaning of forgiveness. “We have the opportunity to come together and pour our hearts out with one another and to accept and receive other people’s love and accept God’s love through them. And it changes you. It starts this snowball effect. You touch the water with your toe, and before you know it, you are swimming in a stream, and you’re no longer this filthy thing that walked in the door. You’re this clean person, and you don’t hate yourself when you look in the mirror. And it gives you hope and a future.”
Community is key
“Relationships, not isolating, and connecting are some of the biggest things I learned at UGM.” Austin had never pursued healthy adult relationships before coming to the Mission. When he did, it changed everything.
Robert continued, “You see God’s forgiveness here through community, so it’s an intangible thing, but when you’re honest about who you are and who you’ve been and the things that you have done, and you see other men accept you and realize that you’re not who you were and they see the change in you, it reinforces the truth of Scripture.”
Dawn told us, “The Lord was in this place and welcomed me through His people.”
Jennifer said, “They helped me to realize that my real home was with safe people.”
“They helped me to realize that my real home was with safe people.” - Jennifer, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumna
And in the words of Jesse: “If it wasn’t for these men, and God putting them here for this specific time, I’d be dead.”
There is power in the Love of God
Ruschell had been an addict for over 40 years and had never been able to quit. Only when God showed her His love was she able to persevere through recovery. “It’s all in the Word. Grace. He gave me grace. I feel the love. It’s so amazing I can’t describe how different it is.”
Talia said she cried out, “I want to know what love is!” and God replied, “You need to know my Son.”
“I was a mess, an addict, lost. God is my savior. Without Him, I never would have made it.” -Rose
Teri said faith was the piece she’d been missing in prior attempts at recovery. “God’s forgiveness makes it possible. He gave me worth when I was in my ugliness. He said I was worthy and lovable.”
“God’s forgiveness makes it possible. He gave me worth when I was in my ugliness. He said I was worthy and lovable.” -Teri, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumna
Derick concluded his interview saying, “I’m digging into the Word every day and reading it and studying it. There’s been healing and restoration of hope in people and the way I see the world around me. It’s just been an amazing journey.”
What’s next after program?
Robert told us what is next for him and his friends in recovery: “You take the light you found here, and you carry it out into the world like a torch.”
“My future is...anywhere He wants to take me.” -Ruschell
“You take the light you found here, and you carry it out into the world like a torch.” -Robert, 2022 LIFE Recovery alumnus
These men and women (including those not quoted) have gone the distance and persevered through a myriad of challenges and we want to shout our joy from the mountaintops! They have beat the odds and re-entered society as God-dependent, contributing members, as parents, as volunteers and employees, church members and friends. Their lives will never be the same because they chose to put in the effort, trust the promises of God and humbly say ‘yes’ to a whole new life. They are no longer homeless. They are free of addiction. They are part of a strong community.
We want to thank these wonderful people for sharing their lives with us, and we welcome you to join us in praying they’ll stay the course, sharing the hope they’ve received and shining a light for others in need.
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