Rebuild What was Once Nonexistent

The camera swivels inside a car of anxious teenagers at night, and the viewer hears a girl’s voice: “I’m really tight with my friends. We do everything together.” The car pulls to the curb. One guy gets out and drags a girl’s limp, unconscious body from the car. He leaves her on the sidewalk and hops back in the car. The car speeds away. “And whatever happens,” the voice says, “they look out for me.”
Addicts don’t have friends. “Their primary relationship is with their drug,” said John Dunne, counselor at the Union Gospel Mission. “Addiction destroys relationships. Bad relationships encourage relapse.” And so begins the cycle that leaves the addict increasingly isolated.
Clyde has been married and divorced three times, Daniel twice. Gary, 45, has seven children ranging in age from 6 to 17 and is in the process of getting divorced. John, 37, is also separated from his wife and three daughters. Scott, 45, describes his past as one rocky relationship after another and is relieved to be out of his recent engagement.
Clyde, Daniel and Scott do not currently have family responsibilities, and they are grateful for the time to focus on healing and building friendships. Daniel said, “I’m alone, but I’m not lonely. I think right now I need to be alone. Some guys hook up with anybody to fill that loneliness.” Clyde agreed, “I’m basically building a relationship with Jesus Christ”
and learning to live in the Mission community. The road immediately ahead is a bit more complicated for Gary and John. John has a wife, and both have children waiting. Restoration means mending past damage.
Jessica Kell, another Mission counselor, explained the challenge: “Addictions introduce isolation, lies, and fear into relationships and create difficult hurdles to overcome. Often, all parties involved have experienced unhealthy relationships in their past, including their families of origin, and this further complicates their ability to establish intimacy with each other.” Gary currently has a protection order against him, precluding any contact with his children, and after 18 years of marriage, his wife recently announced that she had found someone else with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. While he has been clean and sober for three years, Gary realizes that he is at the beginning of a long journey. “I feel like any little thing could make me start drinking again.” On the other hand, the supportive environment of the Mission has gotten him through a tough four and a half months. “I didn’t have male friends whatsoever, and I’ve developed quite a few in here.”
Gary said he thinks his children have learned from his bad example, but now he’s hoping to set a new example – how a life can change. Gary plans to get on the Mission’s Grace Recovery program in the near future.
As of January 15, John has been sober for a year. While at the Mission, he has gained some insight into his struggle: “I don’t believe I deserve a relationship. I don’t deserve love from others. I don’t deserve to be cared for.” He has recently recognized that those beliefs stem from his childhood when invisibility was the goal. “I was there, but I did my best to stay hidden from everything else, so I wasn’t noticed. Really there was just chaos. Always chaos – in one form or another – and I didn’t want that chaos to be focused on me.”
John knows an invisible father is not what his family needs. “They deserve to be loved and cared about and have their needs met. I need to be a man who can do that.”
The Mission seeks to help men in various stages of recovery to become men who can love and care and provide for their family’s needs.
In the Mission’s grace-based program, Jessica explained, “recovery focuses on creating a safe and healing environment in which anyone can show up the way he is, wounded and isolated, and receive help. We offer space to make and learn from mistakes, as well as tools that foster deep and meaningful relationships. Success comes in the form of growing relationships between the men themselves and with our staff. They experience what it’s like to show their true colors and receive loving support and honest feedback. As a result, men grow in their confidence and gain enthusiasm to return to their lives and .”