Raised in Norfolk, Virginia, John has one older brother. As children they attended church but “I never really gave my life to Christ.” At 16, he began drinking and smoking marijuana. He graduated from high school and got a job as a busboy at the Ship’s Cabin restaurant that lasted 2 weeks. “It took me about a year to get stable.” He finally got a job at Swift’s Garage; a job that lasted 18 years. In 1997, he got married and had a daughter. The marriage lasted ten years. Today he is very proud of his daughter who he stays in touch with. She will graduate from high school this spring. “She’s on the honor roll and plays the violin. She could be a professional violinist if she wanted to. She is attending George Mason University next year.”

In his 30’s John’s drinking got heavy, and after being prescribed Vicodin for an elbow injury, his journey with  opioids began. “I’d do anything to get them and would even steal because I would get sick if I didn’t have it. It ruined my marriage, but I enjoyed it so much I went from OxyContin to Heroin. I had a major battle with that as well as with alcohol.” In 2003 he stopped working and in 2007 his marriage fell apart and they divorced. He moved out, living in motels and off and on with his dad. He continued to drink and take pain killers until 2012 when he checked into the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. He was clean and sober for five years and worked for them in their Thrift Stores. After five years he quit his job and started drinking again.

In February 2018, he turned to The Union Mission. “God brought me here. What I was doing was not working. I ran out of money and left a motel with a trash bag on my back. I had $3.35 to my name and walked three miles. When I got to a 7-11 a guy gave me a ride to the Mission. I was broke. I didn’t want to do this – be here at a shelter, but immediately things started getting better. I’ve been on the second floor (emergency shelter) for two months when my Case Manager recommended me to join the Damascus Program on the 3rd floor. I love it up there. The Directors, Pastor Jeremiah and Pastor Adreinne are really good people. They are there to help. I learned what Damascus stands for: Truth, Perseverance, Uplifting. Now, I’m more about God and the Holy Spirit. When I wake in the morning, I feel purpose. I’m on the bathroom crew and get up at 5:15 and I enjoy that, believe it or not.

I feel I have a very good relationship with God now. It’s a good sign when He starts answering prayer. All I want now is to do God’s will, have work, and a healthy place to live. I’m on the wait list for the SRO room (Single Resident Occupancy). I’ll do that for a year and then get my own place. Then I want to come back and work with the program more. Six months isn’t enough. If it wasn’t for The Union Mission I don’t know where I’d be. God got me here. This is where He wanted me.”

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