When Brad moved to Colorado from Illinois 18 years ago, he thought he was escaping a life of addiction. However, addiction’s grasp made it hard to escape the thought of I want more, I need more. When that desire for more led to serving years in prison, Brad realized his lifestyle needed to change.
Life in Illinois is a past that Brad never wants to go back to. He struggled with addiction to marijuana and cocaine to the point where he ended up living in fear, isolation and what he called, “a double life.”
“I had a good job, but I was living a double life—I was doing cocaine and working at a restaurant,” he said. “But I was struggling. I was on my own, divorced from my first wife, paying child support for four kids, and broke all the time.”
When a friend invited him to go on a trip to Colorado, Brad decided to join, but ended up making a life-changing move. “I thought moving out here would get me away from the cocaine problem, but I just found a different drug—meth,” he said.
Brad’s battle with addiction led him to live in several places—behind bars, at a parole house and at Fort Collins Rescue Mission, where his life began to change for the better. “I came thinking, I’m going to be stuck here, I’m not going to like it, it’s just a shelter,” he said. “But right away they welcomed me and were helpful with everything and anything that I needed.”
Within a month or two, Brad began volunteering as a housekeeper at the Mission, working at a restaurant where he still works today and finding resources to help him with financial, mental health and addiction challenges.
“I was not expecting anybody do anything for me there,” he said. “I hate asking for help, but after being there a while, I knew that I could go to [the staff] and ask for help anytime I needed it. And that meant a lot to a guy coming out of prison.”
“The Mission gave me something that I don’t think anybody else could—from being helped to helping. Coming out of prison I’ve been looked at as a criminal, but [people at the Mission] don’t treat you like that. I really enjoyed being a part of the community, being a part of something bigger than [myself].”
Former program manager at the Mission, Paula Ordaz, made a significant impact on Brad. She saw his good spirit and willingness to give back to others give him purpose. “I think he gained confidence again and seemed more sure of himself, more like a person again,” she said. “I think he also struggled with his faith, but it did grow in the time that I saw him.”
Faith has always been a part of Brad’s life, even through his struggle with addiction. “I know God is always there for me and that He’s behind all of this—the Mission, the people I interact with, my job. He’s behind the scenes on everything,” Brad said.
Now, Brad has been living in a house for about five months. “Once I was in a place [of my own], it made me be more responsible, be a better part of the community and want to do good, because I want to keep this place,” he said, “My neighbors are nice people and this is a good neighborhood, and it’s all because of the Mission helping me find it.”
Once Brad gets off parole in about nine months, he hopes to go back to Illinois to visit his children and four grandchildren.
Although the road to recovery is not an easy one, he is grateful to the Mission for giving him the community, support and resources that he has truly needed.
A Christmas Community
Christmas at the Mission is a special time for our vulnerable neighbors to eat a warm meal, enjoy fellowship with others and feel love from those around them. Last Christmas, Brad volunteered in the kitchen and hopes he can volunteer again this year.
“We fed a lot of guys that day, it was a big turnout. I passed out gifts with food and candy in them. It was a good day,” he said. “That was another day that I felt part of something, just being able to help somebody that needed help. All those years that I was isolating in my room doing drugs, it brought me away from that. That day I didn’t even think about it.”