MarkMark endured years of hopelessness on the streets. Today, he says his life is “light-years beyond” what he ever thought it could be. Thanks to you.
Mark endured years of hopelessness on the streets. Today, he says his life is “light-years beyond” what he ever thought it could be. Thanks to you.
“I was beat. I was tired. I was hungry. To be honest . . . I was scared.”
That’s how Mark describes his “life” on the streets, which was controlled by his drug dependence, genuine fear, and zero hope that things could get better
“Heroin was the one that really had me,” he says. “I had used for many, many years, but I didn’t get involved with heroin until about the last five.
“That’s when the homelessness and the brokenness really set in. That’s when it became survival instead of living.” Mark wanted to quit, but he didn’t have the first idea about where to begin.
Mark grew up in what he describes as a typical middle-class home. But at the age of 12, three cousins came to live with his family. Looking back, he says, that’s where the neglect started. “There wasn’t as much supervision,” he recalls. “Shortly thereafter, I started smoking weed.”
In high school, Mark began selling drugs, which got him free marijuana. By the time he graduated, he was cooking meth. That led to jail and set the stage for years of aimless confusion and misery. “Being locked up changed me. It made me really cold, uncaring.” Though that wasn’t how he was raised, Mark says, “It became all about me.”
Soon after his release from jail, Mark found himself homeless. “I was sleeping in a tent on the overpass between Safeco and Centurylink fields.” But no matter where Mark stayed — in a cheap hotel, at a friend’s house, or on the streets — “it definitely was survival mode.”
Then, one day on the street, our Search + Rescue van pulled up. Two of our team members got out and approached him. Mark didn’t know what to think at first. But there was an immediate connection.
“The van said love on the side of it. They were there to freely give of themselves. There was a sense of security. I can’t explain it.
“I didn’t have the first idea what Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission was,” says Mark. “But there was something about Richard. I could tell that he’d been through similar things in life.”
Mark had tried to get off drugs before but had always relapsed. This time, he sensed that something was different. “I was pretty convinced that the missing element was faith,” he says.
Before he knew it, Mark had accepted an invitation to come to the Mission. So he made his way to our shelter, was introduced to one of our case managers, and heard about what the Mission could offer him — including a proven addiction recovery program.
Mark joined our program, worked hard to gain stability, understand the root causes of his addiction, and rebuild his life on a foundation of faith.
“The Mission helped me get past survival mode.”
How does Mark feel about his new life of sobriety, stability, and faith?
He says that what he has today is “light-years beyond” what he ever expected his life could be. “I actually like me today,” he says. “I realize that I really don’t know anything — that I’m not in control of anything. It’s no longer about me.”
Those realizations help put into perspective for Mark how small his problems are and how big God is.
“Before, I would say that I thought I knew it all. And even when I didn’t know it, I was going to try to make you believe that I did. Now I know it’s okay to be vulnerable and tell somebody, ‘Hey, I need help.’”
Looking back on all of the bad times, Mark says he has no idea how he lived through it. “The only way it seems possible to me is that, even when I wasn’t looking out for myself, God was. It’s really humbling.”
But more important, looking ahead, Mark says, “I have a purpose today. I get to go to school. The opportunity the Mission has given me wouldn’t have been something I’d ask for. But because of God, this became available. He opened doors. I wouldn’t be here without the Mission. They helped me get past survival mode.”
Will you help change more lives? Thousands of broken individuals will come to the Mission this year. And like Mark, many will be on the brink, ready to throw in the towel, unless they can find something to live for.