“I have a responsibility to give back, because I’ve been given so much here at the Mission,” said Brian, a current City Mission resident, who is four months into his program. “I don’t have a lot to give right now, but as I go through the program and deepen my relationship with God, I’ll have more and more to share with other people.”
As part of his therapy, Brian started working at City Mission’s Career Training and Education Center three weeks ago. “I’m absolutely having a blast,” he said. “Not only am I enjoying myself but I’m also feeling productive. I’m in my element.”
When Brian first came to City Mission, he was assigned a job as a clothing baler at the donation center and warehouse. He was grateful for the opportunity to do work and to be relied upon, but he felt he had more to offer. “One day after counseling,” he said, “ I just felt compelled to talk to Steve.” Steve Nicholas is the Director of the Training and Career Program at City Mission. “I ended up staying in his office for over an hour. Steve and I, we shared our stories with each other, and I think he recognized in me my writing skills and my experience and expertise with technology, and he thought I’d be a good fit.”
“He’s doing an awesome job,” Nicholas said of Brian’s work in the Career Center. “He has a real desire to help people, and he guides each resident with respect.”
At the Career Center, Brian has been able to help residents by guiding them through the online application process for employment and education, assisting them to craft their resumes, and helping them build confidence in themselves. He even helped one resident gain admission to an online college, and she just completed her first week of classes. He also assists the Career Center staff by proofreading content, adding images and animations to training presentations, and handling resident questions so the staff can focus on developing further programming for the residents.
“I do whatever needs to be done,” Brian explained. “I’m doing a lot of the leg work. And that allows Steve and Brianna to focus on other priorities. Working at the warehouse was great, but it didn’t really feel fulfilling. Here, we’re a team, and I value the opportunity to take some of the workload off of their shoulders.”
Brian has come a long way in the past few years. Born and raised in the state of California, he graduated from a private, Christian high school. In his teens, he starting questioning his beliefs and searching for something that he could pour himself into. He became passionate about music and started playing drums in his high school jazz band. One day, the band went on a field trip to a local recording studio to record some of their songs.
“It was really amazing to see how the technicians at the studio set up,” he explained, “and all the work they did on the back end to create the final product.” This experience inspired him to go to college and study audio engineering and sound art. “My two passions were music and technology, and I felt like it was a good fusion of both.” While at college, he excelled in his classes but struggled with discipline. “There were a lot of distractions. That’s when I first starting drinking,” he explained. “At first, I was just drinking with my friends, but I couldn’t just leave it there. It carried over into other parts of my life. It became overbearing, and eventually, I had to pull back from the program.”
He dropped out with only one semester left in a four year program. “Absolutely, I regret not finishing,” he said. “But I’m really trying to live without regrets, because I’m so grateful for where I am right now.”
After dropping out, he worked several jobs. “Nothing fulfilling,” he said. “I never had a purpose whatever I was doing.” And his drinking became more intense. Eventually, he was forced to go into a treatment facility in South Florida. It was at treatment where he first met people who were into hard drugs. “Those relationships brought me further into addiction than I had been before I came in for treatment.”
After treatment, he tried to make a life for himself in Florida, but his addiction got even worse. “I bailed on my job. I bailed on my recovery, and I ended up homeless. I couldn’t get into another treatment program, because I had no insurance.”
That was when Brian made his move to southwestern Pennsylvania. His grandmother, who lives in Houston, PA, bought him a plane ticket and flew him here to live with her. And for a while, he was doing really well. He got a job driving a delivery truck and was able to stay mostly clean for several months. Eventually, he saved enough money to get his own apartment. At that point, he decided to pay for his ex-girlfriend to fly up from Florida and join him in his new place.
“She led me to believe she was clean and on the right track,” he said. “None of that turned out to be true.” Soon, he had spiraled back into addiction. He lost his job and started living in his girlfriend’s car. When she finally moved back to Florida, Brian hit rock bottom. “I was doing whatever I needed to do to get by. I didn’t know how to stop.” And once again, he found himself living on the street.
Brian’s grandmother came to his rescue a second time by getting him a bed at City Mission. “I did wrong by my grandmother before I came here. I took advantage of her hospitality,” he explained. “But I’m grateful for her. I don’t have much family, but she’s been a big part of my life.”
“The City Mission is an incredible place,” Brian said of his time here. “I’ve never been in a place that’s so effective at rehabilitation. From the long-term nature to the spiritual connection, it really helps people make the life changes they’ve been searching for.”
Brian has really come alive again at City Mission and is working to capitalize on every opportunity he is afforded. “City Mission has taken the focus of my life away from myself. Before, it was all about me and being successful. Now, I’m passionate about sharing and helping other people in whatever way I can.”
And he has been able to rediscover his faith, which has helped him in his recovery. “City Mission has given me an opportunity to focus on my recovery and my growth as an individual. And their emphasis on spirituality really helped me. I’ve always had the desire, but I’ve never been able to hold myself accountable until now. I try to surrender my will daily, even every moment, to God’s plan for my life.”
City Mission has provided for all his needs and helped him to meet like-minded people. “I have possessions now that give me a sense of normalcy. I felt like an alien walking around before, and I’ve been blessed with great friendships, which I’m extremely grateful for. I was completely alone for a long time.”
“I thank God that life brought me to my knees,” Brian explained, “because City Mission picked me back up and gave me the opportunity to make spirituality the basis of my life moving forward. I have a core group of friends. I’m very spiritually-minded. I’m focused on growth in a positive direction, and I’m productive in all areas of my life.”