“I’m richer now with nothing than I was when I had everything.”
“I’m on an amazing journey right now,” said Ron, a current resident at City Mission. “People here don’t see me as a failure. They look at me like I’m a victor and not a victim.”
Not that long ago, Ron was the General Manager of a car dealership. “I made really good money. I always had a new car to drive, and I was responsible for 87 employees. I’ve been blessed with so many good things in my life, and I’ve ruined them all.”
Ten years ago, Ron had gastric bypass surgery. “I was a 500-pound man who was always treated like less than human. I thought if I lost weight, I would get more respect.”
As he slimmed down, his career and social life both took off. “When I started losing weight, that’s when all the promotions came. All of a sudden, I started getting compliments, and they all went right to my head.”
But there were complications from the surgery. His doctor prescribed medication, and he became addicted to painkillers. “I couldn’t eat that much any more,” Ron said “so I just exchanged one addiction for another.”
Ron grew up with loving, supportive parents, and he attended church faithfully as a child, but there was always something broken inside. “Looking back on it now,” he said. “I see that addiction has always been a part of my life. I was always overweight, and I believe that, even as a child, I was addicted to food.”
After graduating high school, Ron felt called to go to Bible College and pursue a career ministering to overweight kids who were bullied. That lasted one semester before he dropped out. “One day, I realized I was never going to make enough money.”
Instead, Ron transferred to Penn Commercial Business School and graduated with a degree in Accounting. He began his career as a lot attendant for a car dealership before earning a promotion to salesman. “I was very happy working in the automobile industry. I treated people with respect, and I made a lot of money.”
Ron got married and had two beautiful kids. “I gave my kids everything except time,” he said. “My Dad was a great father, but we didn’t have very much growing up. I thought if I could give my kids a lot of stuff, that would make me a good father.” So when the promotions came, Ron jumped at the opportunities, but that meant less and less time with his family. “My kids told me that they never wanted all the stuff. All they wanted was to spend time with me. That really hurts me now to think about.”
Eventually, Ron’s addiction moved from painkillers to heroin, and his life began to unravel. “I lost a wonderful job, my wife, the love and respect of my children, and ultimately a place to live.” Ron became a felon through his addiction and suffered two strokes that he says were a direct result of using heroin. He lost his home, burned all of the bridges with his friends and family, and finally found himself living on the street.
When he went into rehab for the sixth time, he was tired of being an addict. “I didn’t feel like I deserved to ever be happy again, because of the people I’d hurt,” he said. “I didn’t deserve to be forgiven, and I just couldn’t carry the shame and the guilt anymore.” He knew that his spirit was broken, and that the only way to heal was to find his spirit again, so he came to City Mission.
“City Mission is the perfect place for redemption. It’s a place where I found love and compassion, self-respect and dignity. I have a light in my eyes again. I’m a new creation, a new spirit, a new heart. When I look in the mirror now, there’s a different person looking back at me. It’s no longer the person that I hated.”
Now that Ron has found redemption, he is hopeful to reconnect with his family and rebuild the bridges he had burned. And he’s hoping to give back and help people who are as broken as he was. “I’m praying that God can use my story to help people who feel they have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or act a certain way to feel loved. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
“I chased and chased the things that I thought would make me happy, and when those things didn’t work, I put a substance in my arm,” he said. “But through the love of Christ, I was able to forgive myself, and I’m richer now with nothing than I was when I had everything.”