City Mission Gave Me Hope When I Had No Hope Left

pete relaxing for a fun photo

The City Mission Saved Pete's Life - Now He Gives It All Back

Pete was only six years old when he developed a taste for beer .   As an only child he spent a lot of time at his grandparents home while his dad worked as a Painting Contractor and his mother worked as a waitress. Pete was a highly intelligent child and was always looking for something to do.  His curiosity led him into trouble and he started sneaking beer from his grandfather and father.  He liked the way beer tasted and especially how it made him feel.  Eventually Pete’s grandparents discovered what he was doing  and scolded him fiercely for stealing and drinking.  He remembers telling them that a person can’t become an alcoholic from drinking beer.  


Unfortunately for Pete that was not the case.  Pete’s parents divorced when he was eight years old and he and his mother moved in with his grandparents.  Weekends were spent at his father’s house and week days were spent with his grandfather.  Pete was his grandfather’s namesake and they had a close relationship. They became even closer when Pate and his mother moved in with him.  When his grandfather became very ill and passed away Pete was heartbroken and didn’t know how to deal with the pain. Together with  the breakup of his parent’s marriage and the death of his grandfather Pete became very anxious and depressed.  He remembered the feeling he got when he drank beer and started using alcohol to take away his pain.

Pete continued sneaking beer when visiting his friends house and  started experimenting with harder liquor by the time he was thirteen.  Pete drank all through his high school years.  He drank wine, beer and hard liquor but it was the beer he needed the most. His mother and father warned him that he had a problem but he didn’t see it that way.  He was an above average student and made decent grades in High School.  

He graduated in 1991 and went to Duquesne University to study marketing.  Pete’s drinking really picked up in college. He commuted from home but would frequent the bars and drink at school parties. He was hung over a lot and started experiencing blackouts.  Pete says, “I definitely had all the symptoms of alcoholism back then.  ”Pete met his wife in 1993 and they were married a year later.  Marriage was good for him and his drinking slowed down - for a while.  He and his wife had three children, had a nice home and a good family life.  

In time Pete went back to his old patterns of getting drunk and blacking out.  His wife and kids tried to help Pete and went as far as videotaping him when they found him passed out, drunk on the floor and showed it to him, hoping he would stop.  They tried very hard to help him.  By 2008 he stopped working and started living with friends, using food stamps and money from the government.  He lost all interaction with his wife and children.   Alcohol was destroying his life.  Pete  recalls, ”At that time I was drinking a 5th of whiskey every night along with beer.” He calculates that he consumed 1200 5th’s of Johnny Walker over a twelve year period. He was trying to drink himself to death.

pete eating
Pete catches a light snack

By 2009 it looked like he was going to get his wish. At the age of 41 he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and was in the last stages of liver disease.  In 2010 he weighed over 300 pounds, was yellow with jaundice and had ascites disease.  He was in so much pain that he couldn’t lie down on his back.  Even with these serious alcohol related illnesses Pete continued to drink up to a case of beer a day.  

In 2010 Pete says that God delivered him, He remembers, “I had developed a hematoma in my right knee and thought  I was going to lose my leg.”  Pete was admitted to Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, West Virginia t to be detoxed from alcohol.  Miraculously the doctors were able to save his leg and Pete stayed alcohol free for the next three years.  

Pete went on to share, “The City Mission saved my life. I knew I had nowhere else to go when I came here.  The City Mission gave me hope when I had no hope left. ”Pete recalls some of the lessons he learned while staying at the City Mission, ”I learned to forgive, to be teachable, and to have true compassion.  I’m not the center of attention.  It’s about helping others.

In 2013 Pete started drinking again. Within 40 days he had received four DUI’s and spent 11 days in jail.  His girlfriend threw him out of the house and a friend in took him in.  It wasn’t long until his friend had had enough and kicked him out too. Pete went to Mercy Hospital Detox Center and from there was taken to a homeless shelter in Pittsburgh.  Pete recalls standing in the middle of a downtown street when the realization that he was homeless hit him.  He said, “Lord, I’m homeless. Then talking to himself he said, “Pete, you’ve finally done it.” It was then that he cried out to the Lord for the first time.  He wanted to stop drinking.  He wanted to recover.

Pete found his way to the Greenbriar Treatment Center - the Lighthouse for Men where he began to learn about recovery.  He also learned that he had no-one to count on and nowhere else to go.  The staff at Greenbriar referred him to the Washington City Mission. Pete recalls, ‘I came to the City Mission in June of 2014.  The first couple of weeks were rocky for me.  I was running on self-will. After a few weeks I broke down to the Lord. I needed his help.”  

Pete talked his counselor, Leroy Harris, and began to work through some of the issues he was having.  He realized even though he wasn’t drinking, he was still behaving like an addict.  Pete says, “I started to view things differently.  The Lord stuck with me and brought me along slowly”.  He started to attend other classes at the mission and grew in his faith and in recovery.  He shares,” Pastor Leroy helped to light a fire in me to read the Bible.  Another counselor, Paul Smith, led a discipleship class that taught him he should always make time for God in his schedule.  

pete preaching
Pete leading some hearty meal time prayer

Pete went on to share, “The City Mission saved my life. I knew I had nowhere else to go when I came here.  The City Mission gave me hope when I had no hope left. ”Pete recalls some of the lessons he learned while staying at the City Mission, ”I learned to forgive, to be teachable, and to have true compassion.  I’m not the center of attention.  It’s about helping others.  ”Pete helps the other men at the mission  every chance he gets.  He was recently hired by City Mission as a Resident Support Specialist in the men’s shelter.  There he’s able to lead daily devotions and provide encouragement and a listening ear.  

He says sharing his faith keeps him in the twelfth step of AA –  which says,“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all our affairs”.  He goes on to say, “Everyday is a new day to experience strength and hope.  He continues, “I’m responsible for my recovery today.  I know I have another relapse in me, but I doubt if I have another recovery in me.  Pete ends by saying, “I’ve been restored to independent living.  I love my job. My gratitude goes beyond recognition  for the Washington City Mission."

Because you GIVE to City Mission, Pete and countless others find HOPE and a chance for a NEW LIFE. Thank you DONATE today!

April 3, 2020
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!

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A New Lease on Life

Resident 'Tim' takes a smoke break
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“A New Lease on Life” In 2018, Tim, an Air Force veteran, was living in a hotel behind a bar. He had lost his Mom and his job of nearly twenty years in 2010, and his life had been slowly unraveling ever since. “Before I came here,” he said, “there wasn’t a single activity in my life that didn’t involve a drink – even taking a shower.” On July 6, he tripped over a pine root in the dark and broke his hip. “I was intoxicated,” he explained. “I haven’t had a drink since that night. That just woke me up. I firmly believe God laid His hand on me.” That freak accident eventually led him to City Mission, where, in August 2018, after hip surgery and eight weeks in physical therapy, he began the work of healing his mind, body, and spirit. Tim was born and raised in Monongahela. His Dad, who had been a Navy gunner in World War Two, was a crane operator for a steel mill in McKeesport, and his Mom was a Registered Nurse for a local hospital. He spent 12 years in Catholic School and received an excellent education. After graduation, he knew he needed a change of scenery after dabbling with drugs and alcohol his last few years of high school. Also, his dad foresaw the closing of local mills and knew that times would be hard financially in the Mon Valley for years to come, so Tim joined the Air Force, attending Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. After Basic Training, he trained to be an Air Crew Life Support Specialist. He would pack and maintain emergency items for the flight crew, such as flight helmets and survival kits – a job requiring significant attention to detail. In 1991, several years after leaving the military and returning home to the Mon Valley, he began working as a custodian for a school district in the South Hills, and he worked there for nearly twenty years. “It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “It wasn’t a high-paying job, but I really liked the people I worked with. It was very close-knit. And it was something different every day. It was the only job I ever had when I didn’t dread going to work.” Then in 2003, his drinking started to become more and more of a problem. “It was my own fault,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but myself.” In 2010, he went to rehab, but he couldn’t complete the outpatient part of the program, because his mother, who had been ill, passed away. Completing the program was a requirement for returning to work, so he lost his job. Devastated, he moved to Oklahoma with his sister just to get away and start fresh, but that only lasted a few years. “This is home,” he explained. “The roots are sunk deep.” He moved back to the Mon Valley, but with his family all gone, he had nowhere to stay, so he lived for the next five years in a hotel behind a bar until the night he fell and broke his hip. He came to City Mission in August of 2018 and then moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House that October. “This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ. And you’re just a walking shell unless you have a relationship with Christ. Mind, body, and spirit -- they all three mesh together.” “City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” he added. “Knowing that I could be of service is important to me. I just want to do something positive, effect positive change, and I know I’ve made positive contributions here.” “At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. Perhaps it’s from our military experience. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.” “Thanks for saving my life,” he said to all the staff at City Mission. “For giving me a new lease on life.”