With nowhere to go but The Salvation Army, Tracy Hughes makes the most of his recovery.
My mother and father were divorced when I was very young. I was raised by my mother. Life was normal until the age of 12, when my mother started using drugs. She became more concerned with supporting her addiction than paying the rent, utilities and buying food. I too started using drugs at the age of 13.
Shortly after, my mother was sentenced to multiple years in a women’s state prison as the result of her drug use. I was sent to live with my father, who had never been a part of my life. My main concern was getting friends, and the first group to accept me was the party crowd. Over the next few years I went to a lot of parties and for a while, it seemed fun. However, my addiction progressed rapidly.
At the age of 21, I relapsed out of two inpatient treatment programs. My life had become completely unmanageable due to drugs and alcohol. I was no longer able to provide myself with food, clothing and shelter. I was living on the streets, sleeping on park benches and in stairwells and only eating by the grace of the local shelter that provided breakfast and lunch to the homeless.
At 29, I was living at a park in Pasadena. I lived there for several years, having given up on recovery. I accepted the fact that I would never get off the streets. I had lost all hope.
As winter was approaching, I checked into the Pasadena Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), not for recovery, but to get out of the cold. About two months after my arrival I became upset with some staff decisions and announced I would be leaving the program. I stormed up to my room and began to pack my things.
Then God gave me a moment of clarity. I realized as I was packing that I had nowhere to go. I had always been apprehensive about turning my will and life over to the care of God as I was not sure what he was going to do with me. What I wanted was to see God’s plan for my life so I could make changes and suggestions as appropriate. But now I had reached the end. Even though I did not know what would happen if I stayed, I knew that if I left I would likely never return from a life of homelessness and addiction. I got on my knees and told God that it no longer mattered what he did with my life as it could not be any worse than what I had done with it.
With this surrender, I stayed at the ARC and completed the six-month program in April 1995. The well-rounded program of worship, work therapy, addiction therapy, counseling, fellowship, and the 12 steps prepared me for a life outside of treatment.
As I accumulated time sober, God’s plan for my life began to unfold. After a year, I met the woman who would become my wife. In April 2014, we will celebrate our 15-year wedding anniversary. A few years into our marriage, we bought a house.
At five years sober I enrolled in college, and for the next five years I went to work during the day and school at night to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
While in college I thought about attending law school. But, I thought that there must be something that prevents people like me from becoming a lawyer. I did some research but found no obstacles. I prayed that I would do the footwork and leave the results to him, and the doors opened.
For the next four years I worked during the day and went to law school in the evening. I graduated magna cum laude, passed the State Bar of California exam on my first attempt, and was sworn in to practice law.
Of course, I am grateful to God for allowing me to have such a wonderful career, but I know that my purpose in life is much more than being an attorney. My life today is dedicated to building my relationship with Jesus Christ, a major part of which is giving back to The Salvation Army.
I made a commitment several years ago at the Pasadena ARC to lead a group each Wednesday night that introduces the new beneficiaries to the 12 steps. In addition, another gentleman and I give a weekend 12-step seminar two times each year at the ARC. And aat any given time I sponsor two to three men.
Besides my work with The Salvation Army, I participate in a jail ministry called PRISM. One or two times each month my wife and I lead a Sunday church service for one of the units at the Twin Towers Los Angeles County jail facility.
On that day at the ARC when I finally turned my will and my life over to the care of God, if I had written down the life I wanted in 19 years, I would not have even come close to the life I have today. I guess that is why God did not give me a plan or proposal for my review. He knew that his will for me was greater than anything I could have imagined.
This story was originally featured in Caring Magazine, a publication of The Salvation Army Western Territory that aims to educate and empower readers to care about issues of social concern and to bring definition to The Salvation Army’s mission of “Doing the Most Good.” Learn more at http://www.caringmagazine.org/. Story contributed by Tracy Hughes.