In this story, Greg M, a program graduate, shares his past of addiction and hurt, and how God has transformed him to the person he is today.
Kate Wadsworth:0:00Hi, I'm Kate Wadsworth. Welcome to light of life rescue missions podcast. Hope unveiled where you hear stories of hope and change from clients, staff, and volunteers today. You'll be hearing from program graduate Greg M.
Kate Wadsworth:0:18All right, so Greg, thanks for being here. We are doing this podcast to kind of share the hope that people find through their time here at light of life and I know that you have a story that has resulted in great hope for you. And so I thought we would start by kind of taking people through with a history of what brought you here and your experience and where you are now. So why don't we start with, um, you know, growing up, what was it like for you, what was your family like? Tell us a little bit about your growing up experience.
Greg M:0:57Sure. Growing up, I grew up on the east end of the city here in the Bloomfield neighborhood. I'm one of three to my mother and my father. That was his first marriage. My father went on to get married twice after my mom had four more children, so he wasn't present, were very much at all in my childhood. In two of those siblings I've never even met. So they before I can remember, they were divorced at an early age. We moved in with my maternal grandparents and there was just a whole slew of people and my aunts and uncles on my mother's side, when their marriages fall apart, they all moved into the same house. So there are upwards of a dozen people living in a two bedroom house at any given time. And you know, growing up really, career choices really weren't identified and pushed. It was more about how we're going to survive and what you're going to do and it was very much, you know, it's my story, but there was lots of chemical use and abuse in that household with drugs and alcohol. So it was predicated on what you're going to get no matter how you got to get it, no matter who gets hurt. And often we hurt each other. So it really wasn't, uh, conducive to a healthy environment. And growing up the kids in there, but we weren't even allowed to come to the house. So you know that if you want it to meet up, you had to go somewhere else. By the time I got to high school I was so introverted and beaten down that I really didn't have any social skills. I didn't know how to communicate and that was difficult and I ended up going to an all boys Catholic high school and you know, have walked back and forth. And in order to pay that bill, I had to work after school just to get through. So for an addition to my studies, I was working a couple of hours after school to, to pay that tuition. So early on it was, you know, ingrained in me that, no that's not what I wanted to do what I obviously want to a different way. All of those issues are not what caused me to have issues. I made the choices that, that got broken down to, to the point where I needed to come to light a life.
Kate Wadsworth:3:04So you grew up in a home with a lot of people. A lot of chaos around you and you just knowing you, Greg, you're, you are kind of introverted. So that kind of created more of an introverted way of living and you went to Catholic school.
Greg M:3:18I went to Catholic grade school, high school and college
Kate Wadsworth:3:21and in order to afford that you worked at afterschool and you paid your own way through high school. Graduated. And then, and
Greg M:3:29I'm sorry. And I know I started working at the parish that I went to. Grade School has 12 or 13 years old when I was working there, like in a dollar 50 an hour. But you know, I started young. I know, been working as long as I can remember in some capacity
Kate Wadsworth:3:45What happened after high school?
Greg M:3:47After high school, you know? Uh, I really, uh, as far as my substance abuse issues, I didn't really do too much. I, I really isolated and I learned how to isolate. Well in high school I didn't do anything. I achieved high honors status, but I couldn't be part of the national honor society because I didn't do any extra curricular activities. I went to school when I went home and that was it. So I learned how to isolate well even without putting any chemicals or may have to isolate and people that I went to grade school was that run into them in the summer occasionally and I know, where have you been? I was like, Oh, I'm studying this and we haven't seen you in 2 years whenever you're not studying at all the time. So that's what I did. Well, and then, um, I only applied to one school out of high school. I applied to Duquesne University and that got accepted early admission and that's where I went and I stayed at home and lived at home. Um, by that time my mom had gotten us out of that environment at my grandparents house probably my junior year of high school. We moved to our own house, my mom, brother, sister, myself. So I was out of that environment, but a lot of that came with us all that baggage with us. But in any case, I went to Duquesne University and by the time I turned 21 now I felt entitled I had a huge sense of a tunnel man. I saw everybody else in my family what they were doing and I said oh, 21, I need to go to a bar. So I started going to a local bar and eventually I spent all my time at the bar and I dropped out of school. Um, and at one point I started working at that same bar. I ended up, uh, being a fry cook there even though I couldn't boil water, but I ended up cooking it in a bar and I spent all my time in that and that in that bar, which was just a few blocks from home. Um, I would like to say on a positive note, eventually when I got settled down, I went back to school and finished my bachelor's degree. But there was a long period in between. So that was, that was the beginning of my demise, so to speak. And every bad choices from the age of 21 until I got to light of life, which was April 15, 2016, while I was really a rollercoaster, mostly down. There weren't very many ups.
Greg M:5:55So you had your first drink when you turn 20?
Kate Wadsworth:5:58I actually had my first drink when I was about nine years old with two older cousins. My brother wouldn't let us hang around him, but one of those cousins has 31 years clean. The other one is dad as a direct result of this disease. So that's, and I didn't like it at nine years old. Not much drinking went on from there. But when I turned 21 that that's whenever it really started.
Kate Wadsworth:6:23Can you tell us a little bit more about, um, you know, what, what it felt like in the midst of your addiction when you were at the bar, when you dropped out of school or your feelings, what were your thoughts? What was that experience like for you?
Greg M:6:37Well, part of what kept me sick that long is it felt good. It's just sad to say it felt. I felt wanted. I felt needed. Even though those people that claimed to be your friends end up being, you know, there's some use for you and that's not a friendship, but I felt kind of like I've arrived. I get was loosened up when I got into that situation. The more I drank, the more loose and the more outgoing I got, the more I felt like I was being accepted. Although it was an environment I now know that I don't want to be accepted in and I'm not part of that anymore, but it actually made me feel good and I and every, no matter what I had to do to get to that bar, I made sure I had resources to get there and that's where I felt most at home and thought I had arrived, so to speak. And you know, I actually met my ex wife and that same same bar some years past, like that's where I met the lady that I was actually married in that same bar that I went to when I turned 21.
Kate Wadsworth:7:30Um, so you said that it was a roller coaster, um, ups and downs during that time. What would you say was kind of your low point, the point that brought you to the decision to make a change?
Greg M:7:41The very low point. They didn't come for several years. I was at a point where siblings no longer when he would have talked to me, they weren't. I wasn't even allowed in my sister's house anymore. I lived with her for a while before I came to light a life and eventually, you know, my nephew who was eight or nine was saying that that behavior and she said, mom, we lived that way. He's not going to, you have to leave. And I bounced from one place to another and on several occasions I reached out to my ex wife or for help and financially she would bail me out and there just came a point where I was losing another appointment. It was, uh, March. I quit a job because they told me my. My performance wasn't up to standard, which it wasn't, but I took offense at all show that much. So I quit. It was about a month later or a called call for help and the help that I was seeking was financial, but um, and I thank God for this. My wife finally said, my ex wife said, I'm going to help you, but it's not financially, I'm not paying your rent. You go find a rehab and I'll take you there wherever you want to go. And I didn't even have the foresight to look. She found why do I have for me and said, why don't you go to light of life? It's a residential program. You don't have anywhere else to go apart. Mentioned not coming to my house for siblings, don't let any, don't have any money. So I called, it was a Wednesday, which would have been April 13th and I, and then I came over and filled out the application and I found out that day, the day after that I was accepted into the program, but I still wasn't ready. I said, I need another day. And I stayed out there doing my thing and I showed up on Friday, April 15th, 2016 thinking that I was prepared to surrender and turn over a new leaf and starting a new life. But the day that morning after I woke up down in the basement as we do when we come here in that phase of the program and I said, what in the world am I doing here? And I promptly called my ex wife and said, you gotta come and get me. She said, don't say it. You're about to say you're not one of those people you, you're, you are, and you're exactly where you need to be. And I looked around and said, yeah, she's right. I need exactly. This is exactly where I needed to be in the moment that I surrendered and said, I don't want to live this way anymore and I don't have to. And I made that decision to start taking suggestions. Never thought it was going to be from my ex wife, but I started right then and stuck it out here and ended up spending the greater part of 15 months here in there in the longterm program.
Kate Wadsworth:10:05So you find yourself homeless.
Greg M:10:06I was homeless and I had $1 to my name when I came in here and if I could have got access to that and spent that I would have. I just couldn't get it out of the bank.
Kate Wadsworth:10:15And how long were you actively using? So from 21. How many years until you came here?
Greg M:10:2220. Almost 25. Twenty five years. It was two weeks before my 46th birthday that I came here.
Kate Wadsworth:10:30And so that whole time you were drinking?
Greg M:10:33Drinking off and on. Substantial drinking, and there are always other chemicals that went along with it. And those are the ones you know. I always said that the alcohol broke my spirit, but the other chemicals broke my bank account and all that and everything else.
Kate Wadsworth:10:49And so you find yourself in the shelter, which is an our downstairs where people coming into the longterm program first started out thinking, I'm not one of these people, what am I doing here? But after talking to your ex wife recognized, kind of had that clarity and recognize this is where I need to be to get the help.
Greg M:11:08Right. And from that moment on, I knew that it had to be a complete transformation. It couldn't be a reformation because I've ended up back in the same boat. I had to change every little thing. So I eventually, when I left, which is a little way down the line, I walked out here and not thinking the same way, not acting the same way and not feeling the same way. And the sense of entitlement is completely gone. And was grateful for everything that the light of life afforded me. And you know, I realized that, you know, that's also not the end of the journey has to continue. Whether it's this program or any program you don't stop, You keep going and you do more, if anything.
Kate Wadsworth:11:42So what were the first couple of weeks like for you here?
Greg M:11:45First couple of weeks are quite chaotic mostly. I mean, I can't say that I was really detoxing, so to speak, but I know it wasn't feeling great from, from the long runs that I was, was on, and just getting used to the people. Um, I try and focus on yourself. I, at that point I wasn't accepting anything about me that I had to work when I was looking to point fingers or this guy's doing this and that guy's doing this and it's going to cause me to feel this way instead of focusing on why I'm feeling that way and what I needed to do to find it to happen. Which eventually through all the great, you know, care team that, that they have here at a life focus focuses put back on herself and that's where it needs to be. So first, those first two weeks I was just walking around, not happy, grumbling, angry, still thinking occasionally that I didn't belong there and that if I only got a job that I would be okay. But that quickly went by the wayside and I realized as long as I focus on me everything and then some that I would ever need would be taken care of here. And first and foremost, and it's not just a slogan, Christ is the answer and I I needed to realize that I had strayed long ago and I had always blamed God, Christ, that saying, well, you abandoned me, but I, it was God's footsteps in the sand when I thought I was walking on carrying me the whole time and I needed to accept that and get back to focus on getting God in my life.
Kate Wadsworth:13:08How did that happen here? What? What was part of that process for you?
Greg M:13:11Part of the process happened just right across the street. Just a suggestion saying, you know, if it's a nondenominational institution, if you, if you want to have God in your life and you need them, you need to do something about it. You can't just say, I want to have God in my life. There are many opportunities to go and there are many, many of the staff are, all of the staff actually have Christ in their life and then there's no other way around it. And realizing that, you know, I didn't need to go back to Catholicism in order to get thought in my life, which I'm not saying that's good or bad thing. It could have gone that way. That's just not the way that it went. And I, I realized that if I was fighting Catholicism or a thing that didn't work for me, that there, hey, there's a, right across the street, there's another option. And I started going over there with one of the, uh, the former clients here. He took me under his wing, so to speak, and Brockville there until I got comfortable. I was still at a point where I wasn't going to branch out on my own. I wasn't ready to be independent. They know how to be independent. So I kind of latched on to some of the guys that went to the Allegheny Center Alliance Church and I got more and more comfortable and realize, wow, let's. This is the word. It's not the pastors were, this is the word that I need to focus on it.
Kate Wadsworth:14:25So you found a church community where you really got to connect with the word of God?
Kate Wadsworth:14:30And that transformed.
Greg M:14:30It was a complete trend from that moment forward. I've never looked back and no matter how many meetings or how many programs are without, it's not one spiritual part. The whole program of recovery needs of these spiritual. So in my opinion, I don't get anywhere and I couldn't get anywhere without having God back to my mind.
Kate Wadsworth:14:48So you found Christ at light of life again?
Kate Wadsworth:14:52And could you share a little bit about some of the things that you learned in the program, like a light of life's longterm program through the classes or through your time with other clients or staff members? What are some of the key lessons that you learned?
Greg M:15:05First and foremost, I learned to humility. I've learned that no guy walking in or out of that door. I'm not any better than any of them. Well, not any more or less than them, but I'm definitely not any better than any person walking in and out of that door. They all have a circumstance and not definitely not any better. I also learned that I'm worthy of change for myself. I didn't need to change through this program. I learned I have to change from my brother, sister and my ex wife, my deceased parents. I, I was worthy and it was worth changing for myself and I didn't need to change for anybody else. And at that point I started looking in the mirror and seeing the person that God has always seen and like in the image that was reflecting back. I also learned that, you know, in this program I didn't get sick or didn't make all those decisions overnight and I wasn't going to get well overnight, no matter after a month in my fault, while I needed to stay put, you know, and, and continue to grow and they're in there honestly, was a time where I had a chance to, to, to work and my care team leader said, you might want to think that through. You might think you're ready, but I'm telling you, please think it through and I thought about it and realize I needed to be here and I stayed here. And that's some of the things that we learned here is that I needed to remove the log from my own eye before I can look at the splinter of another fellow person, whether they're in a program or not, and look at their splinter, have enough things to focus on myself, and if I get moved, moved that log, I may be able to help the person with that as that's the most splinter.
Kate Wadsworth:16:33Yeah. I think it's interesting that you mentioned a few times about wanting, like thinking of I should need to get back to work. Everything will be fine. And I see that a lot with guys in the program. Um, it's just easy once you start feeling better thinking that that's the solution, but you showed the wisdom to stick it out and really continue to do that deep work for life transformation before going out to a job. And that's not always easy. So very commendable that you decided to do that.
Greg M:16:59Thank you. And then I've been working since January 24th, 2017 and have not called off one day from any of the jobs that I've worked. I've not been late and I've not left early. And that's quite a, quite a transformation for myself.
Greg M:17:12That's awesome.
Kate Wadsworth:17:12I have a responsibility not only to the, to the employer, but to the employees that are working with as it's not all about me.
Kate Wadsworth:17:20So, um, is there any special memories or anything that really stands out, like a specific interaction or memory or experience that you had that you'd want to share?
Greg M:17:30There's a lot of them, but in general, just the fact that, you know, we're afforded the opportunity to do a great many things on it outside of the building. Whether you know, we, they take take it to a game ball games, but it's about being open minded is you're taught to be openminded here. You know, you may not, you may not think you like to golf, you may not think you like that. But it's about being with the brother and in there and about being together and outside and learning how to enjoy life again without those chemicals, not just existing.
Kate Wadsworth:17:59Well, what was one of your favorite trips?
Greg M:18:02Oh, my favorite trip was to the sights and sounds, the, we saw Sampson and Lancaster and then onto the New Jersey. And saw Jerell a part, of the presentation there.
Kate Wadsworth:18:13Yeah. That was quite a trip. That's awesome. Yeah. I love that about this organization is that um, it's kind of experiential. It's not just about teaching the facts, but it's also like learning how to have fun again, like you're saying, and learning how to have hobbies and do fun, exciting things without using chemicals to do them.
Greg M:18:33And also as well as far as the staff goes, it's all done in a loving. Yeah matter. Nobody dictates to you this is what you need to do and you've done this and they don't bring up your past. They want to work on your future, on what's the comment there? They're very loving and caring and if any concern you have will be dealt with, if you don't say it can't be dealt with, so you need to focus on bringing up anything that you're dealing with the staff. If not your, your care team leader. Don't find somebody that can address whatever issue you're having.
Kate Wadsworth:19:01So what are you up to today?
Greg M:19:03Today, mostly I'm working and thanks to light of life I'm, I've found a new female friend and I was able to be open and honest, trust, trustworthy with uh, you know, right from the beginning. And I know those are the traits that I didn't have coming into the doors here at that, that friendship was, is predicated on truthfulness, honesty, and respect. Thanks to the things that are instilled in me at light of life.
Kate Wadsworth:19:28So you're working a full time job,
Greg M:19:30Working full time job.
Kate Wadsworth:19:31you're in a healthy relationship with a woman, um, in a way that you haven't had that type of relationship prior. Right? Um, how about your living situation?
Greg M:19:41Living Situation, I'm living still on the north side and I've had a couple of opportunities to to bring in some fellows that that we're trying to positioning and unfortunately those didn't work out, but that doesn't stop me from working with other people that they decided that that maybe wasn't the best environment for them, so they moved on and I'm still there. I'm living alone. I was living in a two bedroom apartment and that's central on the north side and you'll find me here, just about every Thursday. I come down to the community meeting that they have here, the mandatory meeting and I facilitate that meeting, so just about every Thursday and I owe it to those guys to give them that opportunity that was presented to me here and I owe it to myself. It helps me more than it helps them. I don't convey that often enough, but it helps me being here on every, every Thursday for that meeting. It's not as much more than it helps the clients that are here
Kate Wadsworth:20:34And it's a 12 step meeting?
Greg M:20:35It's 12 step.
Kate Wadsworth:20:37That's awesome to be able to give back and to really show an example of someone who has made choices to work the program, um, and see that your life is in a completely different place than it was before you came here. It's such a great example for the guys that you're interacting with in these meetings too. So I think it sounds like a great give and take on both ends.
Greg M:21:00Definitely. Whether there's one client there or no clients. So, um, some other guys from outside of this place that we're going to continue to. I know I'm going to continue to come here as long as I'm afforded the opportunity.
Kate Wadsworth:21:12Well, we love having you involved. Greg, is there anything that you would like to say? Anything that you didn't get a chance to share that you would like to say to people who are listening?
Greg M:21:19I would just like to say if there's anybody that's struggling and the indecisive about what, what, what, uh, what steps you need to take to get your life back on. You have to take the first step and make the choice that you do want help. People aren't going to want to help you if you don't want to help yourself, so you need to decide that you want help and that's out there and don't be afraid.
Kate Wadsworth:21:39Yeah, that's excellent advice. Well, Greg, thank you so much for um, being on our podcast today. It's so good to connect with you and to hear your story and you can just see God's fingerprints all over your life having brought you from an introverted childhood that led to eventually having a long term addiction to this place where you're thriving, working full time, in a healthy relationship, living on your own, giving back to the community here at light of life. It's just a great example, well of how God can really transform someone's heart from insight to impact the world from now on you so much for all that you do and for the inspiration and hope that you share just in living your everyday life.
Greg M:22:23Thank you. It's been a pleasure and it's always a pleasure to be back at light of life.
Kate Wadsworth:22:31Thanks for listening to Light of Life Rescue Mission's Podcast: Hope Unveiled. We hope you join us next time for another story of hope and change.