Jesse came from a broken home. His parents’ constant fighting filled his childhood with feelings of fear, depression and anger. Turning to drugs in high school to alleviate the pain, Jesse started down a road that not only cost him his possessions, his home and what was left of his family ties – it robbed him of his freedom.
“It’s hard for me to grasp how I was back then because God has changed my life so much. Even the way I think isn’t the same anymore,” says Jesse, a recent graduate of our recovery program.
He was just 19 years old when he found himself homeless in Phoenix, standing outside the gates of a government-run shelter downtown.
“That place was filled with the mentally ill, violent criminals, sex offenders and the addicted,” remembers Jesse. “It was unnerving at first walking through those gates, but because of the numbing effects the drugs had on me, I soon adapted. In fact, my addiction flourished so well there that it eventually became too much for the shelter to handle. So I left and took up residence for the next year under a bridge in southeast Phoenix.”
But the craving wouldn’t let him sit still. Each day would be spent looking for places he could shoplift, finding those who would buy the goods he stole and visiting the dealers who would help him feed his expensive habit.
“I was a lifeless machine driven by nothing but desire. It was exhausting but I couldn’t stop. Each night I gazed with dead eyes at the star-filled sky, listening to the cars pass and wondering if I was destined to do this forever. The hopelessness I felt was overwhelming.”
Over the next few years, Jesse spent time in and out of jail on shoplifting charges, eventually landing in prison. But through it all, Jesse’s addiction survived. As soon as he was released, the vicious cycle continued.
That is, until he had a run in with one of our graduates.
“I traveled to a detox center in east Phoenix and checked in for the night. Right before I was getting ready to leave, a woman who worked there pulled me into her office. She told me about how she had been an addict and the brokenness she had experienced. It freaked me out to hear how similar our stories seemed and how her words seemed to describe the pain and longing in my heart perfectly. She had been through the women’s program at the
Changing Lives Center where God had touched her life and changed it forever. I wanted that.”
The next day Jesse went to see his probation officer to ask her for help – she sent him to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“I found a friendship and fellowship here that I had never experienced before… a fellowship motivated by love instead of manipulation. I knew I belonged here.”
That was one year ago. Today, Jesse is a brand new man. He’s completed our recovery program, has become a servant leader through our Servant Leadership Training program and is currently working part-time as the assistant to our Vocational Development Manager Rhonda Blake.
“Being able to use my skills and talents to help others find employment has been a real blessing to me,” he says.
The future is looking brighter than ever for Jesse. Recently, after a tour of our center, Grand Canyon University offered to provide one of our graduates with a full college scholarship. Jesse submitted a six-page, single-spaced essay describing his story and his hopes for the future and was chosen to receive $25,000 toward the major of his choosing! He’s set to move into GCU dorms on August 25th!
He plans on majoring in counseling with a minor in Christian studies with the goal of becoming an addictions counselor.