New Life Posts

The transformative process of Work Therapy at Denver Rescue Mission

Oct. 10, 2008 is the date I graduated from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

This date is important to me because it is the anniversary of my new life, freedom, and happiness. The anniversary of my sobriety is June of 2007 which is also when I joined the New Life Program. It is meaningful, but not nearly as important to me. I feel that rehab wasn’t the start of anything; it was more like the end of a nightmare. Before entering the New Life Program at Harvest Farm I had been in two other “sober living programs.” The first program I attended was 60 days long and consisted of a lot of group therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous and DUI classes, (I attended this specific program twice, so I guess you could say I was in 3 programs.) The second program focused on mental health disorders and how they affect addiction. I don’t think these programs were inconsequential, but they definitely did not give me what I needed to change my life. What I did need to help change my life was a realization that I could change it, for the better.

When a person gets used to doing the same thing (good or bad) every day it is very hard to get out of that cycle. It’s like that job that you hate but you keep going to because you’re afraid to quit because you don’t know how to do anything else. Being an addict is a job in itself, except you lose money. It takes all of your time, burns you out, makes you angry, and ruins your relationships.  I came to Harvest Farm needing something to replace the monotonous, destructive, disastrous work that my addiction had become and work is exactly what I got.

Josh Dickinson

Starting my journey to sobriety back in 2008 at Harvest Farm’s New Life Program.

Work Therapy was one of the highlights of my time at Harvest Farm and every day I see it change the mentality of the men who come into the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. After getting sober at Harvest Farm, I was actually hired as the Work Therapy Supervisor. In this role, I am charged with figuring out how the men who are assigned to work with me can be utilized to benefit their program and Harvest Farm. Every man has different skills; some have been doing the same job every day for 25 years and don’t know that life is not about work, others have barely lifted a finger to do anything and they don’t know that work can be fun. It’s incredible to work alongside such a diverse group of guys trying to change their lives for the better.

Me (back row second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm

Me (back row; second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm.

At Denver Rescue Mission, our goal is to help New Life Program participants understand that becoming a productive, self-sufficient person can be enjoyable. The program provides education, life skills training, and spiritual and emotional counseling, which sets a strong foundation for a self-sufficient life.

Even after graduation, many New Life Program graduates participate in our Post-Graduate Program, which provides further mentoring, accountability, counseling, and financial assistance. Graduates also mentor others, as well as volunteer for the Mission. Just like me – these graduates get a chance to inspire other men and help them towards sobriety.

October 10 has come and gone and I celebrated eight years of being a New Life Program graduate. I’m proud to say that life doesn’t feel like “work” any more.

The Best Reflection // Lisa’s Story

(Posted in the Changing Lives Newsletter – May 2013)

Lisa was always good at making money. It seemed that everything she tried, she did well. She succeeded effortlessly and made a comfortable living by the young age of 17. She met her husband at work, fell in love and got married.

But after her wedding, Lisa worried about her appearance. She restricted food and overexercised to lose weight. Four years after giving birth to her two daughters, her marriage fell apart and her relationship with food took another turn. She began purging everything she ate. Eventually, the habit took control over her entire life. “It’s an addiction like anything else. When I was done with all my obligations for the day, I would turn on the TV, sit and eat, binging and purging until I went to sleep at night,” says Lisa.

Her health was failing as well as her relationships with those around her. After spending most of her fortune on expensive houses, vehicles and vacations, her savings account dwindled. “At that time, I was running my own mortgage company. Though I was doing really well, I was spending over $100 a day on food. I was a workaholic, negating my responsibilities as a parent,” says Lisa. Her eating disorder became so severe that she couldn’t think straight and could barely work. In 2006, she weighed 80 pounds and was waiting to die.

Lisa’s daughters, then in high school, wanted nothing to do with her. For the next three years she was in and out of treatment facilities and hospitals. There were months when Lisa would be in a facility and her daughters lived alone in her small, rented apartment.    “I have so many letters from doctors saying that I wasn’t going to make it. My heart was failing,” says Lisa. Her only thoughts revolved around food and her daughters.

Finally, out of money, with no way to pay the next month’s rent or to afford her eating habits, Lisa sought help. She heard about the STAR Transitional Program offered at The Crossing. She had three weeks until her rent was due. In May 2012, she went to The Crossing and was put on a waiting list. Just days before facing eviction, she was able to move in.

“I was so scared and nervous. I came here wanting to maintain my lifestyle. I couldn’t imagine a day without binging and purging, but I had no other place to go,” says Lisa. She did try to keep her old habits. But one of the requirements of the program is that each participant meet with a counselor. Loyce, a volunteer counselor at the Mission, began meeting with Lisa each week. “I met Loyce and loved her. She is an amazing mentor. She prayed for me, and one morning I woke up and decided, ‘I’m not doing this anymore.’ All of her prayers were heard,” says Lisa.

By August 2012, Lisa had stopped binging and purging and felt free from that burden for the first time in 15 years: “The Crossing played a bigger role in that than anybody did. It was the community, as well as the support that I had from the staff…there were people I was able to reach out to. The Crossing made me realize what life is all about.”

Lisa’s biggest loss in the last 15 years was her relationship with her daughters. They moved out, started college and became young women. It crushed her that she wasn’t a part of their lives. But as she continued to grow and heal, they saw changes in her. In October 2012 Lisa met with her oldest daughter, Arielle, for lunch. At the end of that meal Arielle looked at Lisa with tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, I see hope.” Lisa felt it, too.

Now, she sees her daughters twice a month when they visit her at The Crossing: “The fact that I have this relationship with my daughters—I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s like heaven on earth. And it just keeps getting better. This is what community does. It’s so powerful,” says Lisa.

In five years, Lisa sees herself closer than ever with her daughters. She sees herself healthy, living in community, having a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Missions, and working with children. “Getting my degree has nothing to do with money. I want a simple life and I want to teach children,” says Lisa. The Crossing provides the opportunity for STAR participants to earn a degree on-line through City Vision College. Lisa plans to take advantage of this program and start classes in the next few months!

For now, she’s volunteering at a children’s center every week, feeling more fulfilled than ever before: “Through it all, my whole life, I never felt like God left my side. If there is something going on beyond my control, I let go and let God. Whenever I’ve prayed, I’ve always gotten an answer.”

Lisa spends time volunteering at Colorado Miners, a community center for at-risk youth.

To post a note of encouragement for Lisa on the Mission’s Facebook page, visit Facebook.com/DenverRescue.