What does it take to make a fresh start? On the surface, that’s a loaded, million dollar question. When I think about the way it was for me, I think, “Well, what doesn’t it take”? It seems like people kept me afloat/enabled me my entire life so that I could live life on my own terms. So, what does it take? Sobriety? Job? Home? Car? Education? Clothes? Debts paid? Custody back? Counseling? Mentoring? How many external factors need to be in place before a person can say he/she is ready for a fresh start? The more I thought about this question, the more simple the answer became. The fresh start began the moment that I became willing to end. What does that mean? It means that I couldn’t accept that a fresh start was needed until I accepted that my way wasn’t working; that there was even a problem.
I’m not a stupid person or a careless person or a mean person. And, yet, I cycled through the criminal justice system for over 20 years, destroyed relationships, failed to find any true meaning or purpose in my life, and contributed the bare minimum to society as a whole. That was life on MY terms. A few years ago, those terms brought me to a crossroads. As the movie line says, “Get busy livin,’ or get busy dyin’”. Having made the decision that life on my terms was no longer working, I took the action to begin learning how to live life on life’s terms. That process is an inside job. It’s a spiritual job, and it is not about external stuff. Until what was going on with me inside got sorted out (which is a lifelong process), no amount of external stuff was going to fix me. Addiction had placed me well beyond human aid, so how could I ever expect human aid to save me? Nonsense. What I needed was a miracle.
The good news is that the age of miracles is still with us! Any client who comes to Doors of Hope/Project Braveheart with the acceptance that life on their own terms is no longer working; that they need help learning how to live life on life’s terms; is a miracle. Doors of Hope and Project Braveheart can work with that. Each individual’s circumstances are different and challenging and complicated and absolutely solvable when the client is ready to learn and try to do things differently than they have ever done. Doors of Hope and Project Braveheart provide that education and mentoring and accountability and resource linkage that bring about the external securities that find a person like myself who had nearly lost all living in recovery and freedom. I have the sobriety, the job, the home, the clothes, the education, the custody, the debts paid in full; I have the stuff. But, the neat thing is that if I were to lose it all tomorrow and be forced to make a new fresh start, I would be able to do it because all is well with my soul. Another neat thing is, while it takes surrender to find recovery and freedom, recovery and freedom can never be taken away unless they are surrendered.
What does it take to make a fresh start? It takes a miracle. That’s all. We are.
As we work with men from Project Braveheart after release, we find three consistent priorities are top of mind for most of them: housing, employment, and transportation. And we encourage them to add a fourth that they don’t often anticipate… relationships.
Some Braveheart graduates literally have nowhere to live when they’re released, and are in desperate need of shelter. Others have family or friends of some sort to live with, but they’ve come to realize in these environments they’re likely to return to the patterns that landed them in jail. They’ve realized that “if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they’ll keep getting what they’ve been getting,” so they need someplace to make a fresh start. One option we’ve been fortunate to provide is our new temporary housing above the Doors of Hope office. We’ve found that the shelter provided is really a vehicle to help them with structure, discipline and accountability. Life Program Director, Michael Jordan, meets with these men regularly to help them set goals and align them with resources.
One important lesson they learn from Michael is that their first job is to find a job. They’re directed to resources like Goodwill Career Center and The Journey home to prepare resumes and find leads on jobs. They’re expected to make their job search a full time job — even riding the Rover and cold-calling businesses along the route. Since most of them have a revoked drivers license due to their charges, they have to rely on alternate forms of transportation until they’ve been able to earn enough money to pay back heavy fines.
If all of this sounds very difficult, it is — especially when prospective employers learn of their history. They hear “no” an awful lot. And that’s where relationships become so important. Whether they’re in our housing program or not, these men all need relationships to give them support, encourage them and hold them accountable. Many of them meet in our Thursday night small groups, stay in contact with their mentors, plug into groups like Celebrate Recovery and find church homes. Many of our most successful graduates cite this as the key to their success — filling their schedules with activities that involve solid relationships with people who care.