Jeff’s life path could not have been further from his original plans. How did a young Catholic boy from Bethlehem, PA, find himself in a recovery program in downtown Philadelphia?
As the youngest of four boys, Jeff was always close to his mother while his three older brothers were dedicated to his father. His father was a “hardnosed steel-worker” and a deacon in the Catholic Church. Jeff’s mother was also deeply invested in the church. Jeff takes after his mother with his “helper” personality.
At the age of eighteen, Jeff decided to drop out of high school and miss his senior year. Despite many social stereotypes, he held a job while attending night classes and was able to receive his GED within the year.
Even as a high school dropout, Jeff had a plan: get a GED, join the Marines, eventually become a police officer. His dreams were derailed when, in the Marines, Jeff hurt his knee and was given an Honorable Discharge. With his dream of the Police Academy dashed, Jeff became dependent on prescription drugs.
In his mid-twenties while working as a freelance car detailer, Jeff’s father became very sick. He had a heart attack and, after months of living in the hospital, received a heart transplant. With a tear in the corner of his eye, Jeff remembers that “people used to say that he had too much love and needed another [heart] to hold it.”
In the last months of his father’s life, Jeff became close with him like never before. They began spending time together and Jeff finally felt like he “knew” his father. Just when their relationship was looking up, his father’s health deteriorated. The timing was too much for Jeff; he descended into depression. “I had a lot of anger: ‘How could God take such a good man?’”
This anger led Jeff to pursue more prescription drugs. In order to support his habit, Jeff committed multiple retail thefts. Finally, Jeff was caught and spent twenty-three months in jail. In January of 2014, Jeff had survived withdrawal and had been clean for almost two years. Upon his release, his mother offered to let him move back home but Jeff refused, saying, “That much comfort would lead to old habits.”
Jeff’s mother did a little research and contacted Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. After talking on the phone with a chaplain for over an hour, Jeff’s mother was determined that this was the right place for her son. She set it up and Jeff dutifully went.
Over the years, Jeff had been involved with other programs. In those programs Jeff remembers how the leaders talked about caring for those in the program but he never saw that in action.
On the other side of the coin, at Sunday Breakfast Jeff sees that the staff and chaplains care for him because of the way they act. They listen to him and he knows that they will run to help if he needed it. “When you put the time in, then they [the chaplains] are not afraid of investing in you.”
Moving through the Program quickly, Jeff began the off-site employment stage of his recovery a full month earlier than average. Jeff works at the BeeHive Thrift store in North East Philadelphia as a Truck Driver and Furniture Mover. Ellen, the store manager, only accepts the best and most responsible of the Program. Ellen believes Jeff is “well-informed with a congenial personality.”
The biggest lesson Jeff has learned in the program is to value himself. His mother was always willing to help him because she loved him. Now he is able to help himself because he learned that he is worthy of help.