Mark will be the first to tell you that he used to think he was the reason he is still alive, but now Mark says, "I know that God has had His hand over me; He's not done with me, yet!" He is quick to also credit SAMMinistries and their amazing donors and volunteers for giving him a purpose in life. "If it weren't for the donors, I wouldn't be working for SAMMinistries and I wouldn't have a purpose in life."
Mark's journey started as a young boy in Michigan. When they married, his mother and father each had 5 children from previous marriages. They then had Mark, making him the 11th child out of 12. Not wanting to dwell on the past, Mark did share that he started drinking alcohol at 12 years of age to "deal with things that had happened".
After his father retired, the family moved to live year round in an area of Michigan that is best known as a summertime playground. Affluent families would fill the houses on the shores of the lake that would remain empty most of the year and bring their own 'party supplies' with them to the beach. They were more than willing to share their drugs with the local teenaged boy. Soon Mark was hooked and his life forever changed.
He had once been a student-athlete, but now he needed the time he spent in school to get money to support his growing habit. He earned his GED, quit school, made new friends and spent his time using drugs and finding money for drugs, any way possible.
Soon he started having run-ins with the law. Since his parents had split up, Mark went back and forth between the households.When he would get in trouble in one parent's community, he would move back to the other parent. He went back and forth several times. He also was sent to boot camps, job corps and rehab. The law and his parents tried everything to get him to stop, but nothing worked. When he turned 18 and his old friends were graduating high school and going to college, Mark started serving a three year sentence for burglary and drug-related charges.
His 78-year-old father visited him frequently while he was in prison, making the long trip to tell him how much he loved him and believed in him. Mark knew when he got out things were going to be different, better. He would make his parents proud again. Sadly, within months of his release, both of his parents died within six days of each other. Things were going to be different, but certainly not better.
For the next 30 years Mark describes his life as a 'functioning heroin addict'. When he wasn't in jail, he was working. "I tried to fool myself that I could control it. I used heroin everyday and would go to my jobs and nobody knew." Then he would get in trouble with the law. "I was doing a life sentence on an installment plan . . . 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years . . . but I knew if I went to prison in Texas, I would not come out alive. That scared me!'
So after nearly 40 years of addiction, Mark had had enough. He went through a program and, this time, he really worked it. He has been free of heroin since May 22, 2007. A lifetime of spending on drugs left him with no money to fall back on. So, when his roommate relocated to another city, Mark could not afford the rent. He was referred to SAMMinistries by his drug counselors and, in March of 2010, with three years of being clean and sober from heroin under his belt, Mark entered our doors at 910 W. Commerce.
He was one of our first men to move to our new location on the Haven for Hope campus and he soon was enrolled in our Job Training and Employment Development Program. After some testing, he was found to have aptitude in several areas. Now, for the first time since 1974, he was going back to school. Mark also started working at the Donations' Warehouse and then moved up to the Furniture For A Cause Store as a part of our Job Training Program. He attended classes to learn how to present himself at a job interview, how to dress, what to say, how to write a resume, all the skills he had missed growing up.
Mark was thankful for all of these lessons and felt encouraged and empowered as he learned these new skills. At the time, he never imagined what would happen next. Upon completion of his training, Mark interviewed for and received a job working for SAMMinistries. In July of 2011, Mark moved out of the SAMM Shelter at Haven for Hope and into his own apartment.
Now he is working full-time for SAMMinistries, going to school part-time and supporting himself without any drugs. He has become the man his father always knew he could be. He is our Donations staff member who leads volunteers in the Donation Warehouse on Saturdays. His favorite part of the job is telling his story to the volunteers who look at him in disbelief.
Some volunteers come from difficult situations and he enjoys being an encouragement and the voice of reason to those who might be struggling with issues that he knows about all too well. When asked what he has learned from his experience, Mark said, "I know there is a reason why I am still alive and in this place. Most people like me die or end up in prison the rest of their lives. It's not because of me and it's not just luck. I think God has given me this chance to help others. I want to give back." Then he quietly added, "Let them know, they will hear more about me in the future!"
Use these links to help others like Mark:
- make a gift using the "Donate Now" button above