My Marathon of Life: A First Steps to Employment Project Story

My name is Mitchell Neal Richard, and below is a little bit of my story. I’ve been overcome by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

I’m a former alcoholic who struggled with additional issues such as anger and emotional dependency in intimate relationships. All these were among a few of the flaws that were connected to some deep wounds in my life. What those wounds were did not become clear to me, until I faced myself honestly and courageously considering the adverse impact that those wounds had in my life. It took a whole lot of guts to get my recovery right, but thanks be to God, I’ve been blessed with abstinence and growth since my last drink of alcohol over seven years ago.

Back in the days, alcohol was a predominant force of evil in my life, because after every drink, it only dug a deeper and darker pit of suffering and despair. No matter how hard I would try to quit drinking (even after painful and devastating consequences), I would still eventually end up getting wasted again. It became obvious to me, even before turning 18, that alcohol was a big problem for me. It got me in trouble with the law; it caused me to drop out of school; lose a few jobs by either calling in sick too many times; and sadly, showing up at work under the influence of alcohol. It even destroyed some relationships that I had. Alcohol was destroying ME.

As much as I would try to stay sober I would eventually end up drinking again within a couple of months, only this time after screwing up and relapsing, I always had God to go to who would welcome me with open arms, love me unconditionally, and accept me. As a Christian, I was under the impression, that all I had to do to live a happy and successful life was read my Bible daily, pray, attend Church regularly, and share my faith with others. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying any of those practices are wrong. In fact, I would highly encourage every Christian to do so. But here’s the thing, I was not being honest with myself because I was fearful about being transparent to others about the nitty gritty of what was really going on inside me (the pain and wounds I was still carrying from my past), and my lack of honesty and fear about that, was a huge hindrance for me to progress in living a sober, healthy, and successful life. This is what I yearned for so much, I just wanted to be happy, but at a much deeper level, I was not happy with myself.

When I was 16 years old, I dropped out of high school, because I valued alcohol above Collage for Mitchelleducation. I thought I connected with people better when I was drinking, and alcohol soothed a lot of pain that I was carrying. After some years, I knew education was important, but I failed in obtain my grade 12 numerous times. Alcohol would get in the way of education and growth and other excuses that served nothing more than immediate gratification but didn’t help me in the long run. Some of the challenges I faced to obtain my mature grade 12 were related to being overwhelmed with all the school work, a lack of being organized, not managing my time properly, and being absent from class too many times. And I wasn’t that motivated either. My former addiction to alcohol would not become stabilized until I took my recovery seriously, and that initial event did not happen until the summer of 2011.

You see, what I failed to see before getting clean and sober, is that my addiction to alcohol was not the problem, I was the problem, because the addiction (as well as other unhealthy compulsive behaviours that I exhibited in my life) was symptomatic of deeper problems. By the grace of God, aministry called Finding Freedom has helped me so much to be where I am today, in not only abstaining from drinking alcohol, but in healing from my emotional wounds, providing me with invaluable tools and life skills,hence, the help I really needed to grow as a healthier individual.

Tim Fletcher from Finding Freedom taught a lot of great stuff on recovery, addiction, and so forth, he was also very big on helping people to be grounded in:

  1. healthy relationships,
  2. being grounded in a support network

These are two key ingredients to make it in recovery, because if you have all the head knowledge and education about recovery and addiction, but still lack these two key ingredients, you’ll likely not have a successful recovery.

After attending Finding Freedom on a consistent weekly basis, I learned, healed, and grew so much. I am now able to go about living my life sober, healthy, happy, and accurately. Among a few important things I’ve learned, was how to heal from shame (which was a core belief I had about myself for many years), how to enforce healthy boundaries, how to respond appropriately when life gets overwhelming, the importance of being in community with healthy friendships, and the role that trauma has in an addict/alcoholics life.

I was literally an orphan with no healthy parental figures (I was pretty much on my own at age 14). Because both parents left me at a young age, learning to parent myself in a healthy way was something that I really needed to learn. It was a very challenging task, because I had to unlearn and relearn a lot of stuff, but it was very well worth it.

When I returned to school at Adult Education Center Inc. (AEC) 2 years ago, I decided to take the longer route in working towards graduating, because Math was the subject I struggled with the most, and I wanted to only take Math one semester at a time, until I got it out of way. I was being honest and realistic with myself, and did that pay off? It sure did, because in January 2018, I finally got my Grade 12 Applied Math Credit. I was very proud of myself for this achievement, but it didn’t end there, because after passing the other necessary courses,I got my entire Mature Grade 12 Diploma. The determination, faith, and consistency to get through this milestone paid off. I was so happy.

In March of 2018, I moved into Place of Hope and started with the 1st Steps to Employment Project. This new living environment has helped me tremendously to reach my educational goals. The staff have been very supportive, understanding, and helpful. I am appreciative, thankful, and blessed by the structure, and the clean and sober living environment provided at Place of Hope. I always enjoy the conversations I have with the staff, the laughs, and the company they provide. Crystal, the 1st Steps employment social worker, has been an amazing resource in helping me stay focused, and advance my education. She’s an amazing worker here at Place of Hope (for that matter, all the staff are). They always make sure I’m doing well. God has blessed me with an amazing support network to keep me moving forward.

I’ve achieved one of my educational goals while living here at Place of Hope, however, my future educational goal, is to get my Bachelors of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, and in time, get my Masters in the same faculty. I am currently registered to take Social Work at the University of Manitoba, and I’m sure, by the grace of God, that it will all work out. Back in June of 1995, my mother got her Social Work Diploma from the same University, but unfortunately, she passed on the next month, July 31st, 1995. Because my mom did not get to live out her career, I feel it is nearing my time to take the mantle of what she didn’t get to do, and live out her legacy, but in my own way. My mother was the kind of woman who would always see the good in every person.

Seeing that I am also a full marathon runner, another golden goal of mine, is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This has been a goal of mine since I started running full marathons 4 years ago, and I’m going to keep at it until I achieve this goal. To me, running is a form of self-care, I always feel better after I go for a run, it is a form therapy for me. Through running, I use what I apply in my marathon training (consistency, determination, discipline, etc.), to my daily life in all that I do. In the words of an Olympian track runner, Allyson Felix, “I have learned that track doesn’t define me. My faith defines me. I’m running because I have been blessed with a gift.” I love that quote, and it is the same that goes for me, running does not define me, it is gift that God has blessed me with to glorify Him.

To me, recovery, education, running (exercise), having fun, and Jesus Christ, are all highly valued components in my life. I believe that an essential component to living a healthy lifestyle, is balance. Embracing growth in all areas of our lives,not all at once, but one day at a time, one step at a time, one moment at time. The process of growth is often challenging, painful, and messy, but well worth it.

I always try my best to see the good in all people and in all circumstances, and it is my desire to motivate, inspire, empower, and help other people in whatever way I can, to move forward in life. I always enjoy sharing my story, volunteering, and helping in the Ministry.

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