700,000 people in the Tar Heel state – 12 years of age or older - are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Despite the numbers, people touched by addiction continue to hide in the shadows.
Emerging from the heart of Uptown Charlotte, a place of solace. The Charlotte Rescue Mission is a place where addicts get clean. It is also the site of spiritual transformation for those who have reached the limit.
With the help of the Charlotte Rescue Mission staff, Wallace Watkins has stepped out of the shadows and into the open sun. A few years back, Wallace was on top of the world - CEO of his own company. "I was single, and I was in the recycling business, a multi-million dollar business. I had a lot of clientele. I made a lot of money."
And then, life took a turn. Wallace tumbled into a lifestyle of alcohol and drug abuse. "At times, I slept on park benches. I didn't know when my next meal would come."
It was a life of torture. Wallace hit rock bottom. "It got so desperate when I lost everything, I started sleeping in my vehicle. I went to sleeping on my vehicle to sleeping on people's porches. Sometimes I didn't know when my next meal would come." Yet, beyond the muck - a beacon: the Charlotte Rescue Mission's Rebound program offers treatment for men who are addicted, men desperate for change.
"I put everything in his hands, and he gave me the strength – to not only overcome the drugs and the alcohol – but also to get through this program."
Wallace is surrounded by role models, men – just like him – who have moved through their addictions to a lives of sobriety. Harold Foster works at the charlotte rescue mission as a facility tech, living the dream. The prelude to his journey of recovery - a nightmare of addiction.
"Addiction ravaged Harold's world like a sinister cyclone, ripping him of house and home. "I was powerless over the fact of picking up any drugs or alcohol. I said I didn't want to, but I did anyway."
Like Wallace, alcohol and drug abuse left Harold's picture perfect life shattered. "I had two children. I was married, and I was divorced. My addiction led to all of that." The Charlotte Rescue Mission helped Harold pick up the shards of broken glass. That is where he found God. "I was here for 30 days. At the end of that 30 days, something occurred in my life. The obsession was removed. And then I knew: this God thing really works."
Rev. Tony Marciano is the Executive Director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He says faith in God helps the men regain their dignity. "Where faith intersects recovery is to know that God unconditionally loves you. That is not based on you. As we say at the Rescue Mission, God demonstrated that through Jesus Christ. To know that you are unconditionally loved is life-changing, because for many addicts, the love they experienced most of their lives has been conditional."
Addiction is defined as compulsive drug or alcohol use, despite harmful consequences. The shame of perpetual abuse can rob the addict of dignity. Rev. Marciano says faith restores that. "Shame says I am wrong. I'm defective. If you knew me you wouldn't like me. And it even says if God knew me, God wouldn't like me. Unless we deal with that shame-based identity, an addict will continue to self-destruct and relapse and continue in self-destructive behavior.
Marciano says the mission brings addicts back to truth. Harold and Wallace have discovered that truth. Harold has been clean and sober for 12 years, helping others at the Charlotte Rescue Mission find their way to spiritual health and sobriety. Wallace has been sober for two months and counting. The future looks bright.
The doors of the Charlotte Rescue Mission are always open. For information on the Rebound program, visit this website: http://charlotterescuemission.org/.
Charlotte Rescue Mission
PO Box 33000
Charlotte, NC 28233
Rebound Men's Program
907 W. 1st Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Dove's Nest Women's Program
2855 West Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28208