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Testimony of the Month

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My name is Paul Newton. Fifteen months ago, in the middle of a cold winter, I walked into the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, looking for a warm place to stay. Eleven days later, I joined the New Life Program. That decision changed my life.

I had been an everyday drinker, a pot head and a meth head. In the two years leading up to December 2013, I had spent most days lying on a friend's couch, getting wasted.

Today I have a job, 15 months of sobriety and a relationship with God. None of this would be possible without God and the Rescue Mission.

Growing Pains

Participating in the New Life Program has changed me, but not without some growing pains. Living in Utah my whole life, I was raised in a religious environment. However, I didn't embrace religion. In the back of my mind, I wondered whether God was real.

So I had a hard time with all the New Life Program's Bible stuff. I would read the Bible, but wouldn't understand. I was frustrated. However, after a few months of going to classes and letting sobriety take over, I began to understand what I was reading. I would read a passage one week and feel like God was saying something specific to me. Then, I would read the same passage a week later and get something different from it, totally related to what I was going through again. I was amazed that God's Word worked like that.

Then I began to see God working. I found that he works in the world, even in the everyday mundane things.

I will share an example. The showers at the Rescue Mission sit directly over the chapel where we hold afternoon Bible studies. One day, there was pipe leak. Some people put a large garbage can under the leak to catch the water. The water rushed down from the ceiling into the can. The water was so loud that we couldn't hear the Bible study.

Our Bible teacher said we should pray. One man prayed for the water to stop so we could hear the Bible lesson. The water slowed. Then the teacher prayed. By the time the prayer ended, the water was barely dripping. I was amazed.

I began to believe that God was real. I realized that he sometimes stepped into the world and acted. After about seven months in the New Life Program, I was baptized at the church I attend. After that, my attitude changed.

A New Man

I had been stubborn. I procrastinated on my counseling assignments. There is this workbook that New Life Program members go through called The Genesis Process. It melds the Bible and God's truth with addiction recovery principles.

I always had an excuse for not doing it. Looking back, I'm glad I procrastinated. I wasn't ready to deal with the deep anger that was leading me to use drugs and alcohol. But with God on my side, I dove into the counseling material more and more.

I started meeting with a community mentor named Nick Fuller. We went through a Bible study together. I learned more about God.

Things were going well for me. Then I started facing challenges. I was getting ready to move into the employment phase of the New Life Program. I was ready to look for a job. However, I learned that I had warrants out for my arrest.

One was from 1996, for getting into a fight, and the other was from 2001, for drug possession. I had a choice: I could either quit the New Life Program, since dealing with these warrants was too hard, or I could try to resolve them. The Rescue Mission encouraged me to clear up my legal issues while I was in the program so I could really have a fresh start when I graduated.

The Rescue Mission staff were there for me as I went to court. The judge ordered me to spend 15 days in jail on one charge. Then, at another court, he gave me four days in jail for the second charge. The warrants were cleared and I was placed on probation for a short time.

It felt good to put those warrants behind me. In the past, I had never followed through on stuff like that. I wouldn't deal with my problems. But I could see that God was shaping me into someone who could handle life's problems. I had grown into a person who could face problems and resolve them.

With my warrants gone, I was ready to get a job. I started looking for work in November. I found some temporary work around the holidays, but I wanted a steady job. After searching for several months, I found a good job at Spring Back, a shop that repurposes old mattresses.

Our company collects old mattresses and we tear them down. We then recycle all the individual parts. It's a neat business model that helps reduce waste. I am glad God led me to this job.

It's amazing to look at my life now and think about what it had been before I came to the Mission.

Where I Went Wrong

My mother introduced me to alcohol and drugs when I was eight. I remember being in a room with my mom and her friends. They passed around a joint and gave it to me. It is difficult to think about a mother teaching her child to drink and use drugs, but that's when my life of drug and alcohol abuse started. I would get drunk or high at school, and I started fighting, shoplifting and stealing.

When I was 19, I stole a bunch of music equipment from a local band. It was stashed in their van, outside a bar where they were going to play a gig. I got caught and spent five years in prison.

After I got out of prison, in my mid 20's, I spent the next 20 years or so working for a construction site catering business. We had trucks that would go to different construction sites and sell lunch to the workers.

It was an easy job and gave me money to support my drug and alcohol habit. Since I had no wife or children, I lived for myself and got drunk or high all the time.

While my drug use had always been constant, I really went downhill in 2007. My aunt, whom I was close to, died of lung cancer. Six months later, my mom also died of lung cancer. My mom had been sober for the last 20 years of her life. She felt bad for introducing me to drugs and always talked to me about getting sober. I knew she really cared for me.

Losing my mom and my aunt hurt. I used drugs and alcohol more and more to curb the pain and anger. I really didn't know how to recover.

Four years later, I remained a mess. I still worked at the catering company, but by that time, I was the cook. I lived in a motorhome in the back of our business. I cooked the food that went out in the trucks each morning. One day, the health department did an inspection and heard my dog bark inside my motor home. When they opened it up, they saw the dog and a disaster: there were empty beer and whiskey bottles all over my place. Lots of cigarette butts, too.

The health department threatened to shut us down. My boss fired me and I spent the next two years on a couch in a friend's apartment. Each day I would think about looking for work, but each day I used drugs or got drunk instead.

In December of 2013, my friend finally kicked me out. He was tired of my freeloading. I still had my dog and we stayed a night outside near Sugarhouse Park. My dog nearly froze to death. I started calling places where I might stay. The Rescue Mission was the first place that answered.

The Help I Needed

I took my dog to the Humane Society and checked myself into the Rescue Mission. For the first 11 days, I stayed at the Mission as a shelter guest. When I left in the morning, I would go get high. When I smoked up my last bit of marijuana, I decided to try sobriety. That's when I walked through the door and asked to join the New Life Program.

I believe that it was God who led me to the Rescue Mission. I didn't realize it before, but I needed God's help to get clean and change. Without God, I would still be stuck in a life of despair and addiction.

Today I have hopes and dreams. I have reconnected with my grandma and my sister. We can have a real relationship now, since they know I don't need anything from them. I love being able to talk to them and spend time with them. They are the only family I have left.

I want to keep working at the mattress recycling plant. I need some stability. When I can save up enough money, I will move out of the Rescue Mission. My plan is to move into the Terri Timmerman Freedom House. There, the Mission will continue supporting me in my sobriety and encourage me to remain connected with my local church family at Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake.

At 46 years old, I have my life ahead of me. I am excited and encouraged. The best part is how the Rescue Mission taught me about God. I know now that whatever happens in this life, I can look forward to heaven in the next. I know this is what really matters.

Thank you for supporting the Rescue Mission. I know it can be hard to help people like me, people who are so broken down that they seem beyond repair. But I am here to tell you that your support is worth it. Without this help, I would be lost. Thanks for caring enough to help save someone like me.


To learn more about what is happening at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake in April, check out our monthly newsletter, The Rescuer:

pdfApril 2015 Rescuer

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