Testimony of the Month
My name is Dillon Newman and I am 28 years old. It might sound strange, but, if I am being totally honest, I have spent more days of my life high than I have sober. That’s why I’m so happy to share that for most of the past year I have been stone cold sober and have loved it.
A Brand New Life
So many amazing things have happened to me since I came to the Rescue Mission in April, it’s hard to know where to begin. First and foremost, I now believe in God and His Son, Jesus. Before I came to the Rescue Mission, I sort of believed that God existed and I knew a little about who Jesus was, but I had never followed Him.
Still, I had this gnawing feeling that God wanted me to come to the Rescue Mission. I really felt like it was the only way I could turn my life around. When I came to the Rescue Mission, I was broken and ashamed. I had spent the last three years in a homeless shelter or in jail. My family had cut ties with me because of my drug-fueled life. It was fair to say I was at rock bottom.
At the Mission, however, I started learning about God. I went to Bible studies and heard sermons at the nightly chapel services. One chapel preacher really made sense to me. I went and talked to him after the service and I think it was then that I really started believing in God and Jesus. I wasn’t raised in a family that went to church. Although my family seemed to believe in God, there wasn’t much religion in my home.
But as I built a relationship with God at the Mission, my mind seemed to grow clearer and I gained a strength to stay sober that I hadn’t had before. As I stayed sober, my whole personality started changing. I was becoming myself again, instead of the shell of a person I had become from years of meth use.
And as I began to change, my relationships changed too. When I came to the Mission, my entire family had pretty much cut ties with me. I had stolen from them and had broken one too many promises, so that they no longer trusted me. But as the new, sober me developed, I found my family was willing to engage with me and even forgive me.
Brand New Relationships
My father, for instance, started believing in God about five years ago. He is a former addict, too, and for the last five years has been attending the Salvation Army Church downtown. As I stayed sober, I was able to start going to church with him. Now we go together every week. I get to hang out with him and I feel like we have a real father-son relationship, which we never really had after he and my mom got divorced.
My relationships with my sister, mom and grandparents, who have always tried to help me, are also repaired. I can visit my grandparents and talk with my sister and my mom any time I want. I even connect with my brother from time to time. He has been homeless for four years and is an addict. When I see him on the streets I tell him, “Hey, if you ever want to get back up on your feet, come join the Mission’s New Life Program; it will help you.”
Besides my restored relationships, I have a good job working at a nice downtown restaurant. I am saving up money so I can get my own place when I am ready to graduate from the New Life Program in a few months. I feel successful, happy and blessed by God. Today, my life is nothing like it was when I was a drug user.
Divorce and Drug Abuse
If I had to point to one thing that made me start using drugs, it would probably be my parents’ divorce. I know a lot of kids go through divorces, but my parent’s divorce destroyed me. To this day, I am not sure why they divorced. I know they fought a lot but, as a sixth grader, I really couldn’t understand why they would want to split up. My father left our home and my mom tried to raise us. I was the oldest and, still in sixth grade, I was pretty upset about it. I decided to start smoking cigarettes, marijuana and eventually meth, all while in sixth grade. By seventh grade, I came to school high on meth almost every day.
I got kicked out of two high schools and bounced around between several others as we moved around the Sandy area of the Salt Lake Valley. My mom would try to make it and take care of us kids, but then we would struggle to make ends meet and would have to move in with our grandparents until my mom could save up enough money for us to move out on our own again.
I finally dropped out of high school during my senior year. I was literally using meth every day. I lived off my mom for a few years before I started working at fast-food or retail jobs. Eventually, my meth addiction became so bad that I really had no desire to work. I shoplifted or ripped people off to get money for drugs. I lived with family members for a while, but they all eventually grew tired of my laziness and drug abuse. The last straw was when my dad kicked me out of his place. I had burned all my other bridges: with my mom, my sister and my grandparents.
Living on the Streets
So I was officially homeless for the first time in the spring of 2013. When it was warm enough, I stayed outside, but mostly I stayed at the public housing shelter. I cried throughout the first night I spent at the shelter. It was crazy there. Guys would allow their girlfriends to have sex with other men in exchange for drugs. People would shoot up heroin right there in the open.
It is demoralizing to live in a public shelter and be homeless. You have nowhere to go and everywhere you do go, you are not wanted. I know it sounds strange, but once you get that low, it’s hard to recover. People say, “Why don’t you do something to get yourself out of that situation?” But you just have this overwhelming sorrow inside of you and you don’t want to do anything because of where you are. I literally felt like there was nothing I could do, on my own, to change my life. But that’s when God stepped in.
God Saves Me
I truly believe that God sent two police officers to arrest me early last year. I had been convicted of shoplifting and drug possession, but had ignored my probation requirements and now had a felony warrant out for my arrest. The police came to the public housing shelter, looked over the roster, saw my name, realized I had a felony warrant and promptly took me into custody. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
My arrest got me out of the shelter and, since I was locked up for the next three months, it forced me to be sober. Eventually, my attorney said I could get into the Drug Court program, but I would need to enter a residential treatment center. They gave me a few options and I chose the Rescue Mission, knowing it was a faith-based program. I think it was God tugging at me, telling me what I needed.
And it’s true: the New Life Program was exactly what I needed. Looking back, I can see God leading me here, being faithful to me even when I was faithless. I am hoping to start school soon. I think I will have the opportunity to get into a computer technician program that will help me learn how to set up and repair computers and computer systems.
In April, I will graduate Drug Court and be off probation. Then, in May, I will graduate from the New Life Program. In the meantime, I am focused on saving money, staying sober and living life with my family. I am so thankful that all the people I have hurt have been willing to forgive me and that they can enjoy the real me, not the meth-addict me. Please pray for me. Pray that God would continue to keep me sober and that I would continue to have a passion to grow my relationship with Him. I thank all of you for supporting the Rescue Mission and giving me a place that could save me from the pit I was in.
To learn more about what is happening at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake in February, check out our monthly newsletter, The Rescuer: