Doug grew up as the youngest child in a large family. Christmas was magical for him as a boy. “My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas morning. We [kids] would stay up all night on Christmas Eve playing marathon Monopoly games in our room.”
When Doug was six year old, his parents divorced and his dad left. In his father’s absence, Doug’s mother worked her hardest to keep the holiday spirit alive for her children. Each Christmas morning, Doug knew that his mother would have all his favorite things waiting for him under the Christmas Tree and in his stocking. It meant the world to him.
Despite everything his mother did, the lack of a father in Doug’s life was traumatic for him. In high school, Doug fell into the trap of drugs and alcohol. Needing money, Doug started dealing the drugs to fuel his addiction. He left home at 17 and didn’t speak to his family for the next 12 years, ashamed of the way he was living. Doug had a couple children over the years, but they were each taken away from him – a direct result of his addiction.
“I never felt like it was really Christmas for a very long time,” Doug said. “There were lots of years where it didn’t look like I was going to get any kind of Christmas at all. No one cared for me enough to buy me a present.”
Except for his mother.
Year after year she would send her son a Christmas package with all of his favorite things. “She saved Christmas for me,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Otherwise Christmas would just pass by and be over.” Even the year Doug spent in prison, she sent him a package. “She didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to receive the package there, but just getting the slip of paper from the mail department saying that she had tried to send me a gift – that was Christmas. I held on to that slip and still have it.”
Tragically, Doug’s mother died in 2011. The loss of his mother devastated Doug. “Before she died, drugs and alcohol were just a party. After she passed, I lost control. I went from enjoying drugs to doing them just so I didn’t have to feel anything. Since she died, I’ve tried not to pay any attention from Halloween until after New Years. All those holidays are awesome because they all mean family. My mother was the only anchor that was anchoring me to any family connection at all.”
For the next two years, all Christmas meant to Doug was a little something extra from his drug dealer. “My dealer was like, ‘Hey man, you only paid for $20, but here’s $40 worth. Merry Christmas.” Doug’s fondest childhood holiday had turned into a nightmare.
After years of destructive drug use, Doug knew he couldn’t carry on the way he had been living. He found The Harbor, our men’s addiction recovery center, and enrolled in our New Life Ministry. Doug had tried to get clean before, with little success. This experience, he says, has been totally different.
“The staff here really want to see me better myself and fix my brokenness. I really have to thank Portland Rescue Mission for having this program of grace and mercy to allow me to grow back into the man that I have the potential to be. What an awesome gift.”
Doug isn’t just avoiding Christmas this year – he’s actually looking forward to it. He’s especially excited to spend time with his kids, who he reconnected with after being in our New Life Ministry for a couple months.
“This year is going to be different. My kids are back in my life. I have a little boy and girl that call me dad. There’s nothing better than that.”
Not only has Doug reconnected with his children, he also has a brand new family to spend the Christmas season with: his brothers at The Harbor. “These men here are my family. I love them, and they love me.”
“I have respect for myself and self-worth again. I don’t think you’ll find that in a catalogue. I got that gift only from God. What a Christmas present.”
The following is a poem that Doug wrote to describe what he has experienced:
I used to be hopeless…
In a season of complete and utter darkness.
But now there is light at the end of the tunnel.
That light is Jesus Christ and His light is the light of Hope.
May His tender Mercy shine on you like a very bright light in your times of darkness.
Bathe yourself in His light…
Bathe yourself in Hope.