Zach & Cindy: Set Your Compass in the Right Direction

Summer 2012

Zach's Story:

Many stories of addiction begin in abusive homes or with childhood tragedies. But Zach had a great upbringing in a great family. His dad was a firefighter and his mom stayed home to raise the family. He began smoking pot in high school just to be part of the crowd.

“It made me more sociable. It felt good.” But it also led to experimentation with harder substances. In college, still living at home, he tried cocaine and heroin. He began dating a girl who used heroin, too, and she became pregnant with Zach’s son. Sadly, his baby tested positive for drugs, so they were forced to give up custody. Zach’s parents later adopted his little boy, and Zach was ordered out of their home and away from his own son. He stayed with friends or in a shelter, working just enough to pay for his drug use.

Then an overdose nearly cost him his life. When he called his parents from the hospital, he learned they had moved out of town with his baby.

“Everything finally caught up with me. I had no job, no home, no car, no family. My life was spiraling out of control. I knew I had to make a change. I’d tried everything else. Now I was going to try God.”

Zach joined our long-term Life Recovery Program in spring 2011 and took part in vocational training at our Restoration Café. That’s where he met Cindy, another resident working hard to turn her life around. Despite their age differences—Zach is 27 and Cindy, 46—they found they had a lot in common.

“Cindy and I are both hard workers and very serious about our recovery. We worked well together and became friends.”

Their friendship helped both of them complete the program, and both earned their sanitation license. Zach graduated in March and still volunteers at the Café. He eventually wants to return to school, but for now his first priority is to restore his relationship with his parents and son.

“I have missed a lot with my son, but he knows who I am and I’m allowed to be a part of his life. The Mission really helped me get my life back together.”

“Society looks down on people with addictions. But so many of us are smart people who made bad decisions. The Mission gives people second chances . . . third chances . . . 10th chances. Everybody deserves that.”

Cindy's Story:

Like Zach, Cindy was raised in a loving family, on a farm just outside of Rockford. As she grew older, she wanted to see more of the world so she joined the Marines. That’s where she met her husband . . . and also where she began to abuse alcohol. Cindy left the service while her husband’s career took him around the country. She described herself as a functioning alcoholic, working as a graphic designer while being both mom and dad to their two children.

Over the years, her drinking grew worse until finally she lost control of her life and was neglecting her kids. Her husband made the tough decision to ask her to leave. She moved in with her parents, and her mother brought her to the Mission.

“I was terrified at first but I had an attitude of ‘this is it.’ I knew I was going to have to deal with so many things, but I was ready to change directions in my life.” Cindy completed our Life Recovery Program in just over seven months and stayed to help in the Mission kitchen and Restoration Café while she earned her sanitation license. She trained as a barista, as well. Like Zach, she credits her success in recovery to the caring and supportive relationship they developed.

“We were in the same spot, dealing with a lot of the same issues. We helped each other and got to be good friends.”

Cindy is reunited with her husband and children and hopes that her Mission training will land her a job at a restaurant—even one day owning her own! Cindy is currently still looking for employment.

“Rockford Rescue Mission saves lives,” she says. “Plain and simple. But you have to want to change. I really worked hard when I was there.”

“I had to find the God of my own understanding ... not the one I grew up with. I always believed in God but turned away because I did not feel worthy. At the Mission, I realized I was!”