Tag Archives: drugs

The Devil’s Foothold

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The devil can get a foothold in each of our lives in many different ways. It does not matter your age, your race, your living conditions, or your income: he will at some point, and in some way, attempt to become the king of your life.

Last week we met with a man named Daniel who has suffered from being an alcoholic for about 10 years. This man has lost his wife, his job, tens of thousands of dollars, and most importantly his dignity and self-respect. One of the main things that stuck out to us was what he said when asked why he began to drink in the first place:

“When I was younger, I never felt like I fit in and all I wanted to do was fit in. Alcohol seemed to help me do this.”

In Daniel’s life, Satan made him feel different, left out, and alone. By doing this, he separated Daniel from people that could love, care, and support him but also discipline him when he needed it.

With many people we work with, the devil has made a way to leave an empty spot in their life. They are then choosing to fill this emptiness with something else, something of this world. This creates a foothold that the devil gets on their life and refuses to let go. Whether this is drugs, alcohol, women, or money, nothing will fulfill what only Christ can fill. Our hope is that by surrounding Daniel with Christ-following community and support he can begin to feel God release the hold that the devil has had on him.

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Did You Know: Drug Poisoning by Gender

A couple of weeks ago we viewed the statistics compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics on drug poisoning mortality in the United States between 2002-2014. Alabama has seen a large growth in the number of mortalities due to drug poisoning over the past 15 years.

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We unpacked how we have seen this statistic play out in the lives of the men and women we have worked with over the years. We’ve seen the people we work with change from a very specific demographic to a widespread issue that touches lives in all areas across our city. Another statistic that the graph highlighted was a breakdown of of drug poisoning deaths by age, sex, and race.

Did you know that in the United States (from 2002-2014) males have had significantly more drug-related deaths than women? In 2002 males suffered a total of 15,028 deaths whereas women had 8,490 deaths. By 2014 the numbers had increased by at least 10,000 for both sexes: males suffered a total of 28,812 deaths where women had 18,243.

Why is there such a disparity between the genders when it comes to drug overdoses? According to The National Institute On Drug Abuse, males are more likely to have the opportunity to use drugs than females. It’s truly that simple. Opportunity is the only difference between the genders when it comes to drug abuse and overdoses. Once a male or female is introduced to drugs, their chances of continued use and eventual overdose are similar.

Do you agree with The National Institute on Drug Abuse? Do you believe it simply boils down to a matter of opportunity? If not, why do you think males are more likely to abuse drugs and suffer a drug overdose? If you do agree, why do you think males have so much more opportunity to use drugs? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next time, we will look at which age range has the highest mortality rate and why.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Mark “The Trashman” Wood

Mark Wood has been one of our faithful volunteers and supporters for the past few years. He has supported the ministry in more ways than one: with his time, his finances, and his prayers. Mark has also gained quite the reputation as a volunteer. Every week he comes to our Sunday meal, grabs a trash bag and off he goes! Many volunteers and friends that come to eat the meal have labeled him the “Trashman”. This has been a way for him to easily walk up to the men and women we feed and start conversations as he serves them by picking up their trash.

Mark has also supported the ministry by racing in the Urban Purpose 5K and has come in 3rd place each time! He’s an impressive guy with an incredible heart for the Lord. We are so thankful that God led him to be a part in what we do. Take a second and get to know Mark “The Trashman” Wood.

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How did you first hear about Urban Purpose? I heard about Urban Purpose from Elizabeth Johnson (another one of our volunteers) who I work next to at STV.

How long have you been serving with Urban Purpose? I would say about 3 ½ years.

How did you get the title of “Trashman”? Well I started picking up the trash pretty soon after I began coming on Sundays. Elizabeth always gives me direction… But I am very glad I got that title. Most of the folks may not always remember your name, but if you have the bag, they just call out, “Hey trashman.” I respond well to that.

Why did you begin to pick up the trash? I really believe that my part in Urban Purpose is a God thing. I would have never thought I would enjoy this as much as I do. Picking up the trash has allowed me to initiate more and more relationships with people. There are so many folks out there who are hurting, addicted, and may not feel comfortable to talk to just everyone. Admittedly I have also been into drugs, drinking, and the world in general. After years of that, God is working on me. He has brought me to Urban Purpose to talk with folks about getting over their drug use or issues and to share how God can get you out and over ANYTHING… which I can relate to well. I really love so many of these people and look forward to seeing them. I do run downtown every week for the past few years and I get to have interaction with quite a few of our Sunday folks one on one while out running. It always brings a smile to my face to see some of ‘our folks’ while out there running in the streets.

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Mark Wood completing The Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K in 2015

What is your fastest 5K time? 18:48

What are your predictions for the 2016 Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K addition? Will you finally take the title? I have been able to run the 5K each year at Urban Purpose since it started. This past year the course change did not make it any easier. I do not believe I can take the title if those young folks keep showing up. I am getting older and slower. I do not believe I can hold up to those folks in their 20’s,30’s and 40’s once you are in your 50’s you have to realize you may have already reached the plateau for running PRs.

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Did You Know: Drug Poisoning in Alabama

A very common but devastating outcome of significant drug use is drug poisoning (the scientific name for a drug overdose). Sometimes a drug overdose can cause death but other times it causes a state of unconsciousness that the user may come out of.

This detailed map on drug poisoning mortality shows the rates in which people in the United States have experienced drug overdose deaths based on race, geographic location, and age through 2002-2014. [Full map found at http://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs-data-visualization/drug-poisoning-mortality/]

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Did you know that in 2002, the state of Alabama experienced one of the lowest amounts of calculated deaths, which was about 5 per 100,000 people? In 2014, less than 15 years later, that number rose to an average 15 deaths per 100,000 residents. Jefferson County was found to have one of the highest death rates in our state. We have been able to see this statistic first hand over the past few years.

What we have realized is that the city of Birmingham is seeing a drastic shift in drug usage and location. Typically, people would assume to find drugs in inner city Birmingham, but in recent years we have consistently worked with addicts from Over the Mountain areas such as Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, Pelham and Vestavia. Now, the drug scene is more spread out than ever throughout our city and we cannot ignore this fact. We’ve seen that drug use is not always based off of where you grow up or how you grow up- it’s because all people are broken and in search of healing; some of our pursuits of healing just manifest themselves in more outwardly destructive ways.

Over the next few weeks we will further dig into the demographics behind drug use in our city and how it has affected the men and women we’re working with.

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Waiting Expectantly

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About five months ago we met a young man named Mike and started to work with him. Since then he has been in two separate rehab programs. He was released from the last program on Thanksgiving day after spending time with a family member that is a poor influence on him.

That weekend we were faced with a big decision to make. Should we help? How should we help? What does he need? We knew that this time around it had to be different.

Since Thanksgiving weekend, we have put together a team of people that have been helping to care for and watch over this man. He has not been left alone at any point over the last three weeks. He is staying with people that want to get to know him, spend time with him and love him well. He has been working with a landscaping company every day and having dinner with different groups of people each night as well as having other measurements of accountability such as drug testing.

While this may seem extremely overwhelming and unnecessary to the average person, it is what someone trying to flee a drug addiction needs- and they need it for this specific reason:

One of the first nights he was staying with the guys, they went to Jimmy John’s to grab some dinner downtown. While they were eating, Mike noticed that an old drug dealer of his walked in the room. This man walked straight over to Mike and asked him if he wanted anything. Luckily, he was not alone. Mike said no, and the dealer walked off. Shortly after, Mike expressed how thankful he was that he was not alone during that encounter because it would have been much harder to say no.

This is why we believe it is good for people to be surrounded until they can get into a program that is a more structured environment. As far as Mike goes, we have been waiting for a couple weeks to hear back from another program that he could be in for six months. That is our plan during this “time of crisis” for these people- to wait expectantly for God to open doors to bigger and better things.

You may be asking, is it worth the wait? Well, this morning we received the phone call letting us know that Mike had been accepted and we can take him in on Tuesday. We’re thankful to have been able to walk with Mike through this time and that we could help him stay strong in the midst of a hectic time. Our hope is that we can do this for many people that are wanting to get clean but need help getting on that path to the long road of recovery.

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Thought of the Day: Self-Worth

“To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth, their importance.” Jean Vanier

Most people we see on Sunday’s have a very low opinion of themselves. Whether that’s from a lifetime of drug use, living on the streets, or being looked down upon by the world, these thoughts and feelings begin to develop over time and never really leave a person. By coming down on a Sunday we’re attempting to put more hope back into their lives by showing them that they are loved and are worthy of having a conversation with.

Who can you show their worth to today?

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Brokenness

One thing we always try to stress to the men and women we work with is that we are all broken. We are all sinners that are in a constant fight against sin and we are ALL in need of a Savior. The truth of the matter is that some peoples’ sin is more outwardly self-destructive than others. For example, someone who has been caught in a heroine addiction will very quickly loose (in most cases) their family and friends, job, living situation, and ultimately their life. While for the rest of us, we have the ability to hide our sins such as pride and gossip. These things can and will take a toll on our life and our relationship with the Lord and others, but typically we will not loose our physical lives due to either of these sins.

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We want people that the world labels without hesitation as “broken and needy” to really be able to see that this title belongs to all of us. Not one of us more deserving of it than the other. Once people begin to realize that we are all battling something, they tend to not feel so alone anymore. This is the beautiful thing about being in a community of believers! None of our sins look the same, but we can not neglect meeting together and encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching. [Hebrews 10:25]

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