Vinnie came to the Men’s Center at Shepherd’s House Ministries about 9 months ago. I sit with him at the cafe next door to the shelter on Division, and I can tell he is nervous but his smile is genuine and his eyes are warm. Vinnie has a story to share, and I can tell that this is an important step for him - opening up to me (and to you readers) about his past, present, and what he hopes for his future.
It is a strange thing for those of us who have a harder time relating to addiction and trauma. Sitting and listening with an accepting heart and knowing how to express the authentic gratitude for something so sacred is a privilege.
At the table with Vinnie I think to myself, is my face saying the right thing? Can he tell that this feeling I have is a connection, gratitude, and not pity? In fear of expressing the wrong kind of caring, I can often shy away from these conversations. Many of us have this type of uncomfortable feeling. The staff and volunteers can share similar experiences, and getting past that threshold of fear has opened up a new kind of understanding in my life.
He opens by telling me that he grew up with a father who sold drugs and who encouraged him to do the same from a young age. This was normal for Vinnie’s, and it leads to a life that ran in fast forward. Addiction and crime left Vinnie with no safe place to land. His only support and his only peers were just as buried in a life of drugs, and there was no healthier option.
Vinnie mentions his brother, a key person in his decision to start on his path toward healing. He wanted a different life for his brother and for himself, so he began the steps toward recovery.
He arrived at Shepherd’s House Ministries after a couple of attempts to get sober without success.
“This is the place I needed to be - not the place I had to be.”
He tells me this while explaining what sets Shepherd’s House apart from his prior programs.
The classes and reading material, specifically the book “Staying Sober”, have been critical for Vinnie. He shares with me that he never had an understanding of the physical aspects of recovering from addiction and that learning what is normal for his body has helped him feel less anxiety and to trust the process.
Previously, Vinnie was always on the go. “I never slept, and I didn’t have any feelings.” For residents, it is a huge adjustment to have the safety to sleep through the night, and coming out of the fog of addiction can be very overwhelming. The physical changes of sobriety alone can be shocking, and for Vinnie, the right education surrounding these changes has been very important. “It gives me hope, knowing that this is what is supposed to be happening.”
Vinnie has a mentor who spends time with him just building connections and helping set an example for what a healthy relationship can look like. These mentorships help residents feel normal and to rebuild identity in their community. They are absolutely foundational in the true healing that these men are working towards.
As we settle into an easy conversation, Vinnie is smiling and making more eye contact as he tells me about all of the things he finds important about Shepherd’s House Ministries. His list included things like providing important resources like transportation, helping people get their ID’s, and having a safe place for people to hang out where there are no drugs present.
Of all of the stories Vinnie has to tell, one sticks out in my mind. He lights up when he begins talking about this year’s Softball team. He laughs as he recalls they didn’t win a single game.
The Men’s Center formed a team to play in the local city league. They had jerseys and hats made, and they showed up to play game after game. For Vinnie, this was one of the first activities out in the community that he realized had nothing to do with drugs or crime. It was something he really enjoyed as a kid, and in the present, it helped him to find a piece of his true identity - not one masked in pain but one that was playful and healthy.
The team was sponsored by a number of local establishments, but Vinnie remembers a man from another team who they got to know. “He noticed we didn’t have cleats, so one day he showed up with a donation of a bunch of them for us to wear for the rest of the games!”
This kind of interaction with society is crucial in rebuilding a healthy lifestyle and mindset for people like Vinnie. To see themselves as capable of an enjoyable life and to be seen as more than a criminal or addict.
Each resident has daily responsibilities within the Men’s Center and for Vinnie that is the Front Desk and in the Kitchen. The opportunity to feel useful has led him to become a better person, a better friend, and a better family member. He hopes to continue volunteering even when it comes time to transition out of the program.
Since being at the Men’s Center, Vinnie has been able to address his wounds with people who care deeply for him and his transformation is unfolding in a beautiful way. He has learned healthy ways to process and gets a chance to practice those with others who can really relate.
He has been reunited with his family and has dreams of someday working in a trade - maybe becoming an electrician.
Vinnie sits with me and shares these things as a result of the generosity from people like you. The support we receive is not just a fleeting donation. It goes directly towards facilitating the growth that Vinnie has experienced just like so many others. When you donate, you are impacting a real life. You are supporting a movement out of crisis and into healing.
We cannot provide these programs and resources without your help. We have big plans to grow forward with the men, women, and children who are desperate for a different future.
Will you partner with us as we grow forward?
Partner With Us Today As We Grow Forward
Donate right now and make a lasting impact on the life of someone in your community of Central Oregon. Don't wait - these men, women, and children are counting on people like you!