Samuel says ‘the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter’

Samuel was born in Uganda in 1978. He grew up in a loving, Christian home, for the most part, he said, with eighteen siblings—eight boys and ten girls. “I was provided for and we went to good schools—we had enough to live a decent life, by East African standards,” Samuel said.

Samuel immigrated to the United States in 2007, and a few years later, his father died. “It was the hardest time of my life,” he said. “I was in the U.S. by then, and I was not able to go back when he passed. It disturbed me a lot and it contributed to my addiction.”

Samuel received treatment from the hospital at the University of Wisconsin, near where he lived, for depression and anxiety. But in 2018, he turned to drugs. “I resorted to methamphetamines to numb my feelings and my losses,” he said. “I felt so empty.”

Samuel moved with a friend, settling in Ohio, hoping the change of scenery would help. “Things didn’t get better,” he said. “So in 2019, I moved to California to be close to my two sisters there.”

After arriving in September 2019, things were good for a few months. Samuel was working and staying busy. But in February 2020, he relapsed. “I returned to using and was out of control,” he said. “I almost overdosed in May and was hospitalized. After the ER, I was sent to a psych hospital in Downtown Los Angeles.”

That cycle repeated again before Samuel and his sister started talking about in-patient rehab. But after a successful six-month program and a move to sober living housing, Samuel relapsed again, and then again in August of last year. Samuel’s sister spoke with a man at her church, Frank Mastrolonardo, who is on the board of the Rescue Mission Alliance, the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission and Renewed Hope’s parent organization. After talking about the program, Samuel entered Renewed Hope in September 2021.

“When I first arrived, I was still anxious and paranoid—I was withdrawing,” Samuel said. “But at the same time, I felt safe,” Samuel said. “They gave me a warm welcome. I had the assurance that I’d have a roof over my head, clean clothing, water, food—it gave me hope. It helped me trust the process and work the program.

“One of reasons I relapsed in the past is that with my former rehab, they lacked the Christian perspective,” he added. “That was lacking in my recovery. I abandoned my Christian values. I was so happy when I came here. I count my blessings that on top of getting relapse prevention, some essentials, classes, counseling—all that—I’m also getting the biblical perspective in recovery.”

Samuel said he’s enjoyed the classes and getting to know the other clients. “We share our worries, frustrations, victories,” he said. “It inspires me. It assures me that this is possible. This can be done.”

The next step for Samuel is to complete his master’s degree in public health, a goal he is just two credits short of reaching. Samuel was reenrolled in January and will finish his thesis in the summer before he graduates. “The (staff at the) program is helping me in every way they can,” he said. “They are supportive of me in my personal life, in any area—name what you’re struggling with and they have a solution. I have every tool I need to remain sober. There should be no excuse—I have the support I need in case of crisis.”

After graduation, Samuel plans to go to the transitional living program, continue to read and attend meetings, and save money and get a job. “I want to be a successful man who can stand on his own. And I know I can. I’m getting help based on Scripture.

“I’ve never felt this strong before. I’ve never felt this confident. I’m trusting the process, and with God’s help, I have faith I’m going to have the principles I need to live with long-term sobriety, and as a strong Christian man with integrity. I’m on the right track. And with every month that passes, that light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter.”