By Ken Morse
Our mind tends to conjure up a vision of a junkie, with a band tied around his arm held tightly between his teeth, as he plunges a needle full of drugs into his bulging veins, with the sweat of sorrow pouring down his contorted face. Usually the scene where this tragedy takes place is some backstreet alleyway, strewn with garbage cans and rats, as the sirens and city noise blaring in the distance muffle out the cries for help until there is nothing left but an eerie silence.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Maybe it’s a scene from a 1970’s movie, but the harsh reality of today’s opioid epidemic, is much more heart breaking than that and a lot more at home and personal.
With each tragic story comes pretty much the same reaction. How can that be? I didn’t know he or she was on drugs. These are real people with real lives who have a real problem and suddenly, they are gone far too young, and in most cases leaving a grieving family behind trying to come to grips with the question that will burn inside them forever. Why?
The statistics are mind numbing. You can’t pick up a newspaper or open up a social media outlet, only to find a list of names of those who have lost their battle with an epidemic that that is not only sweeping across this country but has grown to world wide proportions.
These are not weak minded individuals who had simply lost their way. They are not people who didn’t have a job or were looking to live off the system only wanting to get high and carry on like some wayward weekend party warrior.
For the most part, these were productive members of our society. The people in their 20’s who were full of hopes and dreams of what their life was going to be like. These were 30 and 40 year olds just starting their families. These were people in their 50’s who had just become grand parents.
This tragedy knows no limits. It strikes quickly, diminishing ones ability to even function, as the addiction takes hold and destroys the soul like a deadly cancer eating away at the very fiber of the individual, until there is little left of the shell of the person they once were.
The craving is nothing than any of us have ever experienced. It literally consumes its victim, as they crave this drug, as we crave the very air we breath to sustain life. Unfortunately for the victim this drug has no life sustaining qualities and before long there is an announcement in the newspaper that they have passed away suddenly. But to the victim it wasn’t all that sudden at all. It began quite some time ago and they have been struggling in their silence without any hope of returning to the normal life they had once lived.
It usually begins in a very non incriminating environment. An uncle or an aunt, a cousin or a nephew, a brother or a sister has a minor surgery or goes to the doctor for a slight injury and begin taking pain medication. That may not be how it all starts but a large number of victims are led down this path.
Before they know it there is a deep craving inside that just doesn’t go away. As time goes on it becomes an insatiable itch that can’t be scratched. The craving turns into an all consuming desire that has an appetite of its own that can never be satisfied. Then the prescription runs out and the downward spiral picks up speed plunging the victim into a hell that they never knew existed.
What was once a reasonable individual is no more. Then the unthinkable happens. The point of no return where the victim begins to do what ever it takes to feed an addiction that can never be satisfied. The stealing from family members starts a little at a time until all reasons has been cast aside and breaking and entering and whole host of assorted crimes are committed totally out of character and we are left to wonder, what has happened to this person.
The abuse of alcohol is just as debilitating. Sometimes the place of solace for an individual comes in a bottle. There are varying degrees of this life altering affliction, but the end results share the same common attributes, the addiction to alcohol.
It’s estimated that 30 percent of all divorces are related to alcohol abuse and it causes over 88,000 deaths per year. Families are torn apart, lives are forever altered and the physical and emotional abuse follow in this pattern of destruction.
What we are witnessing at this point is a person who has lost all hope, and that hope is the only way back from the self imposed hell that they have fallen into. A person who has hope has the world at his finger tips. Ambitions are fulfilled through the element of hope. A better way of life is forged through the spirit of hope. Dreams become reality through the power of hope. A person without hope has in fact lost the very fiber to live another day.
In the northeast section of Bristol is an area called Federal Hill that is on the National Registry of Historical places. It is only fitting that in this Historical environment nestled among the backdrop of century old Victorian mansions is the place where hope resides. The very place where lives are turned around and the spiritually dead are brought back to life.
Turning Point Christian Center at 83 Bellevue Ave. is a non-profit Drug/Alcohol treatment center that is saving lives. It is restoring hope the kind of hope that breaths life back into the lifeless.
Pastor Robert Rascati and his wife Terrie have been saving lives through the Turning Point program for over 14 years. The 24-hour residential program offers not only help, but hope to men ages 18 and older who struggle with substance abuse, anxiety and depression maintaining a 75 percent success rate.
The 9 month program is designed to minister to the overall well being of the individual. The first phase is a 6 month program of accelerated courses of the Turning Point curriculum with 1 on 1 counseling and in depth group and Pastoral teachings.
Along with a work detail program, learning the principles of being faithful and productive in their responsibilities. At the end of the 9 months the students graduate into the final phase with an opportunity to enter a graduate program.
They can stay at the residential house continuing with every facet of the program and prepare for the exit plan. They can also choose to enter our Graduate House on 80 Union Street in Bristol. The goal is to secure a job through searching the internet or through the library.
Pastor Bob began his journey of transforming lives in 1985 when he recovered from a 13 year heroin addiction when he came to Teen Challenge. For over 34 years now he has been hard at work bringing the message of salvation to those who are hopeless and hurting.
Pastor Bob served as both staff counselor and Director of Prison Ministry at Teen Challenge in Pennsylvania and was the Director of Teen Challenge in Long Island and served as Assistant Pastor at Freedom Chapel Assemblies of God from 1993-2005.
He is the Associate Pastor at Calvary Life Family Worship Center in Cheshire and is the President and Executive Director of Turning Point.
“We are not only changing lives at Turning Point we are saving lives in the process,” said Rascati, who draws on his own experiences with addiction to show these men what God can do.
“These people come to us when they are at a place in their life where they have lost all hope. Turning Point is the place where their hope is restored and through that hope they can rebuild their lives.”
One of the newest members to the house is a young 26-year old man named Dylan who had coded and was in fact dead. Doctors brought him back to life and he remained in a coma on a ventilator. The sad fact of a heroin overdose that has been taking lives by the thousands right her in the state of Connecticut.
“I’ve been here for four and a half months,” said Dylan, who is grateful to be alive. “I came out of jail after serving a sentence for domestic violence. A couple of weeks after I got out I started using heroin. It progressively got worse to the point where I was on life support for four days.”
“You always have this feeling that you can control this. But there really is no controlling this. It just takes over your life before you know it. I have been to rehabs, I have been to jail, but the spirituality thing I have never tried and this is how I ended up here.”
“Six days after I got out of coma I came to Turning Point. I started using drugs at around the age of 18. It started with pills and it wasn’t too long after that I started using heroin. It just started going downhill from there.”
“It’s a horrible thing to try and get away from. You end up hurting the people who love you and really you are at a point you don’t even care about yourself anymore. It’s sad because you start preying on people to get what ever you can out of them.”
“My mom and dad were addicted to drugs so it’s just something that you are around and it slowly pulls you into the nightmare as well. My dad has been clean for seven years so you do see people who have lost everything but get it all back once they get away from it.”
“That gives me hope. I see it from both sides of where I don’t want to be to where I could be and that inspires me to think, yeah I can do this too. You can’t get complacent, you always need to remember where you came from and make a determination in your mind that you are not going back there once you get clean.”
“I still get overwhelmed at times. I struggle with the God thing sometimes but I do believe He is the only reason why I’m here today. One of my biggest fears when I got here was these guys who run this place are going to be like nuns. But these are just regular guys who just happen to believe in the power of God.”
“They have fun, they laugh, they have a good time. But they also are operating in the power of God and that is just an amazing thing to see. I see myself being successful when I leave this program because my hope has been restored.”
Every morning the group gets together in the front room to share their experiences and to encourage and draw strength from each other. Everyone’s walk is a little bit different but they all share the same common bond. They are overcoming something that was bigger than themselves.
Kerry a 52 year old who struggled with alcohol recently got out of a four month prison sentence who is putting his life back together. Dan is in his late twenties and was living in the woods, homeless and controlled by a drinking habit that led him down that dark path.
Matt who is the house leader and coordinator spent his time in prison marked by a life corrupted with alcohol and drugs. Although he fell away Matt is a spiritual man who knows the power of God and is a mentor to this house of men who are making their way back from a self imposed prison of substance abuse.
Ken is a 51 year old black man who was a deacon in his church showing that this epidemic of substance abuse knows no boundaries and can strike down anyone at anytime. He has been at Turning Point for 30 days trying to rebuild his life and hold on to his family of his wife and daughter in the process. Family support is imperative to the overall success of the program.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York Ken and his family resides in Bridgeport. His struggle with drugs and alcohol has been an ongoing battle since his teenage years. Being a functioning addict going to work everyday gave him the misconception that he didn’t have a problem.
“I didn’t believe I had a problem,” said Ken. “I was going to work everyday, I was a deacon in training at my church, on the surface it appeared that I had it all together. But on the inside I was falling apart.”
“I would use the everyday problems in life as an excuse to do what I do. It made more sense to me coming at it from that perspective. I was on a four day binge and it’s only by the grace of God that I’m even here today.”
“I drove to Pivot a re-hab place but I didn’t go in. I sat in my car and dosed off for about five hours. I woke up and decided let me go back out there and do it one more time then I’ll come back. That is the type of stuff you think about when you are using.”
“Before I left I got out of the car to stretch. When I got out I raised my arms in the air and said God help me. From out of nowhere He came and took my strength and fell back into the car. Then I heard Him say, Son I got you.”
“God is now restoring the relationship with my wife and daughter. This place offers me a place to rest and to get my life back. When you are out there you always feel that you got this, you can control this but that’s a lie from the enemy (Satan).”
“This is my second time through re-hab. But this place is different and you can see the difference. This place is filled with hope. The atmosphere in here is just amazing you can feel God in this house.”
“The transformation is unbelievable. I came in on a Monday and was interviewed by brother Matt and sister Terrie. That Wednesday sister Terrie came back and mind you I’m the only brother (black man) of color in the house and she pulled Matt to the side and asked who’s that guy?”
“The transformation that took place in just three days she didn’t even recognize me. That’s what’s going on in this house. God is in this place and he is transforming lives and giving us back our hope.”
The transformation of lives is going on at Turning Point on Bellevue Ave. in Bristol and so is the process of putting this house together. There are many needs for this house along with the needs of these men who are trying to get their lives back.
If you would like to help out with these needs feel free to contact Pastor Bob Rascati at (203) 427-1968 or you can donate by visiting their website turningpointne.com.