My name is Kim Sharper and I am honored to share my story with you. I was born in Baltimore and have lived in Annapolis most of my life. I am 46 years old. I was sexually and physically abused by family members as a child and was raped several times in my life. By sixteen, I was regularly using drugs and drinking because it helped ease the pain. I started using marijuana, sniffing, and then by eighteen I started smoking crack cocaine. I used drugs for 29 years.
One day God touched me and turned me around and brought me to the Stanton Center. I had heard about Larry Griffin at We Care and Friends and knew he could help me. I met Larry and Toni Larkins and they sent me to a treatment program in Connecticut called Refocus Outreach Ministry. I was in Connecticut for 18 months. I progressed as I stayed and I received several certificates of achievement during the program. I graduated on October 14, 2011, received my final certificate from Refocus and was also honored by the Mayor of Connecticut.
I returned to Annapolis and I now have a job and am working on getting a place of my own. I would like to say to anyone who is where I used to be and doing what I was doing, please know that you can stop what you are doing and get your life together– if I can do it, you can too! God brought me here for a reason, to do the right thing and you can do it, too! Just put one foot in front of the other and come to the Stanton Center and get help. Many thanks to Larry Griffin and everyone at the Stanton Center for all they do. I would also love to thank Wanda Blake who has been with me since I was a little girl and never gave up on me, and has always been there by my side.
One Man’s Recovery
Carlos Koudelka of El Salvador was born into a large dysfunctional family. His birthmother died when he was still an infant. His father was an alcoholic and abusive to his sister. His family was greatly impacted by alcohol and drugs; to this day, Carlos hates alcohol. At the age of 2, after 18 months in an orphanage, the Koudelka family of Annapolis adopted him. As a young Hispanic man adapting to an Anglo society, Carlos struggled and developed into an angry youth who found drugs. Coke, Weed, Ecstasy and occasionally Acid; Weed was his “drug of choice.” He thought he could be a tough guy, prowling the dark with the nickname, “Gremlin,” but Carlos really wasn’t that smart – he found himself “using his own stuff.” He preferred the safety of night where he could creep and be invisible.
Addiction is not only a user or abuser problem. The user’s family also suffers tremendously and Carlos’ family had reached the end. They had run out of answers, patience and sympathy. Searching for answers on the internet, they reconnected with an old friend, Larry Griffin, the founder of We Care and Friends. Until that point, the family had only used tough love by not allowing Carlos into their house while he was using and it broke their hearts.
Carlos had heard about Larry from guys on the street. His friends told him that they highly respected Larry and to show respect, they stayed on their own side of the street. But Carlos was cynical and thought the whole thing was a hoax. “No one could really be like that.” Eventually, Larry gained his respect and Carlos realized how much he had hurt his family. He agreed to go to treatment at Teen Challenge USA in New York. It was not easy and did not go smoothly. On the first day, Carlos called his parents and Larry and they both told him he could not come home. Carlos tried to persuade Phil Hyman, Sr. at Teen Challenge USA who suggested that he sleep on it and make a decision in the morning. In the end, Carlos accepted the Lord as his savior and decided to stick it out. Carlos graduated from the Teen Challenge Program on January 29th, 2010 and Mr. Hyman feels that he was “the best student to ever come through the program.”
His mother, Teri Phelps says, “We are so grateful for Larry (We Care and Friends) for getting Carlos off the streets. Larry took Carlos into his own home, convinced him to get help via Teen Challenge, and put him on a bus for New York the next day. It is due to Larry’s involvement in the community that our son has been given a second chance. We Care and Friends is a tremendous asset the Annapolis Community.”
“I think it is to Carlos’ credit that he recognized he had a severe problem and wanted to change as early on as he did. Teen Challenge has given him a lot of self esteem. Carlos has worked hard on personal growth and sobriety, made wonderful friends and found an unparalleled support network. Carlos has matured during his time in the Teen Challenge Program and managed to turn his life around through his hard work and the support of programs like We Care and (Friends) Program. We are so proud of Carlos and new life he has chosen to pursue.”
Carlos is done with the streets and acting wild. He is amazed that he actually completed the program. He now understands that he wanted to “punch God in the face” but instead, was beating up his own body out of anger. Without this suit of rage, he felt weak and vulnerable. In accepting God, he had to surrender everything that he thought he knew. It was a challenging growth process but allowed him the opportunity at graduation to stand beside his father humbly and proclaim “I am glad to be a Man who can now stand in front of you as a Man.”
Carlos says that sometimes people “cling to what they know because it is like a jewel in the hand of another. The familiarity and hope that you might someday get that jewel is misleading and change is uncomfortable.” He likes to “stay in the Bible” to remain strong and focused. He also spends his time listening to and writing music, working out and connecting to those who have his best interest at heart. He is now working in the Extended Training Program at St. John’s in Buffalo, New York and will be finished in summer of 2010. He has consulted with his parents and hopes to become a Youth Counselor or Youth Pastor. He feels that this is “a better way to fight.”
Teen Challenge USA is a national, faith-based 12-18 month recovery program, first established in Brooklyn, NY in 1958. Contrary to their name, Teen Challenge admits people of all ages and only a small portion are actually teens. www.TeenChallengeUSA.com