Eric’s Christmas Gift? Sobriety and Smiles


For years, Christmas meant nothing to Eric. He grew up without an extended family. As an adult, he became estranged from his kids. So, when he found himself alone on Christmas in 2019, wandering the cold streets without access to holiday tables filled with turkey and the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree, his heart felt hardened.

Being homeless was difficult enough, but it felt especially tough at the holidays. Plus, “I didn’t know how to survive as a homeless person, especially in the winter,” Eric says. “I tried panhandling, but that didn’t feel right.”

He slept on the light rail train to stay warm overnight. As he tried to sleep sitting up, he thought about everything that his drinking had stolen from him: a home, a job, and especially his kids.

A kind stranger on the train told Eric about Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities. He decided to give it a try. He was grateful to get out of the cold and have a warm place to sleep. Then he joined the recovery program. Initially, his motivation was to stay off the streets for the winter. But it didn’t take him long to realize that the men in the program had something that he desperately wanted: sobriety and smiles.

The program residents soon became his family. Together they survived COVID and all the challenges that came with living with late-stage addiction. He felt so good to be supported.

Thanks to the care and acceptance Eric has experienced, he has been sober for almost two years.

Last year, he received his best gifts ever: a new set of teeth and his General Education Diploma, just in time for Christmas.

“You know that song ‘All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth?’ That was me!” Eric says.  “Thanks to the Mission’s support, now I can smile for the first time without feeling embarrassed.”

As for school, earning his GED means Eric can further his education. He wants to continue his studies in counseling so he can help other people like himself.

Thanks to the healing Eric has experienced, Christmas looks a little brighter for him. “I cherish the holidays now,” he says.


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