A Grateful Heart and a Full Belly
by Katie Andreano, Manager of Communications
There’s an open, down-to-earth quality about Cody that invites warm conversation as soon as you meet him. It’s the feeling you get when you sit down to a meal with a good friend. And that’s all part of Cody’s outlook on life, his heart for people and his love of cooking. “Something just opens up over food,” Cody explains. “The kitchen opens its doors when people are hungry, and they tell me their stories.”
Today, Cody is Bethesda’s part-time chef, cooking meals at the shelter three days a week. But 8 years ago, he was one of those guests, staying at the Mission and starting down the road to recovery. Cody shared his story with me over some delicious fried chicken:
Cody grew up in uptown Harrisburg, in a comfortable home with his grandmother. As he got older, Cody was recruited by his uncles to make a little extra money dealing drugs. “Their plan was for me to be a runner… but then crack showed up.”
He shared, “My drug of choice for a long time was alcohol, so initially, I just wanted something that would keep me up so I could keep drinking, and I was curious enough about crack to give it a try.” But addiction soon followed as he developed a “dealer habit.”
“I loved the lifestyle, the fast money. I felt important,” Cody continued. The allure of power, of being the one who had both the money and the commodity, was addicting too. But little by little, he started getting tired: “Physically, I was breaking down.”
“One night, I remember being one of two people left in a crack house. I was laying on the floor and, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop twitching. I remember crying out to the Lord, ‘Help me! I don’t want to die like this!’ And that was the start of me trying to come down.”
It took some more time, though, before Cody was truly ready to work through recovery. He remembers one day in particular when all the dominoes fell: “At the time, I had been working in the kitchen at the Marriott. It was a Friday — payday — and for some reason, my money was in the bank early. By 11AM, I was broke, and my rent was due. When I called to tell my landlady that I was short on rent again, she said she didn’t want my money. She just wanted me to get help.”
Cody continued, “I took the weekend to eat up my food and pack up my things, then on Monday, I got a ride to Bethesda Mission.”
When his initial 20 day stay at the Mission was about to come to an end, Cody hadn’t decided what to do next. One morning, a man who was getting ready to graduate from the Helmsman recovery program woke him up to ask, “What are you going to do?”
“Nobody had really asked me that yet,” Cody explained. “He told me all about the program and encouraged me to talk to the counselors and try to get in.” So he did. “When they saw that I was serious,” Cody continued, “I was accepted into the program.”
Throughout most of his time in the program, Cody’s family members would encourage him to stay at the Mission. “Even they wanted what’s best for me.” But there was one incident when he ran into his Aunt who invited him back to her house. When she learned he was living at the Mission, her demeanor completely changed: “she blew me off! I was hurt, but not hurt enough to use. That really convinced me that it was right to stay here.”
Another day, his cousin walked into the Mission clearly beat up because of a bad drug deal. “He’s the most kind-hearted man,” Cody explained. “I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
Fast-forward to today, and Cody has been clean for 8 years, has a wife and two children, and is on staff at Bethesda Mission. “God has given me more of what I didn’t ask for than what I did!” He says that he never expected his own family, a wife who knows his whole story and still accepts him as a changed man, and the opportunity to give back.
“I love being where I’m physically involved. I cried when I finally got this job — it wasn’t about the money! I get more out of this than anything. I’ve been able to help people who really needed food, one guy asked if I could be his mentor, and I’m learning how to trust God when interacting with more difficult guys.”
Cody admits that he still has issues, but has learned how to deal with them differently. “I tell the guys, we’re all even now, cause we’re all here. I love being back here.”
If you’re ever visiting Bethesda around lunch time, I encourage you to drop in and meet Cody. I promise it will be worth your time — you’ll leave with a grateful heart and a full belly!
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