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I'm a survivor

The story of Larry Sigmon

Larry Sigmon's story is one of survival. A man who once enjoyed life with a wife, three children and an income of $50,000 a year working at a steel mill, he now resides at the Frederick Ozanam House (FOH) as he recovers from drug addiction. He is also actively defeating two types of depression, along with a past that reveals decades of heartbreak. However, Larry took fate into his own hands and reversed his life the day he turned to the FOH. Through his own devotion and with faith-based guidance, Larry has found a life filled with support and he now gives back to the community what Beans and Bread has given him.

"I shot dope for 32 years. I did all the old uppers, downers, PCP, hash, pot, drank and all. The one that I fell in love with was heroin. I tried to get clean three or four times before. I could always stop but I could never quit," said Larry.

Larry was diagnosed with the two depressive disorders, major depression and bi-polar disorder, only eight years ago. He turned to drugs as a young man by trying to self-medicate his feelings that were never explainable or treated.

"I used because I didn't like the way I felt. I was abused as a kid, beaten, and I used to always run away from home. My mother had me put away a few times. Then, as an adult, I've been in and out of prisons to support my habit for the drugs," said Larry.

The salary he earned as a steel mill worker wasn't enough to support his addiction. Larry turned to committing several burglaries and spent years in prison. However, the confinement did not provide a clean environment because he abused the available drugs while finishing his sentence.

In 1999, Larry tried to reverse the path his life had taken. He decided to go to the First Step Day Hospital at Johns Hopkins where he learned about his substance abuse and addiction. From there, he went to Christopher Place Employment Academy, a job readiness program that helped sharpen his skills and secure him in a well-paying job. He was able to stop using drugs for 6 months, but the lure of the addiction drew him back in.

"I ran for a few years, [and] then tried to get clean again. I ended up on Meyer 5, which is what I call the 'nut ward' up at Hopkins. I went through detox and then went to the First Step Day Hospital. Then, I found out that my daughter had committed suicide," said Larry.

After attending his daughter's funeral and watching her suicide tape, Larry's life hit rock bottom.

"That led me back to where I really started using a whole lot. After the funeral, I went back to Baltimore. Needless to say, I started using again. A month later, my son tried to commit suicide on the highway by shooting himself while driving, resulting in a head-on collision but he lived. He went into the hospital for a couple months and when he got out, he called me and told me he was going to take his daughter to Disney World and then he was going to kill himself. I talked to him for about an hour and a half on the phone and I thought I had him talked out of it. Two days later, I get a phone call that he was found dead in a motel room of an overdose of the pain pills the hospital had given him from the accident," said Larry.

Larry can't remember the next few days of his life. He found himself back at Meyer 5 and he received 11 electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatments. Although he believes the ECT sessions wiped away some of his memory, it is slowly coming back. He says the types of depression he suffers from are almost untreatable and the medication only works on some days. On the days he feels low, he confides in his counselor and the staff members at the FOH, something the old Larry would never be willing to do.

"People that knew me before can't believe who I am today. Sometimes it takes a tragedy for someone to get clean. My children only knew me as a dope fiend, a junkie. One way I deal with everything is I know they're looking down on me and they're proud of me," said Larry.

Larry took this faith and went to Narcotics Anonymous which then led him to his final step at First Step. He applied to become a resident and was accepted into the Frederick Ozanam House, which would prove to be the final step in his road to recovery and the first step to the rest of his life.

Related Stories

Beans and Bread meal program: A line forms on the corner of Bond Street in Fells Point five days a week.

Beans and Bread offers transitional housing for recovering addicts: The Frederick Ozanam House provides more than just shelter four five-bedroom apartments where 20 men recovering from addiction live communally.

Beans and Bread outreach center: Learning lab and day resource center offers more than just food for the needy.

Fells Point has the heart of Baltimore: From the heart of Fells Point Beans and Bread serves people in need.

More than just a meal: The history of Beans and Bread, Fells Point’s outreach center.

Overcoming all odds: Resident credits his survival to Frederick Ozanam House.

Transcription of Interview - Larry Sigmon