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Man finds God, sobriety, American Rescue Workers

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Chad Ling of State College tells of the Americn Rescue Workers impact on his life in the ARW''s cafeteria Wednesday.

There was a gun down Chad Ling’s throat. Another was pointed to his side. In front of him stood a pre-teen boy with an assault rifle of some kind pointed directly at him.

Ling’s life of drugs had brought him to this point, being held at gunpoint in a shady apartment in Phoenix, Arizona, because of a drug deal gone bad.

He was only 21 or 22 years old. He was recently removed from a brief college soccer career at Misericordia University. He had come from your run-of-the-mill family where he was a top student in his class at West Branch High School.

So far off the rails had gone his life because of his addiction to heroin, that the Mexican cartel held him at gunpoint because of a missing $200 or $300.

“They could have killed me and thrown me in a ditch somewhere and all I had back at home was my mom and my brother who I didn’t talk to much because I was getting high,” said Ling, now 31. “By the grace of God, I got out of it.”

Ling tells that story so matter-of-factly now, a decade later. He understands the severity of the ordeal he went through that day and even comments about how he thought his life was ending right there. He’s currently a resident at the American Rescue Workers’ Fresh Start Men’s Rehabilitation Shelter on Elmira Street in Williamsport, and he often shares his story.

Ling’s story is as much a testimony as it is a recounting of the life he has lived over the last decade-plus. It started with smoking marijuana as a young teenager. During his most recent trip to jail, he determined he needed a change to his life, including finding religion. At American Rescue Workers, Ling is getting the opportunity to turn his life around.

“I’m fortunate, and I know I’m blessed,” Ling said. “For whatever reason, I’m still here. I believe it’s because I have a purpose. I don’t know what that purpose is just yet, but I know I have one.”

He left Misericordia after being caught with two ounces of marijuana and being charged with possession with intent to deliver. He found his way to the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven University before eventually enrolling at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix.

By the time he got to Phoenix, Ling was already addicted to heroin. It was an addiction born out of being prescribed opioid painkillers following a soccer injury. He liked the way the opioid painkillers made him feel and he continued to chase that high.

While going to school in Phoenix and working as a motorcycle mechanic, Ling was still getting high. He had taken to selling drugs to make money for his next heroin score. Eventually, it led to a shady deal to sell a large amount of cocaine. After initially agreeing to the deal, Ling decided it wasn’t a road he wanted to go down and called the person he got it from and chose to return it. It wasn’t long after that he received a call saying a few hundred dollars was missing, something he denied.

Then Ling was lured to an apartment complex with the promise he could get some heroin. Two men came to his car, and one went to the driver’s side window and pointed a gun at Ling’s head. The other got in the passenger seat and pointed a gun to his side. Armed with just a knife, Ling could do nothing. The men took him to an apartment where he was held hostage by members of the cartel. He found a gun jammed into his mouth.

“When they called me on the phone the first time, I got tough with them,” Ling said. “When there’s two guns pulled on you and all you’ve got is a knife and a bum knee, you’re not so tough anymore.”

Ling said he probably should have died in that dingy apartment. Only by sheer happenstance was he bailed out. While being held, others took his car to a convenience store where a friend of Ling’s saw it and realized Ling wasn’t driving. The friend approached the car to find out what was going on and ended up paying off his debt.

Though he was freed, the ordeal wasn’t the wake-up call he needed. Instead, he went years struggling with addiction and survival, including 10 to 15 trips to jail on a multitude of charges.

Something clicked during his last trip to jail. He was 30 years old when he read the book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

He began to exercise like he had when he was a serious athlete. He began to read the Bible and pray. And he got clean. Ling is approaching one year of sobriety. He said it’ll be the first year of his life that he’s been clean since he was 12.

Upon his release from jail, the idea of going to the American Rescue Workers was presented to him. He had never heard of the organization, but loved the structure the work rehabilitation program provided. There were opportunities to grow. There were opportunities to stay clean. And most importantly, there was an opportunity to become a functioning member of society.

“The program is designed to help people get on their feet and teach them how to fish,” said Cleveland Way, ARW director of shelters. Way interviews potential residents in the men’s rehabilitation program. “I think 85 percent of the individuals who come into this program want a fresh start. They realize their mistakes, and some of them are grave, but they don’t want to live that way again and they need someone to help them.”

And help was exactly what Ling knew he needed. All he had when he came to Williamsport was a bleach-stained T-shirt, a dirty pair of black pants and a pungent pair of shoes.

The first thing ARW offered him was a bed. They also gave him vouchers to get some new clothes. He could rely on having three meals a day. There are services available to be checked out by a doctor or dentist. Ling knew he needed to have his eyes checked as his vision began to worsen, and ARW afforded him that opportunity.

Ling is as healthy as he’s ever been these days. He’s working full-time as part of the rehabilitation program, and he’s not afraid to share his story about where he came from and where he is now. He’s five months into a nine-month program, but hasn’t decided what he wants to do when it’s time to go on his own.

“It feels like I’m alive again,” Ling said. “This place takes care of all the little things so that you can focus on yourself. And then I had to work and there are people here who will guide you and care for you. You put that together with opening your mind and opening your heart to God and a different way and a better way. That combination puts you in a place where you can grow.”

Ling’s story is not uncommon. Many men have come through ARW’s program and found a way to get past their demons and readmit themselves as productive members of their community. But for right now, Ling shows what is possible when someone truly wants to change and trusts the process.

“I believe every individual has the ability to succeed,” Way said. “It’s embedded in us, a God-given ability to be the best we can. But sometimes, we get in our own way.”

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