Love and acceptance helps Florida man reconnect with hope

Just a few months ago, Ray Kinder could not imagine being clean, being out of jail, being hopeful. When you look at him today, you could not, for one minute, imagine him being anything but.

Ray grew up in a church-going family, but all was not right. His father was a career criminal, coming and going from prison. When his father was not in jail, he was abusing his mother and modeling the alcoholic lifestyle. He eventually ended up with a life sentence for armed robbery. People would speak over Ray that he would be just like his dad. It had its effects.

Ray was in juvenile detention 12 times. He got addicted to drugs in middle school and continued to make bad choices for the next two and a half decades. Kinder was in jail, some maximum-security ones, 23 times. Each jail time was just a pause from his crack addiction, and the pause button would be reset when he got out.

“My reality was too hard to take,” he said. “I knew how much pain I was causing my mom, my family. It just pushed me deeper into addiction. It was the loneliest, most isolating, tumultuous nightmare. I was just a zombie that didn’t care about anything. I stepped off the cliff into hopelessness.”

Last year, while out on bond, Ray went to visit his aunt. He was totally out of his mind, high and incoherent. His aunt called the police, who took him to a local addiction recovery program. While there, he learned of The Salvation Army. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and he was willing to give The Salvation Army a try.

When Ryan from The Salvation Army, came to pick him up a few days later, Kinder’s brain told him not to get on the bus. He said something, maybe God, pushed him to get on the bus.

Ryan told him everything was going to be OK, this was a new beginning for him, and he was going to find his purpose and a plan. Ryan was his first exposure to the love and acceptance that he was about to receive.

During December, Ray volunteered to help pick up Angel Tree gifts and said he “overdosed on the love” that was shown to him at each location. He also realized that at The Salvation Army, he was surrounded by people who truly understood him and his addiction. He was also among other people who were just like him. He “was not as unique as (he) thought. They showed me there was a way out I could never see before. There is a reason they call this the Center of Hope; I do have hope now.”

Kinder is taking things one day at a time. He remarked that “The Salvation Army gave me my hope back; it saved my life. If God can do this for someone like me, he can do this for anyone.” Kinder is protective of the “precious and valuable gift he has been given and is not going to give it up.”

The biggest challenge for Ray now is employment. He will commence soon and is praying someone will give him a chance.

His advice in the meantime for others like him: “If you think for one second that your life is gone and you’ve tried everything else in life, but it never worked for you, there is a place, and the name of this place is The Salvation Army. If you are truly ready to live, give this place a try.”

Since 1975, The Salvation Army has provided various programs in the state of Florida to assist people who have found themselves involved in the criminal justice system. In partnership with governmental agencies, The Salvation Army provides cost-effective alternatives to public-operated community corrections services.

Offenders have additional hurdles to overcome in attempting to become contributing members of the community that others do not, such as obtaining employment and housing. Because of The Salvation Army’s long history of working with offenders, staff members are aware of these hurdles and are experienced in resolving the myriad of issues that are unique to offenders.

Through contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Florida Department of Corrections, The Salvation Army Correctional Services offers residential programs for drug treatment and transitional services, assisting participants in becoming law-abiding members of the community.

President Trump’s declaration of April 2019 as Second Chance Month reflects The Salvation Army Correctional Services mission to improve the quality of life for offenders, their families, and the community.

Here is an excerpt from the declaration:

Americans have always believed in the power of redemption ‑‑ that those who have fallen can work toward brighter days ahead.  Almost all of the more than two million people in America’s prisons will one day return to their communities.  In each case, they will have served their sentence and earned the chance to take their places back in society.  During Second Chance Month, we draw attention to the challenges that former inmates face and the steps we can take to ensure they have the opportunity to become contributing members of society.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s Correctional Services in Florida, please click here.

Psychology Behind AddictionEdwyn Hector has worked for The Salvation Army for six years.

By Abagail Courtney –

In the U.S. Marine Corps, semper fidelis, or “always faithful,” signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for each other and their country, even after leaving service. For Edwyn Hector, that couldn’t be more fitting.

Though he’s now retired from his six-year command as a Reconnaissance man, Hector’s still faithfully serving his fellow comrades. Only now, he’s doing it through his work at The Salvation Army’s shelter.

Shortly after leaving the Marine Corps, Hector found himself a spectator in a civilian world. What he saw were veterans, not unlike himself, wrestling with psychosis, addiction, homelessness and the unresolved traumas that stemmed from military life. Between his military experience and background in psychology, he knew he could make a lasting impact for these men and women but wasn’t sure where to start.

One evening, not long after, he saw a commercial promoting The Salvation Army’s local shelter. It mentioned the facility’s work to help those facing addiction and homelessness. Hector showed up the next day to the shelter with a heart to help and a resume in hand.

Fast-forward six years, Hector is now one of two facilitators in charge of education and training at the shelter and has helped more than 3,000 individuals work through recovery and gain control of their addictions. Much of that work focuses on training thoughts and mindsets through positive reframing and the ability to recognize, accept and manage feelings.

Conquering addiction—a disease that the Surgeon General says will affect one in seven Americans—can be accomplished by consistently practicing these four things, according to Hector: Recognizing your feelings, identifying what they are, processing them and getting back to glad.

“Your actions come from your feelings. We allow a lot of people and places and things to dictate our feelings; this means we allow people, places and things to dictate our lives,” he said.

With that in mind, Hector focuses on the six emotions with which all people are born: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Once understood, the goal pivots toward recognizing, identifying, processing and taking responsibility for those emotions in order to avoid a relapse when life gets difficult.

Hector often poses questions during group sessions to help get the proverbial wheels turning: How can somebody make you a certain way? Do your feelings not come from your own mind? Who operates your mind? So where do your feelings come from?

“When they say ‘from me,’ I say ‘there you go—now you aren’t putting it on people, places, things,” he said. “Now you are putting it on your own self and now, what we need to do is practice on changing our perception.’ We can work with that.”

While such exercises have proven immensely helpful to many clients, Hector says the most valuable thing anyone in the program can extract from group sessions is knowing their worth.

“There is not another person on the planet that will ever exist like you again,” he said. “Everything you have on that body of yours is unique, and guess what? Our creator gave that to you to work with—just you—no one else. That’s how priceless you are—that is your worth.”

Many of the men Hector’s worked with at the shelter credit him with helping to kickstart that process. One of them was Dillion Toscano, who landed at the shelter several years ago after racking up a “resume” of 25 years of drug addiction, seven misdemeanors, four felonies.

“I had to learn the difference between sobriety and recovery and understand the emotions behind why I was using all of those years,” Toscano said. “There was one man who was responsible for me understanding that and ultimately being successful in recovery, and that was Edwyn Hector.”

After seeing so many of his friends come back from war without limbs or sight or hearing and still being eternally grateful for every breath given to them, Hector said he’s learned that loving yourself is where healing, peace, and change begin.

“You don’t get a second go around at this thing, so it’s time to be kind to you,” he said. “It’s time to love who you are to the fullest.”

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