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Men of Nehemiah is an All-Male Residential Recovery Program in South Dallas

“Fighting a disease you can’t see is like slap-boxing Godzilla,” says Dion, a former U.S. Army sniper who is battling addiction at Men of Nehemiah, a nine-month-long, all-male addiction treatment center in South Dallas that combines professional counseling with Biblical discipleship and military discipline.

“I found out about Men of Nehemiah at another rehab place. I interviewed by phone with Men of Nehemiah, and three days later they accepted me. But I thought I could handle it on my own after 28 days at the other rehab. Two weeks later I was back in jail. When I got out 35 days later, I relapsed again.”

Dion found himself homeless and passed out behind a dumpster, overdosing all alone behind a strip mall. “Some random stranger came out of Burger King and ‘Narcan-ed’ me. I don’t remember his face. Honestly, it might have been an angel. Just as suddenly, he was gone. I had to call 911 myself. When I look back on it, it gives me chills.”

While recovering in the hospital, Dion found a Men of Nehemiah brochure on the counter and took it as a sign. “I called and they had a bed for me, so I came over right away. And I’m glad I did.”

Looking back, Dion found himself floundering in high school. “I got cut from my high school baseball team my sophomore year,” he explained. “I met some people who introduced me to weed and drinking. So, it got to the point three years into my high school experience that my parents said, ‘you’re not going back to that school.’ I got my diploma online and signed up to join the Army when I was barely 17.” 

Dion graduated Army Airborne School and was assigned to a scout platoon at Fort Hood. After Sniper School, he was assigned to a scout unit. “I actually got handed my sniper rifle on my 18th birthday. There were nine men, including me, in my unit. For the next two years, we did everything together. I mean everything. I knew their mothers, fathers, wives, kids…everything about them. The camaraderie we had was something I’d longed for a long, long time.”

Dion and his squad deployed to Afghanistan, and for the next six months they excelled in their missions. They attained ‘elite’ status. Meanwhile, an 11-year-old Afghan boy was always hanging out when they returned from a mission to their Forward Operating Base. “We called him ‘Taki.’ We’d play soccer with him and give him candy and stuff.”

“On one particular mission, we went out and it was a very bad firefight. We got back, and we were kind of shook up. Well, every time we came back, Taki was always there, but he wasn’t there this day. So, we’re all huddled up at the bottom of the hill, and I hear my name called out from one of our commanders at the top of the hill. So, I turn and start walking up the hill. I’m about hallway up, and I look to the right, and there goes a soccer ball past me…and all of a sudden, I feel this extreme heat behind me, and this strong force slammed me to the ground! I’m not sure how long I was unconscious, but I got up, turned around, and my whole entire squad was gone! The enemy strapped a suicide vest to an 11-year-old boy and basically took my whole family! And for a long time, I thought the only reason I’m still here is I must’ve screwed something up on the mission for me to be called to the top. I messed up and my life was saved. For the longest time, I thought I should have died with them.”

Dion wasn’t allowed to go home right away, so he missed all his brothers’ funerals. But when he made it home, he went to each of their families. “Half of the families appreciated that I came and brought them trinkets, but the other half looked at me as the bad guy. And I had to just eat it. It took a toll on me.”

He turned to alcohol. “It was easy to get and easy to take. And I continued drinking after I left. I never got the help that I needed. I sought it through other friends, but none of them could ever amount to the brothers I’d lost. I was 20 when I got back, and I was drinking heavily for the next five years.”

“Then I got in a really bad motorcycle accident and the doctor gave me prescription pills, and I was hooked. The pills made me feel whole again. Painkillers were the ultimate downfall of my life. It was basically just to bury my past. Then someone introduced me to heroin and all the feelings went away. I lost my job. I lost my family. I was in and out of jail. And I really didn’t care if I was going to die.”

Men of Nehemiah has changed Dion. “At Men of Nehemiah, they build this community around you, and they throw so much love at you that it’s almost like that 17-year-old kid inside me is excited again. Because I’m fighting this war of disease with these brothers around me. They’ve changed my life for the better. I’m excited for the next stage.”

Kit Case of Dallas is Dion’s mentor. “In 2019, I dropped a friend with a heroin addiction off at Men of Nehemiah and they saved his life,” said Case. “What they’re doing is just a tremendous accomplishment. When I see the quality of the people who lead this program, it’s just an incredible opportunity to be part of something that God’s using to save lives. Now I can’t stay away.”

“I had an emotionless Dad growing up,” said Dion. “By the grace of God, Men of Nehemiah  gave me Kit, a man with some experience in life. The first thing he said to me was: ‘Open honesty. Don’t lie to me and I won’t lie to you.’ I respect that.”

“Mentorship is huge,” said Jim Ramsey, CEO at Men of Nehemiah. “A lot of men have rebuilt the values they held. Mentors give them confidence. Sometimes it’s helpful if a mentor has himself battled addiction. But it’s not a pre-requisite. A mentor is really just a friend with a purpose.”

Dion says he understands now that the event in Afghanistan is not the defining thing about him. “I’m alive for a reason. I have to honor those that fell. And I’m getting to a point where I can do that. My faith has grown every day that I’ve been here. God and I are tight. And he’s not like a normal God. He’s like the whole Army in one!”

In 1994, Pastor Louis Harrell, a former US Army Colonel, founded Men of Nehemiah in New Orleans to deliver his wayward son, Louis Harrell, Jr., from the grip of addiction. After being restored, Louis Harrell Jr. relocated to North Texas, where he launched Men of Nehemiah in South Dallas with the help of Roger McCasland, President and CEO of Operation Relief Center.

Today, Men of Nehemiah has helped more than 1,500 men find paths to recovery. Research compiled in 2022 affirmed that 61% of men who graduated from Men of Nehemiah prior to 2020 stayed sober for at least two years. Of the men who graduated from the program in 2022, 100% were employed when they left the program, and each man had a savings account. Throughout 2022, the men completed 11,148 hours of community service. More information is available at menofnehemiah.org.

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