Gregory Kinash grew up in Egg Harbor City, with a foster mother who he adored. “She was my heart,” he said. “She was a beautiful woman. She was always there to listen and to talk to. She taught us responsibility. And gave us love. There were big gatherings during the holidays. She worked hard to make sure we had everything. And we felt loved.”
The “we” Greg was referring to was him and his two younger brothers. When his foster mother took them all in, Greg was five-years-old; his other brothers were three-years-old; and five-months-old. “The three of us were put up for adoption after “my real mother, who was a stripper, and an addict, in Atlantic City got into trouble. We had been living over top of a strip club. I never met my father. My mother told me he was just a gigolo, who died of HIV.” Greg paused, then said, “Now, some days, I fault her. Some days, I don’t. After going through my own addiction, I kind of understand. She had her own demons.”
When Greg’s foster mother passed away, he was 26. “That was when my own demons took over,” he said,” he said. “I got into cocaine, just to avoid the pain I was feeling. But cocaine was so expensive. I was working at a place in Mays Landing, building refrigerators. I’d get paid like $800 on a Friday. And on Monday, I was asking to borrow $5 for lunch. So, I started using heroin, which I didn’t like as much, but it was cheaper.”
Three years later, he was in prison for the first time. “My life spiraled into a mess,” he said. “Then I got clean from 2016 until 2020. I was working for my brother, who owns a construction company. Those years were the best times of my life – other than growing up with my foster mother.”
During the pandemic, though, he relapsed, and “things went from bad to worse. I actually ended up homeless. I got robbed so many times while I was sleeping in alleys with a couple of people in the worst parts of Atlantic City, on Florida and Texas Avenue. I didn’t shower for a month. Days went by when I didn’t eat. Just sleeping on the sidewalk. Getting kicked in the head by someone passing by. I didn’t care. Discarded needles were all around us. The heroin we were taking was called Bad Bunny. We knew it was killing people. But we still looked for it, thinking we’d be ok if we didn’t do that much. I was narcaned four times in two months and brought to the hospital twice. I wouldn’t shower for a month. I applied for GA – and got food stamps. So, once a month, I’d steal some clothes from TJ Max, then get a room, take a shower, and change into new stuff. That was my life.” Looking away, he added, “To be honest, I was to the point where I just wanted to get arrested. The addiction has you in its grips. I wanted to just get caught – to save me from myself. When I was finally arrested, I called it being ‘rescued’.”
Having been rescued, Greg just completed nine months of counseling at The Mission, at the request of Recovery Court. “I’ve done a lot of reflecting about what’s really going on in this head,” he said, pointing to his temple. “What I’ve come to learn through the counseling here is that I don’t need to live this way anymore. There is no reason to put myself, and those who love me, through this pain. I have people who care about me, and I’m learning to care about myself. It’s taken a long time. My brother says that as long as I am clean, I can have a job working with him in construction. He said that when I’m working, I accomplish what it would take two guys to do in the same amount of time. (I don’t do anything halfway.) What I’ve learned about myself here at The Mission is that I now know that I can beat this addiction. I have too many people who love me and care for me. And I know how upset I made them. They could not change me. It has to be me who changes. They loved me. But they had to do it at a distance. I have people who care about me, and will be there for me, as long as I am clean. And I understand that. Deeply.”
In addition to focusing on his recovery, going to meetings, working his program, completing his requirements for Recovery Court, working in construction with his brother, and reconnecting with family and friends, Greg is going to frame a photograph he has of his foster mother and put it by his bedside. His intention is to remember her before he goes to sleep and dream about her until he can hear her voice once again, sending him love, and being there for him, like always.