From the smallest mid-western towns to the streets of Baltimore City, opioid addiction remains a growing problem in the United States.
According to Baltimore City Health Department’s website, Baltimore City saw 761 drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in 2017 and of those, a staggering number (692) were opioid related.
Nevertheless, inspiring people like Daniel McGhee represent the hope that getting clean from opioids is achievable. McGhee grew up in the Baltimore area and resides in Harford County. Despite life-threatening encounters with drugs and alcohol, McGhee was determined to rise about it all. Against the odds he won the battle, and even became a community leader who managed to make a local and international impact through philanthropy.
“I got addicted to heroin at about age 17 and quickly lost everything, including my morals, pride and integrity. It broke down all the walls that I had built around myself, and took my ego,” McGhee said. “I ended up homeless, in jails, prisons, rehabs, hospitals, overdosed, had a heart attack at age 21, and lost everyone I ever cared about. Several years, a lot of prayers and a long hard journey later, I picked up the pieces of myself and finally got it right.”
McGhee’s autobiography, "Chasing A Flawed Sun," was published in June of 2019. Thus far, 2000 copies have been sold locally. Even though his intended audience was drug addicts and their loved ones, he discovered that people from different walks of life have been reading the raw book, which has been garnering excellent reviews.
“I hope that addicts gain the hope and clues to get clean. I hope that recovering addicts get more insight into why they did the things that they did, and I hope that the loved ones of addicts gain more understanding into the nature of addiction, the signs, and ways to handle a loved one with addiction,” McGhee said. “I've had people affect by addiction and completely unaffected reach out to me that have thanked me for the insight they've gained into the communities of Baltimore and its suburbs and the plight of addiction that plagues it.”
After getting clean in 2001, McGhee steadily began to rebuild his life, piece by piece. Today, he is the owner of Freedom Fighters Bail Bonds; Evolve So Hard clothing company; Kairos Properties, LLC; a real estate agent at Homeowners Real Estate; the Outreach/Marketing Coordinator at Hopes Horizon Treatment Facility; and president of Agape Projects.
“I started literally from the bottom with nothing. Once I was released from prison and ultimately, my last treatment center, I had to wait tables for years. I slowly saved money and started my own businesses. I learned to focus on rebuilding every part of my life every single day that drugs and alcohol had affected. It trashed my body, so I became an avid member of my gym. It damaged my mind, so I read books and did word puzzles,” McGhee said. “It damaged me emotionally and spiritually, so I worked on relationships with my loved ones, met and made new friends, and worked on a relationship with my God. It also destroyed me financially, so I worked hard at building a financially secure lifestyle.”
McGhee points to gratitude and humility, as core elements to helping him stay clean and sober. He also supports others with embracing their second chances, too.
“The Agape Projects was officially formed as a nonprofit in 2017. Through it, hundreds of different people volunteer with our various projects,” McGhee said, adding that his first community project began in 2010.
Founded by McGhee, the non-profit Agape Projects is focused on changing the world through the concept of Agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay). According to the website, Agape is an Ancient Greek word that refers to love in its highest form: Love in action through charity. Agape is also known as the love of God for mankind, and the love mankind has for God. The organization has various projects in different areas of need, including Haitian missions; animal rescue; disaster relief; toy run; and local community services here in Baltimore.
Examples of past events to help the community in Baltimore include monthly homeless feedings; clothing, hygiene and outreach; addictions outreach; and support to East Side Homeless Shelter.
“I [am] so grateful for his tremendous compassion, and I will never forget the help that he gave me, in my time of need,” Juli Leal said about McGhee, who helped her and other parents buy toys for their children as part of an annual toy run at Christmas.
McGhee’s altruism has motivated others to make a difference by volunteering. Laura Hatoff met McGhee, after following up about helping to sponsor children. She joined McGhee’s effort to mobilize other caring people through social media, by volunteering with him on local service projects.
Hatoff ultimately took mission trips to Haiti and Honduras to help others in need.
“He (Daniel) volunteers doing something every single day,” Hatoff said admiringly. “He represents nothing but love.”
For more information about his book, visit: http://chasingaflawedsun.com/ and for more information about the Agape Projects, visit: theagapeprojects.org.