Did your dad ever slip you a sip of their beer when you were a kid? And you probably made that scrunched up face, like, “EWWW! Why do you drink that stuff, Dad?” Well what if instead of just a sip one time, your dad let you drink the entire beer? And what if it was every day? And what if you were only 6 years old? Shockingly enough, that’s what happened to Mr. Brown. By the time he was just 9 years old, he was an alcoholic, although he didn’t quite realize it at the time. His parents separated, but when it was his dad’s turn to have him, he would spend all his time in the bar, with his poor child in tow, passing him beers the entire time, and no one ever said a word. When it was time for him to go back to his mom’s, he would be so sick, shaking and sweating. His stepdad kept beer in the house, so he would sneak one now and again to keep himself calm. He didn’t know it back in those days, with the mind of an innocent 9-yr-old boy, but he was an alcoholic, and he was going through withdrawal.
Fast forward to age 16. He got his license, and his mom owned a gas station. Unbeknownst to her, she was supplying her own son with unlimited amounts of beer. When he needed something stronger, he knew exactly which liquor store wouldn’t ID him. From the beginning, his life was a recipe for disaster, but he still made straight A’s in school. He ended up dropping out of high school in the 10th grade to pursue a great paying job on the pipeline after his stepdad kicked him out of the house. When there wasn’t any work to do there, he would work at his mother’s gas station. With no place to live, he crashed with friends and partied more. He was a free man at only 16, and bad choices were sure to come.
At age 24, he met a woman that he eventually married. They were together for 7 years and had 2 boys, but he caught her cheating, and he was done. He was drinking now more than ever, and these actions put his safety, and everyone else’s, in jeopardy. Drinking and driving became a new hobby for him, and one night, he would pay for that. On his brand new Ninja motorcycle, he was flying over 100 mph on some back-country roads, when a herd of cattle crossed the road right in front of him. He slammed on his breaks, but it didn’t slow him down enough. He hit a cow going nearly 70 mph and lived to tell the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the parade of DUI s, one after another (8 in total), prison sentence after prison sentence, until his drivers license was permanently revoked.
Then he met a woman, but her poison wasn’t alcohol; it was meth. What most people don’t realize about addiction is that most of the time it starts socially, only using because a friend is, but then it escalates. And that is what happened to him. He began to unravel. His health was declining, he didn’t feel like working, then it got to a point where he couldn’t work because his health was so bad. Their relationship was on and off again. They would separate, he would get clean, but the second they got back together, he was back on drugs. It was toxic, and he knew he needed out of that, but just couldn’t find the will power, that is until the fire.
They had been in a fight, and he had to get some space. Then he got a call that he his house had been in a bad fire. He went straight home, only to find his house in a pile of smoldering rubble. He was angry, sad at the lost, confused about what had happened, his terrible health issues were beginning to really concern him; he was an emotional and physical wreck. Then he heard what he had really been needing to hear to get things back on track. “We’ve determined the cause of the fire, Mr. Brown,” the fire marshal told him. “Apparently, someone had left a candle burning on a bed in one of the bedrooms.” And that was it. He was done with her, and for good this time. With no place left to go, and quickly becoming deathly ill, he came to Gospel Rescue Mission.
Upon check-in, we determined that he needed a doctor ASAP, and come to find out, Mr. Brown was battling a double pneumonia, and that sickness would take him months to fully recuperate from. While he was grateful for the assistance, he struggled with following the rules at first, and after 5 months he left to stay with some friends and help remodel their house in exchange for a place to live. He started drinking again and became frustrated with his current situation. A couple months later, he returned to GRM, stayed a couple months, then left again. But not for long. “I just wasn’t happy where I was, and I knew there was something here that I needed to learn.” So, he came back again, this time completely sober and with a totally different outlook. He’s ready to work and ready to make some real movement in the right direction.
Grace is one of the most important values that we have at Gospel Rescue Mission. Just like Christ forgave us of our sins (even though sometimes we repeat them over and over), when we ask for forgiveness, it is freely given. We are even instructed in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” While sometimes we need to ask guests to leave because they are jeopardizing the safe and healing environment that we promise to provide, no one is every permanently banned here, just like we are never permanently banned from God’s kingdom. Some of our guests take a little longer than others to be ready to make real life changes, but we don’t give up on them.
Mr. Brown is different this time back. He has been extremely helpful around the Mission, leading other guests, cleaning, doing whatever is needed to help out. They say third times a charm… we believe that will be true for Mr. Brown.