How a guy like me ever got here has to have Gods hands all over it! I am 53 years old, but am really a big kid at heart; seriously though, my walk with Jesus is not taken lightly at all. My passion is to demonstrate that Jesus is interested in all areas of our lives and is passionately in love with us no matter where we are or what our past is, He wants to be in relationship with us. He wants us to be who we really are, the best version of ourselves. Who He created us to be.
He created me to be a fun loving person who is sensitive to other people's struggles, but I had to struggle through life, running from pain, to get to where I am. I know that God recycles pain and has a bright future for everyone that seeks Him because He recycled mine. I grew up an only child without a Father in a home where I was verbally/emotionally abused. I was told I would never amount to anything and I was useless all throughout childhood. I withdrew into a shell and rarely talked... When I discovered drugs at age ten all that changed.
I went from timid and shy to rebellious and violent. Alcohol was my favorite drug because it made me feel powerful. My whole life revolved around drugs and friends. I hung out with older kids and committed crimes to support my habits. My drug use escalated quickly. At age 13, I started shooting amphetamines, barbiturates, and anything else I could get my hands on. I didn't have any positive male role models and I didn't listen to or respect my family. My Mom tried to discipline me but I was to far gone and twice her size. At age sixteen I 'officially' quit school, had been to jail several times. My Mother was committed to a mental institution; diagnosed as "paranoid-schizophrenic" and we were evicted from my Grandmas house where we had been living. My alcohol use became constant along with a 3 year LSD binge and ever increasing criminal activities. I did several stints in the County Jail, and became homeless by the time I was 21. Both my Mother and me were evicted from my Grandma's house in 1985. This began a nightmarish adventure that lasted over 15 years.
*MUG SHOT 1997 -->
Mom found a boyfriend with the same diagnosis who was also homeless. They lived on the streets in the Chicago area for most of the next 20 years. As for me, I learned how to hustle and became a hitchhiking vagabond with a severe addiction to Vodka. Waking up in Jail, Detoxes, and Treatment Centers became normal, but honestly those places are what probably kept me alive. I was drinking 1/2 to 3/4 gallon of Vodka a day at my peak. I knew it was killing me but couldn't stop completely. Occasionally I indulged in other drugs and for one summer I traded my bottle for a crack pipe, in my mind this was better because I didn't black out, throw up, or go through the horrendous physical withdrawals...never mind the 100's of dollars it cost every day to feed that habit.
In the winter of 1997 I landed in Albuquerque NM. Flying a 'Will Work for Food" sign, drinking my profits and sleeping in a dry drainage ditch on the side of the interstate. After an especially bad week, bruised and beaten, due to a fight with a 'friend', then going through bad withdrawals, I decided to try and quit once again. I threw out what little vodka I had (not enough to ease my withdrawals at all) and started walking down the interstate-sweating and shaking profusely. I was scared of dying in this state, I hadn't bathed in a month, my long hair was matted and I was filthy. I didn't expect anyone to give me ride in that condition. I started praying what I think was the first honest prayer of my life, "God help me, I don't want to die a drunk on the streets." That evening I was facing a cool desert night with no bedroll and no food. I stepped into a church to ask for help. The Pastor of this church just so happened to be recovering Addict himself! He noticed my obvious condition and after a little food, shower and fresh clothes offered to take me to a halfway house. God heard and answered my prayer.
After only 2 days in the halfway house I took my will back and left, fresh clothes, clean and new bedroll. I stuck my thumb out-heading to Michigan and got a ride very quickly-my lucky day- he was heading to Detroit also. He said if I helped him drive he would provide my meals and even give me a few bucks spending money. By the next day I discovered that his luggage was filled with High Grade Bricks of Marijuana so I stole his car and his "pot", leaving Him in Missouri. Driving through Illinois in the middle of the night after drinking a 12 pack and sampling the product I became very paranoid which led me to do some stupid things, getting myself arrested for a felony amount of Marijuana. I was facing up to 30 years. That's where I met Pastor Don. He had just started a Bible Study in the County Jail. We became friends and He visited me in Prison every month until I was released. While locked up I was accepted into the recovery program there. I also spent much time in chapel, bible studies and prayer groups. I learned a lot during this time but still didn't have hope that I could really change.
I got out of prison and went through the motions while Pastor Don and Deb helped me get on my feet, but It wasn't in my heart. Even after getting Baptized and having a head full of Bible/Recovery knowlege, I chose to go back to my old life of living on the streets. I managed to somehow to stay free about a year while traveling a 3 state area, bouncing in and out of Treatment Centers/Detoxs/Jails. I finally got sent back for violating my Parole after returning to Illinois. Through all this insanity Pastor Don was always there...I didn't understand it...
After serving the remainder of my Parole time I went back to my old ways with Gusto. With alcohol fueled bravado I attempted to rob a Hardee's with only my attitude. The manager was a large man who got me to the ground and sat on me-then waited for the police to arrive, which didnt take long because the station was right across the street! I never did make a good criminal-this confirmed it! I am not proud but embarresed of this debacle. I am proud to report that this was my last crime! I was facing 15 years but after only 2 months I was released with probation under the condition I go to Victory Acres, a long term Christian program for Homeless/Addicted men. (I think Pastor Don and God had something to with this!) While there, away from distractions and temptations, Gods Word started transforming me. We memorized scripture, had daily Bible Studies and weekly Counseling sessions. We also worked a half day to earn our keep and a little pocket money for essentials.
On weekends I would go to Don and Deb's church and sometimes spend the weekend with them. As I learned who I was according to God's Word and developed a relationship with Jesus I started to dream and believe of a future with a purpose. After one year at Victory Acres it was time to graduate. I still didn't feel ready to be on my own and if it wasn't for Don, Deb and the church I wouldn't have made it. Don and Deb took me in, letting me live with them while I adjusted (baby steps) to living a responsible life. I got an old car and a job, then started making plans to become a Christian Counselor. Our Little church became my family-Don and Deb had become like Parents to me. They were my support system. I began to give back and serve but I wanted to do more and I wanted to have my own family...
I met Janel (Dons 2nd cousin) while living with them. We started a long distance relationship by snail mail since she lived in Arkansas. As I got to know her my affection grew deeper. That year, Christmas was spent with Janel and her Mom and Dad at Don and Debs. It was weird and wonderful! A week- long date- with Mom and Dad from both sides there-a very awkward week at that! But after that week I was hooked. Once a month I traveled to Arkansas to see Janel and stayed at her parents. I finally proposed to her and she said yes! I choose to attend Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO as it was only 1.5 hours away from my Janel. We were married in December 2003.
Since that day in 2003 life has been a roller coaster ride, exciting, fun and even scary at times. Our marriage has grown and we have grown in the Lord. I earned a Masters degree in Counseling (2012), and became a Licensed Professional Counselor. My resume includes working in Treatment Centers, Ministering in Jails, launching several Homeless Ministries, planting one Celebrate Recovery group and leading another in Missouri while in undergrad. I am now, only by the Grace of God, the Founder and Director of His Hands Outreach.