“Brother, I’m a Murderer” – Part II
“Brother, I’m a Murderer, Too”
“Bed ‘n Booze”
Left to fend for himself out on the streets, Evan was running out of options. He couldn’t see how he could sink any lower. Then he received an offer he couldn’t refuse—of a free “Bed n’ Booze.”
A woman he had befriended at the Utah shelter, was diagnosed with cancer and she was fading fast. Finally able to get a hotel room, she allowed Evan to share hers until her money ran out. She was lonely and scared and wanted someone to drink with. But she was hardly a “fun drunk.”
“It was really depressing,” says Evan. She would talk about how awful her life was and how she wanted to die, but that the cancer wasn’t taking her fast enough,” said Evan. “And that was the turning point. It finally dawned on me that I wasn’t going to stay sober doing what I was doing,” says Evan. “I mean, that’s the very definition of insanity: ‘To keep on doing what you’re doing, but somehow expecting different results.’ So, I moved back to Redding and re-entered New Life. I knew that was my only hope of recovery.”
Once again, Evan found himself playing a game of Chutes and Ladders. While he did well in his second go-around in New Life, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. After almost completing the 18-month program, he slid down yet another chute—landing deep in the muck and the mire. His downfall was for the same reasons as before: working too much, skipping AA meetings, and not connecting with his sponsor. Just a few months shy from graduating, Evan went to a casino—a place where gambling and drinking go together like lightning and thunder.
Low Livin’ in a Van
On one level, Evan knew exactly what he was doing—or not doing—each time he slipped up. He cites those times when he knowingly walked straight into the lion’s den—like when when he accepted the job as a bar manager; entered that casino; took on too heavy of a workload while going to school; dropped out of church and ditched his AA meetings. But it was only with 20/20 hindsight that he could fully grasp the consequences of those decisions. Ironically, it was the actual year of 2020 when, for the third time, he re-entered the New Life Recovery Program.
Right before making that decision to go back into the program, he had been living in the back of his van in a Walmart parking lot, while panhandling outside of liquor stores. Realizing that he couldn’t get much lower than that, he finally reached out to a former mentor he had had at a local church and asked for help. His mentor drove him to the hospital where he was able to detox and then re-entered New Life.
Once again, Evan had to start all over again—sliding down that proverbial chute to the starting square. Call it “third time’s the charm” or, in more spiritual terms, a “divine reset.” Either way, at time of this writing, it appears that Evan is going to win that long-fought battle against addiction. What’s different this time? “I think that the other two times, I was just going through the motions,” says Evan. “But this last time, I was able to uncover some things that I didn’t know about myself. And one of those things was my trying to obtain perfection through performance; and then when and if I failed at something, I would experience a high level of guilt and shame.” Instead of seeing those situations as an opportunity to grow, I would just throw up my hands and say, ‘Okay, I can’t do it, so let’s not try it again.”
“I Gave Her What She Wanted’
One area that Evan felt he had failed miserably at, was his marriage. In his mind, making amends for that failure meant getting back together with his wife (they were still legally married) so he could prove to her that he had changed. But when he asked her, she said bluntly, “No way! The only way you can ‘make amends’ (Step 9 in AA) is to give me a divorce.” That’s not what Evan wanted to hear, but he acquiesced to her request. Afterwards, he felt surprisingly liberated. “There was a lot of freedom in my being able to simply say, ‘I’m sorry for what I did,’ without expecting anything in return,” says Evan.” “So, I gave her what she wanted and not what I wanted. And I believed God was pleased with that.”
God began to restore many things Evan had lost during his “wasted years”—including landing a position with Hill Country Clinics. Within a short time, they promoted him to New Medical Patient Service Coordinator. “It’s a great job that really uses my skill sets: interviewing people and applying my administrative gift to help connect them to the resources they need,” says Evan. “And to find that kind of a job, well that’s really a blessing.”
Beating the Odds
As a bonus, Evan gets to recommend New Life Recovery to certain clients—those whom he senses might be ready for that level of commitment. He shares his own story of recovery and how New Life helped him win the battle over addiction. Thus far, it certainly seems like Evan finally has beaten those odds. He recently graduated from the program and is going to school so he can become a clinical social worker. Only this time, he’s not overdoing it but rather taking it slow…enrolling in one class a semester. And he’s keeping his commitments to church and AA.
Evan will be eternally grateful for the role New Life played in his recovery. Even if it did take him three long attempts (in total about 50 months, give or take a few) for him to complete the program successfully, he is glad that they gave him the grace to keep trying. “For a righteous man will fall seven times and rise again: but the ungodly shall be without strength in troubles.”
“Brother, I’m a Murderer Too”
One of the most satisfying things Evan continues to experience from his time at the Mission, is loving on and helping others. It’s a compassion born out of the love God showed him and which he now freely gives to others. “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt:10-8).
Evan remembers one fellow with whom he was able to share God’s love: a fellow Mission guest. One day the man confessed to Evan that he had spent most of his life in prison for murder. “He told me that he could never receive forgiveness because he was a murderer,” said Evan. “And I told him, ‘Brother, I’m a murderer too. I’ve murdered in my heart because for a long time, I carried around a boatload of hatred.” At first the guy tried to dismiss what I said. ‘Well, you may have thought it, but I actually did it,’ he retorted. And I could feel the guilt and shame oozing out of him, so I just told him, ‘Brother, I promise you…Jesus will forgive ALL your sins’. And I don’t know when the truth of what I had told him penetrated his heart, but the next time I saw him, he was a changed man. It was so amazing to see!”
Truly a transformed life is a gift that keeps on giving. And it’s what Evan does at every opportunity—give away God’s love. But that never would have happened if Evan had not first experienced that love “that wilt not let me go” at New Life Recovery. Because they refused to let him go—even after he failed time and time again. They believed what most people never discover: “Success is on the same road as failure: success is just a little further down the road.”
Evan is just happy that despite the many detours, he kept returning to the main road—that Road of Redemption that leads us all to a place of lasting freedom. And that’s the very definition of success.