“Brother, I’m a Murderer, Too”
“Brother, I’m a Murderer, Too”(Part One)
Evan Cook was a blind man. For most of his life, he stumbled around in the dark, latching onto anything that would help him escape what lay buried deep within the recesses of his heart. But there was no escape from the shame, bitterness and festering self-hatred that had plagued him since childhood, sabotaging any hopes for a fulfilling life.
To everybody else, it seemed to him, the world made sense. At least they acted like it did. But not to Evan. Like most children, Evan had hopes and dreams, including a dream of becoming an astronaut. Given his horrific upbringing, outer space must have seemed like his “safe place”—far from an earthen reality marked by parental neglect and physical abuse. His father regularly beat him while his mother, more often than not, was passed out on the couch in a state of inebriated oblivion.
One thing is certain. Evan’s dreams for himself did not include standing in front of liquor stores panhandling for money so that he could stop “the shakes,” or sleeping in his van in a parking lot on bitterly cold nights or, when things got particularly bad, having people shun or deride him—calling him “ a loser” for being homeless. But that’s how life rolled out.
Sins of the Father
Growing up in a trailer park with two alcoholics for parents offered scant alternatives for a different sort of life. It’s a statistical certainty, experts would say—be it the result of nature, or nurture (a lack thereof), or a generational curse, the outcome is the same: “The sins of the father are visited upon the son” (Exodus 20:5).
For Evan, it would take something wholly other worldly—an experience that even being an astronaut could not provide—to defy those odds…rendering that curse null and void. But that day of redemption would be a long way off. Before then, he’d fall many, many times.
Growing up, Evan had been the good kid—the responsible one who took care of his twin sibling and his little brother. He fed them, helped get them to school and made sure they were safe while his mother was out with her boyfriends…usually on a bender. Unable to cope with such a heavy responsibility when he was just a child himself, at age 12 he left to go live with his father.
Beaten to a Pulp
“Life with my dad was better for a time,” says Evan. “For one, I didn’t have to fuss and fight with my brothers and second, I no longer had to try and wake up my mother from her drunken stupor so she could get to work on time. So yeah, life was good in California.”
It didn’t take long for things to go south. At age 15, Evan hightailed it out of Dodge after his father almost beat him to a pulp—severely enough for Evan to have to be hospitalized. Shortly after that incident, he dropped out of high school and got an apartment with some older friends. By day, he worked at McDonald’s. By night, he lived out the company’s then-national advertising slogan: “You deserve a break today,” by slugging down copious amounts of alcohol and doing drugs.
After all, he reasoned, if anybody deserved a break from “a crappy childhood,” it was him.
It may be a serious lapse in logic for a person to use alcohol to numb the effects of another person’s drinking (his mother’s intoxicated-fueled absenteeism and his drunken father’s violent beatings), but that’s the way of it. There’s no logic in a generational curse. None whatsoever.
Cook’s Goose Gets Cooked
The McDonald’s gig, like most of his subsequent dead-end jobs, was short-lived. Things started looking up for Evan when he was offered a position at a company that paid quite a bit more than any of his other “McJobs.” He was good at it—so much so that when he was offered a better-paying position with the company in Seattle, he jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, Evan’s prospect at a bright future dimmed the moment he decided to bring along his motley crew of miscreants. His addictions followed close behind, ensuring that Cook’s goose wasn’t just cooked, it was burnt to a crisp.
Evan’s “wake-up call”—the call that at least put him on the right road—finally hit him when he turned 26. By then, he had started and ended a litany of dead-end survival jobs and worn out his welcome on more than a few couches. Then his mother died of a drug overdose. Her death at just 54, hit Evan hard. “I had not seen my mother since I was 12,” he said. “So, I never got any closure. I never had the opportunity to say how sorry I was for abandoning her and my brothers all those years ago.”
Not able to cope with the tumultuous feelings he was experiencing—largely a profound grief mixed with guilt, Evan started using meth to numb the pain. It didn’t matter that no one would have faulted Evan the child for abdicating a parental role that wasn’t his to take on. Sadly, guilt makes no distinction in a wounded heart.
When Everybody Says No
While the guilt over his mother’s death and his perceived abandonment of his siblings may have been a false guilt, his pain was real. Bit by bit, he started losing everything—his girlfriend, jobs, and finally, his apartment. Soon, Evan found himself homeless. “I was living under a freeway overpass,” said Evan. “Nobody wanted me around and who could blame them? I didn’t even want to be around me!”
Desperate, Evan reached out to a friend to see if he could sleep on his sofa. The friend responded with a flat out, “No.” Instead, he gave him a bus ticket back to Red Bluff to see if his stepmother might be able to help him. She too, gave him a resounding “No,” then told him the reason why: ‘Because you’re actively drinking and doing drugs,” she told him. Instead, she dropped her former stepson off at The Mission. That was in 2009. And for a while, Evan’s elusive quest for sobriety was successful. Until it wasn’t.
For the first time in his life, Evan started attending college, then added on a full-time job. By then, he was in the final phase of the Mission’s New Life Recovery program. But the stress of doing both became too much. Gradually, he started failing classes and, feeling shame over that perceived failure, he started to drink again—a slipup that wasn’t helped by the fact that the hotel he worked for promoted him from front desk clerk to bar manager. For an alcoholic, that was like going deep into bear country “armed” with a pot of honey.
Cashing in His Chips
Evan quit going to both AA meetings and church. As a child growing up in Utah, he had been baptized Mormon; however, he ceased going as a teen when he started comparing his fractured family with the seemingly “normal” Mormon families he knew. He figured God must have had it out for him. “Honestly, the first time I got introduced to a loving, graceful God was while I was in New Life,” says Evan.
From then on, Evan’s story became a series of yet more missteps, mishaps and misbehavin’—all fueled by his addiction. The last misstep would ultimately cause him to lose a lucrative welding job he had held for three years. It also destroyed his marriage. No matter what he did, he couldn’t weld that together. Sadly, his wife suffered three miscarriages. After she lost their third baby, Evan fell into a deep depression and decided to “cash in his chips” by downing an entire bottle of anti-depressants. Hours later, he woke up in an ambulance.
Put on a 5150 hold for a week, Evan was able to dry out. But the reprieve didn’t last long. Upon being released, he headed for the nearest liquor store. “A week may have been long enough to get sober physically, but it wasn’t long enough to process the pain that was driving my drinking…the way I had in New Life,” said Evan.
The Old Dirty Mattress Motel
Evan had a go at a 28-day rehab program, but that too, was a failure. By this time, he had moved to northern Utah. That’s when his wife, fed up with it all, left him for another man. Soon, Evan found himself out on the street. Things got so bad that he was kicked out of a shelter for being stone cold drunk. Having run out of couches to sleep on, he ended up sleeping on an old, dirty mattress that had been discarded by the train tracks. Penniless, Evan resorted to panhandling in front of liquor stores. He got so used to the degradation, that the insults hurled at him didn’t even phase him—at least on a conscious level. “I got pretty hardened,” said Evan. “Because I had a dire need not to go through withdrawals. That need took precedence over everything.”
Then something happened that would propel Evan to make a radical change… Continued in Part 2