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3 min read

Comfort for those who mourn

sheldon-webSheldon grew up in California. He is thoughtful, soft-spoken, a bit shy. Charles’ home state reveals itself in his drawl. He’s a Texas cowboy, a former bull rider who still carries a bit of the swagger, and his nickname, “Rowdy,” indicates a certain reputation. And, yet, the two men have much in common: the loss of their childhoods, abuse, growing up without fathers, running away from home as teenagers, turning to drugs and alcohol, living their lives in fear, broken relationships, and buying into the deep-down-destructive lie that – at their core – they were unlovable.

 

Sheldon

Sheldon’s mother and father weren’t married. After they split, Sheldon and his mom were on their own for a few years. “I felt like we had a strong relationship, an unbreakable bond. She served as defender, provider, everything.” Then Sheldon’s mother got remarried. She and her new husband had two daughters, and “I got pushed out of the way.” Sheldon’s stepfather was abusive. “I felt like my mother abandoned me and chose her husband’s side over mine.”

At the same time, Sheldon was being bullied. Kids called him stupid and slow. “You know, when you have more than one person saying that, it must be true.”

Sheldon stopped going to school and started running away. “I became a very angry, resentful person, really rebellious. I was getting abused inside the house and bullied outside. I felt like I was alone. There was nobody to turn to.” Sheldon joined a gang and started selling drugs. At first, his own drug use was limited to alcohol and marijuana, but eventually, he discovered crack cocaine.

For a while, he was a “functioning addict.” He worked, got married, had a son, kept himself presentable, but then his 3-year-old son died of heart failure, and everything changed. “I stopped going to work, stopped everything. I just didn’t care.” His marriage ended, and after wearing out his welcome with everyone he knew, Sheldon became homeless. “I rode the bus day and night just to stay warm, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘What happened? What happened to my life? How did I get to this?’”

At that point, with nowhere else to turn, Sheldon cried out to God. And God heard. Sheldon ran into an old friend on the street who was doing outreach for another ministry and accepted his offer of help. He has been clean and sober since that day, January 4, 2009, but knowing he needed more than sobriety, he came to the Mission in pursuit of long-term recovery in July 2011.

 

rowdy-webRowdy

Rowdy’s earliest memory is of his father dragging his mother out of the house by her hair and trying to run over her with the car. That scene stands out from a blur of violence and abuse that ends with another vivid picture: his mother pointing a .38 special at his father and demanding that he leave.

Rowdy went to live with his grandparents after that. “That was my safe place, my happy place. There was no violence there, and I felt loved.” Rowdy stayed with his grandparents until his mom got remarried and then went to live with her and her new husband. Almost immediately, he started running away.

At 12, he stole a dirt bike. Twice – the same one. “I really wanted that bike.” Rowdy was sent to a boys’ ranch. He ran away and hitchhiked 70 miles back to his grandparents’ home. “That’s when my brother, who was like 21 or 22, assaulted me like a man. They didn’t know what to do because I kept running away and running away, so that’s how he did it. He basically beat me up like a man would beat up another man, and that just killed me, you know. The one person I did look up to in my life did that to me.”

In high school, Rowdy discovered rodeo and all the trappings that went with it – alcohol, drugs and women. He gave up the rodeo and started dealing drugs, which led to running guns, which led to frequent run-ins with the law. Rowdy spent nearly 10 of his 37 years incarcerated.

Prison didn’t rehabilitate Rowdy, however. After his most recent release, “I made it to Seattle before I made a phone call, and by the time I got to Spokane, I had a pretty girl and a sack full of drugs waiting.” But this time the old formula didn’t work. “It was horrible. I was having hallucinations. My body was twitching. It was just bad.

“For the first time in my life, I prayed, ‘Please take this away from me. I can’t do this anymore.’”

Rowdy went to see his corrections officer and asked him to put him back in prison, but the officer said, “No, I want you to go to treatment. Just try it. Give it 100 percent, everything you’ve got.” After doing court-ordered treatment, Rowdy decided to come to the Mission and join the long-term recovery program in June of last year.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” Matthew 5:4.

Sheldon and Rowdy both mourned deeply – their losses, their failings, what might have been – and the ache deep within their souls caused them to cry out to God. The road to recovery hasn’t been easy and isn’t over for either of them, but both point to a critical turning point, the crux of their new lives.

“I have to remind myself that I’m a son of God, and I’m loved, and He thinks the world of me,” Sheldon said.

Rowdy described a conversation with his counselor. He was having trouble getting past his sense of shame and self-disgust. “I was always feeling like the guilty sinner,” but his counselor said, “Why don’t you try this? Look at God as the Father you always wanted and never had. Try that.” And Rowdy realized, “That’s all I ever really wanted. I wanted my daddy to love me.”



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