Skip to the main content.
Donate Need help?
Donate Need help?

7 min read

Life to the Full

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." – John 10:10

Brandon Gwyn had been to the Union Gospel Mission before – and it helped him kick a serious meth habit 10 years ago. But it took some special motivation to stick with it this time around and ditch substance addictions for good. A look into his mom's eyes gave him a reason to seek the true solution to the pain that put him on a seven-year drinking binge. Now 38, he's committed to finding the true healing that can make him a role model for others. Here are excerpts from an interview with Brandon.

0025Q. What was it like growing up in your family?

A. Dad was very abusive to my mom. He'd beat her – I mean really bad – at least once a week. In a way, on the outside, my family looked – we went to a Mormon church, which I really didn't have a religion. I didn't know God. I dreaded church. I didn't think God existed because my mom got beat up and how dysfunctional my family was, but on the outside, we looked like the perfect family. All our needs were met financially, but on the inside, our family was very dysfunctional.

My dad was a perfectionist, so when I'd bring stuff to him that I'd done, he'd say, "Well, that's good, but you could have done this better." Nothing was good enough for my dad. He did upholstery and body work in the back yard of our house. He had a shop there, too, so he'd come home, eat and go right back to work. His idea of spending time with us was we could hang out in the shop and watch him work, so there was no throwing a ball, no just hanging out with Pops. There was none of that.

 

Q. When did your parents divorce?

About 7 or 8 when I was really young, and they decided to stay together a little bit which that didn't work. My dad ended up – he robbed a grocery store. He went to jail. When they got divorced, my dad was given custody of us kids...but he [ended up] incarcerated. 

When I was 13, my mom and my stepdad dropped me off at my second oldest brother Brian's apartment 'cause I'd spend weekends over there, and at this time, my dad was in another stint in jail. They dropped me off there, said they'd be back in two weeks, and then never came back. And, at the time, I liked it, but deep down, I felt abandoned.

From there on, I lived with my brother. He did the best he could. My dad put custody under my brother for me; at 21, my brother was my legal guardian.

IMG_9232_sm

 

Q. Did your family have addiction issues? How did you start using?

I'm the youngest of the family. Cousins, aunts, growing up – everybody drank. It was just the thing you did. My parents drank. My parents both used heroin. My dad died of a heroin overdose.

I saw my dad shoot up for the first time when I was 8. He was in the shop. I was playing, and I opened the door, and I didn't know exactly what he was doing because I was young, but I knew it was wrong. So, shortly after, I smoked my first joint when I was 8 years old.

At 15, I started smoking pot, and I dropped out of school. That's when I first started regularly using some type of mood-altering drugs. Started working at a lube shop, and I thought I don't need school, I'm making money, so I dropped out of school.

When I was married, I used off and on, and so did my wife. I met my ex-wife in Show Low, Arizona. We were together for 3 years. She was having an affair with the pastor's son... I was like, God's cool, this is a pretty good thing, he's a good guy, but that experience with the pastor's son sleeping with my wife made me hate God. I cursed God and continued to use methamphetamines until I was 27, almost 28.

If I stayed there I could have had the opportunity to own a business at an early age, but in light of all that was going on in my personal life, I just up and quit and left Phoenix and went back to Show Low and left her there. So every time a problem arose, I'd just run as far as I could from it.

I moved to Spokane because I was down and out in Show Low, and I had nowhere to go. I owed a couple of people money for some drugs. I burned all of my bridges in Phoenix and Show Low because of my meth addiction. I lost a lot of good friends. I burnt every bridge there because of my drug addiction, so I came here to start a new life.

 

Q. What brought you to the Mission the first time?

I had a really extreme methamphetamine problem. I started doing meth when I was 18. I've got a real addictive personality, so I can't just do a little bit. It's gotta be all or nothing, so I did that for 10 years. Functioned. I had some good jobs, managed some lube shops, and behind closed doors, I was a full-blown meth addict.Brandon_license photo_crop

God reached out to me again. I looked terrible, and I looked in my mirror one day, and I just seen how terrible I looked, and I called my mom. She didn't want me around, so she called around and found the Mission 'cause I told her I wanted some help, but we didn't have no money, so she found the Mission here. She dropped me off. I came here, and getting off of methamphetamines is really hard.

I had to do AA classes, and I was like, why do I have to go, because I'm not an alcoholic? But I did both of those, and then I started doing Bible studies, and I think part of what helped me get through that was learning about God 'cause that started a thirst for him, and I started going to a regular church.

I was starting to know God, and after five months, in March, I found a job, and I decided, "I can do this on my own. I don't have a drug problem anymore." But I started veering away from God, and just that little bit, before I knew it, 10 years later, I'm way distant from him and cursing him again and not knowing him.

 

Q. Do you think the reason was you hadn't dealt with the wounds and the pain?

Definitely. I put my dad on a pedestal before I came here. I thought my dad was the greatest, and I was seeing that because my dad did good body work. He was a terrible father, and I've learned that he was raised that way by his parents. My addiction was covering those problems. I didn't get to the heart of it, and coming here this time, I've been able to go through that.

I realize my father wound. I would be afraid to try new things. I'd be real anxious. I would have bad anxiety attacks, so that fear – that father wound, those old tapes – would pretty much control everything I did.

When I was a teenager, I was able to draw very well. And I'd draw a picture, and I'd like show it to you, and you'd think it would be awesome. To me, I thought it looked like garbage. I didn't like it just because of one little line wasn't perfect. I was a real bad perfectionist, and that was those tapes of my father when I'd go to him as a kid, and he'd say, "Well, that ain't good enough." I didn't realize how much that affected me until coming here going through counseling, and since then, even though my dad's passed away, I've been able to work through that, and those tapes aren't playing no more.

 

Q. So all this time you were still functioning, holding down a job?

I did six years of in-home healthcare in Harrington, and the people that I took care of, they didn't particularly care that I drank. I justified it because it was just beer, and I said, at least I'm not drinking hard alcohol, but I was drinking the high-gravity beer, the high alcohol volume beer, and then I started drinking whisky.

I hid it from the people I took care of. I would have one here or there, but I would hide a beer in my room, and I'd sip on the one in front of 'em, and go in my room and slam one, so it was out in the open but not as bad, and toward the end, it just got out of control. I was drinking before work, and in between my shifts ... then come home and continue to drink through the night, but that led to me getting an attitude and I quit my job, and it was a decent job. The only reason why I quit is 'cause I wanted time to drink. Pretty much, I lost interest in everything.

 

Q. What led you to go to the Union Gospel Mission?

I didn't realize the damage I was doing to people around me. I thought I was just doing damage to myself, but one day I looked in my mother's eyes, and she just got over her second bout with breast cancer, and I seen the hurt in her eyes, and I think God revealed that to me.

I'd see her throughout the day at all different times, but this particular instance, she was taking chemo, she was weak from the chemo, and God allowed me to look in her eyes, and see the pain I was causing my mother, and she was so weak, she really couldn't say nothing, but I could just see the pain inside her heart that I was causing her in that He allowed me to see the destruction I was causing.

That's what made me call (UGM chaplain) Doug Munday, and that started my procedure to come back here 'cause I'd known about the program when I was here in 2000.

 

Q. You came right after Christmas, right?

My oldest brother, Steven, who lived in the same apartment building, drove me down here, dropped me off, and he wanted to check the place out 'cause he's real protective. He said, "I'm gonna check this place out, every square inch." He's thinking the worst, and he was here not even 5 minutes, and I was filling out my paperwork, and he's, "All right, Brandon, I'll see you later. Give me a call." He felt really comfortable dropping me off, and that was the beginning of my new life pretty much.

Brandon graduation

Q. What has happened this time at the UGM?

I went from that to what I am now. Like, I'm planning on going to college in the fall. I've got one more test on my GED. I've done all that while being here. I'm not afraid – like when we go to play softball, I go there and play, and to tell you the truth, the first time I've ever played softball was here. First time I played volleyball was when we went to Corbin Park. The first time I went on a raft was with Peak 7, so every chance, I get to do something new, I'm on it.

My anxiety level doesn't control me anymore. I feel like my emotional bondage has been broken. Those chains are gone. I used to get my significance through people, my work performance and how I could make them happy, and now that I know all that matters is what my Father in heaven thinks of me. It has changed my outlook in life tremendously. The rest of it just follows.

 

Q. And what does your Father in heaven think of you?

He knows that I'm a perfect creation. I'm his son, you know, there's nothing wrong with me. Everybody's got their talents and gifts. Everybody's different and unique, and I'm not a mistake, and I am important. I know I'm something now. So through the Mission, through this program, it's given me my life back.

Physical Therapy Partnership: Caring for the whole person

5 min read

Physical Therapy Partnership: Caring for the whole person

Providing Essential Resources UGM relies on the support of the community to offer comprehensive care to individuals in need. One of the lesser-known...

Read More
UGM Shelters: Havens of truth and honor

3 min read

UGM Shelters: Havens of truth and honor

Once basic needs are met through UGM shelter services, individuals can face the issues that have perpetuated their unwanted situation. Through case...

Read More
In His Likeness: A heart-to-heart message from Phil Altmeyer

3 min read

In His Likeness: A heart-to-heart message from Phil Altmeyer

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Ephesians 2:10 Friends, I don’t know if your garage or shop looks like mine,...

Read More
Three of God's Children

Three of God's Children

CHRIS family breakdown, substance abuse Chris’ mom went to prison when he was three for selling cocaine. His dad hung himself when Chris was eight....

Read More
Father's Day 2012

Father's Day 2012

“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” – Malachi 4:6 “Everything was...

Read More
The Emotional Toll of Fatherlessness

The Emotional Toll of Fatherlessness

A common thread among many people who enter the LIFE Recovery program is an absent or abusive father. Samantha’s story reflects the devastating...

Read More