David Finds Solace At The Mission While Grieving His Mother
David sits quietly considering how his time at the mission has been going so far. He’s tried many programs over many decades, and it’s always a struggle transitioning, he says. It hasn’t been easy, but he knows he’s supposed to be here, he adds. David grows silent and his eyes fill with tears.
“I found out my mother died today,” he says suddenly. “She was recovering from a heart attack. I talked to her three days ago and she was really happy about how I was progressing. She was making arrangements to see me. She really wanted to see me.”
David says he thinks he’s in shock, but he’s clear enough to acknowledge this: if he wasn’t six weeks into the mission’s program, if he was still drinking, his mother’s death would be dangerous fuel to the fire. “My mother was the love of my life,” said David, who has never been married or had children. “It’s very tough to face this. But I think God knew that I needed to be in this place when this happened. God had a plan for me to be here, under structure, with my head clear.”
David and his mother moved all over California when he was young; she was married three times and David often missed his Dad, an algebraic mathematician who worked at NASA and JPL. “My mother’s third husband was a mortician,” David said. “I already felt geeky enough, and then being in the mortuary business … I was not very popular. I just never felt that I fit in. That was one of the things that drew me to alcohol. It made me feel different.”
David got his first DUI while at home during a college break. But he continued with school and got a good job at Vandenberg in mechanical drafting. He was sitting at his desk at Space Launch Complex-6 when the Challenger exploded. In the following months, the space program at Vandenberg was mostly dismantled. “That was going to be my life. And then we were all getting laid off. It was like all of Lompoc disappeared.”
Over the next 20 years, David was in and out of recovery programs, and often stayed sober for a year or two—once for five years—before relapsing. He dated a woman for four years, even becoming engaged, but the relationship didn’t pan out. He was arrested for DUI again and again. He was fired from job after job, often disappearing into isolation for days when his drinking was especially bad.
David has now been in the program for three months and is doing well. “Right before I came here, I was at the end of my rope. I quit praying for God to help me and just asked him to take me, help me kill myself. I was too chicken to do it myself, but I just wanted him to do it, in my sleep. But the next day I’d wake up, hungover, and just go back to the bar and do it all over again.
“Now I know God has a purpose for me,” David said. “If he wanted me gone, he would have taken me a long time ago.”