Don stops running from himself and commits to lifelong change
Don’s issues with alcohol started early, in high school, but if anyone noticed, they turned a blind eye. “I grew up in Iowa in a lower- to middle-class family,” Don said. “I was baptized Episcopalian, but we went to church irregularly, on the holidays mostly. I was good in school, and when I got to high school, I started to show major promise in sports. I started drinking, but I got away with a lot.”
Don went on to play football and baseball in college, and his partying got out of control. Again, his behavior was overlooked because of his athletic prowess. Despite his drinking, Don graduated with a criminal justice degree, and was accepted into the Iowa State Trooper Academy. He was set to report to the school on a Monday, when on the Saturday prior, he was arrested for driving under the influence.
“That was the end of that,” he said. Don was forced to change his plans, so he pivoted to a job in Colorado. He became an EMT and did ski patrol and search and rescue. “I had a few more little, brief run-ins—public intoxications—nothing major though. I always had a girlfriend, someone to keep me somewhat in control.”
Don eventually met a girl he wanted to spend his life with. She was a flight nurse. But after the two got engaged, she tragically died in a helicopter crash. “After that, I switched from drinking a lot of beers to drinking a lot of hard liquor,” Don said. “Right after she died, I got two back-to-back DUIs, two days apart. “I start running all over the country—I was running from myself. I got into a lot of car wrecks. Once I went out too far on a surfboard and ended up tying myself to a catamaran. I passed out and was rescued by Harbor Patrol 16 hours later. I was running amuck.”
Don said that he had felt for a while that something was missing from his life, and drinking wasn’t filling that void anymore. “I tried everything,” he said. “I got hypnotized. I did a lot of detoxes and I tried a couple 30-day programs. I’d do AA for a while and then I’d get bored with it. If it wasn’t exciting, I’d lose interest. I was ready to sit on the railroad tracks and wait for an Amtrak. I didn’t want to do it anymore.
“I had tried everything but God and Jesus. I had seen it work in other peoples’ lives. They have their lives together. I thought I might as well give it a try. I came to the Rescue Mission to find the missing piece.”
Don got to the Mission on July 9. “Everybody was real warm and accepting,” he said. “I adapt very easily. I’m easy to get along with. It’s been a blessing to have them take me in. I was just fed up with the lifestyle. It got old, and it didn’t work anymore.”
Don had tried going to a Baptist church in Santa Barbara but took off before he got too deep into it. “I didn’t understand anything,” he said. “I never really had an understanding of the bible. So this is new and it’s very interesting. I believe it is the truth. I try to analyze everything and I can’t. It’s all overwhelming.
“The camaraderie is great. Everyone seems to be open and willing to help everyone else. They are giving me a broader and greater understanding of the bible. I’m learning what my purpose on earth is—I’ve never really known, and I’m coming to grips with that. I think it’s a great program, and I wish there were more like it to help other people out.”