After Great Loss, Gary is Fighting for His Future
Not too long ago, Gary had it all. He grew up in Santa Barbara, went to college for dental technology, and got married. Instead of a honeymoon, Gary and his wife Darla got into ministry, working with Mercy Ships and traveling the world. After years of service, they moved to Seattle, thrived in their careers and lived comfortably. “We had a great life,” Gary said.
The couple began to experience some complications when they decided to expand their family. After a difficult five-year battle, Darla became pregnant via in-vitro fertilization and had twin boys. After some early challenges, the boys were diagnosed autistic. “It took everything out of us,” Gary said. “We decided we needed to move back to Santa Barbara—we needed support from family.”
But in the middle of the move, the unthinkable happened. Gary’s wife died unexpectedly. Grieving his loss while suddenly becoming a single dad to twins, Gary’s life started to spiral. “I took to drinking pretty quickly. For about four years, it was pretty moderate, but as my sons became more challenging and more difficult when they were approaching puberty, I started drinking more and more and more. I got myself into a place way over my head.”
The first time Gary was hospitalized, he was there for four days, but refused further therapy. “I missed my sons so badly, I thought, ‘I can do this thing. Just let me get home to my sons.’ I did alright for a while, nine months or so, but then I started to think, ‘I wonder if I can just have one drink.’” Gary’s next hospitalization was for eight days, after which he tried a 30-day program, which didn’t take. A year ago, Gary was in a single-car accident with his boys in the car.
“My kids were taken away from me because I put them in danger,” Gary said. “My wife’s parents have them and that’s a good thing. They could see me crashing. They were concerned for me and they want me to get better. And I love them for that, although it’s been really hard to get to see my sons. That is the biggest thing, the biggest propellant of my depression.”
Eventually Gary got evicted, and his family moved him into the mission. “Right away I met really good people,” he said. “We get up early—at five in the morning we already have our bibles out. I’d been missing that sort of thing. I realized that when Darla died, I stopped being that involved. I was thirsting for God’s word.”
Gary is appreciating the small things now. “Today a buddy and I were walking outside—it was a beautiful day. And we were just like, ‘Wow, doesn’t it feel good to be sober?’ When you’re drinking, some days you just aren’t feeling good or you’re dealing with 10 different issues. And now, we are just like, ‘Let’s go run, let’s walk, let’s throw the football.’ That’s the way we were intended to be. I see God at work, not just in my life, in all the men’s lives here,” Gary said. “I’ve seen the men who come back around who have been through the program. I see lives changed. Some of these guys have really come from dark places and you see them now like beacons of light in the community—well known, well respected. They have jobs, a life with their kids. … Yeah, I’ve been through the fire. But what seems to be happening now is that God is saying, ‘This is where you need to be.’ I’m not going to give up.”