Sun striking his eyes, Gilbert slowly regained consciousness on the sidewalk near the corner of 11th Avenue and Jackson Street. The night before was a blur. After 22 years of living out of a bottle, Gilbert had finally decided that he had had enough and embarked on the bender to end all benders – in attempt to end his life.
It didn’t work.
Instead, he woke with a pounding headache and the stinging realization that he had failed to die. More determined than ever to stop a lifetime of pain, Gilbert readied himself to run out into traffic. Before he could step off the curb, a police officer stepped between Gilbert and the road and asked him to move along. At that moment, Gilbert felt something he had never felt before.
“I didn’t know what it was then, but looking back, I know it was the Holy Spirit speaking into my soul,” admits Gilbert. “He asked, ‘Are you ready?’ and suddenly I had this great urge to move. I had never heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission, I didn’t know where it was, but the end of my journey that day led me to the front gates.”
Gilbert got a bed and a few hot meals at our Community Services Center, but it wasn’t enough. He was sober, but nothing else had changed. He was mourning the death of his son, delivered stillborn 22 years ago. Each night when he laid his head on his pillow, he was reminded of his failed marriage and separation from his family. Without alcohol to numb the pain, Gilbert’s hopelessness was tangible.
“I had a lot of trust issues at the beginning and kept mostly to myself. But I started listening to Chaplain Gabe preach and slowly, the things he had to say started making sense. God’s Word began chipping away at my heart.”
Gilbert took the next step and enrolled in our Transformations Recovery Program. Among our caring counselors and staff, he finally found where the Holy Spirit had been leading him.
“I spent 22 years in a bottle, hating myself and despising who I was. It took someone like Chaplain Gabe to turn that around. He showed me the power of Christ’s love and eventually I was able to love myself again.”
But through it all, Gilbert hasn’t forgotten that dark day when he almost ended it all. He makes it a point to visit that lonely stretch of sidewalk every year – the anniversary of when he felt a small still voice lead him away from death to everlasting life. Today, Gilbert is a graduate of our Men’s Recovery Program and even went on to become one of our Ministry Training graduates – teaching some of the very same recovery classes that helped turn his life around. He’s sober, has a car, a job in the produce department at Fry’s Food and is attending college. He’s even found a new love! Her name is Terri and they are engaged to be married in October.
“For me to forget is to repeat my misery. I’m not willing to go back down that path anymore.”