In the first moments of Jerry sharing his story, he introduced himself as “your typical drug addict”. He continued, “I’m your typical addict, your typical con-artist… until I found the love of Jesus in my heart”.
In our half hour long conversation about his very trying past, this was the only time Jerry choked up. He went on to describe his decades long battle with substance abuse before he had the chance to build a stable life at the Life Rebuilders Redemption House.
Jerry’s story starts when he was twelve years old and living in Oklahoma in the 60s and 70s. He describes his teen self as “an abuser of drugs… it didn’t make a difference what kind of drug just as long as it was available”. Jerry describes his family life growing up as “dysfunctional”. Due to his parents’ divorce at a young age, Jerry had to “grow up emotionally” but meanwhile was “running from anything or everything that made me feel uncomfortable”. Young Jerry learned how to cope through using drugs and alcohol:
“ I never felt complete. There was always this hole inside of me… I learned kind of early that
drugs helped fill that hole up…it started out as a party but later figured out it could fill that hole”.
As a young adult Jerry started college in Oklahoma in 1975, but a year later would have his first drug charge for possession and dealing marijuana. However, Jerry’s sentence was deferred and he ended up graduating college despite, he admits being, “high every day” during classes. After graduating in 1979, Jerry moved to Minnesota to pursue a Master’s degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling Studies at the University of Minnesota. While taking classes, Jerry began to realize the symptoms and behaviors he was learning about, he saw in himself. Jerry left school in 1981 to go to treatment.
This brave decision marked the beginning of a tumultuous couple of decades for Jerry. In his words “ got in trouble every year for the next six years or so, in some way, shape, or form”. In a brief summary, Jerry describes that during this time he was “in and out of treatment centers, in and out of jail, had six DUI’s and was married four times”. As all of this was going on, Jerry describes that his relationship with God was confused:
“ I had given my life to Jesus at twelve, but I didn’t know him because of all the confusion, and
stress, and distraction that I had… I didn’t allow him to be who he was supposed to be in my life,
but I always fell back on him. I’d get backed up against a wall, and that’s where I turned. I didn’t
know it at the time but, that’s exactly what God wanted me to do. But I always felt guilty that I
couldn’t do it when I wasn’t against a wall”.
Jerry’s drug abuse came to an unfortunate head when he broke his back in 1993 while “drunk and sledding”. The incident required a painful back surgery which lead to another two decade’s worth of addiction, this time to prescription painkillers. This lead to a transition- “that’s when my addiction started. I was no longer abusing. It got to the point where I was sick everyday from withdrawal until I could take my medication”. A final DUI saw Jerry land in jail. Jerry describes that “ when I was in jail, God spoke to me in my jail cell. I heard it in my spirit that God said ‘Now that I’ve got your attention, are you going to listen to me?’ And I went through a process of starting to be made new in my spirit”.
After his time in jail, Jerry joined a three month Christian-based recovery program. He also went to college again and got a degree in Music Evangelism and Theology. Despite is new start, back pain led him back to painkillers and eventually Jerry slid into what he calls “five to six years of functional addiction”.
When his final marriage of fifteen years ended and followed with more drug abuse and addiction, Jerry “woke up one morning and said ‘Lord I can’t do this anymore”.
Jerry became a resident of Life Rebuilders in December of 2016, after going to the Life Rebuilders resident and family Christmas party. After three years of living as a resident and now a house leader for Redemption House, Jerry says that “all the things he has lost, he has been able to get back”. He has mended relations with his biological family and created a new family at Life Rebuilders with residents and staff.
“I’ve got friends that I thought I’d never have. I still have friends either struggling with or coming
out of addiction. We work hard and we support each other. The guys here, we’re all the same.
We might have different criminal records or family situations but we’re all lost and just need a
chance. And the staff has given me a chance to make it. They told me they’re not concerned
about when I move… that I can stay as long as I need to… And that‘s an awesome feeling
knowing that they’re not just people I know, they’re brothers and sisters and they’re there for me”.
Jerry continues, “ with God’s help and with Life Rebuilders, it’s so much easier to experience life. I’m not ready for an unstructured life… there’s just enough structure in the house I live in that I’m able to keep going”. Jerry has had an amazing three years, but this January he learned that he was having dangerous heart problems. Although he is working had to keep his heart healthy, Jerry is acknowledging the importance of each day, “this may be the last testimony I ever get to share with anyone. That’s important to me”.
Jerry’s story, although contains decades worth of pain and suffering, reveals God’s relentless love for the lost and the broken-hearted, and ultimately how it is never too late to start again.