I have a great life now: a wonderful family—a wife and two kids—friends, and a career. My life is great because an angel took me in when I was fifteen.
The first three months of my life were spent in an orphanage in Memphis, Tennessee. I was in foster care until I was adopted at age five. In the 1970s, adoption screenings were less thorough than they are today, and I was adopted by a woman who was an alcoholic. I believe she adopted me and another boy in the hope that we would make her and her life better. That didn’t happen. Continuing to drink, she become involved in one abusive relationship after another.
We moved often and survived on welfare and the charity of others. Mom took us to many different churches—for handouts. When the people in a church caught on to what she was doing, they cut us off. Mom would be very angry and talk about the self-righteous church people. She taught me that religion was a bad thing. At a very young age, however, I listened to that still small voice within me and innately knew right from wrong.
Every evening when I was young, I would read a verse from a Bible I had received from one of the churches. I didn’t understand much of what I was reading, but I thought that if I read the Bible and prayed, God would forgive us for the bad things we were doing.
My Turbulent Adolescence
When I was in sixth grade, living in Michigan, I ran away from home for the first time. I took my Bible with me but was picked up by the police and taken back home. Mom became more verbally and physically abusive toward me. I thought God had abandoned me. At age eleven, I started drinking to numb myself to the turmoil that swirled around me.
By the time I was a freshman in high school, I drank daily. The father of one of my friends talked Mom into entering me into a juvenile drug and alcohol program. This was at the local treatment center where, believe it or not, Mom was a drug-and-alcohol abuse counselor for adults.
Spending time with the other teens and the counselors of that program, I felt I belonged to a family for the first time in my life. At the end of my 30 days there, Mom decided to move us to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Once there, she became involved in another abusive relationship. When that man kicked her out of the house, she told my brother and I that we were on our own.
I was fourteen years old at that time and spent the next year living on the streets of Albuquerque. Still attending school, I did odd jobs, mostly garden work, and I drank every day. Around the holidays, I would look in the windows of the houses I passed. Catching glimpses of families inside, I cried out: “God, why can’t I have a family? That’s all I want!”
The Road Ahead
Just to get by, I sold drugs and items I had stolen. Sitting underneath a pine tree in a park one evening, I suddenly knew where the road ahead would lead me if I didn’t stop drinking. I had noticed that a twelve-step meeting was being held in a building I passed as I walked from the park to school. “Okay, God,” I said, “here’s the deal: I’m going to give this program one shot. If it doesn’t work, I’ll go ahead and drink myself to death.”
My clothes were dirty, and I had long stringy hair. I was an angry teen who was afraid of people, so when I attended the meetings, I sat quietly, never saying a word. After a couple of weeks, one of the men said, “If you’ll open up and talk a bit, we’ll take you to eat.” I liked that deal. I was really hungry.
I Opened Up
At each meeting, I opened up a bit more to the group. One member offered me his spare bed. I had a place to sleep. They helped me with my homework, and I started doing well in school. Several of the men went before a judge, asking if they could officially adopt me. Instead, the judge located my mother and sent me back to live with her.
One of my friends in the twelve-step program drove me to meet Mom. I begged him, “Please let me stay with you guys!” “Remember the things that we’ve taught you over the last three months,” he said. “You’re going to be okay.” He had to literally pull me out of his car and put me into Mom’s van. We were on our way to Wichita, Kansas.
I ran away so many times in Wichita that I was labeled a habitual offender, placed in juvenile jail several times, and finally sent to a boys’ home. I didn’t drink, because I had this sense that God was living up to our deal. I attended a twelve-step program in Wichita, and there I met my guardian angel—Terry, a former Marine Corps drill sergeant and recovering alcoholic.
My Life Turned Around
Terry took me in, saying, “If you live with me, you have to make your bed and go to school every day. You also have to have a job. I’ll take care of everything else.”
He threw a copy of Daily Word across the table. “I want you to read this every day. Then you’ll have aDaily Word assignment.” If the message for the day was on living in the present moment, I wrote one page about how I had lived in the present moment that day. Then Terry and I would talk about what I had written.
During this time, Mom had me picked up by the police, and I was sent to jail. Terry brought me my Daily Word, explaining, “Your assignments don’t stop while you’re in jail. We’re going to do this by the book.”
Finally Mom gave up, and Social and Rehabilitation Services told Terry, “He’s yours—nobody else seems to want him.” While living with Terry, I graduated from high school with honors and went on to college.
The Lessons I Learned
No matter how difficult my younger years had been, I believed that God never let me down. I had Terry, and later, a wife, son, and daughter. I became a successful executive, flying all over the world on business.
A few years ago, Terry was hospitalized with throat cancer. Even when away on business, I would fly back home to visit Terry every Thursday evening. Continuing our Daily Word lessons, we sat and talked until he couldn’t talk anymore. If I came to visit him upset about something, he would point to the Daily Word on his bedside table and say, “All that matters is this.” Then he would point to my head and say: “Your world is between your own two ears. Everything that you create, you create in your head. You have a choice whether you want it to be good or bad. But remember, the universe is always trying to bring you good.”
When Terry’s condition grew worse, he was put on a breathing machine. When he was ready to go, he was taken off the machine, and there was a window of time, about three minutes, when he could talk to me. I was holding his hand, and he said, “I’m so proud of you.” He looked at a picture of my daughter and son, and a tear ran down his cheek. Then he spoke his last words to me, repeating them several times: “You are my son. You are my son.”
I Never Gave Up
I could have given up at any time during my early life, but that small still voice, the spirit of God, spoke to me.
Then Terry came along to be my angel. He still directs me to this day by what he taught me as a teen. I learned from him to get out of the way and let the universe bring me good.