Spotlight Testimony of the Month
My name is Jack Elmer and it was a little less than two years ago when I walked out of the house I shared with my ailing father in Birmingham, Alabama. I left behind my dad, who I assume has since passed away, along with my possessions – my guitar collection, furniture and most of the clothes I owned. Nine months later, in June of 2012, I coasted into Salt Lake City as my last tank of gasoline dried up. When I walked through the door of the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake I was a broken man. I had no money and no hope and I knew I needed help to change my life.
Growing Up in the South
I was born and raised in New Orleans as the only child of my parents, who had a dysfunctional marriage. There was much verbal abuse and even an instance of sexual abuse in our household. Oftentimes, my parents engaged in yelling matches in front of me. Despite the problems in my home, I did reasonably well in school and learned to play the guitar. When I turned 14, my father’s job took us to Birmingham and I started drinking and partying on the weekends to fit in with kids at my new school.
At home I continued to struggle with my parents’ constant fighting. We divided our home into separate areas with me keeping to my room, my dad keeping to the den and my mother keeping to the living room. We lived in the same house but weren’t a family. Increasingly, I stepped in to mediate fights and often tried to talk my parents through different issues. I began to feel more like the parent in our home than the child.
I graduated high school and attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I worked as a security officer providing campus back-up to the police department. When I graduated college, I continued working on campus as a dispatch officer for police and fire calls. Throughout my college days and my 16 years as a dispatcher, I lived with my parents. While I had some desire to break free, I needed to be there to mitigate their constant fighting. I felt trapped and depressed.
God Hears My Cry
It was during a heated argument in 1997 that I began to believe that God really did exist. I was in my room; a 32-year-old man living in my parents’ house. As my parents yelled outside of my room ,I cried out to God asking Him to make the fighting stop. Suddenly, the house was quiet and as I listened closer I actually heard my father apologize to my mother – something he had never done before.
From that moment I truly felt like God was real and that He actually cared for me. I wish I could say that my parents quit fighting at that point, but the fighting continued through 2005 when my mother passed away. My father’s health started to deteriorate after my mother died and he retired from his long-time job with AT&T. In 2006, as my father’s health needs grew, I quit my job of 16 years working for the University of Alabama at Birmingham and started taking care of my father full-time. With my father's retirement benefits and the money I had saved from working at the college we were set up well financially and wanted for nothing.
But over the years I believe my father started to develop some dementia, which caused him to become even meaner. He started doing things around the house just to be a bully. For instance, we would keep all the doors in the upstairs portion of the house open in order to help ventilate the house and keep it cool in the summer. My father would purposely go upstairs when I wasn't home and close all the doors. This would raise the temperature to unbearable levels and the house would not cool down until the middle of the night. I would come home and have conversations with him about his behavior, but day after day he would repeat it. Finally, I decided I would take all the door knobs off the upstairs doors to ensure they wouldn't be closed. As I worked at removing the knobs, my dad came upstairs and said, "you mean nothing to me." His comment cut me to the heart. I was 46 years old. I had lived my entire life in my parents' house so that I could help take care of them. I had given up my life to serve them. My father's comment touched off something inside of me. I walked into my room, gathered up a few belongings and a suitcase full of cash that I had saved and drove away in my 2006 Toyota Corolla.
Searching for a New Life
I walked out of my father's house in September 2011 and I haven't returned since. I believe my father has passed away because the joint checking account we shared and the credit card we shared has not been accessed or used in over 16 months. Still, I haven't really had the emotional strength to truly figure out what happened to him.
I used my life savings to travel the U.S. for nine months. I think I went through 24 different states. I had no real purpose and no real place to go. The only home I had ever known was no longer an option and I had no friends or family to turn to. I finally ran out of money in Cheyenne, Wyoming. There I happened to meet a guy who told me about a place called the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake. He said they had a free program that could help people dealing with addiction, depression and homelessness. The man I met had enough money to get us to Salt Lake City and we coasted into the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake on fumes.
It was June of 2012 when I sold my car and joined the New Life Program at the Rescue Mission. I was ready to stop running. Today I can truly say my life has been forever changed. While I believed in God and often prayed to Him for help, I had never been to church consistently or knew much about what the Bible teaches. At the Mission, and through attending church at Calvary Chapel of Salt Lake, I learned that God does care for me. He isn't like my father who rejected me.
Before I came to the Rescue Mission, I had never seen a counselor or been in a group recovery meeting. I had never talked about the problems I faced with my parents with anyone. I had just kept all my anger and depression inside. I found that through Bible study, recovery classes and talking about the problems I had faced, my depression decreased and I started to have real, honest relationships with other people. I learned to live with other people. I started to have a life of my own and was less interested in self-pity.
I have not had alcohol in over a year it feels good to be completely sober. When I entered the employment phase of the New Life Program I got a good job with Larry H. Miller Companies working at Energy Solutions Arena, Spring Mobile Ballpark and other LHM properties.
Today I truly feel blessed. I continue to work on forgiving my parents, since I still feel some resentment toward them, even though they have passed away. I plan on moving to the Terri Timmerman Freedom House in a few months and will continue to learn and grow in terms of budgeting, relationships, sobriety and my knowledge of who God really is and how He wants to direct my life. Please pray for me – that I would continue to stay sober, experience deeper forgiveness and develop new friendships as I learn to live on my own for the first time.
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