My name is Kaleb Hanly. I used to be part of a band that played in venues as far away as Ireland. If you would like, you can listen to my music on iTunes or visit my website: http://www.kalebhanly.com.
But that was all before I became an alcoholic. My addiction led me to do something I never thought I would do - walk into the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake and ask for help. I couldn't believe I was prepared to live in a homeless shelter. At first, the experience shocked me. But after a few months, I realized that the Rescue Mission was just the place I needed to be.
I grew up in a good home in Orange County, but felt like my family lived two lives. The first life was the one we lived when we went to church, and the other life was when we were in the privacy of our home. When we were at home, we argued, fought and were mean to each other. It seemed like our entire family had anger issues. Our home life gave me a distorted view of Christianity. It seemed like the whole thing was about acting one way in front of church people and then acting another way in real life.
The Music Scene Comes Before God
Despite some issues at home, I have great memories of my childhood with my five brothers and my parents. As I went through high school, I stayed away from drugs and alcohol and got into skating and music. When we turned 18, my twin brother and I moved to Hawaii to try surfing. We were beach bums for a while, but my twin grew tired of surfing all the time and he moved back home with my parents, who had relocated to Utah.
Eventually, I moved to Los Angeles to get more involved in the music industry. There I met a chiropractor who was a Christian. I had injured my back, and some people told me that this man was a miracle worker. It turns out they were right. This guy prayed over my back and I felt instantly healed. I had never experienced anything like that before and I really felt that God used this man to do a miracle. Later, he asked me if I was ready to start following Jesus, but I was non-committal. Deep down, I didn't want to give my life to Jesus; I wanted to live for myself. I knew that if I started following Jesus, I would have to quit women, quit drinking and (in my mind) quit having fun.
Some friends and I started a band called Cowboy Robot. We started partying a little bit and were drinking regularly and hooking up with girls. We gained a following, produced an album and secured a record contract. The money was earmarked for promoting a concert tour. We decided to do the tour in Ireland, because it's often easier to gain a following in Europe than starting out in the States.
We had a great time in Ireland. We played a lot of venues and even did some street playing (called "busking") where we would open up a guitar case on the sidewalk and have impromptu concerts. People would buy our CDs right out of the guitar case or just throw a few dollars in. We did some of our best business playing on the streets.
Breaking Up the Band
While I thought that things were going great, it turned out that my fellow band mates didn't. Unexpectedly, they informed me that they wanted to break up the band. I was suddenly in Ireland without a band and without money. I was able to make it back to L.A., but after living in Ireland for a year, Southern California just didn't seem the same. In Ireland, there was great community. The streets were lively, everyone walked around town and there were great coffee and tea shops. In California, everyone drove everywhere and largely kept to themselves. I felt lost.
I decided to move to Utah to live with my parents for a while. The first year I was in Utah, I did well. I stayed away from alcohol and partying and got a job at a medical device manufacturing company. Unfortunately, I became a workaholic. I was promoted to manager of the night shift and was overseeing about 60 employees. The responsibility and stress were overwhelming, and I eventually had a stress-related breakdown and was forced to leave my job.
After my breakdown, I wanted to simplify things. I moved out of my parents' house and got an apartment in the Avenues. I started dating a girl named Danna, but broke it off after a year because I felt guilty about sleeping with her.
I turned to the downtown Salt Lake music scene and starting writing music again. I was drinking again as part of the local music community, and entered into another relationship. My girlfriend got pregnant and had an abortion. Looking back, I know I should have dissuaded her from terminating the pregnancy but, at the time, I just took a hands-off, "do whatever you want to do" approach. I felt guilty and started drinking more and more. I became kind of a recluse. I worked as a waiter or cook at a few downtown restaurants, but outside of work, I didn't have a lot going on except drinking.
Danna and I started dating again, but when she moved to Texas, we became long-distance friends. We still talked a lot, especially through social media. Then, in July 2013, I found out that Danna had gotten onto a motorcycle with a drunk driver. He crashed the bike, and Danna was killed. After she died, I tried to suppress my emotions by drinking more and sleeping with random women. I needed something to distract me.
After a month or so, I looked in the mirror and said, "I'm pretty much an alcoholic." I didn't really see any way I could stop drinking without help. I knew my father had matured in his relationship with God, so I turned to him for help. Since he works closely with the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake as a volunteer, he suggested I go there.
It was a hard decision for me. I wasn't sure about living in a homeless shelter, but the worst part was leaving my lifestyle and friends behind. It seemed impossible.
But I was in a really bad place and eventually realized that the Rescue Mission was the only place where I could get the spiritual help I needed to heal my broken soul. For the first few months, I hated the Rescue Mission. I was sick all the time and injured my ankle, so I was on crutches for several months. I looked around the Rescue Mission and thought, "I don't have problems; all these other people are the ones with the problems." But gradually I came to realize that I had problems, too.
The Decision that Changed My Life
One night in our evening chapel service, I really felt God tugging at my heart. God was calling me to say "yes" to Him and live the life that I needed and wanted to live. When I finally said yes to God, I started to change. I began caring more about other people and the Bible started making sense to me. I was OK with living at a homeless shelter and felt that I had the power to persevere and make it through the New Life Program.
The rest of my time at the Rescue Mission was good. There were still difficulties, but God helped me through them. I had a great community discipler, Bruce Castor, who met with me each week. We read through a book called "The Search for Significance" together.
When I moved to the employment phase of the New Life Program, I got a good job cooking at Bambara, which is an upscale restaurant downtown. I am paid well and even have benefits. God has really blessed me as I have stayed sober this past year.
Maybe the neatest thing God has done was to give me a real passion for worship music. A good friend of mine, Johnny Cowan, is a local worship pastor, and we have been working on some music together. Several church plants in the downtown area have also had me come in and lead worship for their congregations from time to time. It's been a great experience. It's cool to do what you love, but still be serving God.
Moving forward, my goal is to be controlled by God. I want to reject the ever-present push to be ruled by money, possessions, sex and alcohol. I want to continue to do music and use my talents to glorify God rather than myself. Please pray that I would not turn back to alcohol and that I would stay close to God. Please also pray for my purity and that I would one day find the right girl, settle down and have a family.
To learn more about what is happening at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake in September, check out our monthly newsletter, The Rescuer:
September 2014 Rescuer