Marty Neal: Blessed Beyond Measure

Marty Neal: Blessed Beyond Measure

Marty Neal is a busy man.  As CORE’s intake specialist at our Branson location, he’s always in his office – dutifully answering phone calls, meeting with clients, and updating important files on his computer screen.  After regular office hours, he teaches classes.  Finding a free hour to talk to Marty is harder than making Will Smith behave at the Oscars!  

Not that he minds.  In fact, Marty thrives on activity.  Recovery has given him a second wind in life, and he doesn’t want to miss out on a single moment.  While at CORE, Marty not only manages the men’s intake house, but he also teaches classes for 12 Step recovery, spirituality, and CSR presenter training.  He’s an EDGE advocate for our younger clients, too, and he’s doing all this in addition to spending eight hours a day at the office.  On top of this, Marty is recently married, and busy putting together a new household with his lovely wife Alyssa.  Whew – just thinking about it all leaves us breathless.

Marty is just hitting his stride, however, and an active schedule suits him just fine.  When finally we were able to corner him, all he wants to talk about are God’s miracles and blessings.  It’s a miracle that he’s even here at CORE, he says, and he’s genuinely grateful for his new life in recovery:

It blows my mind, every day.  Every day is a blessing.  It doesn’t make sense, and I’m still baffled by it, but I shouldn’t even be here.  So I don’t take this for granted.  If God never did another thing for me, this would be enough.  Recovery’s a miracle.  That’s what it is.  

To help the Reader understand where Marty’s coming from, please consider his background.  

Marty ran wild as a kid, first landing in state custody at the age of 13.  He spent the rest of his youth under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and he missed out on a normal high school experience completely.  There were no “high school proms, class trips, sports, or school dances” for Marty. 

Not surprisingly, as an adult he also got into legal troubles, consisting almost entirely of possession charges.  He’s had so many that you can’t stir them with a stick, and he was never able to string many months of sobriety together.  He spent much of his adult life in custody.  How far gone was he in addiction?   “I once spent four days in ICU,” he says, “I overdosed on fentanyl – practically dead.  I flatlined twice in the ambulance and once at the hospital.”  

Marty was fortunate then, in 2020, when a court granted his conditional release to CORE.  It took a while for him to get here, and Marty gives his probation officer due credit for making this happen.  “My PO is why I’m not locked up again.  When I got out [of jail], she could have violated my parole any time she wanted to.  I asked her, why haven’t you locked me up?  And she said, because I see potential in you; I’m not willing to throw you away again.”  With her encouragement, Marty came to CORE.

With the pandemic raging outside, Marty made progress on his sobriety within our recovery community.  Here he found people who took a daily interest in his welfare, and there was real accountability too.  Whereupon, Marty threw himself into his Big Book studies and committed himself to actual recovery.  Big changes happened almost immediately.  “When I decided to get my heart and my head right, that’s when my circumstances changed,” he tells us.

Accordingly, Marty began accepting additional responsibilities within his recovery house and spoke with newcomers about the 12 Steps.  In time, he began teaching CSR classes for clients.  He was popular with them because he’s authentic; he’s really been there.  (He’s personable and likeable too!)  Whereupon, one day last autumn CORE’s principals inquired whether he might be interested in working for our organization.  Marty didn’t need to be asked twice – he jumped at the opportunity!

So, good things were happening for Marty, but there was still one more big challenge to address: another prior, outstanding possession charge to answer for.  By now, however, Marty was recovered in mind and body.  He was willing to accept life on life’s terms, and he’d lost his fear of today, tomorrow and the hereafter: 

The power of God is amazing.  After all that had happened, what mountain wasn’t He going to move for me?  As long as I kept my heart right and continued to do what He asked me to do, I wasn’t going to worry.  In fact, it would have been a sin for me to worry.  At that point my doubt would have been like calling Him a liar.  Because He’d been faithful, and always would be.

Just last February Marty went to court and was permitted to plead to a lesser charge.  Nobody insisted that he take a rap for possession that would have landed him in jail again.  Thus, as of today, there are no more legal entanglements hanging over his head.

On the personal side, Marty has other good news too.  When he first got to CORE, Marty began regular church attendance here in Branson.  There he met Alyssa who, as of a month ago, is now his wife!  She’s a bona fide believer, Marty tells us.  “I never understood that God might put someone in my life as an instrument of sanctification,” he says, “but that’s what she is.  She prunes me, really.  She’s an absolute blessing.”

Marty readily sees blessings everywhere he looks these days: 

God’s blessed me in every way – my relationships, finances, everything.  I have a career today and love coming to work.  I’m a husband, father, son, and friend, in all the roles I’ve never been.  There’s nothing about my life that’s recognizable from before.  People I know from behind bars and on the streets think I’ve lost my mind when I talk about Jesus or the Steps.  Maybe I have lost my mind.  But I’ve got a new one.  And a new life.

Presently, Marty and Alyssa are busy building their life together as husband and wife.  Domestic life brings new challenges, but Marty looks forward to them.  As to CORE, Marty says “This is where God wants me to be.  I’m thinking I’ll be part of this place for a long time.”

Brittany Breunig: Redeemed

Brittany Breunig: Redeemed

We’ve said this before but, in the case of Brittany Breunig, she really bears no resemblance to the person who first came to CORE.  Today Brittany not only is recovered but she’s also a vibrant, engaging young professional soon to begin training to become assistant regional manager for a major hotel chain.  That’s a far cry from the emotionally detached and hardened twenty-something who came to us two years ago pursuant to court mandate.  Her future looks very bright and, notably, Brittany credits her recovery to the same Phelps County judge who ordered her here in the first place.

Her story properly starts in 2017, when Brittany Breunig had but one friend in the whole world.  The 24 year-old came from a family of strong and resilient but unemotional stoics.  Though they cared for her, she never knew it, and the one person whose love and good intentions she never doubted lie brain dead in a Rolla hospital.  She stood by his bedside while his life support was terminated.  “It was me, him and a nurse, and I stood there while they did it,” she recalls, “I said goodbye.”

Her bestie had overdosed on fentanyl.  If you read the news, that’s the same stuff that just hospitalized five West Point cadets over spring break.  Brittany was a user too, having started when she was fifteen years old.  She was prescribed Percocet, got hooked, and never stopped.  It had been all fun and games but, when her friend died, Brittany’s drug use took a decidedly dark turn.  

She recalls, “When that happened, I broke.  I no longer cared about having fun.  I only cared about doing shots till I didn’t wake up.  That’s when I drowned in my addiction.  It became misery and pain.”  While the psychology of addiction is complex, we assure the Reader that Brittany’s reaction is all too common.

Naturally, she got into trouble, beginning with her own overdose experiences.  There were multiple episodes.  The first reminds us of a scene from Pulp Fiction:

It was at this gas station in Saint Robert [near Ft. Leonard Wood].  I guess this army guy saw me, pulled me out of the car, and hit me in the chest on the ground.  As they’re calling the ambulance and all around me, I wake up and I’m like what the @#$% is going on?  I can’t breathe.  They’re like, you should be thanking him, but I’m saying don’t touch me, everybody get their hands off me.  I was upset.  

Today Brittany is grateful that he saved her life, but she still remembers that she “had this giant welt on my chest for three weeks that looked awful, like I had a tumor coming out of my shirt.”

Brittany vividly described for us how powerless she was against her addiction.  Several times she left the hospital AMA to find the next fix, sometimes walking for miles while sick to her stomach.  She sums up her addictive life in two words: insane and stupid.

On the criminal side, Brittany was racking up charges faster than a dollar-store cashier.  By 2019 she had multiple charges pending in Phelps County and adjacent counties.  She was being held without bond in the county jail, and she knew her situation was bleak.  “I realized I didn’t have anybody who cared,” she says, “because I had become a terrible person. I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison.”  

Everybody was through with her antics – Probation & Parole, the county prosecutors, and judges included.  In fact, all seemingly wanted her gone — except one person.  There was one person left who saw a glimmer of hope for her, and that was Judge William L. Hickle.  But there would be no more second chances, he warned, and he was sending her to a place in Branson to get help.  That place was CORE.

At CORE Brittany found herself in a new and different but wonderful setting.  Having spent two years with us, she describes CORE as being filled with “God magic” and explains “I’ve never experienced anything like this place, it’s amazing.  How all this stuff works together, it’s like magic in this place.”  

She has found real friendship and support here.  When she first got to CORE, Brittany was a self-described “tough guy” who was so disassociated from her emotions that she “suffered from a hardened heart and inability to be vulnerable with anyone”.  Here she found a sorority of like-minded women who live, study, and socialize together, and she began to open up.  She vividly remembers her “first big sincere laugh” where she felt pure joy in recovery.  She and her CORE sisters were together, safe and having fun, “just acting completely immature and goofy — ‘happy, joyous and free.’”

Most importantly, Brittany has developed a relationship with God, and it is this that powers her recovery.  She is still on a journey to better understand God, she tells us.  Sometimes she gets goosebumps while praying.  Brittany also attributes all of her personal growth to God:

To have this deep, intimate relationship with God now, I realize how empty I was before.  I thought I was tough but all my strengths — being heartless, tough — were actually weaknesses.  Being vulnerable and compassionate and empathetic are God-given gifts, the way God has changed my heart. 

Brittany credits God with having given her the willingness and ability to reach people in need. She has shared her experience, strength and hope with others and referred them to our program.

Once Brittany went “all in” with the 12 Steps, good things started to happen.  The memories of traumatic events in her past life receded and were replaced by an attitude of acceptance and sense of peace.  She blossomed socially, and devoted herself to service and helping newcomers.  Then she decided to stay an additional year with CORE.  She currently serves both as a house manager and as a member of CORE’s Second Mile benevolent group.  

Alas, Brittany will be leaving us soon.  Professionally, she’s been climbing the corporate ladder and has management responsibilities for two Branson hotels.  She’s also soon to start training for an assistant district manager position within her company.  Ultimately, this will take her away from CORE.  Since we are a recovery program, the day must come where a client leaves to begin life as a productive member of society, although we will be sad to see her go.  Moreover, we are so pleased and proud for her accomplishments.  We foresee good things in her future!

Reflecting on her last two years, Brittany says “I’m a fan of CORE; I’m a completely different person now from when I first got here.”  More than anyone, however, she thinks back to the perceptive judge who initially sent her to us.  Because of the pandemic, she hasn’t had the chance to thank him in person.  Nevertheless, she says, “I would love to have a conversation with him.  Something he may not receive a lot of but I would like to give is gratitude.  He changed everything for me, and I’d just like to express my thanks.”