CORE Shows Support for the Hollister Police Department

CORE Shows Support for the Hollister Police Department

At CORE, showing pride in our local communities is more than just a great idea.  Reclaiming citizenship is an important part of recovery.  We embrace and celebrate that we are a necessary part of a larger whole.  When we are able to make a real difference in changing lives for the better, it’s time to take an active role.  This includes seeing to it that our public servants – the people who take care of us – are loved, supported, and valued.

The importance of our local police departments cannot be overstated.  Our men and women in blue put their lives on the line to ensure our safety.  They run toward the bad guys so that we don’t have to.  Friendly words and a box of donuts hardly begins to express our genuine appreciation for everything they do.  So, when the chance comes along to properly thank our local law enforcement, we act.  On May 5th, our clients and staff saw the golden opportunity.  It was moving day at the Hollister Police Department!

The new police department building is on Hollister Pointe Drive across from Arrowhead Building.  It’s the difference between Mayberry and NCIS.  The design features have modern law enforcement and training operations in mind.  Hollister Police Chief Preston Schmidt particularly appreciates that the facility has proper security features.  He told us that all phases of department operations can be more safely and efficiently run out of this new location.  Officer Garrett Colson summed up these feelings succinctly, telling us, “It’s awesome, amazing.”

Hollister’s former building had been re-purposed in 2002.  It housed a trading post and computer supply store.  It had thin walls, poor insulation, and almost no ballistic protection.  Space management also was difficult because of the shape of the building.  Modernization was a key factor in the decision to build a new facility.  Chief Schmidt said that he is committed to providing the highest level of professionalism and service to the citizens of Hollister.  The police department also needed more room to keep up with growth.  It already has a dedicated staff of 19 full time employees, and as many as 10 reserves serving various roles.  If the department is to be prepared for the future, now was the time for a new base of operations.  

While moving any office comes with its own set of challenges, when the police department is involved, planning is paramount.  The department had pre-marked every item being moved with a room number so that a supervisor could oversee the offload and make sure all items found their proper rooms.  Chief Schmidt told us that everything was in place to ensure that complete continuity of operations was maintained at all times.  The new building already had staff and a dispatcher in place as the move commenced.  All critical functions were already running when, at exactly 10:00 a.m., the telephone company flipped a switch and the phone lines immediately transferred.

CORE staff and clients did their part by helping the move to the police department’s new location.  CORE’s logistical expert Gary Osborn coordinated our efforts.  Osborn regularly oversees our Re-Store’s massive projects involving truckloads of merchandise.  As we surveyed the amount of furniture involved in the police department’s move, we thought it rather large too, but Osborn wasn’t intimidated at all.  He shrugged it off, saying “no worries.”  Osborn also said that CORE was more than happy to help with this, adding “the relationships are well worth it.”  Our people also helped with junk removal, and then cleaned, dusted, swept, and mopped up the entire building.  For everything these public servants mean to our community, lending our helping hands was the least we could do to show our support.  

The Hollister Police Department is committed to providing our community the highest level of professionalism and service.  The new building is something the entire community can be proud of for a very long time.  We at CORE want to thank our law enforcement officers for everything they do!

The Atheist, the Alcoholic, and the Unknown God

The Atheist, the Alcoholic, and the Unknown God

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, the Lord tells the Disciples that they can move mountains if their faith is as small as a mustard seed.  How many of us have read that passage and pondered what such faith might look like?  A mustard seed is only one or two millimeters in diameter.  It’s tiny.  What could God possibly do with faith that small?  Consider the following: 

The Atheist

Antony Flew (1923 – 2010) is widely thought to be the preeminent atheist of the 20th century.  More than seven decades ago he set the agenda for modern atheism with Theology and Falsification, a paper he presented in a debate with the famous Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. 

Flew’s philosophical works have left an indelible mark on modern thought and discourse.  The so-called New Atheists, for example, incorporated his work into their flame-throwing agendas.  They revel in excoriating and ridiculing people for simply believing in God.  Flew’s ‘presumption of atheism’ is a frequent topic of their podcasts.  We see its influence every time someone butts onto a social media thread and claims that everyone who believes in God is crazy but refuses to rationally defend their remarks.  It was Flew who planted the philosophical seeds in which today’s social climate of intolerance and ignorance makes these hit-and-run episodes all too common.  

Curiously, Flew himself never joined in the antics of his New Atheist associates.  We see the reason why only in hindsight.  In publications the professor still exhibited a detached, academic interest in “following the evidence wherever it may lead.”  Yet privately – unknown to the world at large – Flew was a consummate seeker who was relentless in his search for hard evidence of God’s existence.  On the debate circuit he even made friendships with Christian scholars.  Out of the spotlight they collaborated by exchanging correspondence and telephone calls about scientific developments and their theistic implications.  The world was understandably shocked when, in May of 2004, Professor Flew arrived to a debate and announced that he now believed in God.

It happened at New York University.  Of that “debate” Flew later said “What might have been an intense exchange of opposing views ended up as a joint exploration of the developments in modern science that seemed to point to a higher Intelligence.”  In the video of the event, the announcer suggested that of all the great discoveries of modern science, the greatest was God.  The New Atheists were red-faced, scandalized (imagine if Billy Graham had shown up to a revival and announced that he had become an atheist).  Not surprisingly, Flew was never invited to appear on behalf of the atheists again. 

Flew went on to publish There Is No A God.  Beginning with the plainest of premises – that “nothing comes from nothing” – Flew appraised three discrete phenomena: the existence of the laws of nature, of life, and of the universe itself.  It isn’t simply that our present science is ill-equipped to naturally explain these, Flew said; rather, science can never explain these apart from an immensely intelligent, all-powerful Creator.  The relevant sciences have reached the point where we safely can say that God is behind it all.  Flew also quoted scientific giants like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Erwin Schrödinger, and many others who expressed a belief in God.  

As one might imagine, upon hearing about this, the New Atheists became completely unglued.  The old man’s gone mad, they cried.  They charged him with senility, and some bizarrely claimed that unscrupulous, Christian opportunists had hijacked his brain.  Yet Flew dismissed these naysayers in writings and television interviews until his death in 2010.  

Today, Antony Flew’s personal story continues to inspire Christians who value the natural sciences.  The man who once set the agenda for modern atheism had calmly weighed the evidence and now believed in God.  His book has become a recommended primer for anybody wanting to understand how humanity’s greatest scientific discoveries actually complement and defend, not contradict, a faith in God.  It still holds places on Amazon’s bestseller lists for both religious studies and atheism.

The Alcoholic

William Griffith Wilson (1895 – 1971) was born in the hamlet of Danby, Vermont, at the Wilson Hotel.  Fittingly, it happened in a room behind the hotel bar.  From his mother he inherited brains, and from his father, brawn, along with a family history of alcoholism.  In fact, Wilson had been warned from an early age about the family experience with alcohol.  His father, who left when Wilson was a boy, drank heavily, and his grandfather had been an alcoholic.  Wilson grew up frightened of liquor and backed away from it during his youth and throughout college.  That changed during his military service when Wilson accepted a drink at a society gathering. It was like magic; the shy and self-conscious young man became the life of the party.

During a period of sixteen years, alcohol became the defining fact of Wilson’s life.  His marriage and lucrative career as a stock analyst naturally disintegrated into shambles.  A dismayed Wilson was completely baffled by his inability to stop drinking.  He’d had countless chances, and more than enough motivation and personal desire – all to no avail.  He then received a visit from an old drinking buddy who claimed that the “Great Physician” had saved him of his own alcoholic obsession.  It had been lifted right out of him, his friend said; he was completely freed.

Wilson went to the friend’s Christian fellowship and met others who declared the same thing.  Although impressed by their recoveries, Wilson chafed at the idea that it had anything to do with God.  He’d never studied the Bible or been a churchgoer, and he asked himself whether they recovered through reality or by an illusion.  Now, Wilson didn’t question that there was a power greater than himself.  He even thought there may be a spirit of the universe that supported the vast laws and forces at work in the cosmos.  A personal god, however, seemed improbable, even unreal, to him.  With the ministers and religions of the world, he sharply parted company.  He thought himself, in his own words, “incapable of such an absurd illusion, even though it might save [his] life for a little while.”

During Wilson’s last hospitalization his doctor pronounced him hopeless.  His course was set: decaying health, madness, and death.  Later that night, sitting alone in his hospital room, Wilson felt his obstinacy toward God crushed out of him.  He even said to himself, “I’ll do anything, anything at all.  If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him.”  Wilson then humbly offered himself to God and had a remarkable spiritual experience.  The effect was instant and electric; he became conscious of “the God of the preachers.”

An excited Wilson told everybody at the hospital about his experience.  His obsession to drink was gone.  It was a miracle, but how, and why?  The Christian fellowship provided him a book by the psychologist William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience.  Wilson readily saw himself within the pages: his calamity, admission of complete defeat, and appeal to God.  As he contemplated his own experience, however, Wilson came to appreciate the critical importance of his Christian friend.  Without this friend’s guidance, the thought of seeking God would never have occurred to him.  As a fellow alcoholic, he had identified himself with Wilson as no other person could.  He had pointed the way out of the cave of darkness and into the sunshine of the spirit.  

It was a powerful epiphany.  Wilson began to envision a “chain reaction,” an ever growing fellowship of alcoholics whose mission would be to point other sufferers toward God.  Such a fellowship ultimately might reach every alcoholic in the world, Wilson thought, and he immediately began working toward that goal.  He eventually met an alcoholic and physician whose name was Robert Holbrook Smith.  

Bill W and Dr. Bob, as the duo came to be known, collaborated together and began helping other alcoholics find God.  They also put together a book, Alcoholics Anonymous, that distills the recovery program into twelve steps.  The rest is history.  

Today, there are AA groups in 180 countries with an estimated membership of more than five million people.  Bill W’s wife became a founding member of Alanon, and dozens of groups have adopted the 12 Steps to address a wide variety of compulsive behaviors. Since these groups don’t keep statistics, it’s impossible to say how many people have been led to God by the 12 Steps, but the number must be considerable.  At CORE, in our little corner of the world, our staff does not have enough fingers and toes to count them all.

The Unknown God

The New Testament contains a record of Christianity’s spread into Asia Minor and Europe.  In the Book of Acts, chapter 17, we find an account of Paul in the idol-filled city of Athens making his famous address to the Areopagus, the Athenian council.  Paul stands up before the assembly and says, in pertinent part:

People of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  . . .From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

From Paul’s remarks we have a fair idea where the Athenians are in their beliefs.  Rather than condemning them as idol-worshiping savages, however, Paul acknowledges that they are a religious people.  Athens, after all, is the cultural center of the Roman Empire.  When he says, “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship,” his remark is neither meant nor taken as disparagement.  Moreover, the fact that he proclaims The Unknown God is an attention grabber, both for them and for us today.  

Paul’s discourse does not begin with, nor is it carried by, references to scripture.  We do not see the typical survey of Israel’s history, for example, and there are no quotations from the Pentateuch or The Prophets.  He doesn’t even mention the word ‘Messiah,’ and for an obvious reason.  He’s not in a Jewish synagogue.  For authority Paul quotes two pagan authors, the Cretan philosopher Epimenides and the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus.  Paul is speaking to these people where they are.

They appear to hear Paul loud and clear, too.  We know this because Luke faithfully records where an objection is made, and there are none on these matters.  Paul is expounding a natural theology that already is part of the public consciousness.  Philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and others had been developing it for centuries.  Upon this Paul argues toward his ultimate conclusion: that God the creator has revealed Himself in the man Jesus.  

In this city full of pagan idols, it happens that there are seekers in the audience who want to reach out and find God.  Sympathetic Athenians convert that same day.  They form the foundation for what eventually became an important center of early Christianity.  Moreover, we easily imagine Paul making a similar address to crowds throughout his travels in pagan Europe.  He became, in his own words, “all things to all people” and spoke to them as one “without the law.”  Small churches sprang up everywhere Paul went.  The impact upon the world made by these original seekers of The Unknown God is all around us, even today. 

Willingness is Key

God can accomplish great things with even a little faith.  As a recovery provider, we at CORE consider the above examples (and many others like them) for more than their emotional appeal.  Step Two says that we “[c]ame to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Step Three says that we made a decision “to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  CORE receives clients who hold a myriad of different beliefs.  Our staff counsels individuals who wonder if they really believe in God, for example.  They ask if they are religious enough to work the steps, or they want to know what minimum amount of belief is needed.  Thus, our interest in this is beyond theoretical.  Belief is “a thing” around here, a practical matter of immediate and grave importance, because recovery can be a matter of life and death. 

Our experience, echoed by the Big Book, is that “God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him.”  Id., at 46.  Therefore, willingness is key.  It’s great if we already have faith, but even by expressing a willingness to believe, we commence to get results.  We see this quality in the atheist, the alcoholic, and Athenians above.  All were seekers, and their willingness to believe lit a flame that has gone on to inspire millions and accomplish immeasurable good.  God does remarkable things with a ready attitude.  Pertinently, this also includes someone suffering from a seemingly hopeless obsession for drugs and alcohol.  In the 12 Step context, a simple attitude of willingness to believe can become the “cornerstone” upon which “a wonderfully effective spiritual structure” is built.  Id., at 47.

We see this all the time.  CORE’s ministry is not dissimilar from a college ministry, where members not only have different backgrounds and beliefs but also are highly mobile and continually come and go.  Our church attendance is about three hundred people.  In an ordinary year we might have fifty baptisms, and even more commence our recovery program.  Ours is an active ministry, and for everyone who finds new life we rejoice and give all glory to God.  

So, exactly how much faith is needed to work the 12 Steps?  This matter is not readily quantified, but a client can only be defeated by a persistent attitude of intolerance and belligerent denial.  We like to think of the story about Jonah and his shipmates tossed to and fro upon the frothy sea.  The shipmates must throw Jonah overboard, he exclaims, so that God will quiet the storm.  They don’t even know Jonah’s God and resist his plan.  As their efforts to row ashore fail, however, in desperation they call out to God and put Jonah into the water.  The raging sea grows calm, and Jonah’s shipmates believe.  They then dedicate themselves to the Lord.  

The story is a fitting allegory for some who need the experience of their addictions in order to reach the place of willingness to seek out and find Him.  Nevertheless, once we make the decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, He turns out to be closer to us than we ever imagined.  He quiets the raging storm within us, and we believe.  We are filled with gratitude, and we become determined to pass along a message of hope to other addicts and alcoholics: that God will do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

A Talk with Tami McKinney

A Talk with Tami McKinney

Tami McKinney is an extraordinary person with a blessed heart.  She brightens our program wherever she’s found – which seemingly is everywhere.  

Her proper job title is Human Resources Manager, for which she plans, coordinates, and directs many of our administrative functions.  In practice Tami does a lot more.  You may find her leading clients in morning prayer, for example, or participating in an executive committee meeting, or even keeping minutes at a Board of Directors meeting.  In fact, people seeking answers to questions regularly end up in her office.  Tami is wealth of information.  Thus, if there is truly a human institution within our sprawling organization, she may well be that person.  

She’s hardly the same person who first came through our doors more than sixteen years ago.  In fact, during the autumn of 2004, Tami sat in a plain, cheerless prison cell.  The young mother of three was doing time – an intensive “one-twenty.”  There alone, in her darkest and sickest of hours, Tami was haunted by guilt and shame.  The drugs had long worn off, leaving her with only memories of a life that seemingly had all gone wrong.  She never imagined that for herself, even in her worst nightmares.

Tami grew up in an ordinary, single parent home.  Her mother and father divorced when she was four years old.  “My mom was a single mom raising three kids by herself.  She did the best she could, but I was pretty wild.”  She was eleven the first time she drank.  Amused by Tami’s childish enthusiasm, a babysitter offered her whiskey, and Tami got drunk.  She vividly remembers throwing up all over the floor.  “But it was fun,” she adds, “and I got a lot of attention.” She tried marijuana under similar circumstances.  From these initial experiences her use progressed.  By the time she got to high school, Tami was drinking and smoking pot with her friends at every opportunity.  

During her testimony, we observed that Tami arranged events around the three significant men in her life.  There was her first husband, with whom she had three children.  He was an alcoholic who died in his addiction.  Then there was a longtime boyfriend and drug supplier.  Finally, there is Jim McKinney.  Tami and Jim ran together before both getting clean.  Three years after recovering, they married.  Jim became a valued employee at our Learning Center for Children, and he later acted as our program manager in Springfield before retiring from CORE.  

As to drugs of choice, she named three main substances: alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamines.  These substances came and went during the relationships identified above, and her experiences with each sound familiar.  The focal point of her drug career was methamphetamines. 

Tami not only liked how she felt under the influence of meth, but it also seemed like the way to get things done.  She described it as “Me up running around the house, cleaning, getting everything done that I want to do, and getting all ready to go out or to a friend’s house.  But I’ve got to do more and more all day long.  Every hour was good, at least.”  Whenever things got out of hand, Tami tried to moderate her use.  She would plan to limit herself to weekends and stopping by Sunday evening so she could get rest and go to work in the morning.  That plan was short-lived, every time.  “I’d feel really tired, so I’d have to do more.  Before you know it, it was every day.  At some point I’d stay up every night.  I was a mess the next day.”

Like so many addicts and alcoholics, the great fear of Tami’s life became running out of meth.  Actually running out, however, “was absolutely horrendous,” she says, “I’d want to kill someone, or myself.  I’d just as soon be dead.  I couldn’t live without it.  I remember times when I couldn’t even get out of bed.  Severe depression – I felt like I was going to die until I got more.  It was horrible.”  Nothing else was more important to her than “finding meth, doing meth, and doing whatever I had to do to get meth. Nothing else mattered.”

During her testimony Tami recalled her many, sporadic personal efforts to keep it together, all of which failed.  Her decades of use were plagued by one crushing disappointment after the next.  There were the losses of promising jobs, continually moving from house to house and from one town to the next, taking advantage of people trying to be helpful, and her heartbreak with her children.  In fact, she remembers her fitness as a mother weighing more heavily on her than anything else.  When family, in-laws, and friends weren’t called, the children simply weren’t properly attended.  Tami reflects “I only talked a good game, like, my kids were so much more important.  But, no.  And that’s not anybody I ever wanted to be, and I hated myself for it.  I hated myself for doing that to them.  I was only teaching them to get high.” 

Eventually the law caught up with Tami and Jim, too, who by then had become the man in her life.  Jim decided it was time to get clean.  Tami had other ideas.  After getting out of jail, she went back to the dope house.  She also ignored her probation officer.  Her attempts at getting clean came to nothing. 

She specifically recounts having a court date on September 8, 2004, while having never reported to her probation officer.  “I don’t even know why even I went,” she said, “I’d already run for 10 months – why was I even going to court that day?  They were going to send me to prison.  And that’s exactly what happened.”

All of which brings us back to the autumn of 2004, with young Tami sitting in her prison cell thinking thoughts that were too catastrophic to bear.  The wasted years, the lost jobs, abandoning her loved ones.  There was no way to put a bright face on it.  She cried.  There in prison, the full weight of her guilt came to bear, and she asked herself, “What kind of mother does this?”  Tami also was afraid of what would happen when it came time for her to leave.  She knew that she couldn’t rely on herself.  She reached out to knowledgeable people, who first referred her to rehab and, second, to CORE.  At CORE Tami blossomed into the woman God intended her to be.

Once here she surrounded herself with encouraging women in the program who kept her going to meetings, volunteering for worthy causes and, most importantly, working the 12 Steps.  Tami did get hung up on the fourth step – to the point of still processing for over a month after writing it.  A friend coaxed her forward with warnings of disaster if she didn’t get that step done.  She knew that, of course, but she was still hesitant to share what happened with her children to anybody.  To her relief Tami’s fifth step partner did not judge her.  To the contrary, the most common reactions were “I did that” and “Did that too.”

Tami was transforming, the fact of which became apparent to those around her before she saw it herself.  “But they would say, there’s something different about you,” she remembers.  The obsession was gone.  She was relying on God now, and her self-worth was returning.  “I let guilt and shame and fear go.  If I hadn’t had that outlet by working the steps, I would have been back out there.  It was too painful to keep feeling that way.  The steps are an amazing thing.” 

Tami also began making amends and reconciled with her parents, children, and loved ones.  She was particularly grateful to visit her father, who she hadn’t seen in seven years.  He’d been a ‘week-in the-summer’ and Christmas kind of dad when Tami was young, but she always loved him and was overjoyed to rekindle their relationship.  He got sick shortly thereafter, sadly.  “It happened so fast,” she says, “but he got to see me sober before he died.”  Her relationship with her mom returned too, and today they are best friends who maintain daily contact.  In 2008, Tami and Jim got married; they have shared more than thirteen happy years together.

More recently, Tami’s oldest son had two children, who are Tami’s pride and joy.  “God gave me a second chance with them,” and she thanks Him for it.  Tami’s actively involved in their lives.  We know them, too, and they are great kids.   

Additionally, with more time comes more responsibility.  Tami was initially asked to work with incoming clients.  After commencing she became a CORE staff member.  One long-time responsibility that she still looks forward to is leading morning prayer.  She likes “to hear the new people pray for the first time.  They’ll sit there silent.  All of a sudden they’re like, I’ll pray.  They pray and it’s music to the ears.  It’s the most beautiful thing to hear.”  

Tami tells us that she can’t imagine a better job in the world than CORE (we completely agree).  In her own words:

We get to see miracles all the time around here.  The commencements are my favorite part of the job.  I cry at every one.  It’s so amazing to see parents speak about their child and how grateful they are. Or their kids getting up there and thanking CORE for giving them their parent back.  It’s a miracle, and it’s amazing.  There’s nothing like it in the world.  I don’t even know how to describe it, but I love seeing them.

In addition to commencements, Tami also shared memories of other best days at CORE.  Her answer caught us off guard because there isn’t a particular day or a special event.  Rather, they are every day, she tells us, “when we’re together, enjoying life and each other’s company in sobriety.  Sometimes I look around and see staff, and I think about where we used to be, where I used to be, not having any fun unless I was high.  But here we are now having the best time, and we’re like family.  Everybody I work with, they are family.  It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Tami looks back on the last sixteen years with genuine gratitude, stating “God is amazing.  He had a purpose for me, my whole life, but if not for CORE, I may never have known.  Today I know what it is.”

Why CORE?

Why CORE?

For more than 25 years, CORE has been the leader for recovery services in southwest Missouri.  Thousands of our program participants have gone on to lead normal, happy, and substance free lives.  Curious minds may ask “Why CORE?”  The answer lies in our commitments to safety, recovery, and service.

Safety

CORE gives local residents a safe place to recover from addiction and alcoholism.  We are not a halfway house, homeless shelter, or subsidized housing.  CORE is a recovery program whose focus on safety is reflected throughout our entire structure.

Unlike government funded programs, CORE is completely drug and alcohol free.  We maintain a zero-tolerance policy, and drug testing is mandatory.  Every month our random testing reaches about half of our population, and a reasonable suspicion prompts directed testing.  We simply do not allow psychoactive drugs or alcohol, period.  Excluded medications include even commonly prescribed drugs like opioid analgesics (Percocet, Oxycontin, etc.), depressants (benzodiazepines), stimulants (Ritalin, etc.), and opioid replacements (methadone, Suboxone, etc.).  Our policy is based on decades of experience.  It necessarily excludes those persons who are bound to medications for psychiatric disorders, and those who opt for medication assisted-treatment for substance abuse.  Nevertheless, in our view there is no substitute for recovery.  Recovery is the only alternative offered by CORE.

Supervision is key to safety, too.  Whether at our recovery centers, residential facilities, or using our transportation departments, clients are supervised by CORE staff, house managers, and transportation personnel.  We even see to the safe departure of clients leaving the program.  If extended travel is required, we put them on the bus and pay for it ourselves.

Without CORE in our communities, we would have hundreds of vulnerable residents without help, or hope, left to their own devices.  Our program provides supervised contact with the community.  We offer clients transportation for employment and shopping, for which our transportation departments run up to twenty hours per day.  We also enforce morning and evening curfews.  Clients are restricted from nights out on the town, too.  Rather, we permit two days a month to visit family when a client is secure enough in their sobriety to do so.

In further commitment to safety, CORE does not accept those who have a criminal history of violence or sex offenses.  Every client – before ever walking through our doors – already has submitted to a thorough background check.

Recovery

CORE’s proven recovery record is based on abstinence.  We are not a methadone or Suboxone clinic.  We do not peddle harm reduction methods as a recovery program.  Substance abuse is a pressing, enduring issue in America.  Client come to us looking for real answers.  We admit only those who want sobriety.  That’s what CORE offers.  Quality is ensured by our 12 Step curriculum – long recognized as the go-to for recovery even if all medical treatments and other measures have failed.  

Moreover, CORE recognizes that simply pausing on alcohol and drugs does not make one cured.  Addiction is a complex issue.  During their first year clients become a new person apart from drugs and alcohol.  They adopt new beliefs, convictions, directions and goals.  It takes time to incorporate qualities that define authentic and decent human beings.  It does not happen overnight, in a matter of weeks, or even months.  

CORE provides the quality environment in which these changes can happen.  Clients in our residential facilities are supported by compassionate people and positive fellowship.  In our residences clients feel like they can fit in, share common experiences, and be authentic without having to explain themselves.  CORE has staff, housing managers, and senior program members who live on-site and oversee implementation of every client’s recovery program.  

Our recovery centers are important, too.  At these centers clients attend recovery classes, group meetings, spirituality classes, and church services – all of which offer important tools for recovery.  Clients learn about the causes and conditions of their addictions.  They are educated about its effects on themselves and their friends, families, careers, and communities.  They receive personal guidance through each step of recovery.  Staff members also are on-call 24/7 to respond to individual crises as they arise.

Service

A remarkable, marvelous change occurs when one works the 12 Step program.  The obsession for drugs and alcohol is gone.  Equally important, the client develops a positive sense of identity and self-worth, becomes productive, and begins to form healthy connections with others.  Clients commencing our program go on to live normal and quiet lives.  Community members may be surprised to discover that they work with our former clients, or are their neighbors, attend the same churches, and do volunteer functions together.

Recovery is a blessing.  The recipient lives with hope and purpose, and feels the deepest gratitude.  Our clients develop a compassion for others that is expressed by genuine desire to be of service.  In fact, CORE literally has created programs that allow clients to volunteer for worthy causes.  As an example, we have the Second Mile group, a benevolent organization committed to charitable works within our communities.  During the pandemic our people also began a free pickup and delivery service for people wary of going out in public.  And only last Christmas season, CORE and Hollister Schools completed a massive undertaking in the creation of a holiday store stocked with everything one might find at a big box retailer.  Local residents “shopped” at our holiday store, for whatever they needed, for free.  We have even adopted a highway (which is kept spotless!)

Beyond the foregoing, clients completing our program feel a natural obligation to share the gift of recovery.  With the various different problems faced by our communities, it is altogether easy to overlook or even ignore the suffering addict and alcoholic.  Hence, CORE.  We have not forgotten them.  Further, we are honored to perform recovery services for the benefit of our communities.

* * *

CORE does not rely on government funding.  We have seen what that leads to: compromise and the continual line-drawing of what even defines recovery.  CORE is not about statistics, and we do not see methadone and Suboxone patients as favorable statistics anyway.  Rather, such people need real help.  Helping people recover and go on to help others is our business.  With virtually all federal government dollars going to programs supporting medicated treatment, the need for CORE in our communities becomes all the greater.  Our program works for anyone who wants to stop using. We do not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

Bracy Sams: A Purpose-Driven Life

Bracy Sams: A Purpose-Driven Life

Bracy Sams is the first person many new clients see when they arrive here to CORE.  He is our men’s intake specialist in Branson.  He also manages Hawk House, a residence for new clients.  Bracy has been with us for more than seven years.  

He originally hails from rural Arkansas, Carroll County to be exact, but you’d never know it looking at him.  Judging by his appearance, Bracy looks like he should be on the back of a Harley Davidson, or even standing watch on a 19th century sailing frigate.  He has a kind, polite disposition and a quiet strength about him.  He’s the kind of man who lets you have your say before he tells you what you need to hear.  Bracy clearly is passionate about recovery, too.  Letting weary and hurting people know there’s a “way out” is among the best parts of his job:

It’s hearing the hope in parents’ voices when I call and tell them, yes, he’s accepted.  And talking to him, who’s so broken that he’s crying, and to let him know that, hey, there’s a way out.  Just get here.  I’ll prove it to you.  It’s being part of getting people out of the dark, out of the misery.  

We met Bracy in CORE’s church sanctuary.  It’s really a giant multipurpose room, and on the day of our interview all the lights are off.  The room appears dark and cavernous except for a single overhead light illuminating our spot.  Talking about his past couldn’t have been easy, but Bracy knows the drill.  Reliving the hell of addiction is the sacrifice we make when giving testimony.  Our hope is that someone listening will connect, see that there is a path forward, and ultimately find recovery through a personal relationship with God.  

With the simplest of prompts, Bracy begins his story, taking us back to a time when Ronald Reagan was president, the space shuttle Columbia already made its first flight, and Indiana Jones had become a household name:

I was twelve.  I got to that age where my parents let me stay overnight with friends.  One friend had two older brothers who were drinking and having fun, smoking weed.  The first time was when his brother had passed out in his room.  We snuck in there and took his bottle and his weed.  We went out to a tree house and laughed and carried on.  We did that a couple of times until the third weekend.  I asked his brother for it because now I really wanted it.  He said, no, but I’ll sell you some.  That’s how it all started.

At the tender age of twelve, young Bracy Sams already was hooked.  He’d buy bags of marijuana and bring them home to his parent’s farm to find a secluded place.  By the time he was in high school Bracy was a regular user.  Even getting caught at school didn’t phase him.  “I just started being smarter, more careful,” he explains.  Once he began driving himself to school, Bracy was getting high every day, and the worst was yet to come.

In the year that he graduated from high school, Bracy tried methamphetamines for the first time.  “That was a game changer,” he remembers, “that’s all I wanted to do.”  Bracy’s ambition became having fun.  He says, “It stopped me from being responsible and growing up.  I was always running around and getting high.  Girls.  Parties.  That was my only goal in life, for several years.”  

Other things happened too.  By the age of 25, Bracy married and had children.  He went into the trucking business with his father.  Normal pursuits did not captivate him, however.  Nothing could compete with his drug life.  It was only a matter of time before things would unravel.  As much as one might try, no addict can keep his problem a secret forever.  He says:

She [i.e., his wife] certainly knew what I was doing.  It finally came to a head, and one day she left. My dad came to me and said, are you going to go apologize to her?  Leave the dope alone? Leave the women alone?  Now, I never admitted anything; I always denied it.  I said, so you’re taking her side?  When he said, yes, I was like, I’m done.

Bracy’s slide into the abyss hastened.  He abandoned his business pursuits and filed for bankruptcy.  His wife of seven years “filed for a divorce, and it was over, just like that.”  Bitterness set into Bracy’s heart.  His thinking was that, if everybody thought he was doing dope, then he’d show them doing dope  Without home, wife and children, and his share in the family business, Bracy’s ship was unmoored without a rudder.  He walked headlong into the seedy world of methamphetamines.  He both manufactured and sold: 

I almost got higher making it than using it.  It gave me power.  Of the devil for sure.  I was blind, thinking that I controlled it, and controlled other people, when it was controlling me.  It’s a deceiver, meth.  It’s not knocking you down like heroin, but it still takes everything from you.  

At various points during his drug career, Bracy did consider quitting, but he was firmly locked into the cycle of addiction.  He held only fanciful notions of just quitting and never doing drugs again:

I’d be locked up in the county jail, and I always thought, man, this is exactly what I need, to be away from it, and I’m not going to use again.  I knew without a doubt when they released me that I wasn’t getting high.  Thirty minutes is as long as I ever lasted, depending on who picked me up from jail.  . . .The obsession would kick in.  I didn’t know what it was then – the obsession.  I was looking for ease and comfort because I was so uncomfortable and hated my own skin.  I hated myself. 

He couldn’t keep it together.  Bracy had lost nearly all contact with the people he loved the most.  When he did see them, Bracy saw only disappointment in their faces or heard dismay in their voices.  He remembers one year having Christmas with his children in February, saying “that’s the quickest I could make it to them.”  The children would call and ask, “Hey dad, can you come to my game? Can you come to this school event?  Can you come to the church thing?”  Although Bracy always promised he would be there, he’d become so messed up that it didn’t happen.  “Two days later, I’d be like, I’m a piece of @#$%, I forgot.  How could I forget?”  After awhile they stopped even calling.  As for his family, Bracy hadn’t talked his siblings in over a decade.  His father asked him not to come around anymore saying, “it’s too hard for your mom to even look at you.”  Bracy had worn out everyone and everything around him.  He reached a point where he just wanted life to be over.

Bracy actually found himself in the same place as several of us who later recovered.  Like us, serendipity arrived once he was hopeless.  Bracy candidly admits that he himself took no action to find CORE or apply to the program.  He says, “I really don’t know how I even got here.  I didn’t fill out an application or call.  They called and said, hey, you’re approved to come in.”  Today he speculates that maybe it was a friend of somebody letting him crash on a sofa who did the leg work.  Whoever that person was, Bracy feels a debt of gratitude.

Sometimes new clients initially feel resistance to working the program.  It might be pride, or unwillingness to admit they are powerless.  In Bracy’s case, he was mad at God.  “I was like, why would God let me be a drug addict?  Why would he let me lose my family?  How did he let all this stuff happen?”  His attitude softened as people at CORE showed they cared.  They didn’t judge him and weren’t about to write him off.  Then Bracy heard about the cycle of addiction at our recovery classes.  It “really grabbed hold of me, and that’s when I started paying attention in class,” he remembers.  Our classes run for five weeks, at which time Bracy was ready to write his 4th Step.  “When I sat down to write it,” he says, “I said, enough’s enough, and wrote it out.”  

As he worked the steps, Bracy felt a weight lifting from him.  He was on a life changing journey.  Where once he blamed God for his addiction, he now considered his former misery as something he needed to turn toward God.  “It was like God asking me, have you figured out what to do yet?  Do you want to ask me?” he says.  Bracy began finding contentment in not running his own show but rather in doing God’s will.  A chance encounter with an addict outside the program opened Bracy’s eyes to this.  The paraphernalia and drugs were “right in front of me,” he remembers, and then “God showed up.”  Bracy explained to the man where he’d come from, where it had taken him, and how God had relieved him of his addiction.  As the two parted ways, he also let the man know, “If you ever get tired of this, you call CORE.”

Bracy was energized by the encounter.  He asked God to put people in his path who were addicts in need of help, and God obliged.  It happened everywhere – at work, at the store, and on the street.  Bracy began to meet suffering and hurting people, and he freely shared the solution.  In time, he was made a CORE house manager, and he also began working for us.  Bracy also reunited with his family.  In fact, Bracy spent a fair amount of time telling us about his children and what each were doing.  They see each other regularly now, anytime they want, and Bracy cherishes his time with them.  He’s also made amends to his parents and siblings and enjoys seeing them, too, both here and back home in Carroll County.  

Today, Bracy Sams is a man on a mission.  Whether at Hawk House, or at the recovery center, he has a daily goal, “that maybe I can help convince even one person not to continue down the same road that I did, and to help them get past whatever might stop them from getting recovery.”  As to why he works for CORE, Bracy pauses for a moment, looks at the light above us, and begins:

Let me tell you what CORE is about, we care about people.  We love on them and introduce them to God.  To get out of their miserable, self-loathing state, they have to find God.  I see them when they get here and see them after.  Once they buy into it, when they’re working the steps, they start having a relationship with God, and they’re two different people – 

At that, his answer is interrupted by an important telephone call.  It’s client related and Bracy must attend to it.  The interview is over – Bracy’s back at it, what he’s all about.  His work isn’t finished and, somehow, we suspect it won’t ever be.  Bracy Sams is living a purpose-driven life.

Egocentric Fear

Drugs and Alcohol, A Crutch for Egocentric Fear

 Some may recognize the name Diogenes of Sinope. He was a Greek, cynic philosopher who lived a long time ago – in the third century, B.C. – during the time of Alexander the Great. A surprising number of writers today are about talking about Diogenes. They draw very different conclusions about him depending on the facts they choose to present. 

On the one hand, some authors cite him as an ancient icon of rugged individualism. Diogenes is portrayed as self-reliant and independent, the kind of man America really needs in our namby-pamby, politically correct culture. One writer says, “Diogenes is everything I am not. He is quick witted, brash, shameless, mentally and physically tough and above all… he is free.”1 Another assures us that Diogenes epitomizes “living a life in which you make decisions . . . You trust yourself. You’re true to yourself.”2 A Psychology Today article claims Diogenes is the author’s hero.3 They talk about Diogenes like he’s the main character in a John Wayne movie. 

According to them, Diogenes lived a self-directed and autonomous life. He prioritized independence and uniqueness. Diogenes shrugged off all social expectations and even laughed at wealth and power. They like to relate an account about the philosopher meeting the great Alexander himself. As the story goes, Diogenes was sunning himself on a city street, and he “raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, ‘Yes,’ said Diogenes, ‘stand a little out of my sun.’” 

The foregoing sounds great in it’s own way, but every coin has two sides. It’s hard to take these authors seriously when we know all the facts. We’ve included a picture of John Waterhouse’s painting of Diogenes for reference. That’s a good historical rendition of Diogenes on canvas. 

In fact, Diogenes’ lived in a big, clay wine jar on a city street. He was homeless, begged for his food, and ate with his hands. Ancient chroniclers describe him as dirty, unkempt, and smelling like filth. Diogenes lived like a dog and called himself one. He explained that “I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.” The Greek word for cynic, kynikos, actually derives from the word for dog. Diogenes had abandoned the most basic notions of decency. He not only urinated and spit on those who disagreed with him, but he also made a spectacle out of himself by publicly defecating and masturbating. When asked about his especially mortifying acts of masturbation, Diogenes said, “If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly.” 

Diogenes spent his days lying about like a dog refusing to work, and nobody ever dared give him any responsibility. He also held in contempt the ideas of family, property rights, and all social and political organization. Above all, Diogenes was prideful – he considered himself better than everybody else. In his arrogance he ridiculed all those around him. He bragged that he and he alone had found happiness. 

We see this second, more complete description of Diogenes as much different, and altogether more telling. We don’t see someone whose self-reliance proved to be fulfilling. The real Diogenes looks more like the proverbial boy who, when the game isn’t going exactly his way, decides to take his ball and go home. Unable to cope with his defeats, his fear of failure led him to quit. Sadly, the game that Diogenes walked out on was his own life. 

History doesn’t give us the particulars, but it’s easy to see how this happened. We’ll grant that Diogenes had some intelligence and talent, but his ego was working on overdrive. Being a legend in his own mind, Diogenes merited fame, fortune and power. What he got was less. Before he even moved into his clay jar, Diogenes couldn’t keep up with the Jones – either socially or economically. The results of his life’s efforts must have seemed like crushing disappointments. He was terrified to admit that he was like everybody else, and he probably lived in constant anxiety that he was ordinary, wasn’t good enough, or would be found out. Diogenes’ ego told him he was better than that. Much better. Why didn’t they grant him the accolades and perks he deserved? It must have seemed like an abomination how they repaid his genius. He was living like a commoner. Couldn’t they see he was different? Didn’t they know he was special? 

The fear of never getting his reward, of never amounting to anything, must have been immense. Diogenes eventually reached a turning point in his life, a mid-life crisis where he just snapped. He boomeranged. He was better than those plebeians, he reasoned. They could have their beautiful homes, their loving wives and children, and their important jobs and social standing. He didn’t need all that – he didn’t need anything. He’d rather live like a dog than run in their rat race. He’d show them who’s best. He and he alone would be best – at having nothing! He would rub their noses in it by flaunting a deliriously happy appearance, for good measure. 

The historical record does not expressly show that Diogenes was an alcoholic. For us at CORE who are recovered alcoholics and addicts, all we have to do is imagine the scent of distilled spirits on Diogenes’ breath, and he really starts to remind us of somebody. Somebody whose existence we knew all too well. Before we recovered, we were afraid to face our own lives too, and we also quit the game. Thus, rather than being an idol for self-reliance and independence, we think that Diogenes preferably illustrates a puffed up ego overreacting to crippling fear. He would make a better poster child for the alcoholic or addict trapped in the cycle of addiction. 

The Big Book describes just such a person: 

We asked ourselves why we had them [i.e., fears]. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse. 

Big Book, at 68. In our active addictions, and probably before, we subsisted in the fear of not getting what we deserve out of life. Our egos were out of control. We made our demands upon ourselves and those around us so onerous that we unwittingly trapped ourselves in an untenable situation. Thus, if we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, or if somebody failed to reciprocate our feelings exactly as we demanded, then we assumed the worst. We considered ourselves losers or thought that we were being rejected. It was an unwinnable game that brought only frustration. The ego’s fear of failure jumped up and down in protest, shouting that we didn’t do anything wrong or that they didn’t deserve us. It assured us that we were justified indulging in fear’s ultimate expression – quitting. We quit a hundred times, thousands of times, into the ease and comfort afforded by the first drink or drug. Like Diogenes, we took our ball and went home. 

We were driven, as the Big Book says, “by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity.” Id., at 62. It’s no accident that fear shows up in each and every 4th Step inventory example offered by the Big Book: 

This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it

Id., at 67. Our fear typically was the result of an overinflated ego seemingly under constant attack. We were “self-centered–ego-centric.” Id., at 61. 

If we were to live, to recover, this conceited absorption in ourselves, the insanely self-centered attitude, had to be dealt with. The main problem of the alcoholic or addict “centers in his mind, rather than his body.” Id., at 22. This is why humility is an overarching theme in the Big Book. The “leveling of our pride” is required for successful consummation of the 12 Step process. Id., at 25. Each step in some way presents an opportunity to deflate a pathologically, out-of-control and thoroughly self-centered ego.4 Moreover, even while our troubles were basically of our own making, we were powerless to help ourselves. Divine help was needed to restore us to sanity: 

God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. . . .Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help. 

Id., at 62. We went to the One who has all power – a power greater than ourselves. We found Him in the surrender and house-cleaning program of the 12 Steps. 

Now that we have recovered, one might ask, how do we respond to everyday challenges of life? Like normal people, we think. Every day we affirm in prayer our intent to undertake God’s will, without self-centeredness or pride. Our egos are no longer thin-skinned, easily wounded, and demanding of quick and utter victory in every undertaking. We live in gratitude with helpful, patient, and forgiving spirits. We pause when agitated or doubtful and ask for the right thought or action. Id., at 87. Fears do not paralyze us, however. If they arise, we ask God to remove them and direct our attention to what He would have us be. Id., at 68. 

Something wonderful happened when we began to live without fear: 

As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn. 

Id., at 63. We became people of courage. It is our privilege and honor each day to let God demonstrate through us what he can do. 


1. https://medium.com/@philosotramp/why-diogenes-of-sinope-28885ec6cc86

2. https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/finding-true-north-guide-self-reliance/

3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/my-hero-diogenes-the-cynic

4. We will present one for each step here.  A full account would take another essay:
Step One: “Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety–if any–will be precarious.”  12&12, at 21.
Step Two: “There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me.”  Big Book, at 12.
Step Three: “This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.”  Id., at 63.
Step Four: “to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.”  Id., at 68.
Step Five: “But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.”  Id., at 73.
Step Six: “As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession.”  12&12, at 64.
Step Seven: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”  Big Book, at 59.
Step Eight: “It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being.  But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people concerned now overwhelmed us . . .”  12&12, at 79.
Step Nine: “We should be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble . . .”  Big Book, at 83.
Step Ten: “When prideful, angry, jealous, anxious, or fearful, we acted accordingly, and that was that.”  12&12, at 94.
Step Eleven: “We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day ‘Thy will be done.'”  Big Book, at 87-88.
Step Twelve: “Tell him exactly what happened to you.”  Id., at 93.

A Chat with Sam Krause

A Chat with Sam Krause

This month we had a chance to speak with Sam Krause, Women’s Admissions Coordinator for our Branson Recovery Center.  We found Sam in her well-organized and thoughtfully appointed office.  The walls are decorated with modern, monochromatic abstract art.  Before the coronavirus pandemic her office would have been as busy as Grand Central Station, with house managers and clients constantly coming and going.  On the day of our visit, however, we are undisturbed by visitors and everything looks neat and clean.  Only a single, physical vestige is left of once great activity: a miniature Pacman arcade sitting on the client side of her desk.  The control stick is completely worn out; it appears to have been broken off and reattached so many times that it now stands askew.  One has to tilt their gaze just to make it appear vertical.

The pandemic doesn’t prevent people from finding Sam, mind you.  Our hour-long interview was abbreviated by multiple phone calls.  She proved to be a worthy multitasker – retrieving, reviewing, and discussing files while keeping a phone balanced at her ear.  We would excuse ourselves for these calls.  When we returned she would pick right back up with her answer to our previous question almost as if we’d never left.  We got the definite impression that Sam is still in high demand even though the pandemic has required CORE to temporarily restrict general foot traffic by clients and the public in that location. 

Sam’s job with CORE requires her to wear many hats.  For potential clients she provides information about CORE, answers questions, assists in the completion of required paperwork, and admits people to the program.  It’s a full time job by itself, but her responsibilities aren’t limited to this.  She also has oversight responsibilities with house managers and clients, making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the program.  “Pretty much, my job requires me to do whatever I’m asked to do, really,” she laughs.  

Sam is a light-hearted soul who has a knack for finding humor in just about anything.  When asked about life before recovery, she enthusiastically launches into what sounds like the plot of a William Faulkner novel.  The plot is heavy with absurdity and sarcasm as she goes from one calamity to the next.  Each mishap becomes progressively more preposterous (and funny).  The irony is not lost on us.  Anyone who’s been through the wringer will appreciate her testimony.  Her willingness to talk about it reflects the fact that she is recovered.  As the Big Book says, we don’t regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  She sees where her personal story might benefit others, and she gives her testimony while teaching our Common Solution Recovery (CSR) classes.

When she approaches the end of her story, however, Sam becomes noticeably more thoughtful.  By now her personal pronoun has switched from “me” to “we,” because she had started running with Buddy Krause during her addiction.  Today she and Buddy are married, and Buddy is the valued on-site manager at our Springfield location.  Once their paths converged, she can’t tell her story without him.  Her tone becomes more serious as she reflects upon just how far down the scale they actually had gone in their addictions.  Her speech and cadence are careful, even deliberate; she wants to share every important detail.  

To summarize, she and Buddy had been on a years-long spree with opiates, couch hopping and living at various places.  Some AA sponsors rented them a place to live but eventually told them they had to leave.  “We were just going through the motions.  We’d show up to meetings but were never clean.  We were still using something.”  They tried detoxes and treatment centers.  They eventually burned every bridge they crossed.  Out of options, they would soon be living in a car.  Sam was done, ready for it all to be over:

I felt that the hole was so big that I’d dug that there was no getting out of it.  Like it seemed way too difficult to do.  I’d never been that far down.  I was at rock bottom.  I felt hopeless.  …I really felt like it would be better if I were dead.  Every shot I’d get, I hoped that it would kill me, that I just wouldn’t wake up.  Because trying to stay well was too hard.  When it gets to the point you have to steal stuff, you start lying to the people who love you, then, I’m out.  

A last ditch call to CORE’s Kevin Hunt was the turning point.  It probably saved their lives.  

And a good thing, too, as Sam’s demeanor noticeably perks up.  She returns to the happy, playful individual who greeted us earlier in the hour and relates a humorous account about how they arrived to the bus stop only to find that there was no Branson bus to catch.  

At CORE Sam worked the 12 Step program and started living in the solution.  She attributes that to taking personal responsibility.  Before that, “I was a spoiled little brat,” she laughs, “I’m the youngest of four and never wanted for anything.”  Sam is particularly grateful to her parents for their persistence in impressing upon her the importance of setting personal standards and living by those standards.  Once she held herself accountable for figuring out her own life, Sam became willing to do what was necessary to work the program.  “I got my life in order,” she says, while describing various facets of personal growth during her first year as proof of her statement. 

Her relationship with God really took off during her second year in the program as a house manager.  Before that, “spiritually, I’m not yet where I wanted to be,” she says.  Being thrust into house leadership with nine other women opened her eyes to the importance of relying on God.  The women under Sam’s direction care didn’t share her background or necessarily think the same way that she did.  An authoritarian approach was not going to work, so Sam turned to God for help.  “Once I started relying on God to help me run this house and to help these girls then things started happening.”  That was seven years ago.  Sam has worked for CORE in some capacity ever since. 

Sam also is an original member of our Second Mile group, comprised of persons who have commenced CORE’s year-long recovery program.  They are a benevolent group committed to charitable works and to promoting personal growth, accountability and spirituality.  Sam is thankful for the Second Mile for helping her “get out of self” and become the person she wanted and needed to become.  The Second Mile also helped Sam and Buddy in their financial recovery efforts.  They married on July 1, 2014, and eventually bought a house that they completely remodeled and turned into a home.  They’ve done a beautiful job with it and enjoy welcoming family to stay with them for extended periods.  Friends visit too, and Sam also hosts a women’s Bible study for a group comprised of current and former CORE house managers. 

Sam is thankful for the many blessings in her life today.  One of her greatest joys is seeing her women in CORE work the 12 Steps:

It’s an awesome thing to witness the transformations at commencement, to see these women who came in here broken, thinking they were never going to see their children again, and a year later the kids are at their commencement – just seeing those relationships with their families that they’re rebuilding. 

Sam considers herself a miracle.  She found deliverance from a hopeless condition by taking refuge in the safety of God’s arms.  Today, she is a joyful person, reflecting the presence of God in her heart. She attributes every good thing to Him.  “I’m a totally different person,” she says, “I know it’s all through God.

CORE is thankful for Sam’s dedicated service and looks forward to our continued association with her for many years to come!

Why We Serve

Why We Serve

The incident was so disturbing that a rumor spread about clocks stopping at the time of death.  Of all the senseless and cruel tragedies to cut down another human being, this had to take the cake.  The natural impulse was to wish it away, because literally nothing could be done about it now.  Some pretended that it never happened.  Others went the opposite direction – they flew into a cold rage.  They wanted to punch a wall and scream.  Still others just cried, or sobbed, or held their head in their hands.  There also were a few who, like in the movies, looked up toward heaven and asked why.  The reactions were all there on social media for everyone to see.

In December 2016, something bad happened in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

To an outsider the city might well be just another Anytown, USA.  It’s a bit bigger than Branson and situated on the west side of the Alleghenies along the banks of Stonycreek River – about fifty miles from Pittsburgh.  They hold an annual 4th of July fireworks display there, and the residents vote mostly conservative.  During autumn the neighborhood trees turn pretty yellows, oranges, and reds.1  It used to be a steel town until the mines and mills closed; that happened about thirty years ago.  The city’s history includes several notable floods, the largest of which has a museum dedicated to its remembrance.  The city had seen its share of hardships and calamities.  Nothing in its experience ever prepared them for this.  

It all revolved around a young couple who moved to Johnstown only seven months earlier.  Their names were Jason Chambers and Chelsea Cardaro.  They were in love but unmarried, and Chelsea was very pregnant.  In a touching Facebook post she described her man as the “one and only love of my life.”  They arrived to town without fanfare, found a two-story duplex in an area of town called Kernville, and began to set up house.  Being personable people they made friends quickly.  Everyone spoke of Jason and Chelsea as good people who were happy to help.2  Two months later Chelsea gave birth to a little girl, Summer.  It appeared to be a defining moment for the young couple, who determined to do everything in their power to give the baby the best life possible and to be the best mom and dad too.  Chelsea posted online pictures of Summer wearing pastel pink and blue outfits embroidered with cartoon animals and messages of endearment.  Now that Summer was here, the proverbial couple-next-door had a new baby in addition to a new home.

Despite their youth Chelsea and Jason were not partiers – they never were – but they did have a dark side that they tried to hide from others.  They used heroin.  Almost nothing is published about their drug histories, but as heroin users they weren’t looking for thrills.  Compared to other drugs taken for recreational and social reasons, heroin is more commonly employed in the unfortunate undertaking of avoiding or numbing pain, usually emotional pain.  Heroin produces a rush of chemical changes in the brain that creates euphoria, sensations of warmth and safety.  The rush becomes very important to those who don’t feel good in the first place.  It appeals to people with depression or anxiety, who’ve suffered unhappy circumstances, or who lived through an abusive childhood.  Heroin users exemplify people who self-medicate.

The record is vague about Jason and Chelsea’s own personal circumstances, but nobody wants to become a heroin addict.  If they would have known what horrors awaited, they would have run like hell and never started in the first place.  Unfortunately, the point at which one crosses the line into addiction is so hard to identify that nobody even notices until it’s too late.  Voluntary use eventually becomes compulsive.  The user becomes fixated on the drug and worries more about getting their next dose than anything else.  They become so desperate that they will do anything to get it, no matter how questionable the conduct.  After the couple’s death some allegations in fact did surface about them engaging in such conduct while living in Johnstown.  While the police never confirmed anything, and no arrests were ever made, the allegations are sufficiently suggestive that Jason and Chelsea probably had become full-blown addicts.

They departed life at mid-December while the city’s holiday festivities were in full swing.  The couple had made definite plans to leave for a long visit back home to show off their baby to relatives and friends.  In the immediate moment, however, Jason and Chelsea had a different idea.  They just wanted to get high.  Jason took his shot of dope downstairs in the living room while Chelsea carried Summer upstairs and laid her down in the bassinet in her room.  Although Chelsea didn’t realize it, this would be the last time she ever saw her beloved daughter again.  She wouldn’t be seeing Summer get her first tooth, or learn how to walk, or go to kindergarten, or any other childhood milestone.  From Summer’s room she went next door to the bathroom, took a shot, and hit the floor like a brick.

This wasn’t a typical heroin overdose.  The victim usually takes a large amount of the drug and experiences drowsiness, mental confusion, and eventually loss of consciousness.  The pupils narrow to a pinpoint and blood pressure drops as the heart beats more and more slowly.  The victim’s breathing becomes slower, more shallow, and more erratic until it simply stops.  A heroin overdose so affects the part of the brain that controls respiration that the victim simply quits breathing.  Jason and Chelsea didn’t take a large amount of heroin, however.  Unbeknown to them, they took heroin laced with fentanyl. 

The fentanyl problem had been going on in the United States even before 2016, and it continues to happen today.  Users are buying a variation of heroin that they’re not even aware of, a combination of heroin mixed with fentanyl, which can be up to fifty times stronger.  Manufacturers cut heroin with fentanyl because the latter is cheaper to obtain.  It maximizes profits in a black market that avoids regulation and never places content labels on anything.  In fact, most deaths from “heroin” overdoses today happen because fentanyl is cut into the product.  Since it’s hard to know when heroin has been mixed with fentanyl, the user is a sitting duck.  Sometimes one can tell by color but, whether Jason and Chelsea were aware, we’ll never know.

The distinguishing feature of a fentanyl overdose is the rapidity of onset.  It would have occurred within seconds.  They probably noticed it as soon as they made the injection; they barely had enough time to pull the needle out before they hit the floor.  Their lips turned blue, their bodies stiffened, and the classic symptoms of overdose were upon them.  They never stood a chance.  Jason was downstairs, Chelsea had gone upstairs with Summer; neither were with the other, and each had been incapacitated almost immediately.  Their overdose symptoms culminated in choking and gurgling sounds – the death rattle – the harbinger of imminent death. 

With the expiration of her parents, five month-old Summer was left all alone in the house.  Afterwards friends said that Chelsea and Jason were imperfect people who nevertheless loved their daughter.  Yet there they lay dead.  Summer’s parents became victims of an opioid epidemic that had killed thousands before them.

Now it was her turn.  Let the reader understand – nobody realized the family was even at home.  Neighbors and friends assumed they had left on vacation.  No one was going to stop by and check to see how everything was going.  Not a neighbor, or a friend, or the police, or other civil authority was coming to rescue the baby.  When Chelsea placed Summer in the bassinet, that would be the last human comfort or touch that the baby would ever know.  She wouldn’t be changed or be fed.  Summer was on her own, and it was only a matter of time.  But, unlike her parents whose deaths could be clocked in minutes, Summer’s demise would take days.  The chief of police gave a press interview following the grisly discovery.  He lost his train of thought, wondering out loud how long the baby lie screaming for attention before finally succumbing to dehydration.

It isn’t easy finding candid information about death by dehydration.  Some commentators exclaim that it’s unbearable while others assure us that it’s painless and the most natural way to die.  The issue is complicated these days by the politics surrounding so-called terminal dehydration.  The right-to-die debate has really heated up since Jack Kevorkian first drove his suicide machine to Oregon three decades ago.  Proponents today claim that such a death is comfortable, even gentle, because it releases endorphins into the brain.  Opponents describe a dramatically different experience.  One of the more neutral voices in the debate, the Patients Rights Council, provides the following description of the process: 

As a person dies from dehydration, his or her mouth dries out and becomes caked or coated with thick material; lips become parched and cracked; the tongue swells and could crack; eyes recede back into their orbits; cheeks become hollow; lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed; skin begins to hang loose on the body and becomes dry and scaly; urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder; lining of the stomach dries out, likely causing the person to experience dry heaves and vomiting; body temperature can become very high; brain cells dry out, causing convulsions; respiratory tract also dries out causing thick secretions that could plug the lungs and cause death. At some point the person’s major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain give out and death occurs.3

We assume that at least some of this happened to Summer.  Moreover, the coroner’s report later informed the police chief roughly how long the process took.  The estimate was four to five days.  

The Chambers’ story revolted even the most hardened sensibilities.  It’s a lot to process.  It’s easy to become angry and look for someone to blame, beginning with Jason and Chelsea.4  Nevertheless, even as we think about them we must remember that their’s is only one story and not an isolated case.  More than a thousand children in the United States die every year under similar circumstances of neglect.  Many, many thousands of addicts and alcoholics die too.  Drugs and alcohol kill in a myriad of ways.  For each death there is a similarly tragic and personal story.

Importantly, there are two features about addiction that we particularly wish to impress upon the reader:  

First, addicts who put needles into their arms essentially have no more choice in this than someone who jumps out of a burning building.  They’ll do it regardless of the potential consequences to themselves or others.  Addiction impairs free will and decision-making abilities.  Some may have difficulty wrapping their minds around that idea, but Jason and Chelsea’s conduct typifies what the 12 Steps refer to as being powerless.  We’ve written about this before, and the concept is well-recognized by medical researchers and recovery centers worldwide.  We at CORE who have suffered the misfortunes of being powerless can assure the reader that it is a real and grave condition.

Second, addicts who find and pursue the 12 Step solution to address their powerless condition in fact do recover.  Even better than that, a marvelous and miraculous metamorphosis occurs.  Not only do they become the substance-free person they always wanted yet never thought they could be, but they also move forward toward becoming the best version of themselves.  Their focus turns from within to without, and they become motivated by a genuine concern for the well-being of others.  They start making a positive impact on the world.  We easily can imagine that, had Jason and Chelsea timely availed themselves of the solution, the Chambers family today would be among the finest that the city of Johnstown has the privilege of knowing.  This isn’t wishful thinking.  We are informed by personal experience and the experience of others.  It happens for everyone who works the program. 

God has blessed each of us at CORE with a gift that is more valuable than anything else on earth.  Each of us found ourselves knocking on death’s door when we hit rock bottom.  Recovery granted us a second chance with renewed minds and changed hearts.  The Apostle John says, “We love because He first loved us.5  It is our experience with God’s saving grace that explains our desire to be of service to those in similar need.  God saved us from a terrible fate. We don’t want what happened to Jason, Chelsea, and Summer to happen to anyone else.  The misery created by addiction is incalculable.  We know the solution and are motivated to share it with everybody who wants it.  

For this reason, our work here at CORE seems like the best job one could ever hope for.  We have the ability to make a difference and help prevent future tragedies from happening.  Each day coming to work we ask ourselves how we can be of service to our clients.  This pushes us to provide them the best possible recovery environment, to keep them safe, and to provide thoughtful guidance while they work the program.  The 12 Steps are the basic building blocks for forming a powerful relationship with God.  That’s where the miracle happens; it can’t be found anywhere else.  We are grateful to work with an organization that advocates a spiritual life and has a real impact on promoting a safer, better society. 

We live in a big world with lots of problems, and there are people in dire need for many reasons.  It’s so overwhelming to think about that many simply don’t.  When it comes to the suffering alcoholic or addict, who is at risk of being overlooked amidst all these issues, we at CORE take note.  They are not forgotten.  When they are ready for recovery, we are right here, always prepared to help.

Recovery’s Best Kept Secret: God

Recovery’s Best Kept Secret: God

If you live in Branson for any length of time, at some point a tourist may ask about the city’s best kept secret.  It might happen at a local retail store or restaurant, but more likely it will take place at the filling station.  The typical encounter begins when you spy from the corner of your eye a car with out-of-state plates rolling up to the gas pump next to you.  The occupant emerges and you both say hello.  Pleasantries are exchanged about the weather or recent big game.  You ask when they got here and how long they plan to stay, and the topic of conversation naturally steers to Branson’s best restaurants and highlights.  You hear the familiar questions: “What’s the best show?” “Where’s the best place to eat?” and of course “What’s Branson’s best kept secret?” 

These are common questions for travel destinations, for obvious reasons.  If we are traveling, once we arrive to our destination, we don’t want to miss out on what’s important.  After all, we might not be back for a long time, or ever again.  These aren’t trivial questions either even though some might mistake them so.  Moreover, any Bransoner worth their salt has a ready answer to them.  Our intuition tells us the tourist is looking for something grand, even compelling.  They want something real and extraordinary.  After all, by definition a best kept secret is some significant fact that isn’t appreciated by everybody.  The tourist is asking because we live here.  They trust our opinion.  If anybody knows, it’s us.  We at CORE who live in Branson have been asked these very questions by tourists.

CORE is about recovery from substance abuse.  That’s what we do.  It weighs on our minds and our hearts practically every hour of every day.  Our program is twenty-five years old.  We’ve helped thousands of people.  If anybody should know about recovery issues, it’s us.  Not surprisingly, in a variety of contexts, people often ask us the same sorts of questions that tourists ask – except – instead of asking about the best show, they ask about recovery from drugs and alcohol.  They might be asking for themselves, or a friend or relative.  It may be at one of our centers or at a social or business event.  But we naturally anticipate these familiar questions like “What’s the key to recovery?” “How do I quit alcohol?”  “What’s the secret to getting off pills?”  

As it turns out, there indeed is a “best kept secret” about recovery, and we are happy to share it.  In today’s $42 billion per year addiction industry, it has been often glossed over, warped, and sometimes denied for a variety of political, economic, and social reasons that really have nothing to do with recovery itself.  The best kept secret about recovery, to which every suffering addict and alcoholic should take heed, is God.

Too often we hear of certain 12 Step programs, run by the very individuals who should be guardians of the Big Book, claiming that God is optional.  Yet even a cursory review of the book reveals the opposite.  It was written by Bill Wilson, who was convinced of the “necessity of belief in and dependence upon God.1  

Bill himself was first approached by an alcoholic friend who previously had been pronounced incurable.  “His human will had failed,” Bill writes, but “my friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself.2  His friend seemingly had been raised from the dead.  Bill took note because he personally knew this man.  He saw the hopeless extent of his friend’s condition and knew the power to recover could not have originated within him.3  Moreover, Bill also wrote about his most desperate moment, when he finally followed his friend’s wise advice:

I humbly offered myself to God, as I then I understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction.4

He further adds, “I have not had a drink since” to punctuate the significance of the event.

The central theme of the Big Book’s 12 Steps, six of which reference God, is summarized in a single prefacing sentence, “There is One who has all power–that One is God.  May you find Him now!5  

The Big Book itself flatly says that God is what it “is about.6  “Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater that yourself which will solve your problem.  That means . . . that we are going to talk about God.7  And indeed, one of its most pertinent ideas is that “probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism,” but that “God could and would if he were sought.8  

The foregoing seems clear enough to us, but people wanting to minimize God’s role in recovery point to Big Book phrases such as “Higher Power”9 and “Power greater than ourselves.”10  These don’t ignore God at all.  They simply acknowledge the fact that if we ask a hundred people who God is, we invariably get a hundred different answers.  The 12 Steps don’t try to force anybody’s particular conception of God on members.  AA has never been affiliated with any organized religion or tried to enforce rigid conceptions about God upon its members.  The Big Book is careful to note that our relationship is properly with God as we – not somebody else – understand Him.  

Unfortunately, some have taken these “higher power” references to the extreme and run with them causing all sorts of mischief.  They even tell addicts and alcoholics who are new to recovery that one’s higher power can be virtually anything – a door knob, the group, or even a ham sandwich.  Even some of the general service’s approved literature published after the Big Book appears to acquiesce to some of these ideas. 

We can’t take them seriously.  Who really believes that a ham sandwich is the Spirit of the Universe who keeps them clean and sober?11  Who wants to turn their will and their life over to the care of a doorknob?12  Who seeks to improve conscious contact with their home group by praying to it?13  There are inherent limitations on how far the idea of a higher power can be stretched and still do the 12 Steps.  There’s really no justification for warping it any further than to what the Big Book plainly refers: God as we understand him.14 

Our intent here is to be perfectly honest with the reader. Our clients come to us for real answers and help.  They’ve been to therapists, counselors and support groups before.  They’ve tried things like cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription drugs, physical exercise, finding new social groups, and many other recovery strategies offered by America’s billion dollar industry.  If any of these things had been sufficient to overcome their addiction and alcoholism, they would have recovered long before finding us.  Notwithstanding, they come to us because they are beyond human aid, powerless.  Their options are whittled down to one.  They are “100% hopeless, apart from divine help.15

It is for addicts and alcoholics that the value of the 12 Steps really shines.  This is as true today as it was eighty-years ago when the Big Book was first published.  We have seen this proven over and over again.  God never fails.

The Big Book’s promises always materialize for people who work the program.  We know freedom, happiness, and peace.  Feelings of uselessness and self-pity disappear.  We lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others. Self-seeking slips away. We no longer regret the past but rather see how our experience can benefit others.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life changes, too.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity leave us.  We intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. 

In short, we realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.16  This is the miracle of the 12 Steps.  Our recovery comes from God.

A Conversation with Heidi Butler

A Conversation With Heidi Butler

Heidi Butler’s testimony is so moving that we cannot help but recognize her transformation as a miracle of God.  She exudes life, love, and laughter, and she is a joy to all who have the pleasure of meeting her.  

Heidi talked to us at the Branson Re-Store, which she manages for CORE.  She also was instrumental last December in putting together our holiday give-away at the Hollister School District.  “My heart was all there,” she says, thinking of her own humble beginnings.  As a child she had been blessed by the kindness of others: 

It was such a healing thing for me to be part of something that I had been on the receiving end before.  I was the kid that the churches brought gifts to.  So to be able to be part of this, where parents came in and picked out things their kids wanted and took them home and wrapped them, it was healing.  It was so rewarding for me to be able to be part of that.

Heidi’s done a marvelous job with the thrift store too.  The decor surrounding us is eclectic, with mixed patterns and textures that resist traditional sensibilities.  Yet the arrangements unmistakably reflect her personality, suggesting home and love.  The unique collection of items is a fitting backdrop for her story, which she began with memories of a bohemian father who could never manage to stay in one place for very long.

I lived in a school bus when living in one wasn’t ‘cool.’  Who does that?  Who lives in the woods in deer cabins when you don’t even know who owns them?  My father.  With four children.  We’d make homes wherever we were.”  

Heidi’s alcoholic mother abandoned the family when Heidi was in the second grade, essentially leaving her in charge.  “I’ve been a mother ever since,” she says.  So Heidi cooked and cleaned, dragging a chair to the kitchen counter to do kitchen work and dishes.  She remembers making spaghetti with barbeque sauce once because that’s all the family had to eat.  

Although the family was poor, Heidi took special interest in making good appearances.  In particular, she made up her mind that nobody would make fun of them because of the way they looked.  “I got up early and fixed [my sisters’] hair.  I always was scrounging around for clothes.  We always looked good.”  Local churches stepped in from time to time, like on holidays, to help.  But for the most part the family was on its own.  In the ninth grade Heidi took a job to help them make ends meet – all in addition to school and family responsibilities.

But for an accident of circumstances, Heidi may never have been introduced to drugs.  After high school, she worked for a telephone company in Arkansas and soon enough became a telecommunications engineer.  She married and had two children.  By the time she turned thirty-something, Heidi was living the life of a typical, suburban soccer mom, a long way off from her common roots.  She never cared for alcohol, and she knew nothing about illicit substances.  Unfortunately, her world was about to be turned upside-down.

Her second pregnancy had complications, resulting in multiple surgeries.  Heidi was prescribed pain pills.  Within a short time she was hooked.  “One day I realized it had been six weeks and thought, I don’t need these.  Then the next day I felt really bad.”  Her first thought was, “I’m not healed,” but a trip to the doctor revealed something else.     

Her physician advised her to go cold-turkey and get off the medication.  It was easier said than done.  “I tried it, and that did not work.  It was amazing,” she said.  Then the obsession kicked in. “I lay there in bed thinking, I can’t do this, I’ve got to have something.  Then I remembered, my friend just had surgery, I bet she has some.” 

What followed was a five-year nightmare in search of pills.  Driven by obsession, Heidi applied all her instincts in pursuit of her addiction, “a whole nasty web of deception, lies, and manipulation.”  Heidi eventually entered a thirty-day treatment program.  Upon completing it she was confronted with two, new crises.  Her husband wanted a divorce, and her employer was shipping her job off to India.  

At this point Heidi clearly was headed for disaster, although she did not realize it at the time.  She left for Nebraska for a fresh start but became disillusioned, homesick, and desperately missing her children.  A chance meeting on Facebook with an old highschool sweetheart seemed to offer hope.  She returned home to Arkansas, and they married shortly thereafter.  The marriage was not the answer.  

The new spouse had a drinking problem.  He also used methamphetamines, which soon became a problem for Heidi.  Within two months Heidi was full blown into an addiction to meth.  Her life was spiraling out of control.  

Significantly, Heidi was almost completely isolated by this time.  She had nobody to talk to about the “thoughts that went on in my mind when I put drugs into my body,” and those thoughts were dark.  Her relationship with her husband became more toxic as he became more abusive.  She wasn’t working, had no social contacts, and had been cut off from her children.  With her entire world imploding, Heidi decided that it would be best for everybody if she just ended it all.  It somehow sounded polite to her, and she didn’t know what else to do.  Her only guidance was her own meth-corrupted thinking:  

I didn’t want my kids when asked, how’s your mom doing, to have to make up some story, like she’s off working somewhere or whatever.  It would be better off them being young saying, my mom died.  I knew I was going to be locked up.  Instead of them saying she was in a mental ward, they could just say, she died.”  

There was an old shotgun in the house.  Enough was enough.  With calm resolve, she picked up the loaded gun and walked out onto the patio so as not to make a mess.  Pointing it at her face, she pulled the trigger.  Click.

In that instant things looked undeniably bleak for her. But, as she came to understand later, Heidi Butler has an awesome God.  He’s always on time, never late.  God arrived for her in the moment she hit rock bottom, the only point she could be reached – when inside of herself she had given up and abandoned reliance upon herself and upon all things human.  

The gun didn’t fire, either.  Overwrought, she fled her home and ended up in Hollister.  Finding a church, Heidi sat in the back of the sanctuary sobbing.  “I know it was God who pushed me,” she says.  A woman seeing her distress went to her: 

She came in the back and handed me a napkin and said, you look like you could use a hug. That’s the first hug I’d had in – I can’t tell you.  I cried like a baby.  So she took me out to the lobby and said, I know you have a story.  I poured it out to her, I didn’t leave anything out.”  

Even better, the woman had a helpful idea for what Heidi should do.  As the two had lunch together later, she told Heidi there was a place for her to go that was close, right down the road.  It was a year-long addiction recovery program called CORE.

At CORE Heidi blossomed into the woman of God she was meant to be.  She arrived to find like-minded people with whom she had a connection, who had been there before.  She was impressed by the simple gestures of kindness shown upon her arrival, such as her house manager offering her a meal.  “I’ll never forget that, ever,” she says.  Heidi initially made a personal commitment to stay for four months, which enabled her “to start doing the things they told me to do.”  That entailed doing the Twelve Steps, which saved her life.  When the four months were up, she says, “I couldn’t believe the changes.  And I wasn’t ready to leave.”  

Heidi discovered that the Steps weren’t simply about healing from addiction but were a program for life.  She found balance and learned how to take care of herself.  She also reached out to her children, and she became an important part of their lives again.  She grew in her love for the Lord and eventually was asked to become a house manager.  Heidi ended up running three separate houses, and she acted as a mentor in CORE’s EDGE program for young adults.  And then one day CORE’s Program Director Kevin Hunt called with a job proposal:

He said, would you be interested in working at the [Branson] thrift store?  I was like, wow, I’ve never done anything like that before.  I said yes.  I just knew it was the right thing to do.  I started working for CORE in August 2019.

Still later, Heidi began running the Branson store when CORE opened our new Hollister location.  She could have gone back to her old career, but she decided to stay here.  “I’m here because I’m happy,” she smiles, “I have joy in my life.  It’s fulfilling and important.  I get to mentor these women and give back what was given to me.  I always want to give back to the newcomer who comes in.  I’m able to give back, and still have contact with clients.”  

Perhaps best of all, Heidi’s children now live locally because their father relocated to Hollister.  “If they had stayed in Arkansas, I don’t know what God’s plan would have been for me.  But I was here, right where I needed to be.”  So by happy circumstance, her children are now here too, and she is able to be with them all the time.  She concludes, “God just had his hand in all this – my story.