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Online Training Lesson #1: Bill’s Story

Stories of Hope and Inspiration After Violence

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Lesson #1

Bill is a 40-something, soft-spoken, manual labourer who has always held steady employment. He has lived in several US locations, which might be interpreted as running from his problems. I have had a problem with substance abuse in my life, there’s a lot of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Drugs and alcohol controlled Bill for many years. Under their influence, he got into trouble with the law. For a while he would stop drinking whiskey and using cocaine, but before long Bill would reconnect with old friends or co-workers and find himself sliding down the slippery slope to regular use and then despair. It was a downward spiral from which it did not seem he could escape.

He came into contact with a faith-based batterer intervention program after 15 months in prison for domestic violence.  I had domestic issue problems in my life many different times with my partner of 13 years and I ended up going to prison.

Once his sentence had been served, Bill was sent to a small community-based program for men who abuse intimate partners. He did not connect well with the facilitators there and in fact claimed he would rather return to jail than complete the requirements of the program. In desperation, he sought the advice of Greg, his probation officer: he was the first person that gave me any hope.

Based on conversations with him, Bill chose to attend a faith-based intervention program because of my faith, faith-based and I made the right choice.

Here Bill found exactly what he needed: a program and a facilitation team that believed he could be a better man than he had been in the past. He found the approach helpful and the environment conducive to change. I felt comfortable the first time I came here and a lot of it has to do with the way [the facilitator] does class you know. I have made some big changes in my life though since then.

I realized I wasn’t living my life the way God intended me to live my life and when I came to that realization and that surrender, it’s like God removed the blinders from me… Everything I have learned from past treatments and all the years of going to NA [Narcotics Anonymous] and AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] all made sense to me for the first time in my life and I started being honest with people….it’s all in God’s plan, that’s all I can figure…I give my life to the Lord everyday…it’s been a blessing, the Lord has blessed me and I am on the verge of getting custody of my daughter back…by God’s grace alone, because I know I could never have done it. And it’s by doing the next right thing, by being honest, by being accountable, by living on life’s terms and doing the right thing rather than hiding in a bottle which I did from the time I was 14 years old…

Through the program—learning life skills and by continued accountability—Bill lives each day through the lens that all he has gained could be quickly lost. I just live my life one day at a time...  And it is a big struggle.  It’s like the old cliché, you have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. And until you get to that point, until you have made that decision on your own, you can’t do it…hope is to me, it’s like this is my thing on hope—helping other people every day. That gives hope.

He speaks at length about the way in which hope has been translated into action in his own life.  It’s hard, every individual is different…nobody hands you anything, you have to work for it and I am going to tell you something else—when you have led lives like most of these men led and I have led myself, it takes time, it doesn’t happen over night, you have to prove yourself, you have to show by your actions on a daily basis…

Hope is a central construct in Bill’s struggle to keep clean, sober and abuse-free. If he is successful, he believes the reward will be obtaining custody of his daughter, who is living temporarily with one of Bill’s siblings, under state supervision.

“Can hope really change people?” the title of this series of lessons asks. The answer depends on who you ask. It also depends on how you translate hope into action.

Questions to Consider:

    1. What are Bill’s greatest needs at this time in his life?
    2. What might a local congregation offer to a man in Bill’s situation?
    3. How might pastoral care dovetail with support offered by the faith-based batterer intervention program?
    4. What does Bill’s life help us to understand about the nature of hope?