Online Training Lesson #2: Pete’s Story
Stories of Hope and Inspiration After Violence
Years of addiction to alcohol and drugs have taken their toll on Pete’s life, both mentally and physically. He presents as a man much older than his biological age of 42, yet he is trim in body type—reinforced by riding his 10 speed bike—and neat in appearance.
Impression management appears to be extremely important to Pete. His talk is manipulative and it becomes clear after a few minutes that flattery is another of his strategies. He moves from job to job, never very satisfied, and easily bored. He appears to have greater success in obtaining employment rather than keeping it. At present, he works for a manufacturing company.
Pete states proudly that he has been clean and sober for 26 months. This is a tremendous feat for someone who lived to be high. I love methamphetamines a lot. By his own account, Pete’s desire for numerous sexual partners and intimacy was also something that caused him trouble. While he liked the benefits of sexual contact, he shunned commitment. I’m scared of having a relationship.
Six months passes and we talk to Pete again. During that time he has continued involvement in a faith-based batterer intervention program.
Working with men like Pete is an enormous challenge. Push too hard and they become defensive. Fail to push hard enough and they walk all over you. Even as he speaks about being a know-it-all, Pete sees the irony of his words. ‘Cause I have this attitude like I know it all or something. Obviously, I don’t because I am back in the system again. That’s what I can say about this [batterer intervention program], is that being treated as a human being—that has made mistakes like every human being does—is going to make a person more receptive to learn and pay attention.
I always fall back on the alcohol and drug use… I have always blamed alcohol for a lot of things. It’s a good excuse. Today I finally recognize that alcohol is just a symptom and Pete is the problem. Alcohol is removed out of my life now and the drugs but I think I am still messed up, it’s just a little bit clearer, it is clearer, but… I am trying to grow up again and reprogram my thinking and you know it’s harder being an adult. It is about being a responsible adult.
In some ways, Pete’s life presents enormous challenges. He has been living in a halfway house for almost a year—since his release from prison. That’s mind boggling that a year has already slipped through my fingers. I always look at grabbing sand and …the older we get, the faster time flows.
Pete begins to describe what it is like living in this type of housing situation. Oh, I want to kill everybody in there half the time. Gosh, it’s an experience, there’s ten of us and 11 including me. I am tired of being around men. I am tired of people not being accountable. I am tired of people not flushing the toilet…
Arrested on at least 20 occasions, Pete served a prison sentence for assaulting his mother. His first arrest was a DUI and from there the charges escalated. The first time I hit a woman, I was like 17 I think…I had a girlfriend named Suzanne that woke up one morning and she had a bulging black eye…I told her say you got hit by a softball to make up for my embarrassment or whatever you want to call it. And that was just the first time, after that I was like slapping her and kicking her…And then with my ex-wife, sticking a gun between her eyes and behind her ear and dry firing and [she] thinking she was going to die.
We bring the conversation around to things that Pete has accomplished in the last year. I’ve got to be…grateful for a lot of things ‘cause I slip back in that stinking thinking back here real quick and that’s where I am comfortable…’cause that’s all I’ve known for years.
He longs to be off parole. I would like to be off parole… I just want to do the right things for the right reasons on a daily basis for myself and that’s pretty simple—to not pick up a drink and have a good attitude and do the right things for the right reason and that’s what I tell myself daily. And stay positive…I want to be in a year—alive and sober.
Like any person, Pete has entertained more lofty goals—of being a nurse, helping others, working at a juvenile detention centre. Yet, he showed no respect or attention to those professionals who tried to intervene during his younger years. He tried to commit suicide on several occasions and his desire to live at this point must be understood through the lens of the many, many years he simply wished to die.
What does hope mean for a man like Pete? At one level, it can be boiled down to the courage to face the fact that you have made a lot of mistakes in the past.
Questions to Consider:
- What are Pete’s greatest needs at this time in his life?
- What might a local congregation offer to a man in Pete’s situation?
- How might pastoral care dovetail with support offered by the faith-based batterer intervention program?
- What challenges does ministering to a man like Pete present to a religious leader?