‘I was getting high one day and …and I choked this guy….and I stabbed him. And I went to prison.’
‘When you first go to prison they put you in a cell by yourself 22 hours a day. And you have a choice of readin’ westerns or a Bible. For some reason, I picked up the Bible. I knew nothin’ about the Bible.’
Charles sat across from us, polite yet slightly apprehensive. McDonald’s lounge music piped overhead as we hit the record button on our phone.
Charles, is it ok if we record this conversation?
Can you state your name and age?
Charles H.and I am 54 years old
Charles, what was your dream as a kid?
I wanted to be a fireman, like all the other kids. I grew up privileged, my parents had college degrees…
What happened to that dream? When did that dream go away?
When I started smoking and drinking at 12, all my desires went away.
What would you want to tell people?
Just say no- If you don’t start then you don’t have to quit.
Is that to everything?
Alcohol and marijuana. They say marijuana is a gateway. I am a witness to that. I started drinking and smoking when I was 12 yrs old.
How did that start?
‘My older brother and cousins. I wanted to be like them- they drank and smoke and I wanted to hang out with them. It was entertainment to them- to see me get high and run around giggling and laughin’ all night. They just…they just didn’t know what the end result would be. Alcoholism is a big thing in my family. I’ve lost two brothers.’
What’s the greatest moment of your life?
‘My daughter was a drug addict, she told me, she said, ‘Dad you know….I’ve had 11 years clean and sober.’ She said 11 years…..and I cried.’
Whats her name?
When was the last time you talked to her?
I facebook my daughter almost every day. She’s going thru chemo, with cancer. So I talk to her, almost every day. I was estranged from my son for 11 years, my daughter 13 yrs. I hadn’t talked to them. So, I go on Facebook and befriend her. She’s like, ‘Dad, life is short. We need to get back together and make a life out of it.’ I cried. The next day my phone rings and …..someone says, ‘Hey old man!’
I say, ‘Who is this?’
He says, ‘You don’t know who this is do you?
It was my son. He ends up saying the exact same thing my daughter said. Then he says, ‘You know, I have my daughter here- this is your granddaughter. I just want you to talk to her. Just tell her hello- Tell her you love her.’
I’m talkin to her, and she tells me to wait a minute. I hear this little mumbling sound, and hands the phone to a little baby, and the baby is just mumblin. She takes the phone back and says,
‘That was your great grand-daughter.’
So in two days, I talked to my daughter, my son, my granddaughter and my great granddaughter.
Do you ever think you will be apart of your children, great grandchildren’s lives?
No- no I don’t
Why are you still here, Charles? Why haven’t you given up yet?
God has a purpose- God will not let me go. I was smokin day after day after day and go to work at the temp service. I’d get off and go to the dope man, and give him all my money just so I could smoke. But God will always, always, reach down into the gutter to grab me. Suicide is not an option. I would never ever ever even consider….. I guess cuz He doesn’t allow my mind to go there.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
‘Every time I go to the VA, I go to counseling, they say let’s set a goal. I don’t have any goals…… Well, of course, to evangelize. To tell people my story, so, prayerfully they won’t do it. ‘
What do you need, Charles, in order to leave the shelter?
‘Prayer, I need lots of prayer.’