Brett Turnquist: “There was no hope left for me”

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by Glen Doss, Major – 

When he was confined in the Puyallup jail in 1999, Brett Turnquist looked forward to his weekly classes with Major Maynard Sargent, Seattle White Center corps officer. “He came to see me every Wednesday,” Brett recalls gratefully. “I earned my senior soldier certificate while I was in jail.”

Brett, 44, loves to work with wood, and he’s good at it. “You show me a picture of just about anything, and I can build it,” he observes matter-of-factly. “I learned how from my dad, a natural carpenter.” Dropping his head sadly, he adds, “My dad died of alcoholism at a young age. He was 36; I was just nine.”

Growing up in Great Falls, Mont., Brett was exposed daily to alcohol. His mother had to give up a nursing career because of her drinking, he says, and, following his father’s death, she married another alcoholic. At 12, Brett began drinking himself, mostly on weekends. When he was old enough to drink legally in bars, he remembers, “I felt like a man.”

At 21 he incurred his first DUI (driving under the influence charge). After his marriage at 23, his wife pleaded with him to stop drinking. “I was a happy drunk until I got drunk out of my mind,” he explains, “then I would get angry and begin punching holes in the walls.”

The little family moved to Seattle in 1985 where Brett got a job in a steel mill, and later found work in construction and cabinetry. He was unable to keep a job for very long, however. “I would show up late for work or report in drunk.” In 1992, when he discovered his wife was having an affair, the drinking accelerated. After she gained custody of their two children in a divorce settlement, Brett says, “I began drinking every day. I was lonely, depressed, even suicidal.” Jailed repeatedly for DUIs, upon release he returned inevitably to drinking.

By 1999 he had incurred 13 DUIs, passed through the doors of 14 treatment centers, and had given up completely on ever attaining sobriety. “I knew I had a very serious drinking problem,” he observes, “but I thought there was no hope left for me.” Brett paid attention, however, when he heard others explain how they had gotten clean and sober by attending church. “They told me that AA never helped them; treatment centers never helped them; they had never been able to get clean and sober until they started going to church.” Broaching the subject with his neighbor one day, he says, she invited him to her church at the Seattle White Center Corps. Although he knew nothing about the Lord, he says, he was at the point that he was willing to try anything to get clean and sober.

On his first visit to the Seattle White Center Corps in March, he was overcome with emotion. “I was thinking of all those wasted years when all I cared about was the bottle. I knew I should have been in church all along.” Two weeks later, kneeling at the mercy seat as Sargent prayed with him, Brett accepted Christ as his personal Savior.

That October he had to go to court for a DUI committed the previous February and was sentenced to six months in county jail and ordered to do 1,300 hours of community service. While he was in jail Sargent made a point of visiting him weekly, and in time enrolled him as a soldier.

Today, Brett is married, his wife Vicky teaches Sunday school at the corps, and he has “a great relationship,” he says, with his children who reside in nearby Des Moines.

“I read the Bible every day and I pray,” Brett stresses, “and I listen to what God has to say to me. When I first came to the corps and was told that God loved me, I didn’t believe it. But today I do. I know I wouldn’t be sober if it were not for God’s love for me; I know that for a fact.”

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