Brian Neumann: “I thought everybody was wrong”

by Glen Doss, Major – 

Brian Neumann, 39, is baring his life for me. While the ARC administrator, Major Sam Southard, amuses Brian’s three-year-old in the hall, Brian begins the tough job of tracing the grim route of his life through all its chaos to the victory. In Seattle with a brigade of cadets, I was invited to meet with him. “After I checked into this Center,” Brian says, “I got on my knees every night in the chapel and gazed at the stained glass there which depicts the Lamb. Every night I meditated on it, praying for God to help me make the right choices.” His difficulties, he feels, began with an intense desire in his teens “to keep up with the fast crowd.” Growing up in Bremerton, Wash., Brian says, “My family didn’t have a lot of money, but most of my friends’ families did. I was trying to run as fast as them, to have the things they had. And I did it any way I had to.” While working at a Safeway store, “I began stealing from the pop machine. By my senior year, I was taking everything I could get my hands on.” Brian describes how he was finally caught, charged with a second degree theft, and sentenced to probation and restitution. “I was shunned by everybody I knew.” Because of this and his parents’ grave disappointment, he moved to Seattle. There, Brian began frequenting the nightclub scene and was “introduced” to the drugs ecstasy and crystal meth. After he had “burned all [his] bridges” with his friends there (“When the drugs are gone, they’re gone”), in 1986 he joined the Air Force but was discharged a year later because of his addiction. Following friends to Hollywood, Brian started using crystal meth even more heavily. It was there, he says, that he began more and more to manipulate people, particularly women, even to the point of stealing from them. “I look back and I feel bad. Today my wife, Lisa, tells me that, despite the behavior, however, I was never really a bad person. I behaved that way only because of the drugs, since I’m not at all like that today. I made a lot of bad decisions that occasionally hurt other people.” In 1991, after marrying his first wife, she confronted him about his addiction. “She got tired of me not coming home or coming in late.” Con-sequently, Brian checked into a 28-day rehab program but, after completing it, returned to his job as a bartender. “Today I know that alcohol is a gateway to the crystal meth; it diminishes resistance.” To his credit, he took college classes at night, earning a degree in American Sign Language, yet he quit attending the Narcotics Anonymous meetings. “I became a know-it-all—I thought everybody else was wrong.” Within three years, the marriage had ended, and he was back on the drug. When Brian met Lisa in 1998 he was selling drugs and sleeping in his car. “We got to talking, and she got to know me. One day she said, ‘You know what, I’m going to stick around for awhile, but you need to reevaluate your life.’ I told her, ‘I know, but don’t give me an ultimatum; let me do it on my own.’ And she did.” In January 1999, Brian checked into the Seattle ARC. From the moment he arrived, he stresses, “I listened. I knew that I needed to quit. Lisa came to visit me every Wednesday and Sunday. She stuck with me, wrote me letters, and helped me through it.” A year after he graduated from the six-month program, Brian and Lisa were married. Today, Brian and his family attend a Lutheran church where he sits on the church council. In 2001 he opened a successful landscape design business. “You know, I’ve always known that God is there,” he muses, “but today I talk to God all day long. I’m clean and sober today because I asked him to help me make the right decisions and take that craving for the drug away. I know that I owe everything I have today to him.”

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