James Taylor: “My whole life was wrapped around the drug”
by Glen Doss, major –
As 9 p.m. approached, word passed swiftly through the ARC corridors: “We’re having a prayer circle! Everyone wanting to participate—into the chapel!”
As the men filtered in, James Taylor, 45, greeted his fellow beneficiaries. Holding hands, heads bowed, the spiritually hungry, desperate men, lifted one another up in prayer. Perhaps James himself prayed the hardest of all.
“It was in jail that I first saw the prayer circle,” he observes. “When my cellmates formed a circle, I watched and after a week or so joined in. God was active! When I came to the ARC I never let go of the idea. It began with six or eight men, and then grew to twenty or twenty-five. It was awesome…and still is today!” He adds thoughtfully, “I came to the ARC looking for a family, for a family I never had.”
When he was growing up in Michigan, James relates, “My parents weren’t really there.” His father was a long-haul truck driver and his stepmother worked full-time; “We didn’t really have a family unit.”
When at age 12 he struck out on his own, his parents didn’t seem to care. While visiting the riding stables of a nearby Frontier Town, James fell in love with the horses. “That night I wrote my parents a note telling them I was going to move out to that horse place. When the owner awoke the next morning I was in his barn cleaning out the dirtiest stall that I could find. I told him what I wanted and he said, ‘Well, come on inside, son, and we’ll call your parents.’ When my parents approved, he chose to keep me.”
By then James was already using marijuana; by age 14 he was drinking alcohol. He got married at 20 and joined the Marine Corps, advancing rapidly in the ranks. But as the drinking and drugging continued, it took a toll on his marriage, leading eventually to divorce. After eleven years and two children, James says, “I remember my wife telling me, ‘I can’t stand seeing you drink one more time, not one more time!’ I told her, ‘Well, don’t look’ as I’m reaching into the refrigerator to get a bottle of Jack Daniels.’ ”
His work performance, too, started slipping. “I wasn’t going to stop (using the drug), so when I came to the end of my enlistment in 1986, after twelve and a half years in the corps I got out.”
James settled in Oceanside, Calif., where he discovered methamphetamines. In short order he was homeless, living hand to mouth, a lifestyle lasting 14 years. “My whole life was wrapped around the drug,” he explains.
Then one day in jail, “At the end of my rope, knowing that I might be convicted of a felony and sent to prison, I prayed: ‘God, I need you in my life! I surrender to you now.’ ”
As his cellmates formed a prayer circle, James joined in. Surprisingly, in court he was awarded probation and was about to be released when he addressed the judge, “Your honor, is there any way you can keep me in jail until I get into a rehab to help me with this methamphetamine addiction? If you let me go, I’m not going to report to the probation officer—look at my record!”
The judge consented, and in September 2000, James checked into the San Bernardino ARC where right away he met Major Rex McCulley, the chaplain. “Major McCulley is from God. He got me to read the Bible. I began to believe that Jesus loves me and has a place for me.”
Today a member of the San Bernardino Corps, James brags: “This Salvation Army family is unbelievable! I’ve got so many brothers and sisters! When I get up each morning I thank God for my life. I’ve learned that the more I let God love me, the more I can love.”