Kevin Dean: “I was living like an animal”

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by Major Glen DossDisoriented and fatigued, the man climbed into his bed at the Van Nuys ARC, laid his head back, and sighed. Glancing out the window, he noticed a thin sliver of sky between the buildings, and suddenly was overcome with a deep feeling of appreciation to God.

He prayed, “God, thank you. Thank you for this bed and for the meal this evening. Thank you for this blanket and pillow. And, God, thank you for the hope that I feel today.”

Recalling the sense of closeness to God which he felt on that first day in the program in 1996, Kevin Dean, 42, relates: “It was like a physical presence–like my ideal of my father’s pride and my mother’s love all wrapped into one–which reached down and gave me a hug. Over the weeks ahead I was sustained by the experience of that night.”

The steep path that led Kevin to the ARC took him from abundance to poverty–from empty materialism to a serene personal relationship with God.

Born in Canoga Park, Calif., he recalls, “Early on, I really liked to drink and drank abnormally.” Although he “received the Lord” at age 12, “it was not about a relationship; it was about a purchase.”

In his teens, the family moved to Idaho where Kevin continued to drink and also began using marijuana and “speed.” He was, nevertheless, an industrious young man. At 18, he joined a local firm with which he was to remain for 18 years. “I started sweeping floors and ended up in the executive suite.”

Married briefly, Kevin came home one day to find his wife gone and a note on the counter. “You drink too much. I can’t take it.” In 1986 he received his first DUI (driving under the influence), yet continued to excel at his work. Married again in 1990, he now held the position of director of marketing. “From the outside view, I don’t know how my life could have been more perfect.”

In 1991, Kevin received his second DUI. By now, he had also begun using cocaine and his work performance was suffering. Directed to check into an outpatient treatment program or lose his job, he was able to remain clean and sober for 22 months. “I did it all on self-will.” He relapsed in 1992 and, by 1995, his wife had left him and he had lost his job.

Now Kevin surrendered entirely to the cravings for alcohol and cocaine. “I gave away my lakefront cabin for two ounces of cocaine and went through $110,000 in savings. It was like watching my life peel away. Homeless in Idaho in the winter, I begged, borrowed, and stole whatever I could. I ended up sleeping in my dealer’s barn. I was living like an animal.”

Kevin recalls how one day he spilled some cocaine and was crawling frantically around on the barn floor “tasting every white speck that I could find” when, suddenly, “it struck me that I had nothing left, including hope. I knew I was going to die if I kept living this way.”

Seeking help at the local Salvation Army corps where he went for a “soup kitchen lunch,” Kevin learned of the ARC program and decided on the facility in Van Nuys near where his father resided.

He checked into the program on February 19, 1996. Moved by the awareness of God’s presence on that first night, Kevin immediately set out to acquire a “practical application of that awareness.”

“When I was seven years old, I remember looking at the world and saying, ‘There is nothing that can stop me.’ I think I’ve finally got that feeling again. With God all things are possible. I want today to be of service to others. For me, that’s the gift–if I get the opportunity to touch even one man’s life with that same hope that I have today.”

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