One couple’s journey of addiction and redemption
by Glen Doss, Major –
“He’s a menace to society. He should be locked up!” snapped the district attorney.
Jerry Jové, 44, could not contain himself. “This guy can’t call me that!” he bellowed from where he sat in the courtroom. “I don’t walk around with a gun!”
Afterwards, the public defender caught up with him. “Jerry, I’m trying to negotiate a stay in The Salvation Army of six months in lieu of three years in prison,” she explained. “But I don’t know if they’re going to go for it because you’re a drunk. You get caught all the time.”
Jerry’s heart sank within his six-foot seven-inch frame. Even though the judge eventually agreed to the deal, Jerry remained angry. “Six months on top of a 90-day incarceration!” he stormed to his wife. “I’ll never get my life back! I’ll lose my job! I’ll lose my house! I’ll lose my cars!”
Jerry’s drinking habit was almost as old as he was. “Partying was a long-time family tradition,” he says of his youth in Glendale, Calif. “My father and I would buy a pig, slaughter it, prep it and spit it, and alcohol was always part of the festivities.” Although he attended a Catholic church with his family, by high school he was smoking marijuana and drinking.
Jerry was using hard drugs by the time he entered college. While working his way through school, he discovered a talent for sales work and began doing it full-time. He married his high school sweetheart at 22, but the marriage quickly soured. “I began drinking in order to avoid confronting painful situations,” he says. His wife divorced him soon after his son was born two years into the marriage. Although the drinking accelerated, he continued to perform well at work, even running his own store. “However, much of the time I was miserable. I drank more and more in order not to feel.”
Eventually an attractive coworker caught his eye; yet their relationship was centered almost entirely on alcohol. “She quickly learned she couldn’t drink me under the table,” Jerry remembers. When he and Coleen were married in 1998, he had a secure, well-paying job in car sales. “I was on top of the world. I had a 4500-square-foot three-story house with five bathrooms. I had all the credit I wanted, all the toys I wanted. Yet I continued to drink to deal with stress.”
Perhaps the most portentous thing of all: “When Jerry got angry,” Coleen remembers, “he would get his car keys and off he would go.” In 2002, with his fifteen-year-old son beside him in his truck, Jerry was turning to use his cell phone when his son yelled out “Dad!”
“Wham!—I struck a telephone pole, and my son broke his pelvis.” Jerry was charged with a DUI. Three years later he received two more DUIs back to back, leading to a three-month incarceration in county jail and the court directive to do the Salvation Army program.
Dropped off at the Riverside County ARC in Perris, Calif., in January 2008, Jerry initially resisted the program. However, six weeks later as he lay in his dorm bed, an image of Satan’s head, which he had seen tattooed on the calf of a former cellmate, loomed suddenly out of the pitch darkness. “It was screaming at me,” he remembers. “Very frightened, I asked God to protect me, and then and there I rebuked Satan. Then slowly he faded away into the clouds. From that day forward I began to relax, allowing God to take me places I would never have gone. I joined the Kingsmen Christian fellowship and became a Murrieta Corps adherent.”
Meanwhile, Coleen, attending the ARC chapel services with her husband, was also changing. “I was stunned the first time I saw Jerry go up to the altar,” she recollects. “When he returned to his pew—still praying—I realized I had never really asked Jesus into my heart. In June, 2008, I finally gave myself to him in a midweek chapel service.”
Upon finishing the program Jerry was hired to run the daily sales auction, but found himself most fulfilled when leading a Bible study and mentoring the beneficiaries assigned to him. He and Coleen became more and more involved with the Murrieta Corps and in December, 2008, were enrolled, as soldiers.
When asked to help with youth councils in April 2009, Jerry found the experience exhilarating. He and Coleen spent much of that summer directing the vacation Bible school, along with corps assistants Josh and Ryan Boyd, who were preparing to leave for the College for Officer Training. When Ryan surprised Coleen in late July with the question, “Have you and Jerry ever thought of being youth pastors?” the suggestion struck home. “All my life, even during my drinking years,” Coleen confesses, “I had vaguely felt God’s call to some kind of full-time ministry.” When she approached Jerry, she was surprised to hear that he, too, shared that calling. They took on the role of Murrieta Corps assistants in September, 2009.
“The contrast between our past and present lifestyles is considerable,” Coleen observes. “We made a lot of money and accumulated a lot of stuff. But, you know, what we are doing now is the right thing. We were building a treasure here and not giving anything back. Now we are amassing a treasure in heaven.”
“I have a large responsibility today,” says Jerry, “and my boss is Jesus Christ. At the end of the day I simply want to hear him say to me: ‘I’m pleased with your work.’”