One family’s story of addiction and redemption
by Glen Doss, Major –
The teacher has their rapt attention as, with a knowing eye, he surveys the men before him, some still half-dazed from the effects of recent drug or alcohol use. Rick Mabie’s words impact them powerfully: “I was a drug addict for 25 years, but I finally let go and let God run my life.”
The occasion is Relapse Prevention 1, a weekly class for Riverside County Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) beneficiaries in the first month of the six-month program. Rick, 49, a Salvation Army soldier and 1997 program graduate, adds: “I deserve death or prison. I am that dirty piece God plucked out of the world to use his way.”
Ensconced in the anteroom of the ARC chapel in Perris, Calif., Rick and his wife Edie, 46, share their story. They married young—Edie was just 16. Rick drove a U.S. mail truck. “I started getting longer and longer hauls and began taking pills—speed—to stay awake,” he says. “I felt the drug use simply went with the occupation. I didn’t know I was an addict.” When his dad, who was also his best friend, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1984, Rick lashed out angrily at God. Not long afterwards he began transporting dope [methamphetamines] cross-country.
Bewildered by her husband’s bizarre behavior—“In this world of addiction, I couldn’t understand why people did the things they did”—Edie did her best to hold the marriage together. “For a long time I didn’t know about his addiction, and, when friends tried to tell me, I refused to believe them. When I finally took my Cinderella glasses off, the truth hit me like an avalanche.”
After his wife became pregnant with their second child in 1994, Rick says, “I left her and moved in with a woman and her three kids—I was gonna be their dad. You explain that—you can’t because it’s insane.”
Edie remembers, “Our oldest daughter, Jennifer, kept asking, ‘Where’s my dad?’ I was so heartbroken that if I hadn’t been pregnant with Michelle I probably would have hurt myself. Sitting in my back yard in Apple Valley, I turned to God in prayer: ‘God, help me. I really need you to grab that man by the neck and give him a wakeup call.’ ” Edie accepted the Lord into her heart that day, she says.
Afterwards, Rick experienced his epochal moment of clarity—“I was lying in a field at two in the morning, looking up at the sky, thinking, ‘I want to die.’ I hated God, but my dad raised me right—for the first time I said, ‘God, help me!’ ” Later, when he was jumped by some men who thought he had “rolled over” on them, the police put Rick up at a safe house. Secure in the motel room, he found himself despairing, wondering: “Where’s my life going? I lost my family. I lost my job. I have nothing.”
He recalls, “I literally had nowhere to go. My life, as I knew it, was gone, so I gave it over to God.” In February, 1997, Rick checked into the Riverside County ARC. There he gave the program all he had. The staff were so impressed by his hard work and commitment that they eventually invited him to teach a relapse prevention class.
After graduating Rick attempted to see his wife. At his first visit, Edie says, “I made arrangements to be somewhere else because in the past he had often tried to manipulate me.” In time she permitted him to see her but not before she had made him show her “his bankbook, driver’s license and pay stub.” One year after his sobriety date, the little family was reconciled.
Rick meanwhile continued attending the ARC Sunday worship services because he wanted to remain “plugged in,” he says. However, he and Edie soon realized that, for their children’s sake, they needed a family church, and went church hopping. One day Rick came across a flyer that posed the question: “Where is your ministry in our church?” He knew for certain, he says, that his calling to ministry was with The Salvation Army; therefore, he understood God was telling him he and his family should join the nearby Murrieta Salvation Army corps. On Easter Sunday 2007, with all 125 Riverside County ARC beneficiaries in attendance, Rick and Edie were enrolled as soldiers.
Rick remarks: “My corps officer, Major Darren Trimmer, recently said to me, ‘You know what I like about you, Rick—you see God in everything.’ It’s true. I do, because I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the Lord.”