Steven Hamilton: “I headed straight for the altar”
by Glen Doss, Major –
As the altar call sounded the man rose to his feet, trembling. New in the ARC program, with intense emotion evident, he headed straight for the altar. Steven Hamilton, 39, recalls, “I begged for forgiveness! In every service I begged! I know that God forgave me, and I felt my faith growing stronger. I hate this disease so much for all it’s taken from me!”
As he ponders the hard memories, Steve murmurs sadly, “My mom didn’t want me from the day I was born. She told me so a few times.” Divorced when he was two, his mother moved with him and his younger sister from La Crescenta, Calif., to Hollywood, eager to devote herself to her new found faith, Scientology. Refusing to comply with the institution’s rules, however, “At the age of ten, I became homeless, living on the streets,” says Steve. “And I was scared! Not trusting anyone, I stayed alone a lot. I slept in abandoned buildings, and I learned how to steal.”
Eighteen months after her arrival, the institution advised his mother to go and raise her son. When he turned 13, however, she returned. Again on the streets, recalls Steve, “I hung out with bikers, living with different families.” Then at age 16, “One night I broke into a store and was arrested, and the police called my mom.” Once more his mother was instructed to go and raise her son. “She hated me,” says Steve, face downcast. And, as soon as he turned 18, he came home one day to find his mother and sister gone.
Taking a job as a carpet layer, “I encountered some people who took me along to a Christian worship service. I was always interested in Jesus; I just never had anybody to show me. I said ‘the sinner’s prayer’ and accepted Christ into my life. They said I was born again, but I didn’t feel it.”
At age 21, he remarks, he ran into his mother again. “She told me how she used to kick herself for the way she raised me. But now, thanks to her ‘church,’ she no longer felt bad about it—I had simply been a burden! From that point on, I hurt a lot, and I looked for something to take that pain away. I was offered cocaine, and then I tried speed.”
Taking a job working heavy equipment, he became involved with a young woman. The relationship lasted five years. “Doing speed like coffee,” Steve says, he was working 16-hour days. But when she left him, “that little habit turned into a daily routine—every day, all day long!” Overwhelmed with feelings of despair, he tried to hide the pain with speed.
Angry now at the whole world, says Steve, he became a “tax man,” collecting money for drug dealers in exchange for their drugs. However, when another girlfriend became pregnant, he adds, “I was determined to do the right thing, but I couldn’t stop using the drugs—I was addicted.”
Not long afterwards, he was arrested, and the young mother came to see him in jail. “She showed me the baby through the glass. I would have broken that glass just to hold her! It killed me that I couldn’t.” This young woman, too, soon left him.
After the jail term, “beaten and broken,” Steve says, “one night I went outside, under the stars—in the high desert, you can see all the stars! I prayed and I prayed and I cried. I wanted it all to end. I said, ‘God, do something with me or just take my life and kill me now! I don’t want to live anymore!’ ”
Arrested once more in 1999, Steve, at age 35, was court-referred to the San Bernardino ARC. There he finally found the recovery he had been so desperately seeking. He reflects: “I’ve buried people with whom I went through the program—from overdoses, from alcohol poisoning. I don’t know why I made it and they didn’t. Oh, how I hate this disease! If I had to stand on my head twelve hours a day to stay off drugs, I would! I thank God so much for first and second and third chances.”