By Bob Block, as told to Tim Bennett
It was a Friday, January 21, 1994 and I was laying on a top bunk, in a room with 11 other smelly guys, at a place I would not normally have chosen to spend the night—the Springfield Rescue Mission in Massachusetts—and crying uncontrollably. I had hit rock bottom and I’d lost everything that was valuable to me–my wife, my children, my house, and my job. Speaking of jobs, I’d lost eight of them in the previous year, all gone because of my addiction to drugs.
My life had started out, however, like any other all-American kid. In high school, I played football, ran track, and even excelled at the 500 yard free-stroke in swimming, placing 13th in my state of Connecticut. Growing up in the town of Enfield, my mom would take my three sisters and me to Catholic mass, while my dad went to a bar, which we called “Dad’s church.” Although I went through the religious motions—even going to confession, in my heart I didn’t think a god who died 2000 years ago was really relevant to my life. Unfortunately, during my senior year of high school, I began experimenting with drugs—mostly cocaine and alcohol. By the time I got to college, drugs were an obsession and I flunked out my freshman year with an embarrassing .9 grade point average.
Yet, despite my drug problem, a dismal academic year, and no “higher education,” I eventually landed some good jobs. I found a job through a roommate at a plating company in New Haven, Connecticut, where, after only a year, I was promoted to “Foreman,” and after three years, “General Foreman.” During this time I married my high school sweetheart, but after five years at this job, I was laid off. The company gave me an official reason for firing me but I knew the real reason—drugs were interfering with my work.
Later, I got another good job as a sheet metal mechanic at a division of the big company, United Technologies, but I lost that too due to—you guessed it—drug usage. For many years, my wife had no idea of my problem because I was a closet addict, indulging only after she went to sleep. Eventually, however, she caught on and asked for a divorce. By this time, we had two boys and a girl. I had to move out. I rented a room in a house owned by a psychologist.
One of my sisters, Carol, knowing of my desperate situation, called me and suggested that I check into the program at the Springfield mission. “They can help you,” was all she said. Now, after years of sleeping next to my wife, in a home with my three children, in a beautiful neighborhood, I was in a strange room, on a single bed, with a motley crew of men trying in vain to console me–a broken man who was sobbing from the depths of his soul.
Two days later, on January 23, 1994, I was in the office of a counselor at the rescue mission and he shared with me the steps of salvation. Of course, I had heard the salvation message before, that I had to be “born again” from co-workers, but this time it clicked. I prayed that Jesus would forgive me and to come into my life. Afterwards, I wanted to go to the highest building in Springfield and shout and tell everyone about Jesus’ love. It was so real. I also could not get enough of the Bible. I read it constantly.
When I went to the next stage of the discipleship program, however, I had to get a part-time job that involved going back into the world. One day as I walked past the crack house, where I used to get drugs, I had the thought: No one will know if I do it this once. But God knew. The next day I was kicked out of the rescue mission.
Having nowhere to go, I went to live with my father and sister. At first, I thought that I could do it alone, but I soon realized that I needed more intervention and guidance. I returned to the Springfield Mission program a month later and successfully completed the one-year commitment. While in the program, I attended First Baptist Church of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts where I befriended Warren, a Christian businessman. At graduation, Warren asked me, “What are you going to do now that you’re done?”
“I’m going to work for you,” I said boldly. He replied: “Yes. I will hire you, but you are going to start off sweeping floors. And, after six months, I will give you a raise.” I took his offer, and, eventually, I learned many aspects of the company. Today, I am a partner in his global business of selling and manufacturing electrical terminals and also the regional sales manager for New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
An amazing thing also took place in 2011. I met my future wife, Candy, at a church picnic and we were married in 2013. Since we both experienced the trauma of divorce, we decided to work together helping others get through this painful season of their lives. We’ve now been leading Divorce Care at our church, North Syracuse Baptist, for five years.
In reference to my children, it has not been easy restoring those relationships, but I can say with time, God, and prayer, they are getting better, and I am seeing more of them as they begin to have children of their own. I am glad I know a God of healing and miracles who can do things I cannot do, which gives me hope. It’s all in His hands, and timing. My life verse is: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5&6 NIV).