A second chance: Frank’s story
Frank was born on the South Side of Chicago and grew up in Michigan, one of three boys in a house run by a raging alcoholic. Frank’s father drank heavily and rarely worked. Instead, he forced his sons to work to support his drinking habit. If they didn’t make enough money, he would beat them.
One time, his dad beat Frank so badly he couldn’t go to school for two weeks. Another time, Frank was a few dollars short at the end of the day. Terrified of what his father would do, he punched himself in the face several times as he walked home to get the bloody nose and black eye that he claimed another kid had given him while stealing his money. It didn’t matter. His father only beat him worse for not holding onto the money.
By the time he was 20, Frank was drinking heavily. He battled intense feelings of shame, unworthiness, and self-loathing. He hated how much his father drank and how he abused his children. Now Frank was himself drinking, and although he hated himself for it, nothing else seemed to fill the hole inside him for very long. By age 25 he’d moved back to Chicago and begun to prostitute himself on the streets. He would generally spend his days belligerently panhandling in front of liquor stores, his evenings prostituting, and his nights asleep behind an abandoned Burger King.
We met Frank in 2005. He was thoughtful and sweet when he was sober, but belligerent and dangerous when he was drunk. It was clear that he desperately wanted to escape the life he’d created for himself, but he was constantly stopped because he didn’t know how to live any other way. He probably entered detox programs at least 20 times. For a long time he was known as a regular at several social service agencies and drug rehab programs. He would get sober temporarily and often find a job. Inevitably, though, some difficulty would crop up or some obstacle appear and he would become frustrated with himself and give up; he’d go back to drinking, prostituting himself, and sleeping behind abandoned restaurants.
Recently, Frank started his cycle of sobriety again. He went through a drug rehab program and then entered a halfway house on the north side of Chicago. He began working as a clerk at a local retail clothing store and having some success. Then he went for a weekend to visit his family, and he relapsed. Two days later he came by the Emmaus building completely drunk, but telling the staff who met him at the gate that he realized he’d messed up and was headed back to rehab.
“I really mean it this time,” he told us. To our very pleasant surprise, he really did.
Today, Frank is doing incredibly well. He’s still in the halfway house and is working regularly. He lost his job at the clothing store after his latest relapse, and he looked for work for a long time before he found his current job, suffering through months of discouragement. The economy isn’t kind to anyone these days, but God is gracious. An old employer decided to give Frank a second chance, and Frank has quickly become his best and most dependable employee.
We rarely see Frank these days. With other men we might worry, but with Frank that’s a good thing.