Flight from Perversion

The Story of Roy O

Written by Richard Drebert

©Good Catch Publishing

The Butcher Baker is a convicted serial killer. He was also my barber. And while we talked, sometimes his eyes glazed over as he drifted in his own private universe. He had confessed to murdering at least 17 women.

I was serving jail time, too — where the Butcher was incarcerated, 461 years.

I would be imprisoned for five years of a 12-year term, and upon my release, society would track every move I made for as long as I lived — this was my life sentence.

While I sat in the prison exercise yard, I often strained to identify aircraft droning above the razor-wire fence.

I couldn’t blame the Air Force. Or even my ex-wife. Who could trust me again? My friends? My children? Could I trust myself? It would take more than sheer guts to face down my demons and reclaim my self-respect.

It would take a miracle.

Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward had been my “home” for three months, and soon I would be flown to a corrections facility in Florence, Arizona — the polar opposite of Alaska, but with bars and steel mesh just as confining. At my new prison, I would mingle with other men who had murdered their tomorrows and had no one to blame but themselves, if they were willing to admit it.

And I had lived in Arizona before …

***

Mr. Mom in Tucson.  

Early in the morning, I delivered my three oldest children to the babysitter, who charged $100 a week — our caregiver, she was an ex-con without a job, but she had a heart of gold. Now I stood before my commander, my stomach in knots, with papers stating that I had failed my flight evaluation for the first time in my Air Force career.

“Sir, I can’t focus anymore. I’m done flying.”

The captain nodded to me and looked resigned. I was his senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer), an E-7, but my wife had left me, and he knew that caring for my three children took up most of my mind and energy now. My usual month-long TDYs (Temporary Duties) to destinations like Italy would be a hardship on my family, and I had retirement written all over my downcast face.

“Okay, Roy. You’re off flying status, but you can keep your flight pay until you’re done. You’ve got plenty of hours built up.”

That’s for sure.

I thanked the captain and headed off to pick up my daughter and two sons, knowing that I had stolen years from my wife and kids and called it duty. Within my mind, an overwhelming sense of “responsibility” had always trespassed like a thief. I was obsessed with the “job done right,” which meant all undertakings must be completed my way — this egotism made me an outstanding computer technician, but a lousy husband and father.

Where did my compulsion for peak performance come from?

My dad had retired as an Army major. Mom had married him when he was a captain and she a nurse lieutenant, on a windswept Aleutian island off the coast of Alaska. Before Dad’s career in the Army drowned in alcohol, Mom, my three sisters and my brother had followed him from post to post in and out of the country. Along his march, I was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but I learned to walk in Taiwan. I grew up moving from school to school until Dad’s retirement, when we settled down in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Marshalltown, Iowa. Dad got a job at Collins Radio, but ended up transferring to Plano, Texas, where we stayed until I graduated high school.

Somehow my “Christian” family lived without navigation components necessary to guide daughters and sons. We attended the Methodist church at Plano, but my “normal” home life masked conflicting moral values. Often we kids came home from school to find my father passed out on the floor — and Dad was not a cordial drunk.

Damn Mama’s boy.

What my father “really” thought of me cut like a razor when his words slurred from a bottle mouth. I yearned for my father’s respect; he was an architect and draftsman, meticulous and focused, and I was like him in my ability to concentrate on a project and see it through to a successful finish.

At 14, a hobby shop hired me to repair Lionel trains and wire dioramas. Electrical current seemed to flow through my veins, and I understood how things worked, while others only guessed. By 15 years old, I could wield a skill saw and carpenter’s square as well as most grown men. Yet as alike as we were, my father and I led disconnected lives — barren of basketball games, fishing trips or anything that might have bridged our widening generation gap.

There was one thing that Dad contributed as an acceptable rite of passage for his “red-blooded American boy.” From our living room bookracks, his women posed for me in Playboy magazines. He had a lifetime subscription, and I couldn’t get enough. As I grew closer to manhood, a craving to “experience” pornography fastened deep in my soul like the barbs of a treble hook.

The articles in Playboy taught me that women were beautiful, soulless toys, for using until a man was gratified, and Dad never disavowed the deepening notion. As any boy would, I pursued acceptance from the major, who unwittingly helped set my compass for a deadly struggle with sexual addiction. Dad would not know of my failings and travail for decades.

Yet, on another level, beneath my evolving character, another force battled to change the trajectory of my ultimate destiny. Two months before I enlisted in the military, a friend invited me to ski camp sponsored by Young Life, an organization whose mission is to introduce “adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.”

I had been working at Radio Shack as a sales clerk during the evenings, after working as a baker’s helper during the day. I had waxed my skis, musing about the girls I would meet at the Young Life ski camp, but a life-altering chapel service short-circuited my whole weekend agenda. I came home from ski camp with a changed heart; God’s “voice” had been permanently planted like a tiny, but resilient, seed in my heart. For the first time I realized that living in my so-called Christian home and attending church could not save me from eternal separation from God, and I genuinely planned to follow Jesus.

With no mentors to help cultivate this seed, my shallow commitment to follow Jesus lasted until I joined the military, a couple months later. Dad had taken me to a Navy recruiter, who looked over my aptitude for electronics, and the old chief shook his head.

“I’m out of here — retired this year, so I don’t really care. My sons are in the Air Force … and I think it’s a better career choice for your son, too.”

Dad drove me across town and helped me sign up for the U.S. Air Force — I was 17.

 

***

 

Could there be anything more exciting than this?

I had done my time in Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and spent months at Keesler AFB in Mississippi for technical training. At Keesler, a sergeant had asked for volunteers for electronic securities command, flying in C-47s, and I jumped at the opportunity. The Air Force flew me to Texas and trained me in high-tech flight systems, as well as jungle survival skills, ocean survival and how to endure enemy interrogations.

Now I was at Nakhon Phanom, an air base in Thailand, at the end of the Vietnam War, flying surveillance mission support and repairing computer systems to keep American planes in the air. Dangerous mop-up missions continued for months, and I spent much of my free time around Nakhon Phanom or Ubon, an inland city. After work, I followed my Air Force peers into the depths of the mythic Thai nightlife — a fifth of Bacardi in my pocket and a pack of smokes in my hand.

For two years — work and party, party, party.

I left my Air Force assignments in Thailand without a single memory of virtue; I had squandered every shred of innocence in rank-smelling, humid bars and brothels. I was 20 years old and empty.

 

***

My sponsor in Japan, an Air Force NCO who was assigned to new arrivals, helped me settle into my new environment at Okinawa. Max was a Christian — the real kind — and a flyer taped to the back of his car window read: “Revival! Come to Maranatha Church.”

“So what’s a revival?” I asked, as he helped me find my quarters.

“Guess you better come and find out, Roy.”

And I did. On the first night of a week’s worth of preaching, the evangelist seemed to lock me in his crosshairs. Drugs, booze and carousing had sapped me of spiritual nutrients for the past two years, and I was starving. At this little church service I turned about-face and recommitted my life to Christ with a fresh intensity. It was all or nothing. The pastor baptized me, and I quit smoking and drinking cold turkey. Old cravings seemed to fade away as I dived into church life, and I exchanged my decadent lifestyle for one of extreme spiritual fulfillment. I felt genuinely saved.

My testimony — my lifestyle that identified me as a true follower of Jesus — swelled past Sunday church and into other religious service, night and day. I lived my Christian life like I rehearsed for military performance evaluations, and I began helping in the bus ministry, picking up children at the bases for church. I worked 24/7 to build a GI fellowship that ministered to single Air Force personnel and helped organize events at church.

In the five years that I attended Maranatha in Okinawa, it seemed obvious to those who knew me that my future lay in full-time ministry as a pastor or missionary. When my nine-year enlistment ended, I felt called to the mission field (no particular destination in mind), and after my discharge at Omaha, I enrolled in Bible college. My pastor in Japan had recommended Tennessee Temple University, and I tackled my courses like I retrofitted a computer system in a C-47 — with my usual intense focus.

I had no idea that my self-centered resolve (so admirable in military service) had no power to dislodge the treble hook set fast in my soul during my adolescence.

I was 27 years old and selling electronic equipment at the Radio Shack store in Chattanooga to help pay for my tuition, when the manager approached me one day.

“How about us opening a store together, Roy? You have the electronics background, and I have the business sense …”

The manager had attended Temple, and I trusted him, so the idea soon grew legs. Another electronics guru joined in our plans, and we opened our new store in Trenton, Georgia — just in time for a fresh distraction to sideswipe my missionary dreams.

An attractive young woman named Rita, who had been a steady customer in Chattanooga, lived in Trenton, and her father helped us with new signs for our grand opening. To me it seemed like romantic “kismet,” and I asked Rita for a date.

That night, in a single moment of passion, I dumped years of treasured Christian performance scores. Sullied by guilt, I ran to familiar terrain in my electronics profession and deeper into a relationship with Rita.

My wife-to-be had no desire to live in a jungle among barefoot heathen, and in six months I agreed to drop my missionary aspirations at Temple and marry Rita instead. The Trenton franchise ended in chaos when our partnership dissolved. Losing my part in the store hit me hard, and I grabbed the first job I could find — assembling hospital equipment in Chattanooga. When I discovered that the Air Force was crying for trained electronics specialists, I reenlisted as an E-5 non-commissioned officer and marched right back into my old job on base at Omaha.

A steady paycheck should help our problems.

But we hated Omaha from the start. And Rita worried that my application for a new assignment might land us in a country where a war might interfere with raising a family; in the midst of our dysfunctional marriage, she was about to have her first baby. I really didn’t care where we ended up, as long as I could work where RC-135s flew. With little chance for a war in Alaska, I took an assignment at Eielson AFB, near Fairbanks.

I immediately fell into old ruts again — soaking up fulfillment from my profession and peers, while striving to keep two slices of my life far apart: Air Force duty and my unsatisfying family life. And I believed that I had a lot of bitterness to relieve — “our” second daughter, fourth child born in Alaska, belonged to another man.

I repositioned sights on my target to gain higher rank, never stopping to consider how I had deprived my wife of the love and attention she needed in our first years together. My normal rotation on TDY took me away from Rita and the kids for weeks at a time to the Aleutian Islands (where my father had been stationed), Hawaii and beyond. Whenever I returned home, I hung up my uniform and donned a churchy ensemble, included in my very convincing “Sunday school teacher” role.

I was able to fool the church in Fairbanks for some years, but I didn’t snow Rita. I was living the old military fable: “What’s done TDY, stays TDY,” but even the tightest comrades-in-arms leak secrets. I began drinking on “beer lights” (when my crew was off flying status) a little, then more often. When my flight group landed near cities with strip clubs, I didn’t disappoint the guys when they included me in their parties. And when we were weathered in on some rocky island, like Shemya, I filled the hours with closed-circuit porn.

During my church work in Japan and while studying for the ministry in Chattanooga, I had earnestly ignored the treble hook in my soul. But in Alaska, my sexual addiction reanimated when I faced peer expectations. I deadened my guilt by dousing my mind with booze or filling my brain with complicated schematics to solve electrical mysteries aboard RC-135s. And back home I masqueraded as a saint, telling myself that my kids needed to have a Christian upbringing.

I can tolerate the guilt — for the sake of my children.

A few months before leaving Alaska, my fourth child was born, and my commander called me into his office. “Pack up, Roy. You’re on your way to Arizona.”

My marriage to Rita hung by a fragile strand. The Air Force commander told me that my new job would be on base, and I hoped that I could patch up frayed circuits in our marriage before it was too late — but the damage I had inflicted was irreparable. My indifference to Rita’s needs had gone unanswered way too long.

In Tucson, I buried myself in side jobs (we needed the money, after all), and I accepted flying status again for TDYs. Rita read the specs right and made the decision to leave me.

***

Mr. Mom is falling apart.

I had always run my life by a precise set of drawings — never contemplating being a “divorcee.” Now after Air Force retirement, my living room, bathroom and bedrooms were in total chaos. My kitchen sink overflowed with dishes, and my washing machine roared and shook for hours at a time. Rita had taken our youngest daughter with her, but I had the care of a 6-year-old son, an 8-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter.

I had landed a job with America Online as a phone technician, and I tried to atone for my years being “AWOL” from my family by renewing my commitment to a church and taking my kids on camping trips. Unequipped for juggling my work and the needs of my children, I dropped the ball in one area, then another, and I grew increasingly despondent over finances — until the day I caught a break: A former boss phoned me from Fairbanks, Alaska.

“You still working with computers? How about coming back to the Last Frontier and working as network administrator for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)?”

I didn’t hesitate for an instant. And I called my ex-wife with a proposition.

“Take over my apartment here in Tucson and care for the kids until school’s out. Then come to Alaska and bring ‘em up. I have a job waiting for me, and I’ll have a house for all of us …”

And she accepted. My ex-wife and four kids moved to Fairbanks, and I believed that my life was suddenly taking a turn for the better.

***

Rita moved into a downstairs bedroom, and we had a semi-platonic relationship for the four years she “temporarily” lived with me. A “home” was built upon our love for the children, and I traveled to the NOAA center every day and picked the kids up after school. In the evening and on weekends, I took on lucrative side jobs remodeling homes in the Fairbanks area. It was the best way I knew to saddle Rita with the hubbub of four growing children and not me.

Our little country church down the street opened its doors wide to my family, and in no time I was teaching Sunday school there. Rita came with us, completing our portrait of family “affection and togetherness” — and the fiction continued for years, until someone informed the pastor that Rita and I were not legally married.

“What’s the big deal?” Rita wanted to know, but with my religious background, I knew we were “living in sin.” When I gave up my Sunday school class, my children were heartbroken, and Rita never attended the church again.

Vile forces beyond my range of comprehension had trapped my family like a covey of quail; in my soul, God’s Spirit sounded a warning for me to give up my self-indulgence and truly change direction, before the lives of my children and Rita were left in shambles. Instead of heeding the warning, I entombed my mind with frantic busyness and tuned my Savior out.

The kids and I found another church, while a gnawing, familiar lust inside me grew stronger. Like embers, long dormant before a stirring breeze, my addiction to pornography slowly ignited to flame, fanned by images on the computer screen. Night after night, I lay upon a combustible bed of self-hatred and anger, unsatisfied by physical self-gratification time and time again.

In the final stages of my ruin, I hunted for new ways to vent my addiction, and my virtual fantasies crept slowly into reality where I lived with my children.

I learned to “chat” on the Internet with women as twisted as I was, sending photos of myself and receiving grotesquely uninhibited pictures back. And it was NEVER enough. Satisfied for mere moments after my trysts, the burning continued at home and at my work with NOAA.

All four kids were with me after school now, and Rita and I had all but split up completely. My 14-year-old daughter shouldered more and more of the household responsibilities with me, and the uncompromising partition, treasured by a trusted father and precious daughter, grew flexible. She knew all about my unbridled computer dates, and I decided to include her in my Big Secret. Somehow in my perverted mind, I justified taking lewd pictures of my innocent and vulnerable child, a shame that I shall carry to my grave.

How much lower can I go?

One early morning after an all-night computer session, bleary-eyed and sick, I cried out to God:

If I am your child, why do I keep doing this garbage?

Our Savior is not always gentle, and altering my course was akin to wrenching a RC-135 from a crash dive. How Jesus commandeered my life just days after my plea chills my blood, still. He would use the force of law to wrest the barbs of addiction from my heart and send men of strong character to swab out the jagged hole that I backfilled with shame and remorse — but first I planned my birthday party …

***

I would be 45 years old in two weeks, and two girls I knew from Internet chats had invited me for a weekend orgy. Gullible and desensitized by lust, I purchased tickets and engineered a weekend getaway that I would never forget. I could barely contain my torrid fantasies two weeks before my “date” while I drove home after work — but they vaporized when I gaped at the five state trooper cars blocking my driveway.

Two troopers carried my beloved computer equipment, digital cameras and components to their cars. A search warrant had been issued when Rita turned over provocative pictures of her daughter from my collection of porn.

Was I disgraced? Was I ashamed as I watched my life spool out in a tangle? My first thoughts were: I need a good lawyernow.

The troopers read me my rights and ordered me to stay clear of my oldest daughter. They left me alone in my house, a fresh genre of fantasies dancing like demons in my mind — absent a single female performer. I might have ended my life, except that I knew I wasn’t ready to meet God. And my attorney did little to dispel my horrific visions of the future.

“Mr. O, I won’t sugarcoat your situation. From what you’ve told me, you are going to jail. The district attorney is preparing his case against you and may try to tie it to a child pornography ring they are investigating —”

“What? But I never —”

“You can’t ‘un-ring’ a bell, Mr. O. Child abuse brings out the crusaders, so get ready to be skewered. I advise you to go to trial and plead no contest to the charges. At least you can have your say in a court of your peers.”

I had tried to ignore the disgust on my friends’ faces at NOAA. They had been helpful to the FBI in collecting evidence from my work computer. Although the FBI found no evidence of a child porn ring on my hardware, they shared findings with the district attorney to strengthen his case against me.

Weeks later, around the time I might have been partying with my “fantasy girls” in Michigan, the troopers arrested me. My tearful boys watched as authorities handcuffed me after our father-son visit to the hardware store. I was booked into jail, made bail and was deposited with third-party custodians who monitored me when I wasn’t at work with NOAA. Several months passed before my trial came up on the docket.

I should have pled guilty and saved my family the horror of testifying. No charges concerning a child porn ring stuck, but I was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and two counts of unlawful child exploitation.

The conviction carried a sentence of 12 years, seven years suspended. And it wasn’t the five-year stretch that leveled me: It was knowing that a “sex offender” stigma would follow me as long as I lived. My children would never look at me the same, and I believed that no one would ever employ a “child molester” after my release.

I felt a seething anger at Rita for ruining my life. She came to see me two times at Fairbanks Correctional Center during my first nine months there; our discussion turned ugly on her second visit, because I blamed her for turning me in. I refused to “own up” to my crimes — in fact, in my first prison cell, I found a thousand reasons to curse other people in my life for my incarceration. Kindhearted friends brought my sons to visit me in jail, but the awkwardness, the shame of what I had done and where I lived, swelled like wounds too sore to touch — for me and for them.

But days in a stainless-steel room with a one-piece sink and crapper (often enthroned by another inmate) has a way of forcing a man to face reality. I couldn’t hide from my problems in the belly of a RC-135, nor could I steal off to the hardware store to gather parts for a remodeling job. I was alone with me, my cellmate and with the One who had created me.

Fragments of my counterfeit Christian testimony and self-respect were strewn on the courtroom floor. I was bleeding inside and powerless to perform a single duty to persuade God to heal me. On my bunk, curled on a thin hard mattress, I experienced the meaning of the Bible word “sinner” as never before. I had no way of redeeming my future, and a wrenching inner cry for a Savior overwhelmed me.

And God heard. At once, his steel grip laid hold of the treble hook in my soul …

At a chapel service, I stood nervously staring at the floor, unmoved by the words I had heard a thousand times in churches. The preaching seemed so canned, so rehearsed, and I was about to leave when someone spoke to me.

“You’ve screwed up your life doing things your way. Why don’t you try mine?”

Not a single inmate or chaplain stood near me, and I sat down shakily.

“God, you have my attention. Here I am. I’ve got nowhere else to go, and there’s nothing I can do … Jesus, I make you Lord of my life.”

Even after my Bible training, I had no idea what this commitment really meant. In the years to come, the gravity of my perversion, my grief at despoiling my family and the stark illustration of God’s mercy would shine a spotlight on Jesus wherever I told my story. My listeners would analyze their own lives, and God would offer them choices, too.

***

After my nine months at Fairbanks Correctional Center, I spent three months at Spring Creek Correctional Center at Seward, where I met some of the most infamous criminals in our prison system. At Spring Creek, I began to take ownership of my crimes, and I made a weighty decision to explore my life in detail. I enrolled in an anger management class, a course that blasted open doors to expose bitterness I harbored and against whom.

Then one day guards marched several of us inmates aboard a plane bound for Florence Correctional Center in Arizona. God had looped my flight path to Arizona to extract the treble hook from my soul once and for all, and my new environment was prepped for a lengthy prison “surgery.” I volunteered for a program called Transformational Living Community (TLC), and through intense instruction and mentoring, God changed the way I thought about myself and the people around me.

One of the first classes, Self-Confrontation, drilled deeply to the root of my addictions. For the first time, I tackled issues that I had avoided my whole life, and I learned to forgive myself and others who had injured me — the absolute precondition for God to heal me.

I was separated from the general prison population and housed in the TLC group with other volunteers in the program. Supervised by mentors, I lived out Bible principles in a very structured environment. It was here that God not only extracted the painful barbs in my soul, but healed the crippling guilt that prevented me from openly sharing my life story.

Wonderful chaplains introduced me to the Holy Spirit, a Person and not just a benign “Jedi force” in the world. I invited this “Person” to rewire every screwed-up circuit in my brain and energize me with himself. With God’s power renewing my mind, I finally GOT IT.

I understood that Jesus — God himself — had died on a cross to pay in full for my felonies, for which I could never offer restitution. As horrific as my sins had been against my family, in reality I had abused Jesus, the one who loved me most — but he had forgiven me and cleansed my heart from the stain of guilt. Now I was a favored son, never graded on my performance as a Christian; no mastery of Bible concepts or good deeds could change the way God thought of me. Jesus loved me just the way I was, and he answered my efforts to fly right with a spiritual gust of power whenever I needed him.

When old temptations or despair tried to claw back into my mind, there just wasn’t room anymore. That tiny seed of God’s word, planted more than 30 years ago at ski camp, had begun to reproduce. Reading the Bible as God’s words to me affected every thought and every activity in my prison life. I began serving God from a heart of love, rather than obligation.

And as in most of my endeavors in the Air Force, electronics or business, I dived into incarcerated life with focus and purpose. Our emphasis at TLC was to equip ex-offenders for life outside of prison, and I landed a job tutoring fellow inmates in computer skills. I loved what I was doing.

“When are you coming to work for me, Roy?” My prison chaplain grinned at me as inmates shuffled out of the room after class.

“When it isn’t fun anymore.” I laughed, planning to keep my enjoyable job to the end of my prison term. But God had other plans.

In two weeks, an avalanche of restrictions crashed upon the computer tutoring program. And the chaplain was waiting. He put me right to work cataloguing books in the chapel library, and within a short time, I helped in scheduling evangelistic teams and other forums for weekly Christian services. It took me some time to “get over myself” so that I could share my own story. I grew stronger in my faith as men from beyond our iron bars consistently came in the evenings to share their experiences and listen to us talk about our struggles.

They showed unconditional love. 

At one of our chapel services, God spoke to me through an instructor, words that would anchor me when I stood at crossroads in my life.

He said, “There are a whole lot of questions that we don’t have answers to, but one answer resolves everything: JESUS.” And I realized he was right. I didn’t need to know anything more than that truth. Just trust Jesus.

I ended my year in the Transformational Living Community with some fear, knowing I was about to return to the general prison population. But even as I worried, God was speaking to a brother who would change my glide path. Chaplain Mike Ensch had been on the scene from day one, laying the groundwork for his TLC pilot program at the Florence Correctional Center. I had been part of the overflow inmates from Alaska that were contracted to serve terms in Arizona, and Mike was the Administrator of Chaplaincy for the Alaska Department of Corrections. He took me aside one day.

“We’re turning the TLC into an 18-month program, Roy.” I could see the excitement in his smile. “How about sticking with us and helping in a leadership role?”

I didn’t have to ponder long. “I’m in, Chaplain,” I said, clueless that my decision would set the course for my life in and out of prison. And Chaplain Mike wasn’t done.

“Can you pack up for a trip to Palmer, Alaska? We’re opening up a TLC at the prison with new housing units there.”

“When?”

“You leave tomorrow …”

***

November 5, 2005.

An officer unlocks handcuffs from my wrists as I stand beside the prison van in front of the airport terminal. I fight the urge to check for cuff marks, paranoid that something could still go wrong …

Lord, Jesus, I really need your strength today.

The officer hands me a plane ticket. I nod my thanks as unanswered questions assault me:

What will I do to make a living?

Will a church receive me, knowing my past?

Will my children accept their father’s love anymore?

Then I remember: Jesus is the answer that resolves everything.

I walk inside the terminal feeling like I’m still wearing my orange prison jumpsuit, but people ignore me as they hustle baggage to the counters or board planes. I ask a young lady how to use the electronic ticketing system — I shake my head and smile at myself: I’m at the tail-end of technology now, by five years. At banks, gas stations, airports and even at grocery store checkouts.

I’m 50 years old as I board the plane, graying at the temples and a little heavier than when I went into prison. In Fairbanks, I have wonderful friends waiting for me, my third-party custodians. As for my children — I know that our relationships will be complicated, but I’ll sacrifice every comfort, every dream I have or will ever have, to see God heal the wounds I have created. It’s my goal for the rest of my life on earth.

***

I served out my prison term at Palmer Correctional Center and thrived in a leadership role working with other mentors at the TLC housing unit. We ministered to about 30 men in our unit — recovering drug addicts, alcoholics, rapists. The senior coordinator for our TLC program at Arizona is serving a life sentence for murder.

At our Christian boot camp, men were required to attend classes that focused upon Bible principles and internalizing God’s truth for specific problems in their daily lives. It thrilled me to introduce friends to my Rescuer and help prepare them for life outside of prison. A new program awaited me and others re-entering society, called Celebrate Recovery. It took over where TLC left off.

And like the men in our TLC, I faced my own tests at the end of my five-year prison term.

For one year, as part of my parole requirements, I attended therapy sessions, often with one or more of my children. My oldest son pushed to have restrictions lifted so he could have a full-contact relationship with me immediately, and it was granted. My younger daughter listed certain limitations and rules that applied to our supervised contact, and I had to answer all her questions honestly with a therapist present. My youngest son obtained permission to see me whenever he wished, but on his terms.

My oldest daughter pressed hard with the parole authorities to let us restore our ravaged father-daughter relationship with visits — but legal contact had to wait for some time.

***

I have been released from probation since November 5, 2010, and God has answered my heart’s cry about my oldest daughter, now married to a good man; I am Dad in her life again and Grandpa to her son, a boy I adore. Rita is my grandson’s precious grandma in every way, and she and I live separate lives. Hers is a married one, and mine is as a single man whose heart belongs to Jesus alone. For Rita and me, it’s all about our kids now.

God has graciously given me a well-paying job, and I serve at a church where I feel as clean as any man, unmoved by false caricatures or whispers in the community. My story is deploying through the Celebrate Recovery program, confirming that Jesus delivers on his promise to save and restore anyone.

Every week at the CR meetings and at churches, I talk to men and women gouged by the treble hooks of pornography and sexual addictions. I weep over brothers and sisters in prisons of their own making, blinded to the exhilaration they can feel after deliverance from the jagged barbs of perversion. I tell them that Jesus, the Great Physician, is the cure for their pain — and that compassionate Christian mentors are waiting to help.

I’m 56 years old, and I plan to go back to prison.

With the recommendations of those who know me well, I hope to visit men behind bars again, to tell my story and help them understand that Jesus is their last hope. I, too, ached over my failures in a prison cell, but I’ve learned that true incarceration is not razor wire isolating a person from society. Prison is any mind without Jesus — wherever a man or woman lives — and genuine freedom is a heart yielded to God without reservation.

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