ReConnect program gives man pathway to salvation
Carl Gray said he hit "bottom" in February.
At 51 years old, he was "broken," lying in a hospital bed with health complications associated with a 30-year addiction to alcohol. He almost died, he said.
On Feb. 18, Gray walked into The Salvation Army of Tyler with nothing but the clothes on his body, he said. It was the turning point, he said.
"I had lost all hope. I had nowhere to go, and they opened their arms to me," he said. "I owe them everything."
Gray said he would be dead or dying on the streets if it hadn't been for the organization. He certainly wouldn't be nearing 10 months sobriety, he said.
It seems like a lifetime ago to Gray that alcohol had him in a daily, hourly grip. He's lost 40 pounds, exercises regularly and is taking care of his body, mind and spirit, he said.
The Salvation Army's ReConnect program, a substance abuse program, gave Gray direction, hope and made him accountable to himself and the people around him, he said. He's now an employee and volunteer for the organization.
He said he feels God directed him to the organization to be a voice to those who are lost, alone and feeling hopeless and helpless as he once was. He said the organization's support, counseling and spiritual guidance has given him direction.
Gray recently became a "soldier" in the organization. He wants to attend The Salvation Army's officer training school in Atlanta. At his age, it might be a pipe dream, but it's a goal and he is ready to put the work in, he said.
He still lives at the shelter and is uncertain when he will transition out of the facility. He said he hopes his future is with The Salvation Army because it aligns with his beliefs and desire to help others.
"I just love what I am doing," he said. "I want to help people who are struggling."
Since Gray has been in the shelter, he has reconnected with his parents, who had cut off contact with him. His relationship with his father is better than it has been in more than 30 years. He said he hopes to reconnect with his two children.
Gray believes everything he lost to addiction will be restored in God's time. For now, he is focused on graduating the Reconnect Program, receiving his soldier uniform and working and volunteering for the organization.
He said he was too prideful to ask for help before hitting bottom. Nobody has to feel ashamed of anything in their past at The Salvation Army. He said they just need to be ready for help.
"The help is here for people," he said. "They may need to make referrals (to other organizations) but the help is here."