“I’m gonna go find myself.”

Bernard came from a large and very poor family. He was the second youngest of ten children and he grew up knowing what it meant to do without. Meals in his home were peanut butter and jelly or macaroni. When he was seven years old, Bernard’s mom and dad got divorced. Bernard’s father was an alcoholic and Bernard never had contact with him again after his parent’s marriage ended.

Bernard’s mother was also an alcoholic and a bartender. She eventually remarried a man who drank heavily too. Anger, rebellion and hurt started to grow in Bernard’s heart. Kids teased him at school about being poor and as a result, Bernard became a bully. He remembers thinking he just wanted a “normal family.” 

In High School Bernard started doing drugs and drinking alcohol because it helped him relax and not be angry anymore. When he graduated, he left home immediately leaving a note for his mother saying, “I’m gonna go find myself.” He drove from Washington to California looking for a job. After two months of sleeping in his car he found work as a truck driver. He also met a girl and they got married. 

Over the next 15 years, Bernard sank further into alcoholism and drugs. Despite the dysfunction, he and his wife started a family and had two sons. Bernard recalls driving around drunk with his kids in the car and while truck driving too. Drinking helped numb the pain in his heart…but it was ruining his life. He recalls keeping beer in the garage, bedroom, living room and even the shower so it would always be accessible. At one point he was drinking a thirty pack of beer a day! 

One day his wife decided she couldn’t take it anymore. Bernard had lost his job, money was disappearing and she wanted a divorce. Bernard hated his life and was stuck in the vicious cycle of addiction. Nothing was going well… then things got even worse. 

Bernard decided to enter a rehab program to get things under control. Just four days before his graduation he relapsed and was kicked out of the program. With no place to go, Bernard slept on the street for one night. When he woke up he said to himself, “I gotta get some money. I’m not gonna spend another night homeless in Seattle.” And that is exactly what he did. That day he robbed a bank, found a hotel room and spent all the money he stole on alcohol and drugs. Four days later Bernard robbed another bank. 

Bernard was eventually caught and sent to prison for two and half years. When he finished serving his time, he immediately started drinking, found a job and quickly lost it. Bernard was on the verge of robbing another bank because he didn’t want to be homeless again…then someone told him about the Bread of Life Mission. 

When Bernard came through our doors, he didn’t know what Jesus had done for “sinners” like him. One day in a counseling session with one of our pastors, he found out who Jesus really was…and what Jesus thought about him. With tears in his eyes, Bernard recalls his past and what God did to set him free, “My heart is humbled. I should be dead by now. I was a bully, a drunk, and a thief…but now I’ve found Jesus and I feel peace.” Not only has God begun to show Bernard where His true identity lies, but He has also helped restore his relationship with his sons.