I worked feverishly until late that day on the letter I intended to send to the congregation of the church where the state’s attorney had been seen frequently on Sunday mornings during the previous campaign season. By the time I was finished with the final draft, I had decided that I wouldn’t limit the recipients of the words I had written to only the church where the state’s attorney found spiritual guidance and constituent support on the weekly basis. I began to address envelopes to all of the churches in the phone books I had access to. The area I intended to cover was most of southern Illinois and parts of neighboring Indiana.
My wife was visibly satisfied with my progress throughout the day following Bull’s phone call. I ate as often as she delivered food to me. She asked very few questions about the project I was engaged in, but kept a watchful eye on my progress from just over my shoulder at the computer desk in our home. I was pleasantly surprised when she corrected several spelling errors in my letter and stated, “Bull’s lucky to have a friend like you,” before turning around to leave me alone at the computer.
“I’m lucky to have a friend like him. I should be sitting in there with him right now.” My words fell into the empty space of the dark room.
When I finished the letter it read as follows:
Fellow Friends in Christ,
The story of drug addiction is all too common a tale in our area. The effects that prolonged, untreated addiction to drugs like methamphetamine are devastating to say the least. I am writing to your congregation today to request prayers and spiritual support for my friend, Bull Gunville. Bull’s story is definitely not unique, although I feel that with the promise of God’s grace and unending love that Bull’s story can be unique in that it does not have to end tragically, as so many others have.
Bull has lived all of his life in rural southern Illinois. He is a father to six wonderful children and extraordinarily loved by all of them. Bull’s life has been challenging with regards to his education, although he is unfathomably gifted in so many fields of knowledge. Fields of knowledge which have taken a normal person many years of schooling and experience to become remotely close to the talents he exhibits. Bull’s struggle with education ended for him after attempting and failing to pass the seventh grade several times. School teachers at the time claimed he suffered from a learning disability that they were unable to diagnose. He was immediately withdrawn from school and put to work by his father on the family farm, working on equipment, vehicles, and the practicing the rudimentary arts of physical and mechanical labor. It wasn’t long before he began experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and travelling down a dangerous road heading towards what could possibly be his eventual demise.
As the years passed, Bull’s struggle with drugs led him into more and more trouble. Having spent time in the Department of Corrections on several occasions, his opportunities to find gainful employment became less and less, as many employers view the struggling, recovering addict as a high risk to their businesses, and not worth the opportunity. After a prolonged battle with DCFS to regain the right to be a parent to three of his six children following an incarceration for manufacturing methamphetamine, Bull recovered custody of the children from his second marriage. He humbly started the slow process of reclaiming whatever semblance of a normal life that he could in the wake of his troubled years prior. He was greeted at every interview and job application with slim prospects of rejoining the workforce. This was devastating to him, as he had a wife and three children at home, and three others from a previous marriage waiting on support checks from him. With his children hungry at home, and the law breathing down his neck for back support on the children from his first marriage, Bull continuously fought the urge to revert again to using and dealing drugs. This was a fight which he eventually began to lose.
In the meantime, Bull’s marriage fell apart and his father passed away suddenly. Bull was very close with his father, and since the seventh grade had relied upon his father’s assistance and guidance through all of the challenges that life had presented him. His father’s unexpected death left his estate without a will, which again presented Bull with a challenge, as his father owned a great deal of land, scrap iron, cars, tools, and an extensive gun collection which were now up for grabs among the bickering factions of his family. Bull was one of two rightful heirs to his father’s estate. Bull was rarely considered by his family during this time… their dismissal of him only adding to the frustration and confusion he was dealing with in the fledgling state of the grieving process. He immediately began to close himself off to his family in order to protect what he could of his father’s legacy, and the only things he had to keep his father fresh in his memory. He never allowed himself the time to grieve his father’s death appropriately, and began utilizing drugs again, as a coping mechanism for his repressed feelings of grief and disappointment in his family’s sudden alienation of him.
Throughout Bull’s years of drug addiction and periods of incarceration, the one thing that had never been offered to him by prosecutors and correctional facilities was rehabilitation and the ability to relearn positive alternatives to troubling situations like he was trying to manage on his own. I am now working with Bull as closely as I can to try and find a rehabilitation and correctional program that will finally allow him to fully come into his own without the anchor of drug addiction holding him down. His current law problems could possibly mean that Bull will spend the better part of the rest of his life behind bars.
Without the prayers, spiritual support, and promise of Gods undying love and forgiveness, I’m afraid that Bull will miss all of the most important parts of his children’s lives. I’m afraid that without the guidance and prayers of people with experience in drug addiction and those who are suffering from a great spiritual void, that Bull’s talents will forever go unnoticed and his potential as a human being will be forever lost to the Department of Corrections. I feel he is truly in need of some sign of hope, and the ability to see the spark of God’s love to prove once and for all that there is a point to this existence, and a bright, overwhelming light at the end of what has been a long, dark and dismal tunnel for him. I implore all of you to pray for my friend Bull, and keep him in your thoughts during this, his darkest hour.
There are programs available to people like Bull. Many of these programs have yielded great results in the most hopeless cases of addiction. Although he has expressed a legitimate interest in rehabilitating himself, the states attorney in Littleton County has grimly informed him that his fate is sealed: She intends to prosecute him to the fullest extent that the law will allow, hoping for a lengthy stay with the Department of Corrections without the opportunity for the drug rehabilitation he desperately needs. This has confused Bull, as he is now asking for help with his struggles, and it appears as though he is powerless to alter his fate. I am at a loss to help him by myself, and find fleeting solace by praying alone at night for God to guide my actions and discover the optimal outcome in this situation.
I am requesting your prayers and support in this matter. I am requesting spiritual guidance for my friend, Bull Gunville. I am truly at a loss in this matter, and my heart breaks to believe there is nothing more I can do to help him. Please find it in your hearts and minds to pray for compassion and God’s will to be found in this troubling matter.
I thank you in advance for anything you find it appropriate to act upon.
I was pleased with my efforts. As I sat silently at the computer desk folding letters and addressing envelopes, my thoughts began to return to the offer Rhonda had made earlier to come get me high.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo