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‘Know There’s Hope’: Addiction Recovery Program Helps Man Find Faith, Restore His Life

At his 25th wedding anniversary, Winnipegger Randy Makinson thought he had it all: a long happy marriage, the joys of children, and a well-paying job fixing race car engines. But soon his wife left him, sending him into a spiral of loneliness and drug addiction that cost him his job and nearly his life.

The good news is that things started to turn around about five years later. He credits it to a faith-based addiction recovery program in Saskatchewan. This is where he’s worked and what he’s dedicated his life to for some 13 years now, after completing the program, having switched from a job rebuilding engines to one helping others rebuild their lives.

“I went to a really dark, really dark time for years,” Makinson told the audience as he shared his story at the Saskatchewan legislature on May 9.

He was the guest speaker at the 27th annual banquet held there by the Saskatchewan chapters of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in Canada. Eleven members of the legislative assembly were among the audience of nearly 80 people who came to hear how his life fell apart only to be restored and made even better.

Makinson’s story had a bright beginning.

“I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 21. We had two beautiful children. I raised them in a good home. Took them to baseball, hockey, ringette. Kept them off the streets. We had a great celebration of our 25th anniversary, a beautiful evening. There were about 70 people in our backyard. And it was one of the greatest days of my life,” Makinson said.

Unexpectedly, three months later, his wife asked for a divorce.

“I went from what I thought was a good marriage and being a happy camper to within six months of being all by myself,” Makinson recalled. “I was 46 years old. And nothing seemed to make sense. … It felt like a death. It felt like half of me was gone.”

‘A Deep, Dark Depression’

Makinson fell into a “deep, dark depression” and declined social events with his brothers and sister because he “felt like a third wheel” no matter where he went.

But the worse was still to come. At age 50, he tried drugs for the first time.

“I took one long hoot from this pipe. And it took away all the pain, all the sorrow, all the misery, all of the heartache. The only problem is I couldn’t stop chasing that feeling,” he recalled.

“Within a week I was going from $60 a night at the bar to $600 a night for crack cocaine. And over the next two years, this totally destroyed my life,” he said.

“I’d be doing drugs the moment I got home from work until 7 o’clock in the morning, and then go straight to work. I tried to stay awake. I would go 10 days straight and not sleep five minutes, until my body shut down every time. I was spinning out of control emotionally, physically, and financially.”

That was when Makinson’s family finally intervened.

“They actually thought I had cancer. And my two adult children couldn’t figure out what happened to their dad.”

Five stints at detox centres couldn’t keep him from relapses. His 32-year career rebuilding precision racing engines came to an end, as his shoddy work led to “blow-ups on the race track,” he said.

Power was cut off at his home due to unpaid bills. Like locusts in a field, Makinson’s drug addiction devoured his possessions. He even disconnected his water heater so a cocaine dealer could sell its copper for scrap.

‘A Miracle or a Coincidence’

Makinson was contemplating suicide one night when he received a call from his sister, Debbie.

Debbie said to him: “Is this the legacy you want to leave with your kids? … There’s a good chance this drug is going to take your life, and your children are going to have to come to your funeral and live with that shame.”

Makinson said the phone call “rocked me to my core.”

Then suddenly, Debbie called back, saying, “I don’t know if this is a miracle or a coincidence.”

A childhood friend who had moved to Regina and whom she hadn’t talked to in 30 years asked about Randy, Debbie said. Through tears, Debbie told her friend Randy’s story, and the friend shared that her grandson overcame his addiction thanks to a 12-month residential program called Teen Challenge in Allan, Saskatchewan.

As a 51-year-old, Makinson bristled at the idea of going to a program called Teen Challenge, especially in a town 750 kilometres from home. The program’s faith-based aspect was even more of a negative for him. But his sister said the program’s success rate was above 70 percent in 1,000 centres worldwide, and if he was willing to go, she would cover his mortgage payments.

Makinson, whose weight had fallen to 127 pounds by that time, still remembers the day he arrived.

“They were shaking my hand and said they’d prayed for me in chapel in the morning. And I looked at my sister and said, ‘Deb, I think they’re hiding the addicts in the basement. This doesn’t look or act like any of the guys that I did secular programs with.’”

Randy Makinson poses in front of a Teen Challenge Ministry display table at the 60th annual Teen Challenge celebration in New York City in 2018. The ministry was created in 1958 as a result of outreach by Pastor David Wilkerson to troubled street youth in New York City. (Courtesy Kathy Makinson)

From Rebuilding Engines to Rebuilding Lives

Change came quickly.

“I’d seen the love of God [for] the first time. … My 10th day of the program, I got down on my knees and I asked God to forgive all the things I’d done wrong.”

Makinson’s boss had offered him his old job back if he completes his program. But when Makinson read the Bible story of Abraham leaving his home and possessions, he felt that this was also the path meant for him.

His house sold after 10 days on the market, and the proceeds covered all of his debts.

“I felt like God was saying, ‘I need you to go from rebuilding broken engines to rebuilding broken lives.’”

After Makinson graduated from the program, he stayed on with the Teen Challenge ministry. Then, in 2010, he asked God for a wife.

“It didn’t take longer than 10 days and I would meet my future wife at a Teen Challenge graduation in Saskatoon. … Four months later we got married right on the steps of Teen Challenge.”

He turns 67 this month and continues to work for Teen Challenge Saskatchewan, part of the non-profit, interdenominational Teen Challenge program that operates in over 80 countries, according to its website.

“It’s new every day. I get to work with a broken man every single day to speak the gospel into their life—[someone] that needs to know there’s hope, that needs to know there’s a future,” he said.

Lee Harding

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Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.

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