Ex-Pastor, Ex-User Ministers to Those Battling Addictions
By Dale Short
Daily Mountain Eagle

"I've been down, but not like this before / Can't be 'round this kind of show no more..."

The pop hit by the group Little Feat was a fixture on radio
airwaves in the mid-197 s! "t the time# $onathan %tewart was a &ente'ostal prea'her(s-)id toddler in *u'son# "ri+!# and didn(t )now that some , years later the lyri' would be'ome the theme song for his life! %tewart(s father was 'alled to pastor a -hur'h of .od near /irmingham# and $onathan grew up to be a pastor too-initially at 'hur'hes in nearby /lountsville and *arrant -ity! /ut it was his 'all to a 'hur'h in /rownsville# *exas# that started his fateful odyssey in motion! 01t was a 'hallenge#0 %tewart re'alls now# in a lun'htime 'onversation at a pi++a restaurant in $asper! 0*he 'ommunity was 2ispani'# and 1 didn(t spea) a word of %panish# so 1 struggled! /ut .od was doing great things anyway# and our 'ongregation had grown to about , ! *hat

was before the storm!0 *he storm was histori' 2urri'ane 1sabel in 3 ,# and it devastated the 'hur'h and many surrounding homes! /y this time# %tewart had a wife and son! "fter 1sabel# his 'hoi'es were to either stay and 'ontinue trying to rebuild the 'hur'h# or to move on! 2e pi')ed the latter# and till this day regrets it! 01(ve always been a runner by nature#0 he says# with a grim smile! 04hen 1 have a problem# my impulse is to run from it!0 2e phoned his 'hur'h administration(s overseers in -alifornia and as)ed about a new posting on the 4est -oast! /ut the nearest 'hur'h see)ing a pastor was in 5evada--a town 'alled %tage'oa'h# best )nown as a site where parts of the blo')buster 196 s *7 show 0/onan+a0 were filmed! /ut the fresh start and idylli' setting didn(t produ'e the out'ome that %tewart was hoping for8 01 made some very poor 'hoi'es# and relapsed into a drug habit that 1(d had before! 1 started using again# and it 'aused a 'hain rea'tion of emotional downfalls!0 *he tailspin started 9ui')ly! " wee) after his family arrived in %tage'oa'h# he had :ust finished his morning sermon when he was involved in a drug deal that went wrong and was shot in the head with a handgun# while his young son wat'hed! 0*he shooting messed me up mentally as well as physi'ally#0 he remembers# 0not to mention the embarrassment! *he bottom line was that 1 had no desire to pastor any more# so 1 wal)ed away from my ministry! My wife left me# so 1 lost my son! 0;vernight# it was li)e my mental 'apa'ities were gone! 1 was addi'ted to opiates for nearly the next eight years! $ust trying to )ill that pain! 1 was a deadbeat father# fo'used 'ompletely on myself!0 Homeless, On the Road 1roni'ally# his addi'tion odyssey too) him to more different 'ities than his ministry had! 01 was traveling all over the 'ountry#0 he says! 0Many of the things that 1 went through# 1 don(t even have a re'olle'tion of! <ou 'an imagine the ways 1 had to get my money! "ll 1 )now for sure is that 1 spent seven of those years homeless# out of 'onta't with my

family! 01 had built my whole life around a desire to ma)e a differen'e in other people(s lives# and now 1 'ouldn(t even ma)e a differen'e in my own! 1 lost all hope!0 *hen in $anuary of 3 1, %tewart hit what he 'alls 0probably the lowest point of all!0 2e had no :ob# no money# and was living in a friend(s 'ar in the dead of winter! 2e says he(s always loved poetry# and when his life loo)ed dar)est he started )eeping a noteboo)! ;ne poem from that time begins# 01(m on the run = 1t(s time to go = *he more 1 )new = *he less 1 )now!!!0 *he only bright spot on the hori+on was a girl he had met! 0%he meant the world to me# and a'tually started 'hanging my life#0 he says! 0%he told me# (2ey# you don(t have to do these things! *here(s a better life out there but it(s not going to happen overnight! Let(s lean on ea'h other# and we 'an do this!( 0"nd pretty soon 1 didn(t have the desire to do the drugs any more! *hat(s when 1 reali+ed that what 1(d been sear'hing for# through the drugs# was love! "nd now that 1 had it# 1 didn(t need the drugs! *here(s the old saying# (<ou have to get si') and tired of being si') and tired#( and that was true for me!0 2e started :ob-hunting# and along the way met Darren 2i')s# owner of $ohnny /rus'oe(s &i++a on 2ighway 7> East! 0"t first there was no :ob open#0 says %tewart! 0/e'ause there(s not a lot of turnover there# and it feels more li)e a family! /ut 1 told him about my past and my situation# and 1 told him if he gave me a 'han'e 1(d be the best wor)er he ever had!0 Eventually a :ob be'ame available# and %tewart remembers the day he moved from his 'ar into a motel and set about 0ma)ing it wor)# staying sober day by day! /e'ause 1 )new 1 didn(t have it in me# to go through living my past again!0 2is girlfriend was wor)ing full-time and living with a relative# but several months later they were able to pool their resour'es and find a house! "long the way# a strange thing happened8 0Little by little# some happiness began to appear#0 he says! 01 was able to wor) and ta)e 'are of myself and my

family# whi'h at this point 'onsists of my dog and the woman 1 love!0 The o! o" #lee$ ;ne of the payoffs of returning to a stable and produ'tive life# he says# is the :oy of a simple night(s sleep! 01t(s a relief )nowing 1 don(t have any enemies#0 he says! 01 live a very private life# be'ause it helps me stay out of trouble! "nd 1 remember all those years that 1 wasn(t able to sleep in pea'e be'ause 1 was haunted by my guilt and my addi'tion! 0Loo)ing ba') to when 1 was shot# 1 don(t )now why 1 didn(t die that day! /ut 1(m still here! "nd 1 reali+e 1 may never have a pulpit to minister from again# but this pla'e is my platform--to listen to people who 'ome through# who might have family problems or be in a finan'ial bind# or have )ids who are on drugs and are feeling hopeless! 0Drug addi'tion used to be an epidemi'# but now it(s a terminal illness! 1t(s a 'an'er that(s eating away at all of us! &eople who don(t )now any better say# ($ust get a grip on yourself and 'hange!( /ut it(s not nearly that easy! 1t(s a si')ness! <ou need somebody to love you and guide you through it# be'ause 1 )now 1 'ould never have gotten sober on my own!0

"long the way# he(s found that sudden avenues of happiness )eep appearing in his new life# some of them unexpe'ted! *wo months ago# on his 1>th birthday# $onathan(s son Matthew phoned him from *u'son and told him he(d li)e to get better a'9uainted! -ome springtime#

$onathan will be wat'hing his mailbox for a ti')et to Matthew(s graduation 'eremony! "fter relating this news# %tewart goes silent for a se'ond! 01 thin) the hardest part of 'oming ba') from those years was ta)ing responsibility for the damage 1(d done# for all the people 1 hurt! My 'hur'h# my family! "nd 1 'an never ma)e it up to those people! "ll 1 'an do is try to pay it forward by helping somebody else! 1 want to be an en'ouragement to people who might be going through what 1(ve been through! *o let them )now that there(s light at the end of the tunnel!0 %uddenly he starts rolling up his shirtsleeve! 01 don(t believe in tattoos! 1 don(t li)e (em! /ut 1 had my son(s name tattooed on my arms!0 ;n the left forearm# in 'risp ;ld English 'hara'ters# is the word M"**2E4! ;n the right is %*E4"?*! 0.etting to this pla'e has ta)en many# many# many years#0 %tewart says# his voi'e at the edge of brea)ing! 0/ut .od )nows what he(s doing!0 For that reason# he says# he has a third tattoo on his ba')! 1t(s a single word8 F;?.17E5E%%!  @Dale %hort(s e-mail address is dale!shortAgmail!'omB

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