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Walking the walk with one who knows the path

BY Brian Powers - bpowers@chronicle-tribune.com

Hope is one of the few four-letter words Carmen Eaborn uses these days. The current Grant County Rescue Mission’s Men’s Program Coordinator speaks with the building’s program residents from a place of empathy and understanding because he was been where they find themselves.

Originally from Phoenixville, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, Eaborn and his mother had a falling out and he ran away from home at the age of 13, finding himself in Arizona. He admits that, even at that age, he was smoking marijuana and drinking.

“By the time I was 16, I really began indulging,” he explained. “Methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin. All of it.”

By 17, Eaborn realized that he needed direction in his life so he enlisted in the Navy as a Quartermaster and eventually wanted to be an air traffic controller. He also acknowledged that his drug use never stopped. Eaborn signed up for the Navy’s Search and Rescue (SAR) school, finishing third in his class.

“Eventually the drugs caught up with me and I was given an Other Than Honorable discharge from the Navy,” said Eaborn

After using and selling drugs for about 12 years, Eaborn found himself in front of a rescue mission in Visalia, Calif. with nothing more than a bag of clothes too big for him due to his excessive drug use. This is where Eaborn’s story begins.

He tells the story of the day in which he realized that he was completely alone and felt hopeless and a group of 18 men walked past him. Eaborn will tell you about how he noticed a deeper bond in that group of men than he had ever seen before. Eaborn will also tell you about the relationships he had as an addict. He will speak openly about how those relationships were only to benefit one another. Carmen will also speak about how that was the moment in which he knew that he needed a change in his life.

“As they passed me, the majority of them in the group nodded at me saying, hey man, keep your head up; God loves you’ and at that point I wasn’t a believer,” Eaborn remembers.

After that group left, he walked into the front door of the Visalia Rescue Mission and asked who they were. He found out that they were in a one-year program. As it turned out, Eaborn walked into the building on intake day and, after an assessment, was given the last spot in the upcoming program.

Eaborn then remembers a dream he had. He was 30 days into his year-long program and felt that he wanted to leave to find a job. He felt ready. Eaborn tells a story about how the rescue mission staff would not tell him he had to stay, but they would tell him they discouraged him from leaving. In turn, the counselors suggested he prayed about the situation.

Eaborn admits that he was not a religious man, but decided to try a prayer. He says that he asked God to show him a sign that he existed and he had a dream that night.

“In that dream Rick Berbereia (then director of ministry operations at Visalia) and Scott Tyler (also on the Visalia staff) were in my dream and they sat me down in an office and told me that they told me they wanted to hire me as a full-time faculty member. I grabbed my notebook and I grabbed a pen and went into a laundry facility and wrote my dream down,” Earborn said.

As he tells this story, Eaborn reaches for his wallet and removes a folded, yellowing sheet of notebook paper that is filled with neat cursive writing in blue ink with a date on the front. He reads the note aloud and it describes his dream. Eaborn affirms that this is the point in which he begins to call himself a believer.

Carmen went on to graduate the program – one of only two to graduate from a class that began with 13. Upon graduation, Eaborn worked his way into a full-time position as a counselor at the Visalia Rescue Mission and, in an interesting twist, was offered a position at the Grant County Rescue Mission by GCRM Executive Director Rick Berbereia, who had been hired to lead the Mission in Marion. Eaborn moved to Marion on Jan. 22, 2017.

“It’s one thing to tell someone how to live and quite another to show someone how to live,” Berbereia explained. “Carmen is a model of showing people how to live.”

Eaborn has been clean for a few years now and has been an inspiration to a number of others, but there is one incident that sticks out more than the others.

“I remember my brother had gotten into heroin as well and, having been clean and working at the mission, I had gotten close with quite a few of the law enforcement officers,” he began. “So I go see my brother through the plexiglass and he takes one look at me and knows that I’ve beaten it. I tell him that I love him and that, no matter what he decides to do, I will take him wherever he wants to go when he gets out.”

Along with Carmen, his brother is now clean and works at a rescue mission in California. Both of the men are now engaged to be married and, although it can be difficult to see each other, Eaborn’s brother will be the best man at his wedding.

Eaborn does not shy away from his past struggles in hopes of inspiring the future of others. He admits that he was broken, but feels that being broken is the best way to serve God, as well as the best way to heal. He explains that he feels his life is exactly where God wants it to be and credits only God for the chance at recovery. Eaborn does have a message to those in need, though.

“It is never beyond hope,” he said. “Reach out to someone that doesn’t have an agenda; someone that is truly interested in seeing you succeed.”

This is the first of a series of articles that will focus on drug addiction and recovery in Grant County.