Don Nicholson thanks God that he now can help others.
Don Nicholson, the house manager at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, was sorting through some old papers recently when he came upon a desperate note dated 2011 from a jail inmate seeking help.
He recognized the letter — he had written it.
“As I wiped the dust away, the letter on top of the stack made me freeze,” he posted on Facebook. “I recognized the handwriting; it was mine. It was the letter I wrote from jail, hundreds of miles away from the mission, asking for help.”
As he read the letter, he recalled the person he used to be and his tears fell on the paper.
Nicholson had spent his adult years exploring for oil and drinking alcohol.
As an electronic-instrumentation specialist, he worked for a major oil company in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Africa. After hours, he drank to kill the pain.
Four years ago, at age 51, he found himself in a jail cell in Vernal for an assault he had committed during an alcohol-fueled blackout. Although he had tried on numerous occasions to quit drinking, he just couldn’t do it.
After three months locked away from booze, he prayed to God. “I had some clarity, and knew I had to change the way of what I had become,” he said Wednesday.
It was about that time in the Uintah County Jail that he found a brochure on the floor of the day area near his cell. It was from the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, and it offered help and redemption.
“I held onto it for two weeks. I kept reading it, and I prayed,” he recalled. “I tried to get sober for a long time, but no matter what church I went to, it didn’t take away the pain that alcohol did.”
Nicholson describes that ache and the emptiness it abides as the result of “spiritual poverty.”
“I had turned away from God. Spiritually, that manifests itself in many ways,” he said. “It leaves a big hole in your heart. I was selfish and hurt those people around me.”
The Rescue Mission answered his letter and accepted him into its 13-month recovery program that is based on work, Bible study, chapel service and recovery classes.
He recalls being transported from the jail in Vernal and dropped off in downtown Salt Lake City three months later.
“I was somewhat shocked,” he remembered, “because I had never been homeless.”
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