, Muskogee, OK

April 24, 2013

Local man who struggled with addiction: God is recovery

— By Miranda Anderson

Times Correspondent

The Faith Based Therapeutic Community Corporation in Fort Gibson gives it’s testimony in human beings, not in words, said Brandon Smalley — one of those “human beings” who participates in the program.

“God’s mercy and grace are sufficient for all of us, but when he brings an addict like me, when he brings somebody through that amount of grief and pain, and on the other side they come out and are a better stronger person and give back to the people who are like them, His grace is really showing,” Smalley said.

Smalley, on his second go-round as a participant of Mark Seabolt’s rehab program, has been sober for 320 days now, he said.

“Almost a year. It’s the longest I’ve been sober since I was 12 years old,” Smalley said. “Mark Seabolt’s program is great. You are going to get out of it what you put into it.”

Smalley said recovery, for him, is a lifelong process.

Other rehab programs let participants back into the “real world” after six months without “a clue what they are doing. It’s a slow process,” he said. “But Mark Seabolt’s program is a lifelong program, if you want it to be.”

Seabolt, once an addict himself, founded FBTCC. Smalley was sent away from the program once, but went back and is nearing his graduation date.

“Some people walk away, and they fail, but I’m not going to walk away. I’ll still go to the meetings and church services there,” Smalley said. “But I’m also prepared to branch off in other directions.”

Smalley grew up in Fort Gibson with his mom and step-father. His trouble began in high school, he said, when he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol and bouncing around from school to school.

He said his mother was a “devout Christian woman” who died when he was 13 after battling cancer for a year or two. His stepfather was a “raging alcoholic,” Smalley said.

“I had grown up in a Pentecostal church and was pretty active in it, but by the time my mom passed away I started having doubts about God — I started having doubts about everything,” he said. “Instead of graduating I got my GED my senior summer and I enrolled in college that fall. By this time I was a drug addict, a drug dealer, and had some problems in Tahlequah with the law.”

Smalley sent to rehab for the first time when he was 22, working at a chicken factory at the rehab.

“I knew when I got out, there probably wouldn’t be much change. However, things did change,” he said.

He got married and that’s when his addiction started to take over.

“I had some great jobs. Went all the way to Hawaii for one, had a company in Illinois, welding and pipe fitting,” Smalley said. ““It was 2007, 2008 that I really started to become addicted. I had a neck injury that put me out of work. I started seeing pain doctors. I was on Xanax, Oxycodone, any kind of narcotic.”

Smalley said he still experimented with other things but “nothing had me like the pills did.”

He struggled with driving under the influence arrests, domestic violence cases and seen his wife and his step children also become “addicts,” was shot in the chest, stabbed on two different occasions, he said.

“But what really started to change my life in 2011 was when I was stabbed by my stepson. It caused my lung to collapse,” Smalley said. “I was hospitalized for six weeks. At that point, I knew if I didn’t get away from these substances that had me they would always have me.”

He faced a life-changing surgery and began to seek God in his hospital room, he said.

“I was a sick, sick person — I’m still a sick person, but I’m not anything like I used to be,” he said. “I lost a lot of friends and family in those years.”

Smalley didn’t ask to go to FBTCC. He was sentenced there.

“I thought that I was going to prison,” Smalley said. “It was by the grace of God that I ran into (attorney) Mark Grover.”

Grover told Smalley rehab could be an option.

Smalley began rehab, but it wasn’t smooth sailing right away.

“It gave me hope. I went to detox in Tulsa. I got off of narcotics, went to FBTCC, and on May 13th, I was told to leave,” Smalley said. “I still had an addict mentality that everyone was out to get me, still didn’t get it. It was on Mother’s Day that I left.”

Smalley went to visit his mother’s grave.

“I started to do the only thing I knew to do, stay sober,” he said. “I gave somebody of utmost importance a letter asking him to please not give up on me.”

Then Smalley went back into FBTCC, with strict sanctions — he wasn’t allowed to leave the property for 90 days, use the phone, no extra privileges.

“I had a lot of sleepless nights. I spent a lot of time by myself and a lot of time in meetings with other people every night,” Smalley said. “It didn’t matter how hard I worked, a couple of hours of sleep were all I got then. I didn’t have anything to keep me entertained.”

What he did have, Smalley said, was a Bible.

“I got entrenched in it, started seeking God in the most random places,” he said. “I’d seek Him in back yards where I worked, in the bathroom when I couldn’t sleep at night, in ditches where I was working.

“I convinced myself to like myself to love myself again, and that there were other people who hadn’t given up on me. I found God out there somewhere.”

Read more about Smalley’s journey with FBTCC in the May 1 edition of the Times.