I meet Angie and Rick Beynon as they are arriving at Newcastle Place, where they have been serving as volunteers for ICCS for the past several months. I am wrangling donation boxes out of my car as they drive up and Rick immediately takes charge, not only lifting boxes out of my car, but organizing to bring a dolly to carry them and get the exact staff member who needs to receive them. Before I know it, the small task is done.
That exemplifies a lot of what I later learn as I sit down to hear their story – a tale of heartache, of re-emerging trust, and of turning outward to give, out of proactive love.
When we finally sit down and start to chat, the energy and commitment of Angie and Rick shine out even more. They both jump in to give pieces of their story, sharing from their joint experiences, and their passion for recovery and care.
It was in Edmonton that they met, and eventually developed a 12 step-based program with their local church, helping people who had experienced addiction to find hope, and supporting their church team to be a part of that healing.
“You take the 12 steps and Jesus and put them together, and boy is there a lot of power and hope for life there,” says Angie with a grin.
It is a hope that they have experienced on a very personal level. Before he met and married Angie, Rick experienced the pain of addiction and homelessness himself. Financial difficulties forced him to move with his then-wife and four children from BC to Alberta, and eventually broke apart his marriage. Alone and working nearly 100 hours a week to support them, he turned to substances and then in a weak moment accepted the offer of crack cocaine. Within weeks he was addicted – and he quickly lost everything. Soon, he ended up homeless and at rock bottom – and the pain kept sucking him even further down. “My life was a mess. I was …hopeless. I couldn’t see my kids anymore.”
It was a text from his then 10-year-old youngest daughter that reached him in that dark place. She was angry about the way he was parenting – or not parenting, lost in his addiction – and she let him know in a furious message. It shocked him, but it told him something important – that they loved him still, and that he needed to get some help.
So, he did.
The family doctor directed him to detox, and he started. From there he went to treatment. It wasn’t an easy road. “I didn’t quite make it the first time, I had to do a little more research, as they say. The year after treatment was the hardest year of my life. And then I almost died – I tried to kill myself… the Lord kept me alive.”
Even though he couldn’t see it, there was a flicker of light ahead. He tried again and found that all of the treatment centres in Calgary, where he wanted to remain to be close to his kids, were full. So he took the only open space, in Edmonton…and found a new path to hope.
Angie was already there. She’d noticed a new guy in church who was a powerful worshipper, but didn’t think anything of it. Then on Mother’s Day 2013 she went to altar to rededicate herself to the Lord. “As soon as I was done with that, the Lord said ‘ go introduce yourself to that fellow’. And the first words out of my mouth were, ‘anything but that, Lord!’ ”
Eventually, after three more prods, she did introduce herself that day. They sat together the next Sunday at church, and then the Sunday after they went out for lunch. Five months later they were married.
Rick laughs, “With that, the world of addictions, I learned just not to trust anybody. But the first thing I heard the Lord telling me about her was ‘you can trust her – she is a faithful person.’ So that was the first thing I felt about her – that I could trust her, after a time when I couldn’t find one person I could trust.” That first step on the road to trust led bit by bit to Rick opening up to others, and supported his recovery.
Together 8 years now, they have had many adventures – from teaching and outreach in Uganda to leading recovery programs and training for people who have experienced homelessness and substance use. They are committed to the 12 steps program, to taking that training and more to those who need it most, and equipping the church and others to know how to support people suffering from substance and mental health challenges. Rick even worked as a counsellor, chaplain and volunteer at the same recovery centre where he himself went to sober up.
Losses didn’t end though. Rick’ oldest daughter, who had moved in with the couple just weeks after their marriage, died of a fentanyl overdose a few years ago, …” suddenly, as they all are.” The heartbreak is still with them, but spurs them on to new action to help others survive.
“If we can do one little thing to help one struggling addict, alcoholic or somebody who’s got a challenge have a better day, then our lives become full,” says Rick.
Angie continues, “So there is hope. That’s the thing that I have witnessed… the Lord can really transform hearts if people are just willing. Does that mean they’re not going to make mistakes and relapse? No. We’ve walked that, and that’s ok. The key is just to start over and try again.
I’m doing this out of love. It’s all about the love – the love God has for us, our love for each other, and in this season, man we need to love, and we still need to know that there’s people that love us.”