The Burning Man - Salvation Army Canada

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  • Apr25Thu

    The Burning Man

    Oil-rig specialist James McIntyre's addictions almost consumed him. Would he ever find peace? April 25, 2013 by Ken Ramstead
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    Faith & Friends
    The Salvation Army - - The Burning Man James McIntyre with a colleague in Kuwait

    “I'd always known God was watching over me, but I refused to acknowledge Him,” says James McIntyre. “I had it all, but I was messed up. I had to hit rock-bottom before I let Him into my life.”

    Escape to Alberta
    Born in Kingston, Ont., James grew up on the wrong side of town. Most of his friends had either served a stint in one of the city's prisons or had family serving sentences.

    James himself dabbled in drug dealing and dealt with some pretty rough customers.

    “At one time in my life,” he says, “I wanted to be Canada's number 1 career criminal, and I was doing pretty good at getting there!”

    It was his drug dealing that landed James in just enough trouble that he had to leave the province for fear of his life. A couple of his friends out West were working in the oil patch, and the 22-year-old decided to join them in 1979.

    A New Home
    James had always been possessed with a disciplined work ethic and that stood him in good stead in his new home.

    “I'd always worked hard, but once I arrived in Alberta, I really learned how to work smart,” he says, “and I parlayed that into better and better positions.”

    The hard-driving, hard-drinking, hard-partying lifestyle of the drilling rigs also suited James perfectly.

    “I was making more money than I'd ever imagined,” he says. “More money than I'd ever stole or made selling drugs back in Kingston. I kept just enough for drugs and food. The rest I sent to my wife.

    “She couldn't believe it was 'legit' until she came out to Alberta to see for herself. She returned just long enough to get the kids packed, sell everything we owned there and move in here.”

    Back From the Brink
    While recuperating from a broken leg, James was hired by a Canadian company that dealt with extinguishing oil-well blowouts. Just as his leg was healing, Iraq invaded Kuwait, the country was looted and ravaged by the Iraqi Army and subsequently liberated by UN forces. In the interim, the country's entire oil production went up in the flames from burning oil rigs. International help was called in to cap the gushers, and James' company was part of that effort.

    In Canada, James worked 12-hour days from January to March 1990 assembling heavy-duty oil-rig equipment prior to the company's actual departure.

    “It was indescribable,” he goes on to say. “Once we disembarked at the airport, we could see nothing but fires.The ground was rumbling and there were dead bodies everywhere. The whole place was rank with death. Before we could even start, we bulldozed bodies into makeshift burial plots. But we did what we had to do and we capped the wells.”

    With the Kuwait assignment, James acquired the reputation of someone who knew how to get the job done, and assignments in places as far afield as Syria, Vietnam and Bangladesh followed.

    Back home as a field manager, James' hard-drinking lifestyle continued unabated until 1996, when he lapsed into unconsciousness after yet another binge and was only revived through CPR.

    The doctor explained that if the 39-year-old didn't stop, he'd drink himself to death.

    “I took him at his word and haven't had a drink since,” says James.

    Stark Reflection
    Ironically, just as his life was straightening out, his wife left him, and his two daughters married and moved away.

    “I was 40, dealing with abandonment and loneliness,” James says, “and I didn't have alcohol as a buffer anymore.”

    Alone and desperate, James met a woman with serious addiction issues and he started doing cocaine with her. One night when the cocaine supply ran out, they switched to crack.

    “The next couple of years were a blur,” James says. “I don't remember ever eating or sleeping. I lost my home, my job, everything I had.”

    Though his daughter and some former business associates tried to get him out of the life he was living, James would stay clean for months at a time and then abruptly fall back into a life of drugs.

    “It was as if I had no power over myself,” he says.

    One day, James found himself in a crack house in Red Deer, Alta. Stoned and unwashed, lying on a dirty couch, he idly watched two of his drug acquaintances, one with a cast on her arm and her jaw wired shut from a beating she had received weeks before.

    “They were beating each other up, even though they had been friends for 20 years,” James says. “And for no apparent reason. It had probably been triggered by something minor, but in their drugged-out state, they'd become enraged.”

    As James pondered upon the futility of their fight, he started to reflect on what his own life had become.

    “I realized I had no soul,” he says. “I was totally empty inside. And it was at that precise moment that God came into my life. I got up off the couch, got on a bus and returned to my daughter's home in Leduc, Alta.”

    Home At Last
    James ended up at The Salvation Army's Anchorage program in Edmonton.

    “The first thing the intake manager said to me was, 'This is a Christian program, but you don't have to believe in God today. If you do the work and you don't diss God, you can stay.'

    “I did, and I sobered up.”

    The Salvation Army - - The Burning Man “I always thought I was in recovery to get rid of a crack or cocaine addiction,” says James McIntyre. “I finally realized I was in recovery to build a relationship with God”

    Through The Salvation Army's Anchorage program and the aftercare Keystone program that followed, as well as the 12-Step and the Cocaine Anonymous classes, James used the discipline and drive that he'd always possessed to not only graduate from the courses but even lead some himself. As he did, he became enthralled in learning about God and building a relationship with Him that he'd never had. And in the process, he started attending and excelling in the classes needed to become an official member of The Salvation Army.

    “I was working off one addiction at a time, one sin at a time,” he says now. “I always thought I was in recovery to get rid of a crack or cocaine addiction, but I finally realized I was in recovery to build a relationship with God. And if that meant putting my name in ink on a piece of Salvation Army paper, that's what I was going to do.”

    James is now the recruiting sergeant at The Salvation Army's Crossroads Community Church in Edmonton. In that capacity, he is responsible for welcoming people to the church and assisting in preparation classes for church membership. While he has thought about becoming a pastor one day, James is content with where he is right now.

    “This is where I'm at, this is where I'm staying,” he smiles. “I've found a home here at The Salvation Army.”


    On Tuesday, July 4, 2017, Deborah Boomer said:

    A very inspiring and honest bearing of your soul! As you have reached out for God, and he has changed your life, may that love from God trickle down to the people you encounter! God bless you!


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