26 Jan Shay’s Story
In the summer of 2021, Shay faced a life-changing crossroads. “Basically,” he remembers, “I was going to die, or I was going to get help.”
No stranger to grief, he’d used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of one heart-wrenching loss after another. As a teenager, he lost one brother to suicide. Later, another died when he was hit by a drunk driver. And another passed away from cancer. Add to that the angst of divorce and then, just two years ago, the death of his father, and Shay found himself spiraling. He lost his job and his addiction worsened.
“There was so much grief. I just felt like I was alone and I was done. Honestly, I wanted to die. But it turns out God has a lot more for me.”
Shay began to discover that “more” when he came to Hope Ministries in August of last year. A good friend, who also happens to be his ex-wife’s husband and his daughter’s stepdad, had gone through our life recovery program in the past—and he was the one to drive Shay from his home in Missouri up to Des Moines.
Shay arrived at our men’s shelter on a Thursday and, he admits, he was mainly looking for “a way out of trouble” and didn’t necessarily have high expectations for changing his life. But only four days later, God got ahold of his heart during a church service.
“The songs they were playing and the message that was preached—it’s like it was directed toward me. It broke me down and I knew I was where I needed to be. From that point on, I wanted to be here.”
That desire was a powerful catalyst. Shay found himself eager to grow in his faith. He pursued sobriety and faced the past hurts and areas in his life where he needed healing. For the next ten months, he dug into his classes and dedicated himself to a new way of living.
“What God has done in my life is incredible. I have more feelings now—good feelings. I’m not shut down or isolated. Now I have bad moments instead of bad days. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help.”
Each step of the way, Shay was uplifted by the support of his family, including his 21-year-old daughter. “She’s my best friend. We talked every day that I was here.”
In late May 2022, Shay graduated from our program and moved back to Missouri, where he now works at the same farm where he previously lost his job. And if you happened to run into Shay today, you’d probably have a hard time believing this is the same man who was ready to give up a year and a half ago!
In between hanging out with his family and attending a tractor pull whenever he can, he’s had multiple opportunities to share his story with others. A testimonial video made by his church and a filmed speech he gave to high school students have been viewed thousands of times.
“It’s overwhelming and humbling and exciting,” he says, adding that he also feels drawn to a new purpose. “I feel like God is leading me to become a drug counselor. I want to go back to school.”
To those who have supported Hope Ministries through financial gifts and prayers, Shay says he’s eternally grateful. “Without you, I don’t believe I’d be here today. That’s the truth.”
And to other individuals facing the struggles he’s been through, he has encouraging words: “Don’t give up because God never gives up on you.”