Torn Apart / Restored – an autobiography of a man torn apart by abuse, drugs, alcohol, violence, prison and divorce but who was restored by God’s grace, forgiveness and love.
The formative years – the bitter taste of rejection
When you are in prison you have plenty of time to think. My mind was filled with thoughts. How did my life end up like this? I thought things like this only happen to other people. Where did I lose control of my life? I began to think back over my life. My childhood was very dysfunctional, yet at the time however it seemed normal. The things that happened at home were happening all over the neighborhood.
I was a shy kid. I was very insecure and always wanting to please people. I grew up confused, not really knowing who I was. My ethnicity is Russian\Indian\Irish, I didn’t even really know what I was, but, being raised in an all Hispanic neighborhood and culture, I picked up a very heavy Hispanic accent.
Sometimes, after school, the white kids would throw rocks at me; chase me home yelling, “go back to Mexico you spic!” I would run home crying, “Just leave me alone! “
The hatred inside of me began to grow, for myself; and especially towards “white people”. Not knowing how to deal with all these emotions inside me, I turned to alcohol and by the time I was ten years old, I was an alcoholic. I would spend about three to four nights a week drunk. In order to support this addiction I learned how to steal. (Page 2 – 3)
Knew nothing on how to be a husband or father
We tried going back to church. For several years we would pop in and out of church, wanting the blessings; but never willing to make a full commitment. I knew nothing about being a husband and even less about being a father. Now; in my marriage I was confronted with facing my problems. Understand; my life coping skills were to run, to hide. I secretly turned to the alcohol again trying to manage my emotions the only way I knew how. I vowed not to let my marriage end up like my parents, so I did everything the total opposite of what I had seen them do. Not wanting to make waves or become abusive, I withdrew into myself. I went along with whatever Gloria wanted.
I was miserable in my marriage. Our marriage was crumbling. Gloria went back to church and I found myself drinking more and more. I began looking at pornography; convinced that if my wife was there for me I wouldn’t have to do these things. You know, they say that sin is never satisfied, that is so true. I justified the things I was doing. Besides I wasn’t hurting anyone, in fact no one even knew that I was doing these things. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the bars, having adulteress relationships, and girls were calling our house. This however was the very excuse she had been waiting for. For years, she was looking for a way out. She no longer had any emotions for me, and just the sight of me disgusted her. (Page 12)
Unleashing evil in my life
I couldn’t remember ever feeling so afraid. Pray! That was one of the first thoughts that came to my mind. That’s what you do when you need help. Right? So I began praying. “Oh God, help me not to be afraid! Please help me not to be afraid”… Nothing… “Oh God, help me not to be afraid in Jesus name”…Nothing! What could I do? God must not care about me, I thought.
All right then, and out of frustration and anger I made my next prayer. “Alright devil… if you can make me not afraid, you can have me!” Have you ever half-heartedly made a statement, not really meaning it, but saying it anyway? This prayer that I said was made out of frustration with God because I had not gotten my way. I took this prayer so lightly, but the enemy; (the devil) took me with complete seriousness. (Page 20)
A changed wife
I bought her a ring to show her my appreciation for all she was doing for me. I remember feeling so proud. It was a very expensive diamond ring.
When she opened it up, her smile quickly turned to a frown. “How did you get this? Was it drug money?”
“What did it matter?” I said. “You know Gloria, I don’t have a job, and all my money is drug money!”
“I can’t take it.” She said.
“What do you mean, you can’t take it?” “I can’t take something Darin that I know that you got through destroying someone else’s life.”
“If you don’t want drug money, then I’m not giving you anything! Pay your bills on your own!” I remember being so mad at the words that she was telling me.
“Darin” She said “God will provide for me. He promises that.”
I yelled back at her. “Look at you Gloria! You’re stupid! You barely make any money, the little money that you do make you give to that stupid church. When I step in to help you; you say you don’t need it!
Fine! Fall on your face! But don’t come running to me for my drug money!”
“You watch Darin. God will take care of me.”
Do you know that month after month I saw God continually provide for her? She never went to anyone and asked for money, the church never gave her any money. But God continually brought miracle money to her, time and time again. (Page 61 – 62)
God has a sense of humour
I sometimes thought this woman has lost her mind. What is she thinking? Hardcore gangbangers would pull up in front of our four-plex to pick up drugs, I would walk out to their cars and make the transaction.
Whenever Gloria was awake, she would come outside, walk right up to their car and ask them “How are you guys doing? Do you want some ice tea? Has anyone ever told you that Jesus loves you? That He gave His life on the cross for you?”
I would lower my head in embarrassment, and just shake my head. “Hey homie.” they would tell me. “Your lady is right on. I never heard a religious person tell us that Jesus loves us. Does she know what you’re doing?” (Page 65)
Experiencing joy, happiness and peace – in prison!
I mustered up everything I had in me, to get up, wash up, and get ready for the visit. After getting ready, the guard led me down to visiting.
It was Cheryl Nelson. She didn’t waste any time getting right to the point. She said, “Darin, I know that underneath that hard exterior is a wounded boy that is crying out for help.” She went on to tell me that Jesus loved me. She told me how He could take away the hurt, and change my life. I knew she was right. I wanted a change so bad. She continued on about the goodness of God. I don’t know why, but this time her words seemed to penetrate straight to my heart.
Cheryl continued talking as my mind began to wonder. I heard Gloria’s words “I’m only loving you Darin, like Jesus loves you.” My mind was racing; Gloria couldn’t have loved me like she did without some sort of miracle. Maybe it was true! Maybe Jesus does love me! I had to know for sure. I needed to pray, to see if I could get saved. I need to try one more time. Cheryl was still talking. I interrupted her and said. ”Just pray with me Cheryl. I need to know if I can be saved.”
Cheryl, startled by what I just said, hesitated and said “Ok, repeat this prayer with me.”
I couldn’t even follow her prayer. I found myself crying out to God, saying, “Jesus! I’ve messed up my whole life! I don’t have anything left! But if you can change what I have left, you can have me!” Instantly, I felt a surge of what felt like water begin to flow in through the back of my neck and into my torso, my belly. As this water surged in it began churning inside of me.
On the first sweep through my body I felt that creature with the wings shoot out the left side of my neck. Up and out! I felt it go!1 At each churn, I could feel different things leave my body, as quickly as I felt things leave, I felt things come in. One of the very first things that I felt was the love of Jesus! The instant I felt His love, tears began to pour down my face. The second thing I remember feeling was that Jesus instantly put a love in my heart for my wife! Next, I began feeling emotions that I thought that I would never feel again. I felt joy, happiness, sadness and peace. (Page 78 – 80)
A changed heart
When I say sadness, I began to feel sorrow for all the things that I had done to people, but I somehow felt that no matter what happened that everything was going to be alright. I couldn’t explain just what was happening, but I knew that I was saved. I don’t remember how the visit ended. I just remember going back to my pod. I immediately got on the phone and called Gloria.
“Gloria!” I screamed “I got saved!” What?” She said.
“I got saved Gloria! I gave my life to Jesus! Even though I’m behind bars, I feel free!” There was a dead silence on the phone… “Yea, right. What are you trying to do Darin?”
“No really! I did! I got saved. I know Gloria, I’m so sorry for everything that I ever did to you. You’re going to see Gloria, its real.”
I somehow knew that I was going to have to prove myself to her and everyone else, but that didn’t matter, I felt free! When I got back into my cell, that’s when I noticed that the withdrawals were gone! I was tired, but the withdrawals were gone. I was so tired. I couldn’t remember the last time that I was on a normal sleep schedule. I did a lot of sleeping that first week.
In between sleeping, I began feeling conviction for the way that I treated so many people. As names would come to my mind, I would begin to write them down. Over the course of the next several months, I began writing letters to all of these people that I could find addresses to. Many of them were people at my wife’s church. (Page 78 – 80)
Through a Young Girl’s Eyes by Chandra “Carroll” Bryan
(Darin and Gloria’s daughter)
I don’t remember much in between the time frame of us moving from that house to the house where the “incident” occurred. That’s where I remember the most turmoil though. I remember waking up one night by the yelling, screaming and throwing of an object that shattered as it hit a wall. I jumped out of bed, ran to my bedroom door opened it up just enough for me to see what was going on. This particular night I remember standing in the hallway where I could see into a mirror in which the reflection pointed right into the kitchen. That’s where my parents had moved their fight. All I remember is hearing and seeing my father saying, “You want me to, cause I will?” as he held up a knife to his throat. He saw me look at him in the mirror and I just started yelling “Stop! You guys stop fighting! Please!!!”
The intensity of their fights would eventually become routine and me screaming in the background pleading with them to shut up and stop fighting was not unusual. I remember coloring pages to put up and cover all the holes in the cabinet doors in the kitchen where my father would punch holes in. This was no Little House On The Prairie family, that’s for sure. (Page 114)
We eventually moved into a house, thank God, I was tired of apartments. My parents both started attending church regularly. God really did a work in my parents? lives. They’ve come along way. God also did a huge transformation in the relationship between my father and me. Our relationship is nothing like it used to be. Yes, I’m saddened about the time that was lost, but God’s restored that time. My parents are my best friends. I’ve learned from my parent’s mistakes.
It’s possible to have good relationships, it really is. I see in my own marriage and relationships that some battles just need to be left alone and only God can change the heart of that situation, not you. It is also possible to have a good relationship with your parents.
If you have a parent who’s going through the same situation my parents went through; all you can do is be an example to the other person. That’s the biggest thing you can do. When I was little, I took every opportunity to talk to my father about God and that stuck with him. So you can be an influence to your unsaved parent or loved one. (Page 121)
1 This ‘creature’ was an evil spirit that Darin allowed into his life when he foolishly submitted his will to the devil.
All above quotes taken from “Torn Apart / Restored” by Darin Carroll (Co-authored by Teila Tankersley), 2010. Used with permission.
Through the eyes of Darin’s sister (Teila Tankersley)*
In high school I remember my best friend Christy calling me up one afternoon to tell me that she’d just seen my brother and Gloria, she said Darin had just shattered his car window, all I could think of was, they are at it again. They had a love hate relationship from the get go. This went on for years, so when I had heard that they had filed for divorce a part of me was relieved, finally I thought.
But, nothing prepared me for the day that my mother called to tell me to turn on the news. I watched in disbelief as the newscasters reported that my brother was being charged with manslaughter shocked, embarrassed and saddened my family did their best to maintain a good front but inside we were falling apart. My heart broke and as I sat in that court room my stomach was in knots, I wanted to embrace the family members who had just lost their mother, their sister their daughter. I wanted to reach my brother and get through to him, I wanted to embrace my sister in law, I wanted her to know we loved her but nothing I could of done at that time could of helped anyone.
In court the evidence showed that there was no gun powder on the victims hands nor on my brother’s hands but he had so many others charges against him that he accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to prison. My husband and my children did our best to try to send Gloria money to help with an occasional phone bill or a utility bill, and we tried to keep a little money on his books at the prison and we also ordered him Christian books and had them sent to the prison and we wrote him every day.
We prayed for Gloria, Chandra and Darin every single day from the night of the shooting continuing to that first year he was released from prison. We also prayed for Maria’s children, our hearts went out to them. If I could say one thing it would be that my heart goes out to every family member and friend who has a loved one behind bars it is a tough situation to be in. You feel for the victims and you still love your loved one behind bars. This experience changed us, my mother is now very active in Kairos and my daughter recently joined Daughters of Destiny a Christian ministry outreach.
As a family member there was nothing we could do for my brother for my sister in law, for my niece and for those poor children of Maria’s that would now grow up without their mother – except to pray. We didn’t have the money to meet their needs, we didn’t have the influence to open doors, we didn’t have the answers to fix the situation and we didn’t have the power to make things better for anyone. My faith was my only sanity and prayer was my only hope.
Twelve years later I can say, I’ve witnessed God restore Darin and Gloria’s marriage, their family and their lives. God took a hopeless situation and created a miracle. God is good and I can attest that God does hear our prayers.
Teila Tankersley is a free lance writer. Read inspirational articles written by Teila