Before he was even 30 years old, Bob Gray's life was in such a shambles, he said, that he didn't have to die to go to hell. He was there.
His family wanted nothing to do with him.He was physically and emotionally shot.
The worst part, he said, was his thoughts - so filled with "garbage and evil" that he couldn't stand it.
Gray was a substance abuser, addicted to both alcohol and drugs. He started experimenting with the substances in junior high school and "had a good time for a long time."
He was in and out of treatment programs, but nothing worked. Then he found himself at what he called the "valley of decision time. I was going to die or get real. And lying in the detox center in my detox pj's I finally started being honest with myself."
Two and a half years ago, he stopped abusing drugs, alcohol and himself. Today he sits on the other side of the desk: He works at the Detox Center (run by Volunteers of America) with others who are leading a life he remembers well.
"I didn't realize how lucky I was," he said, "until recently. By the time someone washes up on my beach - detox - he's at the end of the line."
Gray recently published a small book, called "The Alcoholic's Prayer," in which he recounts his own journey through alcoholism and drug abuse, and describes the steps he took to get his life back on track.
When Gray tells others how he reclaimed his life, he credits God, his church (he's LDS) and the 12-point plan he learned through Alcoholics Anonymous. Peace of mind - and strength over addiction - came only when he aligned himself with his beliefs.
But he hastens to assure the addicted people he works with that he's "not trying to convert you. I'm not asking you to go to church. I'm just trying to show you how to quit drinking.
"Alcohol and drug users - you can't tell us anything. We have to do it all the hard way," he said. "The bottom line is, you have to have gone through enough hell to finally humble yourself and do what it takes. I just try to keep drilling into the guys who come into detox: `You're going to die. There is an end to what you're doing. And you're going to lose a whole bunch.' "
When an inebriate comes into detox, he is usually "dirty beyond belief," Gray said. "We do an arrest report, empty their pockets and put them in the sleep-off area, where there are mats on the ground so they won't fall far. We let them sober up for a few hours and try to persuade them to shower. If they'll let us, we do their laundry and put them into pajamas, give them a little food and try to persuade them to stay.
"If someone wants help, we'll do anything we can for as long as we can."