Garry Ruvoli

I was sitting in prison after getting my third felony possession charge and thinking back; how did I get here?  Where did I go wrong?  Why was I so stubborn?  Why didn’t I listen to my family and friends?


Every time I was in trouble with the law or really down and out, I would find myself crying out to God.  I would say how sorry I was, apologize for everything I had done and vow that if I could get out of this situation, I would not let it happen again.  But, every time I would go right back to doing the same things.  I was stuck in a vicious circle (cycle?) called addiction with no way out, or so I thought.


The summer before my sophomore year at college, my dad bought a new bass boat, a 21-foot stratus with a 250 horsepower mercury engine.  He wanted to take the new boat and go on a weekend long outing so he planned a fishing trip to Lake Shelbyville for Labor Day weekend 2004.


The weather that weekend was amazing; it was sunny and perfect for fishing.  We caught a few fish Saturday so it was a good day.  Sunday morning was a different story.  We had been out on the lake all morning without even a bite.  At lunchtime, we tried to pull into the pier where they have a little restaurant to get a bite to eat, but every dock was filled.  The lake was packed with boaters.  So, we decided to cruise the lake to find some new fishing spots for early Monday morning and then stop fishing for the day.


This is where my life changed.  While we were out cruising the lake, a 25-foot speedboat was doing figure 8’s, which is jumping the wakes of a cruise ship.  The speedboat came down and the driver of the boat must not have been paying attention.  My dad saw the boat coming at us so he pulled off of the throttle and turned our boat to the left.  One of the passengers on their boat yelled, “There is a boat in front of us,” and the driver pulled their boat hard to the right.  Their boat hit my dad right on the driver side of our boat and then continued over the front part of our deck.  


The impact tipped us perpendicular to the water, and my dad slammed into me.  We then tipped back the other direction and my dad flew across hitting his ribcage on the side of the boat.  He was about to go overboard, so I grabbed the handle to hold on to and I caught him by the back of his pants.  He was knocked out.  He was in the water from his waist up.  I was calling his name, but he didn’t respond.  Finally, when the boat leveled out, I picked him up and laid him on the front deck.  He started coming to and responding to me. 


 The other boat called 911 immediately because they said they knew there was going to be serious injuries.  The Water Police came in about 10 minutes and they ended up towing us to a dock where they did a police report. 


Our adrenaline was running so neither of us thought we were seriously injured. However, when we got back to the hotel that day, my dad was starting to feel pain so we decided to head back home.  I took my father to the emergency room that evening where he found out he had 4 broken ribs.  I ended up going to urgent care the next day where I found out I had a separated shoulder.  I was prescribed a two-month supply of pain pills  - Vicodin to be exact. 


There was something about these pain pills.  They were like a miracle drug.  Before long, I was taking some sort of pain pill every day.  Everywhere I turned, I would find them.  They consumed me; they were all I thought about.  I liked the way they made me feel, and I was a completely different person when I took them.  In two short months, I had become mentally and physically dependent on these pills.  My need for them got progressively worse. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.  It couldn’t be a problem, I thought, because doctors prescribed them and the job of a doctor is to help you not hurt you.  I convinced myself that they were safe because pharmacies give them out and monitored them.


I played baseball my sophomore year at South Suburban College, but I really had no care in the world other than how I was going to get some more pills.  I did physical therapy for my shoulder, which helped, but in my mind, I didn’t think it did.  I thought the only thing that was helping my shoulder were the pills.


The pills affected my baseball skills.  I was not the player that I once was because my focus had shifted.  It was no longer on baseball.  It was on pain pills.  My stats went down tremendously from my freshman year.  The pro scouts were no longer looking at me.  I took the bare minimum class schedule because the only reason I was at South Suburban College was to play baseball.  So, what was I going to do next after South Suburban College?  I decided to enroll at Purdue University Calumet for a semester.  It was once again, a halfhearted attempt to appear to others that I had everything figured out and I was doing the right thing.


My friend’s dad was a Local 63 Ironworker.  He told us the union was hiring and suggested that his son and I apply.  So, I did and before I knew it, I was in the apprenticeship program.  I thought this was going to be the answer to everything.  A steady job with the potential of making more than enough money to support my pill habit.  The problem was the more money I made, the more I spent on pills.  Eventually I failed a drug test.  I was calling off of work or showing up late because I couldn’t find any pills.  I was not reliable in any facet of my life. 


There was no way I could sustain a job, because I was consumed with my addiction.  I then started to do what was out of character for me – stealing, robbing, and lying.  I didn’t care, as long as I got the pills.  One day my buddy and I were having a really tough time finding pills.  He mentioned he knew where he could get some heroin.  Heroin was something I vowed I would never do, but I was about to go for it.  We ended up getting some and snorting it.  Before long, I was shooting up because the high was better.  I used to look at people who did heroin and think, “why”, only to find myself doing the same thing.  I had lost all control.


My family was trying to help me all they could.  They sent me to different 30-day rehabs, which I would complete and go right back to heroin.  No matter how bad I wanted to stop, I couldn’t.  I didn’t know how or which direction to turn.  Eventually the law caught up to me. 


So here I was, 28 years old, waking up in prison and thinking it was all a dream.  While I was in prison, my mother contacted Restoration Ministries to see if I could get into Harvey House.  There was no way I was going to parole out of prison and go to my parents’ house or either one of my sisters’ and brother-in-laws’ houses.  I had burned all those bridges way too many times.  They certainly were not going to believe that I had changed or that the system changed me.  My word had no value to them and hadn’t for some time.  I was going to have to go somewhere to prove that I had enough and wanted to change.


I paroled out of prison on July 19, 2013 to a halfway house on 149th and Lincoln in Harvey.  I had to deal with a few issues with the parole office and so I didn’t enter Harvey House until July 26, 2013. 


Restoration Ministries and Harvey House definitely have been a Godsend in my life.  It has been a transformation process that all of my family and friends can say has worked.  I always believed in God, but never allowed the process of God to work.  God has given us all free will to do what we want, but when I was truly changed all of my decisions and choices changed.  God put the right people in place in my life from Dr. Sullivan and Ray Banks to members of the Spirit of God Fellowship.  I remained teachable and open to everything because I finally realized my life was worth it.  Dr. Sullivan always says, “He doesn’t care where you were yesterday, but he is excited about where you will be tomorrow.” 


While I was in Harvey House, I went back to South Suburban College and completed my associate’s degree.  I graduated from Harvey House on January 28, 2015 and I am starting at Purdue University Calumet for my bachelors in business this fall.  Currently, I am the director of Harvey House Program, a position I was given last September. My family wants me to come around all the time for family gatherings because they too have seen the complete change in my life.  It is about my actions and the consistency behind my actions.  God has a purpose for each one of us.  I had to go through the suffering I went through because that is what has built my character and made me who I am today.


Restoration Ministries provided a life that I only dreamed about.  Thru many circumstances they helped me succeed and taught me life skills, including a saying I hold on to: just because I was down, I was never out.  Restoration Ministries showed me to always have faith and believe that anything is possible with God.  When you are so low, you tend to give up because you see no way out.  Restoration Ministries provided that way out and I am blessed and forever grateful.