A Drunkard's Prayer

Will this couch go with my salvation? A South Florida operation moves furniture and damp souls.

For example, it's been a bad week. You're out on a boat with some friends, some bikini-clad women, and a cooler packed with booze. One of the gorgeous women offers you a beer.

"That's the insanity of being an abnormal drinker," Murphy says. "That moment. That moment where you know you can't drink. You know it. But in that moment, you sing the abnormal drinker's anthem: 'Fuck it!' "

Here, the answer to that insanity is twofold: waking up every morning and putting in a hard day's work, and living a life that is driven by Jesus and Jesus only. Many men at Faith Farm had never awakened to an alarm clock before entering the program, Webb says, and only a few were devout Christians before their attempted regeneration. Now, they wake at 5:30 a.m., eat breakfast as a group, go to church from 7 to 8, attend class from 8 to 9, and work their assigned jobs until dinner at 6 p.m. From there, some men read their Bibles until lights-out at 10. The goal is to develop a healthy approach to life and practice it until all the demons that led to drink or drugs simply fade away.

The men of Faith Farm spend at least an hour in church every day.
C. Stiles
The men of Faith Farm spend at least an hour in church every day.

Jeff Schleibaum is a regenerated man.

A Florida native, he was the youngest of eight brothers, all of whom liked to drink. He started drinking regularly when he was 10 years old. "I'm not talking about a sip of beer," he says. "I'm talking about a few beers every night. It was sick." After high school, he got a job on a landscaping crew, an occupation that allowed him to drink on and off throughout the day. By his mid-20s, his hands would shake uncontrollably without a steady flow of alcohol, he says. At 23, he had a son, but his girlfriend couldn't take the drinking and left with the baby. She married a man who didn't drink much.

Schleibaum would start drinking first thing in the morning, he says. By the afternoon, he would load up on supplies for the night: usually a case of beer and half a gallon of whiskey. By the middle of the night, when he realized he had finished all the beer and all but a few inches of whiskey, he says, he would think about how he'd failed again. He felt like the world would be better without him.

Before he came to Faith Farm, Schleibaum says, he had attempted suicide 12 times. He tried overdosing, hanging, drinking bleach. He still has scars on his wrists from the first and 12th attempts. "I'd drink and drink and drink before I did it, knowing I was going to die," he says. "So when I would actually try to do it, I was so drunk, I could barely do anything."

He would always leave a bit of liquor in the bottle so in the event that he wasn't successful killing himself, he would have enough booze left to hold him over until he got to the store.

Schleibaum entered Faith Farm five years ago, after the 12th suicide try. He woke up early, went through the classes, went to work, and read his Bible. Soon, he began to feel a change, he says. The labor, the suffering, broke him down. The religion, the thought that no matter how bad he had been, he could be loved if only he could ask for it, built him anew. In the outside world, he had had a quick temper and a propensity to fight. But after a few weeks on the farm, a serenity enveloped him. "It was like a warmth pouring over me," he says. "An actual warm feeling that started at my head and went over my body."

After graduation nine months later, Schleibaum felt at home on the farm. He asked to stay, and he moved into a small apartment. They made him head landscaper. He planted a row of palms in front of the office and well-manicured shrubbery around the church. As time went by, he learned new skills and took on more responsibilities. Now, he manages the new-furniture store. He also launched the Faith Farm softball and bowling teams; men may participate only after receiving their manager's approval, and if Schleibaum hears that a man is slacking off at work, that man is off the team.

He doesn't really think about drinking anymore, he says — "maybe once in a while if I'm working on a sprinkler system; those things drive me nuts." As a new, sober man, though, he hungered for a relationship with his son. Men are allowed to have family visits at Faith Farm on Sundays for church. Jeff started the children's church, where he teaches the visiting kids while parents attend the main service. He teaches the children lessons from the Bible. After Bible study, they play football and soccer.

Although his son still lives with his ex and her new husband, Schleibaum is trying to piece together a relationship. For the boy's 16th birthday, Schleibaum took him on a road trip to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his son's favorite team. They talked about football and how alcohol can ruin lives. As they drove back, his son asked Schleibaum if he would ever leave Faith Farm.

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