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“It’s a lot of hard work to keep track of all your lies,” Marzahn said. “The problem is, many people don’t discover that until later, when they’ve made mistakes. Self-awareness doesn’t often come until you’ve hit bottom.”
Marzahn works in a world where many people do make decisions based on putting food on the table, or trying not to get shot to death.
One man told him goodbye, because he was heading out to “protect my mom,” by killing some men who had threatened her. Marzahn convinced him to consider other options, including talking to police, as well as digging deep into his faith.
“In their mind-set, they only think violence and threats will work,” Marzahn said. “But he could go to jail and his mom would still be in danger.”
Dan Cain said this is not an either-or question.
“Everything is circumstantial,” said Cain, president of RS Eden, a 42-year-old Twin Cities-based substance abuse treatment program.
“Everyone in life has temptations,” he said, temptations they can easily justify “by manipulating their thought process. Even a petty thief likes to view himself as Captain Jack Sparrow. Jack Sparrow isn’t a bad guy. He’s quirky and misunderstood.”
Like Shea, Cain recognizes the danger of that slippery slope. “You cross thresholds in life,” he said. “The first time I swore in the presence of my mother, I was sure God would strike me dead.”
“It got easier the second time. The justification gets easier.”
Cain understands this better than many. Forty-one years ago, he served time in prison for property crimes related to drug abuse. He’s been out since 1972.
“Now? Much easier. I’m much more successful. When you feel good about yourself, you’re more productive, you value things more, you’re not looking over your shoulder. You’re open to having intimate relationships.
“It’s much more rewarding.”