SOUTH FORSYTH -- When Brandon Rayburn celebrates Father’s Day today with his wife and three children, he may appreciate it more than other families. They’ve certainly been through more than many families.
“We had just gotten married, and we were about to have our first child. It was a very exciting time in my life,” he said, “but I was also just stinking drunk the whole time. Everybody knew that I was just empty.”
Rayburn dealt with addiction, mainly to alcohol and prescription drugs, for the first decade of his relationship with Kristen.
“They were readily available, and I was able to kind of hide it more. I was in a marriage, and I had kids, and it was a constant struggle to try to maintain an addiction. It was not something that just happened. It took a lot of work and a lot of effort,” Rayburn said. “It was at the point where I had no choice but to maintain the effort, that’s where it got really dark. I felt like I couldn’t escape.”
When Rayburn found out he was about to become a father, he said he could not handle it.
“I freaked out and just ended up leaving and completely was out of my mind. I decided I was just going to jump right in and quit my job and be an artist,” he said, “and it almost wrecked us financially. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see the damage I was doing, and Kristen couldn’t take it anymore.
“And she finally did the best thing that she could have ever done for me, and that was to say, ‘You need to leave. You need to go ahead and pack your things and leave.’”
“I was not present”
Rayburn’s addiction did not tip to the boiling point overnight.
He was 17 years old when he drank and smoked marijuana for the first time. It gave him a sense of freedom, he said. He felt alive.
When that became an everyday occurrence, he transferred out of art school in Atlanta to the University of Georgia, where he met his future wife.
“I blamed my poor school work on not being able to focus and started taking medication for it … ultimately, it was not the answer, and I started abusing that, as well,” he said. “That was the start of a really long pill addiction for me.”
His wife had to wake up early each morning for work, and he would have friends over in the middle of the night. She would find him passed out or still awake the next morning.
They had their first child, Madison. She is about to be a freshman at Lambert High School. Then they had a second daughter, Sydney, and a son, Jeremy.
But Rayburn’s addiction did not subside.
“I was not ever violent. I wasn’t ever. But I was not present,” he said. “I needed someone to love me the way [Kristen] did, which was to say, ‘You need to get this figured out. You need to do it elsewhere than here. We can’t support you anymore.’ Which was in the long-run a blessing in disguise.”
“Don’t cut yourself off”
Not long after that, Rayburn said his brother told him about No Longer Bound, a faith-based recovery and regeneration program that takes in men suffering from addiction.
“It was almost as if it was something I was longing for. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. It was proven I couldn’t do it on my own. And this was a place that allowed me to not have to do it on my own,” he said. “I could say that this is bigger than me. I need the help not only of these people but more importantly God. It was when I surrendered that it softened my heart and changed my mind and allowed things to happen in my life naturally that I couldn’t make happen myself.
“I gained a peace here, and I gained not only a peace. I gained my family back here.”
His surrender to allowing people and God to help him is something he said he wants to impart as a father upon his children.
“The bottom line and the main message is that you just don’t have to do this alone. It’s not for you to do alone. And when you do, it’s not going to generally turn out well,” he said. “You’re going to have hardships in your life. Madison, you’re going to have hardships. Sydney, you’re going to have hardships in your life. But there’s always one answer. And that answer is that you need to have a relationship with God and your family. And a relationship with your friends where you’re accountable to them. Don’t cut yourself off and isolate yourself.”
He said his time at No Longer Bound — he entered as a 33-year-old addict six years ago and has held a job at the same company for five years before getting hired at the ministry — taught him to put his family above anything else. That it not just literally saved him. It saved his mind and spirit, too.
“Our relationship is wonderful now,” Kristen Rayburn said. “It’s like it never was in the 10 years that he was in his addiction.”
He is quick to express his gratitude for his wife and how she played the part of mother, of father, of breadwinner, of caretaker, while he was in the program to allow himself the ability to be with them for the rest of their lives.
“I could not be where I am without the support of my wife and my children, and for them to understand at the deepest level that I have to stay connected with my [No Longer Bound] family,” he said. “And it’s the same here. It’s built into our core values … They know [at No Longer Bound] that whenever there is an issue, whenever my family needs attention, there’s no question to ask. It’s always: take care of your family first.”