The road to recovery is not an easy one. In search of sobriety and a new life free of addiction, Gunnar Landsgaard, originally from Milton, Fla., found his way to Blount County. The journey to get here was comprised of a few detours and obstacles, but thankfully, with prayers and some southern hospitality, Landsgaard is sober today.
Raised in Milton, Landsgaard said his upbringing was normal, his parents were involved, and he had a great childhood. However, at age 12 he began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. As a young pre-teen, Landsgaard said he feels lack of self-confidence played a part in his decision to try drugs.
The progression from experimentation to addiction was slow, but by high school he was using every day. Although he managed to finish high school, he felt his life spiraling out of control. Soon after graduation, he entered a treatment facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla. After completing the 30- day program, he felt confident his life of addiction was behind him.
At age 20, Landsgaard welcomed a son, but after one year of sobriety, he began to drink again. Initially, it was just a few drinks after a long day of work as a Florida Correctional Officer. His mother spoke to him about a place in Alabama called Redeemed and urged him to get help, but he said the thought never crossed his mind.
Brandon Gallups, associate pastor of Redeemed Ministries, is also a former resident of Milton, and it was by pure happenstance that Landsgaard’s mother met Gallup’s mother in a bank there. The two discussed the ministry’s recovery program on several occasions. Despite his family’s encouragement to seek treatment, Landsgaard continued down his path of addiction.
Landsgaard said he spent much of his 20s intoxicated. Following a string of DUIs in Florida, he made his way to Alabama. Feeling hopeless and lost, Landsgaard said he did not want to drink anymore, but he did not know how to be free from addiction.
After making his way to Muscle Shoals with an acquaintance, Landsgaard again attempted sobriety, but failed. On a rainy morning, he found himself alone, walking barefoot along a busy roadway, with no cellphone, and without a dime to his name.
He contemplated suicide. Landsgaard said his first thought when he saw a pickup truck approaching was to leap in front of it to end his heartache and his life. He said in a moment of clarity he decided not to because he did not want to “ruin this guy’s day.”
Surprisingly, the pickup pulled over and the man inside told him “the Lord told him to stop.” Landsgaard said he asked the man for a ride to Walmart; instead, the driver took him to a church where he met a few ladies who knew someone in Blount County who could help him.
Landsgaard said he still to this day does not know how it all happened, but he found himself on a Greyhound bus en route to Birmingham. He cried the entire trip; he felt alone, scared, and desperate. When he arrived at the bus station someone from Redeemed Ministries was there waiting. He entered the treatment program, but that is not where his story ends.
A month into the program at Redeemed, Landsgaard said he left feeling more confident that he could handle his sobriety on his own. He returned to Muscle Shoals with the acquaintance he lived with before. His sobriety lasted several months, but due to the stress of being in an abusive and unhealthy relationship, he began drinking and using again.
He had lost all contact with his friends at Redeemed, or so he thought. In an inside pocket of his wallet, Landsgaard found a tiny, folded piece of paper; on it was Brandon Gallup’s number. On a borrowed cellphone, he called and Gallup answered, “I wondered what took you so long.” Help was on the way.
Landsgaard entered the treatment program a second time; thankful for his second chance he fully surrendered to the program. This time he was successful. Landsgaard soon found purpose and direction for his life that had been missing before. He found faith he had never experienced and he found freedom from his life of addiction.
The program built around the word of God and cultivating a relationship with Jesus gave Landsgaard what he needed to overcome his past and his vices. He now works with new program intakes helping them to get settled in and to take that first step toward recovery.
For people like Landsgaard, Redeemed Ministries offers a beacon of light in the darkness of addiction. Landsgaard said he plans to stay in Blount County.
2021 seems full of hope and promise for Landsgaard who is getting married in April. When asked to choose a word to represent this new year, he quickly said, “Surrender.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing addiction, you can find Redeemed Ministries online at www.redeemedmin.com and on Facebook; you may also phone 205-429-3767. The program is free and based in Blount County.