Corey’s Story: A New Beginning after Losing Everything
CONTENT WARNING: FareStart graduate Corey’s powerful story, written in his own words, includes references to gun violence and suicide that might distress some readers.
The first doctor I talked to after waking up in the hospital told me I was the only person he had ever heard of who had survived a .40-caliber hollow-point to the chest.
“They call that bullet ‘the mankiller,’” he said.
The officer who shot me had been trying to talk me out of ending my life. I had lost everything: my marriage, contact with my children, my job, my house. The only thing I got in my divorce was my books.
Loss after loss sent me into a downward spiral. How was I going to support four children without a job? How could I possibly lift myself out of this lowest of low points? I knew I needed help. As a veteran, I knew I had access to excellent care, but there were no mental health counselors in my hometown. a remote part of Eastern Washington.
My marriage had started falling apart midway through my National Guard deployment to Iraq. By the time I returned, both my marriage and my family were broken in ways that are too personal and painful to share here. Then came the next blow: I was laid off from my dream job as an employment specialist for the state of Washington. I had always viewed my employment and my self-worth as one and the same; if I had no employment, I was nothing in this world. My life had dwindled down to nothing when my wife asked for a divorce.
I went to a very dark place. I was in no mode to listen to the officers who came to the scene of my suicide attempt. At one point, an officer asked me to come out, and I complied. When he saw the weapons I had chosen for my suicide, he asked me to drop them. When I didn’t, he shot me in the chest. I dropped to my knees and tried to stand up again, even as the officer warned he’d shoot me again if I tried.
That gunshot saved my life. It might have deprived me of everything I had taken for granted. Instead, it reintroduced me to life and changed my world view. On the other side of a trauma like this, colors become brighter, foods tastier, friendships more valuable, children once again your reason for existence.
My reintroduction to life brought me to Seattle for job training at FareStart. It was a big adjustment for a guy from Eastern Washington. Whether or not I was ready, I was here. No going back.
At first, I lived at The Salvation Army William Booth Center, one of FareStart’s supportive housing partners. I did my FareStart training online, since COVID-19 had paused in-person training. My fellow students all had painful stories that led them to FareStart: drug addiction, incarceration, homelessness, unemployment. You name it. The one common theme we all shared: a new beginning.
My time at FareStart began with culinary training but prepared me for so much more than kitchen and restaurant work. As our coursework began, instructors urged us not to let anyone else “write our story” — no one can tell us who we are, where we come from, or classify us in a contrary manner. They encouraged us, the students of FareStart, to write our own story. If we write a story of failure, so be it. If we write a story of success, so be it. We are each in control of our own lives.
This is how and why I wrote my story — this story. FareStart gave me the confidence to reach out to my children, family, friends and community. I earned credibility, self-worth and potential. I walked the stage to receive my Doctor of Ministry degree through a local seminary. With a scholarship from the Veterans Administration, I earned a professional certificate in data analytics. And I’m pursuing my second doctorate — an advanced degree in exegetical theology, the critical study and interpretation of biblical texts.
As I was rebuilding my life, I worked in the dish pit at Old Stove Brewing Company, then the pantry, then the pizza station. After a year in the restaurant industry, I returned to my retail roots and become a supervisor at the world’s largest Goodwill retail store in Seattle. Four months later, I applied for an employment specialist opening and got the job.
FareStart helped me get back on my feet. Now I get to do the same for others. I help immigrants, refugees, and others find work, upgrade their skills, go to college — whatever next step they’re ready to take toward stability and self-empowerment. I also lead workshops at organizations like Mary's Place, which serve people at various stages of starting their lives over.
As the name implies, FareStart is a place of new beginnings, where you get the chance to start over. Isn’t that the least we deserve when we make a mistake in life? The worst day of my life was a jolt that shook me out of despair and showed me the way toward a better version of myself. It’s been a difficult journey that has tested me countless ways, ultimately leading me to a deeper sense of purpose. I’m grateful for every opportunity that comes my way to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.