Dino and Amy Pedicini haven’t exactly experienced a fairy-tale love story.
For him: Bad choices. Alcohol and drug addiction. A history of violence. Unemployed and homeless. Jail, then prison.
For her: More bad choices and addictions. A repeated victim of domestic violence, at the hands of her husband. Homelessness.
In short, this was a marriage built on hopelessness and desperation. This was a relationship that could never – should never – last. Right?
Then what were these two doing attending a Marriage Encounter weekend this year? Or being baptized together in June? Or having the confidence in each other to find a new place to live, work and experience recovery together?
In short, God intervened. And He used the Rockford Rescue Mission to help heal, mature and reunite Dino and Amy, both to each other and to Him.
In the late 1990s, Dino spent 2 ½ years in prison for growing and selling marijuana out of his house. The money he’d made from selling pot had helped pay for his crack cocaine addiction.
He had made a commitment to Jesus Christ in 1998, with the help of an uncle, but he didn’t stick with it. “My Christian commitment had waned in the past,” he says. “I had some church involvement, but it never lasted very long.”
Once out of prison, Dino went through a messy divorce from his first wife and a custody battle over their three children. Though he wasn’t using illegal drugs any more, he’d switched from drinking beer to drinking hard liquor. He had been drinking most of his life, starting at age 12. Now his problem raged out of control.
He soon lost his manager’s job at the Elmhurst car wash where he had worked for 27 years (aside from his prison time). Life spiraled downward. He lost his apartment and ended up living in a couple of DuPage County shelters.
That’s where Dino met Amy, who also was battling a drinking problem and had been homeless off and on. The two were married in 2004, while they both were living in a shelter.
Violence marred their relationship, both before and after marriage. Dino did several stints in the DuPage County jail for hitting Amy. Neither seemed able to escape the horror.
“The last time I hit her, I wanted to go to prison,” Dino says. He did – Taylorville Correctional Center, where he would stay until April 2005. Amy, in the meantime, was continuing her own drinking problems. She bounced from living with her parents to living in shelters and a halfway house.
The first thing Dino did when he got out of prison was get a bottle of booze. “I stayed drunk for two weeks,” he says. “I told Amy, ‘I have to get out of here before I hurt you again.’”
He had tried Alcoholics Anonymous before, and knew people who had successfully beaten alcohol addictions that way.
“It didn’t work for me,” he says. “They talked about spiritual matters, but the meetings tended to make me thirsty. What I realize now was that I needed Christ in my life.
“A guy in the DuPage County Jail had told me I should try the Rockford Rescue Mission. So I called and talked to Willie Brown. He said, ‘Come on up. We’ve got a bed for you.’”
On April 26, 2005, Dino’s sister’s fiancé dropped him off at the Rockford Rescue Mission, where he would begin his true road to recovery. Though on his first day at the Mission, he suffered a seizure from lack of alcohol.
“I called my parole people and told them I had left DuPage County,” he says. “They weren’t real happy.” But the next day, the parole officer was satisfied to learn that Dino had signed into the Mission’s New Day Program. Four weeks later, Dino began attending First Assembly of God Church, where he would get involved with a men’s Bible study group and was assigned an accountability partner.
The Mission also offered him anger-resolution help as part of the Life Recovery Program, which he completed this May.
When he looked for work, three felony convictions didn’t exactly impress employers. He’d worked at one place for 27 years, and then hadn’t worked at all for the past three. But after he visited Furst Temporary Services, he was working the next day.
Amy also ended up at the Mission. She lived at Women’s Crisis while she worked in Rockford and got her GED while at the Mission. Like Dino, she had never planned on coming to Rockford. “God just decided it was time for me to come,” she says.
Dino also earned his GED this spring through the Mission’s Education Center. At press time, both were successfully working through temp agencies. Dino was working at a local machine shop and Amy was doing data entry at City Hall.
This spring, Dino and Amy moved into a mobile home park off of Sandy Hollow Road. They plan to stay in Rockford – the place where they’ve finally experienced freedom from past destructive behavior.
“The only people I ever had in my life were people with addictions,” Dino says. “Now when I’m tempted, I stop and pray.” His Promise Keepers accountability group from church helps, too. So does Amy. And the two of them look forward to staying safe and sober and continuing to grow as Christians.
-- by Jim Killam