The unreal testimony of Rick Loftus (video)
(Watch video) – Rick Loftus will never forget the moments before his 5-month-old son, Calvin, passed away.
It happened on Dec. 14, 1995. Loftus was at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, holding his then-wife in one arm and Calvin’s daycare provider in the other. In front of them, doctors were cutting off Calvin’s clothes and fitting his tiny mouth with an oxygen mask.
“The doctor had a flashlight and was looking into my son’s pupils,” Loftus recalled. “I saw the doctor’s brief moment of panic. In that instant, I knew my son was dead.”
Unbeknownst to Loftus, he was hugging the very person responsible for Calvin’s death. An investigation later revealed Calvin died from shaken baby syndrome at the hands of his daycare provider.
“She killed my baby boy,” Loftus said, in tears. “I’m still dealing with the shockwaves of what that did to my life.”
Loftus is dealing with other serious issues as well. The 59-year-old is trying to rebuild his life after decades of bad decisions fueled by the death of his son and the ghost of his alcoholic father. Once a proud dad and successful businessman, Loftus lost his family, squandered his fortune, and conned several family members out of all their money. He was released from prison last April.
Indeed, the only thing more incredible than the shocking details of Loftus’s life story is the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Through Christ, and years of support from The Salvation Army, Loftus has been transformed. He has dedicated his life to repairing the damage he has done to himself and others, and to helping men coming out of prison lead positive, productive, Christ-centered lives.
Loftus grew up in Minneapolis with his mom and four siblings. His late father was a hardcore alcoholic and left the family when Loftus was just a boy.
“I barely remember my dad,” Loftus said. “I just remember the drunken bouts and him arguing with my mom.”
Loftus developed a taste for alcohol as well. He became a regular drinker at age 19, managing a fast-food restaurant and partying with his coworkers.
“It was legal for 19-year-olds to drink back in 1975,” Loftus recalled. “That’s when everything took off. Drinking, sex and work were all intertwined.”
He continued managing restaurants until the mid-1990s. By the time he got married in 1994, he had worked his way up to the title of operations manager for a national bar-and-grill chain. He oversaw multiple restaurants and thousands of employees.
He continued to drink heavily. “I’d go home every day, crack beers, and everything would be good,” he said.
Loftus began making serious money in 1996, not long after Calvin died. He switched careers and became a corporate head hunter, eventually opening his own business.
“My candidates were making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year – my fees were a quarter to a third of their salaries,” said Loftus, who went on to have three more kids with his wife. “We were buying new vehicles, we lived in a nice house by Minnehaha Falls, and we bought a lake home.”
Loftus worked by himself in a rented office, calling clients across the world at all hours of the day. With loads of money and no boss to report to, his alcoholism hit new heights.
“I drank cases upon cases of beer every week at home and at work,” Loftus said. “I got good at covering it up.”
That was his life for 10 years.
Then, in 2006, a new addiction took hold. Soon, Loftus would lose everything.
Loftus got so good at recruiting executives that the career lost its appeal.
“I got bored with the success of it,” he said.
In search of a new challenge, a friend said he should try investing in the foreign exchange markets. Investors in these markets make money by betting that one foreign currency will go up when another goes down, according to Investopedia.com.
“The risk is unbelievable,” Loftus said. “Your money can tank in 30 seconds. But the payouts can be astronomical.”
Astronomical indeed: During the first week Loftus tried it, he made $43,000.
“After that I never made one more recruiting call ever again,” he said.
Loftus was hooked. He didn’t know it, but he was in the throes of a classic gambling addiction.
“If you have addictive behavior, these markets are like crack cocaine,” he said. “I wasn’t worried because I had a bank account with lots of zeros behind it. I was my own god. I thought, ‘There’s no way I’ll become addicted.’”
He was wrong. During the next two years, he drained his savings account, 401k, several mutual funds, and his kids’ college fund.
“My wife had no idea,” Loftus said. “She thought I was still recruiting.”
When he ran out of money, he got hundreds of thousands more by mortgaging his house and lake home.
“I conned my wife into thinking it was for a business loan,” Loftus said. “It only took me weeks to lose that money.”
He wasn’t finished. Rather than cut his losses, Loftus convinced his sister and brother-in-law to mortgage their homes and give him the money to invest in a “sure thing.”
“They trusted me – I was the brother who made all the money,” he said. “I don’t even remember the lies I told them.”
He lost all their money, too.
By June 2008, Loftus had only $1,200 to his name. His monthly bills were coming due, and he had no way to pay them.
His wife, sister and brother-in-law didn’t suspect a thing. For all they knew, he was still recruiting executives and making good money.
“Everybody was about to find out,” Loftus said. “Everything was about to collapse.”
The moment of truth had arrived. So, what did Loftus do?
“I ran,” he said. “I packed a bunch of bags in the middle of the night, put them in the back of my Tahoe, and drove to Atlanta, Georgia. I left my family without looking back.”
On the run
Loftus would spend four months in Atlanta, working as a handyman and living out of his SUV.
“I earned $1,000 a week and drank $700 of it,” he said. “I was drinking to cover up the pain.”
Months went by and he still hadn’t talked to his family. He was too ashamed.
Eventually, the guilt caught up to him.
“I had what was like a spiritual heart attack,” Loftus said. “I was eating lunch in a Subway restaurant when the pain of what I had done to my family hit me. I collapsed and was lying on the floor, frozen. When the ambulance arrived, I came to, got up, and walked away. Then I went to a bar and got wasted.”
Days later, he mustered the courage to call his soon-to-be-ex-wife.
“I’ll never forget our conversation,” Loftus recalled. “I said, ‘Is everything OK?’ She said, ‘I would just soon shoot you as talk to you. But you’re the best dad I’ve ever known. Maybe if you can get some help, we can co-parent these kids.’”
Click. She hung up.
That was October 2008. By then, Loftus had sold his SUV and bought a clunky white utility van from some shady characters. He hopped inside the vehicle and drove back to Minnesota, without telling his family.
Loftus arrived in the Twin Cities not knowing what his next step would be. He wasn’t ready to contact his family in person because their wounds, and his, were still too fresh. Plus, he figured he was probably in trouble with the law. The best he could do was continue to work, and live out of his van. He quickly found two jobs – one as a handyman, the other working the overnight shift at a big-box retailer in Richfield.
The jobs didn’t last long. During the first week of November 2008, Loftus was arrested.
“I got pulled over for having bogus license plates,” said Loftus, who was unaware the plates on his van were fraudulent.
Police soon discovered there was a warrant out for Loftus’s arrest. Just as he suspected, his wife had reported his financial misdeeds.
“I went to the police station and confessed to everything,” Loftus said. “I spilled my guts for six hours. I could feel the pressure and shame lifting off my shoulders.”
The authorities told Loftus he’d have his day in court soon enough. Meanwhile, he was to be placed in jail. A male police officer escorted him to a squad car and hauled him away.
Then, something amazing happened. For reasons Loftus cannot explain, the police officer did not take him to jail.
Loftus recalled: “The officer looked at me in the rearview mirror and asked, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I said, ‘What?’ He asked the same thing again. We went back and forth like that until I realized what was happening.”
Loftus was in disbelief. He told the police officer to drop him off near the big-box retail store he worked at in Richfield. It was the only place he could think to go.
But then a new problem arose: It was getting dark and cold outside. Loftus didn’t have his van anymore. He needed shelter.
He made some calls and discovered that as a homeless adult male, his only nearby option was The Salvation Army Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis, the state’s largest homeless outreach facility.
“I got on a bus and told the driver to take me to Harbor Light,” Loftus said.
The driver dropped him off in downtown Minneapolis, near a big building with a Salvation Army shield out front. But the building wasn’t Harbor Light. It was The Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center (pictured), located one mile north. The bus driver had gotten the two facilities confused.
Loftus didn’t know one from the other.
“I walked inside, full of arrogance, and told them to give me a bed,” he recalled. “The guy behind the counter – his name was Bob – said I was at a rehabilitation center, and that in order to sleep there, I’d need to participate in the program.”
The reality of the situation hit Loftus hard: He was in dire need of the free, long-term residential addiction services the center offers.
“I went outside, sat underneath a freeway abutment and cried for two hours,” Loftus said. “Then I walked back inside. The guy behind the counter, Bob, said he was so happy to see me again.”
Looking back, Loftus now realizes someone else was happy, too.
“Christ,” he said. “Christ knew where I needed to go that day. And it wasn’t jail.”
Ups and downs
Loftus spent several months at the center getting sober, ditching his anger issues, and learning about unconditional love.
His favorite teacher at the center was the late great Earnie Larsen (1940–2011), an author and lecturer internationally known for his pioneering methods in addiction recovery (watch video). Larsen used to volunteer at the center every Friday.
“That man’s love hit me in the chest like an NFL linebacker,” Loftus recalled. “I had never felt loved like that.”
Although the rehabilitation center gave Loftus a spiritual foundation to build upon, by the time he left the place several months later, he still hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior.
“I still wasn’t comfortable with the whole ‘God’ thing,” he admitted.
Another four years would go by before Loftus accepted Christ. In that time, many key moments occurred in his life, both good and bad.
Among the good:
- He began paying back his wife and relatives, working as a salesman for a storm restoration company; a judge had ordered him to pay $500,000 over the course of 10 years. He worked on weekdays, spending his weekends in jail for 73 weeks.
- He stayed sober. For two years he returned to the rehabilitation center every week to attend AA meetings and help other men in recovery.
- He began to repair his relationship with his three kids. His ex-wife had allowed him to visit them every week.
Sadly, all those good things came undone when Loftus met a woman and formed an unhealthy romantic relationship with her.
“She became my higher power,” he said.
He spent all his free time with the woman, who also was in recovery.
“I unplugged from everybody – my friends, my kids,” Loftus said. “I got so bad that my ex-wife said I couldn’t see my children anymore.”
He spent all his money on the woman as well. So much of it, that he began missing his court-ordered payments.
By missing the payments, authorities had no choice but to incarcerate him for violating his parole. He would spend almost two years in prison, from July 2013 to April 2015. And this time, there would be no work release.
Little did Loftus know, Jesus Christ was about to show him, once and for all, that there is only one true Higher Power.
Loftus went to see a hypnotherapist in May 2013, two months before his prison sentence began.
“My life was a mess,” he said. “I needed help.”
The therapist, named Anthony, helped Loftus ease into a deep meditative state, using Loftus’s early childhood memories as a guide to his pain.
Loftus searched his mind and began seeing images of himself as a boy, and of his father. Painful thoughts and feelings that had been locked away for years came bubbling up.
“For all of the evil things my dad did to us, all I ever wanted to do was love him,” Loftus recalled thinking.
As Loftus delved even deeper into thoughts, his father’s face appeared.
“I started bawling,” Loftus said. “I hadn’t thought of what he looked like in years.”
“It was the face of Jesus,” Loftus said. “I felt Christ’s love burning and chiseling away all my pain.”
Loftus cried and wailed as decades of backlogged misery poured out. God was showing him who his true father was.
“All my pain melted away as the light of Christ came pouring in,” Loftus said. “I realized Jesus had been tapping me on my shoulder my whole life.”
Later, Anthony told Loftus he had never seen such a dramatic opening to Christ’s love.
“Anthony keeps his therapy practice secular, but he himself is a deep brother in Christ,” Loftus said. “He said he was honored to witness what happened to me. I am still close with Anthony.”
Christ went on to help Loftus get through two hellish years of prison.
“I could talk for six hours about my prison experience – it was awful,” he said. “It hurt me physically and mentally. But it didn’t hurt me spiritually. I spent my time reading the Bible, praying, and opening myself up to Christ’s love. I realized His love was the same love I was feeling from Earnie Larsen (at The Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center) all those years ago.”
Salvation Army chaplains often visited Loftus in prison to guide and support him in his new relationship with God.
Today, Loftus has teamed up with those same prison ministers to help men recently released from prison. He’s part of a new Salvation Army program called Volunteer Aftercare Support Team, or VAST (learn more about the program).
VAST’s main purpose is to help men fill two critical needs: 1. Emotional support. 2. Employment.
Loftus is integral to VAST because he has experienced every trial the men in the program have endured, from living outside of Christ, to surviving prison, to the daunting task of securing employment as a felon.
“Christ has groomed me for this position,” said Loftus, pictured at a VAST meeting. “I can coach the guys for interviews because I used to make my living interviewing people. I’ve done a lot of the same blue collar jobs these guys are going to be doing. I know how hard it is to get a job coming out of prison. When I look back on my life, this is what I’ve been prepared for.”
Watch Loftus explain more about VAST, his role in the program, and the difficulty of finding a job coming out of prison:
Loftus is currently working full-time as a manager at a recycling center and part-time as a salesman for a storm damage company. He lives with his close friend, Keith Ableiter, who is also in recovery (read Keith’s story).
He has not seen his kids – now ages 13, 16 and 19 – in almost four years. He is hopeful he can develop a relationship with them in the future.
After all that Loftus has been through, and all he has become, he finally has a clear answer to his past questions and apprehensions about spirituality.
“There is only one God,” Loftus declared. “His name is Jesus Christ. And He saved me.”