EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Randy Parsons sat alone in his pickup truck on the Faith Academy of Marble Falls campus as he’d done so many times before. Just as before, he pulled out a bottle of whiskey, took a swig, swished it around in his mouth, and gulped it down. Unlike other times, he didn’t follow it with gum or mouthwash to hide the smell. He got out of his truck and made this way to the school’s 2014 homecoming bonfire to get as close to as many people as he could with whiskey on his breath.
A Faith junior high school coach at the time, Parsons wasn’t looking for trouble; he was crying out for help. This is the story of how he found it.
When Parsons graduated from Texarkana High School, he joined the U.S. Air Force with a dream to fly.
“That’s all I wanted to do,” he said.
He was on track for achieving that dream when a Hollywood hit got in his way.
“This movie came out with Tom Cruise in it called ‘Top Gun.’ You might have heard of it,” Randy said with a smirk. “Well, after that came out, everyone wanted to be a pilot, so it pretty much flooded (the military) with pilot applications. I decided I needed to do something else.”
During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the computer industry was one of the fastest-growing job markets in the nation. Parsons had an engineering degree he soon turned into a job as a network infrastructure engineer at a Houston firm.
While it wasn’t rocking along in a fighter plane, Parsons was good at his prestigious computer networking job, making a great salary and working his way up the corporate ladder.
Part of the job, it seemed, was networking, which meant time with colleagues in bars after work. He handled this part of his career just as well as his job — too well.
“I became an alcoholic,” Parsons said.
The addiction snuck up on him, he said, but he learned to manage it well enough to continue his successful career.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks on the United States were jarring for a lot of people. In the aftermath, Parsons re-examined his life.
“I thought, ‘I’m not in love with this career,’ and that got my wheels spinning and thinking that there’s more to life,” he said.
He quit his job and opened a successful pool service business in the suburbs. After seven years, he sold it and started two more businesses. While business was good, the two enterprises fizzled.
Parsons knew it was God telling him there was more to life than chasing the dollar. When he began to pray about his future, it led him to his past. During his college years, Parsons officiated high school sports to make extra money. He continued to call high school games in Houston.
Now, as he prayed, he felt God pulling him back into that arena, but not as an official. Parsons felt the drive to coach, a role helping young people grow into adults.
In 2013, he and his wife, Janett, took a chance on Marble Falls. He didn’t have a job, but Janett moved hers from the Houston area to one in Burnet. Not long after, Parsons landed a junior high coaching spot at Faith Academy.
“I went from a career to a calling,” he said. “A calling is what you’re created to do. Created by God Himself for this purpose.”
By the time Parsons had found his calling, he was well into his 50s and still an alcoholic. He would often take a swig of whiskey in the parking lot before heading to gym or class.
“I wanted to stop, I tried to stop, but I couldn’t,” Parsons said. “I couldn’t do it on my own, and I hadn’t turned it over to God yet.”
On that October night in 2014, Parsons again took that swig but left the whiskey on his breath.
“I didn’t know what would happen,” he said, “but I knew I needed help.”
It was a big risk because he knew he could lose everything he had worked for all in one night. He put it in God’s hands and began making the rounds, talking to people.
Soon, a Faith administrator approached Parsons with reports that he smelled of alcohol.
“Was this true?” he asked the coach.
Parsons answered “yes” right away.
“I think they were shocked that I admitted it, just like that,” he said.
Faith administrators couldn’t let him continue his role at the school, but they also couldn’t just show him the door. The next day, school officials put Parsons in touch with five people on paths to recovery from their own addictions.
“Faith Academy is full of forgiveness and grace,” Parsons said. “They said if I got clean, they’d consider hiring me back.”
Parsons began his sobriety Nov. 8, 2014. One day at a time, he’s been sober ever since.
He returned to Faith Academy after he was fully clean and inquired about a job, but there were no openings. Parsons again turned to God for direction.
“‘Go back to school,’ that’s what God told me,” Parsons said.
He argued back: “‘But I’m 53 years old.’”
“Go to school,” came the reply.
After a little more back-and-forth with his Higher Power, Parsons enrolled in Liberty University for religious studies. He graduated in September 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in religious, biblical, and theological studies. He was at the top of his class.
“God knows what’s right for us if you just listen,” Parsons said.
He was rehired last fall by Faith Academy to teach seventh- and eighth-grade religious studies and coach boys junior high school basketball — this time sober.
“I give God all the glory,” Parsons said. “I tell this to show how loving and full of grace God is. I tried to get free (of alcohol) on my own, but it wasn’t until I actually and truly turned it over to God that I did. It’s all about God. Only He can do it.”