Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

My Latest

December 18, 2019

cover jpegMy latest novel is now published and available on Amazon, both in paperback and in ebook format. Those Who Seek is the third in my Rescue Mission series, following Those Who Hope and Those Who Dream.

Combined, I hope they tell the story of drug addiction.

Those Who Seek is my favorite of the three books, because  Elvis, the main protagonist, is a funny, off-the-wall character. There is nothing  funny about his meth addiction, but Elvis is a lovable person tormented by drugs. Here’s the story synopsis:

Elvis Sebastiano’s father was “lost at sea” when Elvis was only ten. Left to himself by a grieving mother, Elvis drifted into drugs and crime. By the time his mother emerged from her fog, he was in prison.

Now almost forty, Elvis attends his mother’s memorial service. A colorful, funny meth addict, he is two years sober, but feels the shadow of a relapse hanging over him. Elvis got clean after the firestorm that swept into Santa Rosa two years before; that night galvanized his desire to hang on to life. Now he hopes that connecting to his past will enable him to get back on the path.

After the service, Elvis is approached by a stranger who claims to be his father. This launches Elvis into an adventure, untangling an eccentric family history. His addiction throws him down time after time; with the help of his partner, Angel, of AA and church, he stands up again while the mystery of his family unwinds with increasing, bewildering complexity.

There may still be time to get all three books for Christmas, but if not, they make a wonderful New Year’s present.

Here’s the link for Those Who Seek:

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Big Day!!!

November 2, 2018

Today I’m celebrating the publication of Those Who Dream, the second of my rescue mission novels. It’s now available at, and will be on Kindle shortly.

The series was inspired by my home-town rescue mission’s drug-and-alcohol rehab program. As a volunteer, I get to know men in the program extremely well. They are all addicts. Many of them have been homeless. Many have criminal backgrounds. Many have become my good friends. It’s been a fascinating, eye-opening experience for me, exposing me to worlds I did not know. I’m writing these novels to offer you entrée, too.

You might expect a grim and dark world, but that’s not how I experience it. There’s a lot of humor, a lot of hopefulness, a lot of personality. The men in the program have come out of darkness into the light—and they are trying like mad to stay there. They fight against powerful addictions, and all the problems that addiction has created.

Those Who Dream focuses on the staff who make the mission possible. Many of them have come out of addiction themselves. The main character in Those Who Dream has suffered other losses, and struggles to find hope again.

Kent Spires heads the drug and alcohol rehab center, but he stands to be fired if he can’t turn around the finances. Once before he lost his family, his job, his sense of self—and now he fears losing them a second time. He is isolated and lonely. He barely knows his adult children. Then Kent meets Meg. She’s a strong woman who picked herself up from a divorce, started a business, and created a happy life. She’s not sure she’s interested in Kent, but she’s willing to give him a try. Then Kent’s ex, the mother of his children, is brutally assaulted. Kent and Meg and Kent’s children meet at the hospital, where Alice is in a coma and not certain to live. As Kent goes searching for the homeless man he suspects of assault, Meg studies each isolated member of Kent’s family, wondering whether she wants anything to do with them.

Those Who Dream is a love story set against the disappointments of modern life and the challenges of drug addiction. It’s a story of second chances, showing the strange juxtapositions of conservative faith meeting liberal culture in the Sonoma wine country.

I hope you’ll buy a copy! Here’s the link. If you do read it and like it, I’d be grateful if you would spread the word. The best way to do that is to write a review for Amazon.

If you’d like to start with the first novel, Those Who Hope, here’s a link for that. I’m already at work on the third novel in the series, Those Who Seek.


Those Who Hope

November 21, 2017

Today is a big day for me: my novel Those Who Hope is finally released. You can buy it on Amazon ($13.99) or Kindle ($4.99). I hope you’ll  read it and give copies to all your friends and family for Christmas. If you do read it and like it, could you do me a favor and review it on Amazon? Those who know about these things say that has a big impact on spreading the word. 

Also, if you are really excited you can post on Facebook about it. Much appreciated!

Those Who Hope is the first in a series of novels set in a rescue mission drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. I’ve tried to capture the intersection of a very conservative Christian program (the rescue mission); the anarchy of addiction and homelessness; and the liberal environment of California wine country. Conflicts that speak to our times!  I’m planning to write at least 3 books in the series. In fact, I’m in the process of re-writing the second one right now, and hope to publish it early in the new year.

I sent out some pre-pub copies, and here’s what people said:

The stories of “bluff, leathery, riotous realities” in this book are riveting. Maybe they’ll move us into our own acts of compassion. —Luci Shaw, Writer in Residence, Regent College

I treasure books that make me laugh and books that make me cry. This novel by Tim Stafford did both. It offers unsentimental hope: the true craziness of the gospel. —John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture (1995-2016)

The thing I love most about these characters is that they seem real. They are ordinary, everyday people, with the same flaws I observe all around me–and in myself. And now these characters are in my mind, and I can’t quit thinking about them. Joyce Denham, Author, Dragon Slayers and Secrets of the Ancient Manual Revealed

An emotional roller-coaster ride that is a must-read for anyone concerned about the growing problem of homelessness in America  – and the challenges, spiritual and otherwise, that face those trying to do something about it.” —Paul Gullixson, Editorial Director, The Press Democrat

Many of us, walking down a city street, try to avoid the eyes of the homeless. Those Who Hope allows us to look in the eyes of these men and see lives with humor, dignity, sorrow, and even joy. —Dean Anderson, Author, Bill the Warthog Mysteries

Tim Stafford’s beautifully layered story will keep you reading, but long after you finish, it will keep you thinking.” —Scott Bolinder, Executive Director, Institute For Bible Reading

I find my thoughts returning, as the days pass, to all the novel’s characters. Here are characters real enough to be lost and, in good time, found. —Peter Lundstrom, Author, God: The Short Version

 The descriptions in scene after scene just grabbed me. A sharp-eyed view from a master storyteller into a world of addiction, loneliness and hope. Robert Digitale, Author, Horse Stalker and Blaze and Skyfire

The Worth of a Man

September 1, 2017

I met Michael Navin when I was assigned as his “coach” at the Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa, California. That meant meeting with him weekly to talk about his progress in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program called New Life. Michael was older than most, already in his sixties. He was short, slight and graying, and extremely quiet. Most of the time we met in the copy room, squeezed in next to boxes and office machines.

It was hard to get much information from Michael. He was depressed, and he had reasons to be. He had already been in New Life for over a year, in what is meant to be a 10-month program. To graduate, you have to jump through some hoops, including reciting several memorized passages from the Bible. Every time I raised the question of graduation, Michael said, without elaboration, that he wasn’t ready. That seemed to mean that he couldn’t memorize anything. His brain was fuzzy, and nothing would stick.

Occasionally somebody on staff would ask me about Michael. There was a sense that he was taking up space that somebody else could use to gain sobriety. Nobody pushed Michael, however, and he wasn’t easy to push. He had that gift of silent stubbornness you may remember from Melville’s story “Bartleby the Scrivener.” He didn’t explain or elaborate. He just said, repeatedly, that he wasn’t ready.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that he was terrified. And why not? What can a man do in his sixties, who has no obvious skills, who is extremely reticent, who has no money, and whose resume for the past year shows that he has been in an alcohol and drug rehab run by a gospel mission? So long as he could stay at the mission, he was safe. If he graduated, his prospects were dire. Michael saw no chance of employment. He did not want to sleep on the sidewalk.

As I got to know him better, I learned that Michael had gone to UCLA on a golf scholarship and played for several years on the PGA tour. Later he worked as a manager overseeing several liquor stores. He had previously been through a long residential program with the Salvation Army, and afterwards had been sober for years. He came from a very strong Christian family, and he was very loyal to and appreciative of his church. Not only did he attend every Sunday, he went to a men’s Bible study. People there knew him well.

Michael had a lot going for him: family, church, education. He was a steady worker. He just couldn’t stay sober.

Then a close friend of mine, Jim Bankson, offered Michael work scanning documents. It paid minimum wage, and most of the men at the mission wouldn’t have lasted a day at it. The tedium would kill them. But I had watched Michael doing the laundry every day. Sheets and towels for thirty guests, plus the regular laundry of the men in New Life–that meant a lot of tedium, but Michael didn’t seem to mind. He kept at it, day after day, and I knew if he could do that, he could feed documents into a scanner.

That job changed Michael’s life. He managed to graduate and after an initial period of adjustment settled down into eight hours a day of scanning. He could listen to his beloved San Francisco Giants on the radio while he worked. He walked a mile to work from the halfway house he moved into. The exercise did him good. His paycheck wasn’t much, but he didn’t have many expenses, either. He was visibly more confident, more communicative and more hopeful.

That went on for a couple of years. After Michael’s mother died in Florida he got a small inheritance that enabled him to buy a used car. We had lunch every week or two, and he wanted to treat me. He became a volunteer driver for a gospel mission program that took homeless people to eat and sleep in local churches. It meant being on the road before 6:00 every morning, but Michael was happy doing it. He was very appreciative of what people had done for him, and he wanted to return the favor.

Then, without warning, he stopped returning my calls. He canceled our lunch plans several times. The halfway house he’d been living in was closing, and Michael wasn’t sure where he could live. He was out of sorts. Jim called me; he was worried.

Michael called me from the hospital. He’d taken a fall and broken his hip. In the fall his phone was damaged; for some reason, my phone number was the only one that survived in the phone’s memory. He sounded quite disoriented. I later found out that he’d been living in a cheap motel that rented rooms by the week. He’d been going to bars because he was lonely and he wanted to meet women. Eventually he fell down drunk outside his motel room, crawled inside, and lay on the floor for three days before he was discovered and taken by ambulance to the hospital. He’d been drinking the whole time, on the floor, to numb the pain.

Fortunately, because of his job, he had health insurance. The doctors operated and he was transferred to a rehab facility. I visited him several times and we talked about what had gone wrong. He regained his cheerfulness and seemed hopeful that he could recover, though he was worried about where he would live. A cousin was working on finding a place. Jim let Michael know that he could come back to work whenever he was physically able. Michael was working at getting out of his wheelchair and learning to navigate life with a walker. His situation seemed hopeful.

Next thing I knew he was dead. His body was discovered in another motel, where he’d evidently drunk himself to death. He’s moved in after leaving another halfway house. He wasn’t in the motel too many days before a clerk tried to rouse him and then called 911.

Michael’s death shook me. It seemed like a terrible waste and a complete failure, and from a certain perspective it was. It didn’t have to end that way. He was given a good chance. People were cheering for him. But somehow he couldn’t manage it. Alcohol and loneliness apparently had too tight a grip on his soul.

As time has passed–six months now–I’ve found my view changing. People have highs and lows, victories and defeats. Michael ended on a very low note, but maybe that’s just an accident of when the music stopped. His death certainly shadows the rest of his life, but it isn’t the final summation.

When I think of him, I remember his little wistful smile, as though he knew a secret joke. I remember his unassuming manner, how humbly he let people into his life. There was good reason why people liked Michael, and why such a surprising number appeared at his memorial service. In all his struggles, he wanted to do right, and your heart went out to him.

Michael’s faith was genuine, if faltering, and I have no doubt that I will see him in the renewal. He was my friend; and so he will be.



April 14, 2015

Today I had a conversation with a friend about somebody he loves very much. She is struggling with herself and that makes her difficult to live with. He wants—for his own sake as well as hers—for her to snap out of it. He doesn’t understand why she continues to make bad decisions. She knows what she ought to do—why doesn’t she do it?

He is a recovering addict, so he knows addiction very well. Nevertheless I had to spell it out to him: sin is an addiction.

Like addictive substances, it has a short-term appeal. It meets a need. It may even make us temporarily happy. But of course, the long-term is very destructive. As with heroin, so with sin.

Also as with heroin, we may know perfectly well what we ought to do, but the pull of addiction is too strong for us. We are all perpetrators, but we are also all victims.


October 28, 2014

In Body and Soul, Craig Barnes’ commentary on the Heidelberg Confession, he tells of a well-educated and successful woman holed up in her law office late at night, hoping that a senior partner in the firm will notice. Her life is miserable. In fact she would say she has no life. However, this is the only way she knows to make her life better. She finds the job meaningless, but she keeps pushing harder at it.

By contrast, Barnes tells the story of a woman with a poorly paid low-level job in a bottling plant who nonetheless is thankful she has any kind of job at all. After work she heads to a homeless shelter to do unpaid low-level work serving meals.

Yet, “If you ask the miserable woman in the law office if she would be willing to change places with the joyful woman in the bottling plant, the chances are great that she would say, ‘Well, no. I don’t think so.’ “

Given the chance to abandon our high-flying ambitions for a peon’s satisfaction and peace, we are likely to decline. We keep doing what we know how to do, which is to try harder. We plan to create joy through our successful choices, and to stave off misery. When it doesn’t work, we automatically think we just didn’t try hard enough.

Barnes says this illustrates “the addictive power of sin,” which pulls us far from “the delight we find only in communion with God, a delight that does not depend on our circumstances.” He adds, “I have been a pastor long enough to know that just because people are miserable, that does not mean they want to change.”

He’s not suggesting that we should quit work and head for a monastery. That would be merely another avenue of seeking happiness through good choices. No, he’s suggesting—actually, he’s saying the Heidelberg Catechism declares—that we cannot solve our addiction at all. What we can do is recognize our helpless misery. We can recognize that our only comfort comes from belonging to a mediator who loves us and can enter our lives and rescue us through the love of God.

According to the catechism, you learn to recognize your misery by listening to God’s Law, which tells you (very simply) to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself.

We can be exposed and embarrassed in many ways. The woman in the law office may be exposed when her legal brief is critiqued, or when her lack of a social life is a source for others’ amusement. Where does that leave her? Merely with another chance to try harder at what does not work. The embarrassment and exposure that come from knowing who and how you should love, however, is truly revealing. It reveals emptiness. It reveals our deepest misery, which—thanks to Jesus—is the place from where we can be lifted like a child. Oddly, in that place we may find comfort, even in misery, assuming we trust the one who will lift us.