Alcohol nearly destroyed ambitious young couple


By Luke Mammana–

Erik and Mary Lanka worked hard and partied hard until alcohol became a nightmare. Then Mary delivered an ultimatum: Either me or the booze.

“This is a long road down a big black hole,” Mary says on a CBN video. “We were acting like college students in parent bodies. You can’t just keep up that kind of lifestyle.”

As a young coupled married in 1998, Erik and Mary had ambitions. He was a real estate developer and she was a creative director in real estate and an artist.

“We knew that together we could make a lot of money and do a lot of great things,” Mary recounts.

“We worked really hard,” Erik says. “Mary was drinking then. I was drinking then. All of our friends were drinking then.”

Their firstborn son, Zach, arrived soon. “I didn’t have time for him,” Mary says. “I was too busy.”

With dreams of retiring young, Erik invested their wealth into a huge condominium project in 2002. But the remodeling was stymied by city officials and family members.

“Therefore, I started to drink more,” he recalls.

The next year, their second son, Joshua, was born. At the same time, the real estate market crashed and he couldn’t rent units for two years. The bank began to foreclose.

“I was seeing the writing on the wall,” Erik says. “I started to literally drink myself to sleep every night.”

“He went from being this jovial social drinker to someone who would pass out at five o’clock,” Mary remembers. “I couldn’t rouse him. We were having arguments that he wouldn’t even remember the next day.”

For her part, Mary stopped drinking. “I began to hate him for checking out,” she admits. “I began thinking, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for.’”

When he drove drunk with the kids in the car, she gave him the ultimatum: “She had to take me aside and say, ‘It’s either your booze or us,’” Erik remembers.

“That’s when I had an epiphany,” he says. “This social crutch had turned into a gotta-have-it-in-the-morning addiction.”

The fear of losing his wife and sons was too much for him to bear. He promised to stop drinking.

Mary attending her uncle Sal’s church.

“Oh my goodness, this is what I’ve been missing,” she says. “All this stuff is true and it all gelled at one moment. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit come on me so quickly. It was dramatic.” She was born from above by the Spirit and experienced new life in Christ.

For his part, Erik started reading the “Daily Bread” devotionals. His heart was drawn to read more, until he finally surrendered his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“It came in millimeters. It didn’t come in leaps and bounds,” Mary says.

In December of 2006, the bank foreclosed on their home, so they were forced to sell everything and live in a camper while Erik looked for work. They both continued pursuing their relationship with God.

“We had to rebuild our marriage with God as our foundation,” Mary says.

After living in the camper for seven months, their prayers were answered. Erik found a development job in Durango, New Mexico, which allowed them to live in the mountains.

“I absolutely would not want it any other way then to go through what we’ve gone through together because we are so much more to each other and for each other then we ever would have been regardless of how successful we could have been,” Erik says.

“I feel very blessed to have Mary in my life.”


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Luke Mammana studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.