This couple’s beautiful life rose out of the ashes

Bill and Sabra Nickas’ marriage survived drug abuse, a business bust, and cancer, and God gave them the strength to endure.

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The moment he walked through the doors, Bill Nickas knew he found the place that would become Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill.

“When I was in culinary school, I had this vision of a white tablecloth restaurant,” Bill says. “I just knew this was it.”

The restaurant opened with a bang: a growing customer base, rapid success, even making good money. With two years of day and night work, the business was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

“It was exactly what I dreamed for,” Bill says.

A Vicious Cycle

Bill’s wife, Sabra, loved it, too —in the beginning at least.

“I really connected with Bill through the whole restaurant because that was our dream and our love of food. And then we started to drift apart,” Sabra says.

The biggest thing going for them was the one thing that was destroying their marriage from the outside in.

While Bill ran the operation day to day, Sabra’s dream was to stay at home and raise their young children.

Bill’s long hours and endless responsibilities led to resentment and heavy drinking. Then alcohol wasn’t good enough, so he started using cocaine.

Sabra grew angrier the more nights Bill stayed out.   

“I wanted a husband that was going to be there for me and to run the restaurant and then come home and be the husband and the father that I knew that he could be,” Sabra says. “But it didn’t turn out like that.”

Bill spent the next three years in and out of rehab. During that time, he and Sabra separated twice. Divorce seemed inevitable.

He bought a large quantity of cocaine and left town, planning to overdose and kill himself. After a stop at an Interstate rest area, Bill got back in his car and tried to crank the ignition, but the key broke off.

“It was a big moment in my life that I truly feel that the Lord intervened because I was going off to end my life,” Bill says.

A New Regular

From the restaurant’s beginning, one of the regular customers was Perry Noble, who had recently started NewSpring Church. Every time Perry ate at Sullivans, he invited Bill to visit the church, but to no avail.

Perry kept asking him anyway, and one day left some CD recordings of his sermons at the restaurant.

“It was a message unlike any other message that I had ever heard,” Bill says. “It was about real life, and it was about struggles that every human being goes through, and it just set off a light bulb in me, and it was something that intrigued me.”

Bill went to NewSpring that Sunday and then again, and on the third Sunday, Perry gave an invitation for people to say “yes” to Jesus.

“I can just remember standing up and pushing the weight away, and Jesus taking over and taking control of my life,” Bill recalls.

He began to pray for God to take away his desire to drink and use drugs. In a very short time, that’s exactly what happened.

“It was a complete miracle,” Bill says.

Changing Courses

After a year, Sabra noticed the focus of Bill’s life had shifted from drugs and alcohol to his family and responsibility as a dad. She was convinced Bill had found something remarkable. She wanted to understand what Bill was experiencing, so she agreed to attend NewSpring to support him.

When Perry gave another invitation, Sabra tried to ignore her pounding chest and the feeling she needed to stand up, but that day she decided to follow Jesus.

A few weeks later, she found a lump in her right breast. Bill and Sabra sat in shock as the doctor and nurse said the words “aggressive breast cancer.”

“I vividly remember [Jesus] grabbing my hand and saying, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ And I knew from then on, I knew He was going to be there. He’s my Savior, He’s my strength. And there was a peace,” Sabra says.

When Sabra went into surgery, Bill was torn up.

“We both cried, being scared and just kind of had these flashes of me being a single father and her not coming back to me, and kind of what I would do ... how my life would be with me and three children and running a business, and not having the love of my life,” Bill says.

After Sabra’s chemotherapy sessions, Bill became her caregiver while she rested.

“With Jesus working in my heart, it became so natural to me to be able to serve her the way she had served me so many years,” Bill says.

Today she’s cancer-free, not fearful but confident. Both Sabra and Bill know Jesus has been the life-changing factor for each of their battles.

“I once was a self-centered coward; a selfish human being,” Bill says. “And with a relationship, with Jesus Christ in my heart, he enabled me to be a loving, compassionate, caring husband that I thought was never possible.”

Sabra also recognizes the work Jesus has done in their lives.

“Christ was working through Bill to take care of me in my time of need,” Sabra says. “And it’s a beautiful way Jesus works.”

Through countless second chances from God, Bill and Sabra have found they really are better together.

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Update, August 2017: Sabra remains cancer free. Bill is currently a group leader in a NewSpring mentoring program.

Sharing your story is a simple and powerful way to tell people about Jesus.

Sharing your story is a simple and powerful way to tell people about Jesus. By talking about what Jesus has done for you, it’s like joining a conversation God is already having with them.