I was 30 years old when my first wife says, “We’re done.” For the second, third, and fourth marriages I was pretty much drunk the whole time. I was drunk for twenty years.
After 20 years of drinking, four marriages, and a lot of trouble, I came to a place, where in Alcoholics Anonymous, they call it “the invisible line.” You go over a line that you cannot see except in hind-sight. When you cross that line, you no longer have the option or the choice of whether you’re going to drink. You are going to drink, no matter if you insist otherwise.
I was a daily drinker, so every day, whether I wanted to or not, I would drink. Weekends, weeknights, and holidays. I would leave work being furious with myself for being so weak. I’d swear to myself that I wasn’t going to stop and pick up any on the way home. Maybe 20 times out of the year I would actually get home without buying it, but within an hour I was driving off to the store to get it. Every day. I never had a day with out it. And I didn’t know what to do with that. I didn’t understand why I was doing stuff I didn’t want to do – a lifestyle in which I didn’t find any kind of enjoyment or fulfillment.
Things continued to get worse. My life consisted of working during the day and drinking at night. Those were the only two activities I had.
In August 2010, I was sitting on my back porch patio. It was 7:30 in the morning and I was on my second beer. I was supposed to be at work in an hour. And I thought, “I’ll call in sick.” But I had already called in sick the last two Tuesdays. I couldn’t muster the effort to get my way to the office and it just seemed better to stay home and drink the day away. And right then, I started to fully realize the path I was on.
God showed me a picture of myself living under a bridge in a cardboard box. It was a damp, cold, nasty, wet box. And the picture was of me with all of my stuff gone. All the material stuff. My house, my vehicle, my friends, my job, and everything else. But the thing that scared me most about the guy that I saw in the box was that his primary concern was, “How am I going to get the money to buy the alcohol today?” That was the end. I believed this this picture was showing the end of me.
I had said lots and lots of prayers over the years that God would kill me or let me die. And that morning, that’s what I wanted to pray. But instead, with tears in my eyes, what came out of my mouth was the most profound prayer I’ve ever prayed:
I would say that everything changed there on that patio in August 2010, but it didn’t. It changed on the cross 2,000 years ago.
In Recovery, they call it a “Knee-to-Knee.” You imagine that Jesus is sitting right there – right in front of you. I sat in my chair and closed my eyes. I said, “Hi Jesus. What was up with that?”
What He said to me was so tender. He said,
“You have long thought that you decided to rebelled when you were 30.” That was when my first wife told me that we were getting a divorce.
“But really, it was at that point, when this thing happened to you when you were young, and you chose not to come to me; you chose to go a different way.” When I was a kid, something happened. People would say it’s tragic, but my attitude was, “Whatever, it happened.” I tried to move on from this childhood tragedy as best I could, burying it deep in my heart. But I had spent the majority of my life resenting the the fact that this tragic thing happened to me. And so I had an opportunity to repent of that with Him, and a weight was lifted that I didn’t even know I was carrying.
I spend time with recovering alcoholics and addicts these days, and I see the same thing with them. It almost always comes back to a place of resentment. We’re small children in adult-sized bodies, afraid of everybody else and everything else, and we don’t know what to do with it other than to numb ourselves.
Part of the AA recovery process is making a list of all the stuff that you can remember that you did wrong and who you did them to. My list was 27 pages, single spaced, with notes in the margins and on the back. I dragged my feet doing it because I didn’t want to go back to all of those things. But once I finished it, it was time to share it with the group. It took me 7 Tuesday nights in a row to get through all of it. When I was done, the leader asked, “Is there anything else?” I said no. And he asked me to stand up, so I did. And he wrapped his arms around me and said, “You’re a good man.” I didn’t see that at all. It was later that night when I got the image of Jesus smiling at me, and He said to me, “All of this – all of what you’ve written down – is why I went to the cross. You don’t have to pay for it.” And that’s when I went from hopeless to hopeful.
It sounds so weird in our culture, but I fell in love with Jesus. Not in a romantic sense. It’s other-worldly. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen. But I understand now why thousands of people followed Jesus everywhere He went. It’s magnetic, it pulls me in.
Shortly after that, my sponsor told me about The Door. That was April 2012. I walked in and I was like, “Oh this is just a church.” And I walked out and was like, “This is not just a church.” This church is like what I saw in recovery. This is the same Jesus. This church is all about the Jesus that holds everything together. They’re not talking about making me a better person; they’re talking about the One who’s making me into a new person.
I have a criminal background. When I got to a certain place in drinking, I stopped caring about the consequences. It sounds pretty awful to say out loud, but that’s the truth. Because of that, I wanted to meet with the pastor to talk about it.
I met with Scott and I told him my story. We’re sitting there huddled over our coffees, and Scott says, “I appreciate you telling me that” as if he wasn’t phased by what I had done. He explained that after receiving Jesus, I should be baptized. So I began writing my testimony to share to the church before my baptism.
At that time, we only had one service, so everybody was there. I stood before the entire church and said that I was a criminal and that I had ruined people’s lives. I was sure they were going to kick me out of the church. Someone was going to say, “We can’t have this guy in here.” But after the service, a woman came up to me and they said to me, “Someone hurt me the same way a long time ago. And your story gives me hope.”
I walked out of there thinking, “What kind of church is this?”
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
I didn’t know what that meant back when I was an alcoholic. But I know what it means now. Everything seemed right to me then. It seemed right to get drunk. It seemed right to try and kill the pain. It seemed right to avoid resolution and reconciliation. It just seemed right to try to work things out on my own because I had been carrying this wound for so long – feeling like people are out to get me, trying to hurt me.
It astounds me that Jesus has the patience – the tenderness – to tell us, “I don’t want you to go that way. You don’t have to go that way.” He would do anything to be with us, and He did – on the Cross of Christ, 2,000 years ago