I would like to share part of the miracle that is my life with you. I grew up in small Suburb outside Detroit Michigan. My memories of that time are clouded by visions of violence and feelings of fear, shame, humiliation and insecurity. You see my father was an alcoholic and a physical disciplinarian (a nasty combination) and some of his behaviors were very abusive towards me, my 2 younger brothers, and my mother.
My memories of my parents’ marriage and their interactions with each other were of violence and anger. I remember feeling afraid and helpless as I lay in bed, listening to them yell and argue. I curled up in a ball under the covers hoping, praying that they would stop! There was physical abuse against me, my brothers and especially my mother. I witnessed things as a child that children ought not to see. Many times I saw the pain and confusion in my Mothers’ eyes. She wept on my shoulders at times. I felt helpless, and alone.
In 1968 my parents were divorced. I was 8 years old. My brothers were 5 and 6. My parents didn’t really talk about what the divorce would mean to me and my brothers, or how it would affect us. I was glad that I didn’t have to listen to my parents fight anymore – I was relieved. I felt shame and guilt because I had actually prayed that they would separate, for my father to go away or die or something – anything that would stop the violence and abuse. Because of those prayers, was I the cause of divorce? Did I do something that had caused my dad’s anger and drinking? My brothers and I took our frustration out on each other. We would fight a lot. But because of my mother’s dislike for violence, she had a hard time disciplining us. My brothers and I should have been getting closer during this uncertain, stressful time, but instead we were getting more distant and angry towards one another. I didn’t want them hanging around, leaning on me. I didn’t want to be an older brother. I don’t remember seeing my father on a regular basis, and when I did see him he would tell me in some vulgar ways, what a horrible person my mother was. They both spent a lot of time back biting each other. I felt like I was caught in the middle and being forced to choose sides. All I wanted was a family – a mother and father and brothers who loved each other!
I started looking for a friend, someone I could trust and look up to. When I was 8½ I had a sleep over with a boy that was a couple of years older than me. It was at his house. There was really no supervision to speak of – his parents stayed upstairs. We started playing strip poker – he said it would be fun. I remember getting a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that I was doing something wrong – but I didn’t stop. I wanted this older boy to like me. That night he came up with other sexual games that we played. I remember the musty smell of the basement. The embarrassment, guilt, shame and dirtiness I felt the next day. I never spoke of it to anyone. I never asked to spend the night at that boy’s house again.
As far as my early spiritual memories – I was raised in a legalistic, ritualistic household. There were crosses hanging on the walls, but not much Godly behavior was demonstrated. I didn’t hear much about what it meant to develop a relationship with God, but through Sunday classes and Christian school miraculously I did anyway. At 9 years old I asked the Lord Jesus into my heart. To be my Lord and Savior. I developed an in depth prayer life. Before I fell asleep each night I would pray for everyone I knew. I would pray in detail about each person’s needs. I actually made it through everyone I could think of without falling asleep. I felt very close to God at that time – safe, loved, wrapped in my heavenly father’s arms. I could picture in my minds eye, God’s loving presence surrounding me and those I prayed for.
When I was 11 years old my mother and I moved from Michigan. We ended up in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Lady that my Mother ended up rooming with had a son who was 2 years older than me. One day he asked if I wanted to smoke some pot. Since I had already smoked cigarettes occasionally, I figured why not? I remember the first time I got stoned – I liked it! It helped me to ignore my shame, anger, guilt and insecurities. To forget about the brothers and father I no longer had. The best part was now I had a friend I could relate to, trust in. I was wrong, he let me down so many times I lost count.
I retreated into drugs. Over the next few years smoking pot and doing whatever drugs were available (speed, PCP, angel dust) developed into a daily habit. I still prayed nightly for a while, although it got harder and harder to stay awake while going through everyone I knew. By the time I was sixteen the Holy Spirit driven prayer time that I cherished from childhood, slowly faded and disappeared altogether. I had a moment of clarity when I was 18. I came to the realization that if I didn’t stop smoking pot soon I wouldn’t be able to remember my own name let alone anything else’s. I noticed that many of my drug buddies didn’t have much motivation or goals in their lives and I didn’t want to end up like them – this was obviously from the Holy Spirit. So in 1978 I quit pot cold turkey. Unfortunately that moment of clarity wasn’t followed by a renewed dedication to God and I had no friends to encourage me and walk with me in the right direction. Without a relationship with God, through Jesus, I was not able to stop my addictive compulsive behaviors or suppress my feelings of shame, anger and inadequacy for long.
I started drinking on a regular basis. There was many times where I woke up the next morning after driving others home, with no idea how I got home myself. But I rationalized – at least I wasn’t smoking pot! At least I still had a job.
In 1982 at 22 years old I started college. My druggie friend from years earlier said it was a blast! I worked hard, miraculously got good grades and drank often. In my senior year I went to work full time and discovered something that would enable you to get 4 hrs sleep and still function, drink more, and seemed to make you smarter – Cocaine! Of course, it’s a lie. I could get 4 hrs sleeps for a few weeks, but then I would have to crash for a couple days. Yes, you could drink more, but it definitely didn’t make ME smarter. Amazingly, I graduated with honors – but with a cocaine and alcohol addiction in tow. Maybe a woman could fill the holes in my soul?
The first time I saw Susan I thought, what I beautiful woman! Then I found out she was married – what a drag! However, later on, since she was having problems with her husband and separated from him, I decided to ask her out. My first date with my wife to be was on my 28th birthday. We got drunk and I asked her if she wanted some cocaine – so we could stay up late and talk. She told me she didn’t do drugs – big problem! So I decided to lie to her and tell her I didn’t really either. Just occasionally and I could stop that anytime I wanted. She got a divorce, we moved in together and I continued to lie to her over the next 2 years about my cocaine use. Since we both drank this was made easier.
Around a year after we met I started doing another thing that I thought I would never do – gamble. I lived in Las Vegas for the better part of 20 years and never really did more that stick a few quarters in a slot machine. I used to look down my nose at people who gambled. I thought they were fools! I knew some of the guys who wrote the software that ran the video poker machines. I had a minor in mathematics. I knew the odds were stacked against you! But I had found another running buddy. One whose girlfriend was a cocaine dealer and they liked to go gambling. So I went along. Within a year, I was broke and days away from being thrown out on the streets.
20 years of drinking, drugging and 1 year of gambling got me to a place I never want to be again. Living in a black bottomless pit, a place you could slide deeper into, but couldn’t climb out of by yourself. A hopeless, never ending, merry-go-round. Time after time I would say “This time I’ll only take 1 drink, or do 1 line, or make one bet – then I’ll stop”. Only to find myself in the wee hours of the morning, rocking like a baby in a fetal position saying “not again. How did I end up this way again?” Time after time I would stay up all night on a drunken, cocaine driven, and gambling binge, come home and watch porn videos, while a woman who loved me slept not more that 30 feet away! The pain and confusion I saw in Susan’s eyes when she looked at me cut me to the core and reminded me of what I had seen in my mothers’ eyes back in that house in Michigan – but I couldn’t stop.
I swore off drinking, drugging, gambling and pornography too many times to count, only to relapse and fall further down into that bottomless pit. I never openly talked of suicide, but I started driving around in my flame red sports car thinking “if I hit that telephone pole going fast enough maybe I could get a break from all the garbage I was in”. You see I was at the end of my rope. I was living in a state of pitiful, incomprehensible, demoralization. Where were my friends now? The ones around me only cared about what I could give them. The drugs I could buy. The money I had.
That last morning, March 9th, 1990 God gave me another moment of clarity. Another loving touch from the Holy Spirit. I had enough – I didn’t want to keep living the way I was. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired – I hit my bottom. I couldn’t do it by myself anymore. But how was I going to get off the merry go round. I had half heartedly tried AA – sitting in the rooms identifying only with the differences. I cried out to Jesus!! HELP LORD!!!! Moments later the phone rang. I sat there sobbing like a broken man while my mother drove me to a treatment center. I had prided himself on being strong, self sufficient and able to handle anything life threw my way. Now I felt hopeless, helpless, and worthless. That was surrender for me. I was at:
Step 1. I admitted I was powerless over drugs and alcohol, that my life was unmanageable. I came out of treatment with a glimmer of hope and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I thank God that there are people in the rooms of AA and Celebrate Recovery that are willing to share their experience strength and hope with anyone willing to listen. They are willing to reach into treatment centers, because that is where the lost are. They shared with me how God was working in their lives and how they were able to make it through those excruciating moments when Satan tells you – “it’s OK to have one drink, do one line, make one bet, and watch one porn video”.
I met people who told me they hit their knees every morning and asked God to remove the obsession and to help them make it through another day clean and sober – so I did the same. They said to thank him every night for another day of sobriety – so I did and I continue to do that till this day. They said you don’t drink, don’t drug no matter what and it gets better one day at a time – so I started to believe. I remember after taking these suggestions that the compulsion to drink, and drug was removed – what a miracle! To make it minutes, hours, even days without thinking about partaking in those sins – what a miracle! I came to believe that power greater than I could restore me to sanity –
Step 2. I heard about the bible, and how it was a part of their lives. Some even talked about Jesus. I heard about how prayer helps you make it through the hard times. These were real friends!!! I thought, with their help and HIS – maybe I can make it through. I was ready – I made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God –
Step 3. I love the short version of Steps 1, 2 and 3 – I can’t, HE can, I think I’ll let him.
Did anyone notice that I said that only the compulsion to drink, drug was removed? What about make a bet and pornography? Can you say hard headed? I hadn’t turned over gambling. I thought I could beat the odds when I was sober, so 6 months into sobriety I trashed my credit. But shortly after, once I turned that over, God removed that obsession as well. He did the same a couple of years later with pornography. He is so faithful! Let Go Let God!
Part of working a 12 step program like Celebrate Recovery, is working the steps – all the steps. I came to a point where I had to work them or go back out – I pray you don’t wait that long. I was told I needed a sponsor – God led me to George. He was 30 years my senior, and hadn’t ever done drugs or gambled compulsively, but he had worked the steps and had a heart the size of the ocean. I asked him to help me, he said yes.
Step 4 – states “Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves”. I had so many resentments, things I was angry over, that I kept replaying in my mind. I was letting them control my life. Like how I hated my father, for the things he had done to me. For not being there when I needed him. I found out how I continued to give past events power by not asking for forgiveness or forgiving others where I needed to. I had said the Lord’s Prayer so many times, but did I really know what “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” meant?
Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. I shared my 4th step with George. I told him things I never thought I would tell another living person. I thought I would see condemnation and disgust on his face. Instead I saw love and acceptance and heard from him how I wasn’t so unique.
Step 6 – I was READY to have God remove my defects.
Step 7 – I humbly asked Him to remove all my shortcomings. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Step 8 – From my 4th step I made a list of all persons I had harmed and became WILLING to make amends to them all. This isn’t the amends step though.
Step 9 – says “made direct amends to them where ever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. My sponsor said I had to do that if I wanted to continue to be free; I had pages of amends that I had to make! How was to going to do them all? One at a time. Phi 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” As God presented the opportunities to make amends He gave me the strength to do them. So I went and asked my father for forgiveness for not honoring him when I should have. I asked Susan to forgive me for all the lying, and the many other things too numerous to list here. I made financial amends as I could. God helped me clean up the wreckage of my past. 1 by 1 those weights were lifted from my shoulders. I began to experience true and total freedom for the first time in my life!
Steps 10, 11 and 12. When I’m wrong I admit it – sometimes even promptly. I continue to take MY inventory – not yours. I definitely had a spiritual experience – I recommitment to Christ so, I try to carry message. I encourage you to work the steps!
I thank God that Susan, my beautiful girlfriend, who became my wife never left me. Through all the lies and running I did, she stayed with me. 3 years after getting clean and sober we were married July 3rd 1993 – it was one of the happiest days of my life! Corinthians 13, the Love chapter, was the heart of our ceremony. We said the Lords prayer together standing in front of our guests. We looked back over our shoulders as we left the stage and watched as the full moon hung above the gazebo we had just stood under. It was hardly as full as my heart! We drank bubbling cider for our toast instead of champagne. The miracles of that night were many. I was unbelievably happy! No drug ever felt this good! Phil 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. God had begun a good work – he would complete it.
I never thought I would have children. I never thought I would live long enough. But God had other plans. My daughter was born March 13, 1995. I was 5 years and 3 days clean and sober and she was a gift from God. Susan and I were led back to the Lord as a result of her being born.
The night that my wife and I were baptized was a glorious evening! As I was lowered under the water and brought up in the newness of Christ, I know there was a celebration in heaven. One of the prodigal sons had returned! My heart was so full. The joy I felt is hard to express in words. It was like swallowing the sun and having the light radiate out from my body. My son was born 2 years after his sister. It was even a more blessed event because we had asked God into every aspect of the pregnancy and birth. We named him after God’s general – Joshua. To see him laugh and smile is to see the face of our joyous heavenly father. A few years ago, on a beautiful morning, through God’s unbelievable grace, I lead my son to the Lord and he accepted Christ as his Savior. March 10th, 2006 I baptized my son! After Joshua, we thought we were through building our family, but again God had other plans. As a result of faithfully walking with him through the foster-adopt process, the Lord placed 2 beautiful boys in our home and 1 year later they were ours. These are the kind of miracles the Lord and Recovery makes possible. This is walking in the sunlight of the Spirit!
I would like to say since I worked the steps and had so many blessings poured out on me that I never faltered, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Around three and a half years ago the Holy Spirit convicted me of an area of my life that I was not walking in purity the way that God had asked me to. I had stopped working steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily basis thus leaving the door open. So once again I had to confess I was powerless. I can’t, He can, and I think I’ll let Him!
So, what are you struggling with? Drugs, Alcohol, Pornography, Gambling, Anger, Depression, not living out the right priorities in your life? What Hurts, Habits or Hang-ups do you have? If you are struggling and believe you don’t have anyone you can turn to – I challenge you – reach out! Jesus is there! Celebrate Recovery programs are here! They are willing to go to war with you! Whether the war is for your sobriety, your marriage, your children, or most importantly your relationship with God. Whether it is in past painful memories: of musty basements, of drug dens, of gambling establishments, of pages from shiny magazines, on TV, or computer screens. Take a step! You will be met! Jesus can heal you!!! Are you willing to reach out? Are you willing to accept the power that Jesus’ offers to break ANY bondage? If you’re not, let us reach out to you! Know that Jesus’ power is made perfect in your weakness. Know that He has a plan for your life and it is not to live in bondage of any kind!!!!!
Thank you for letting me share part of the miracle of my life with you.
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