Updated: Oct 27
“Good morning sweetie pie” she said as I placed my morning six pack of Yuengling on the counter at my local 7-Eleven. I don’t know if it was the anticipation of that early morning drink, the cold sweat slipping down my back, or the slight shakes from withdrawals, but I desperately needed a drink. My ritual since becoming unemployed…grab the beer and scan the Indeed job listings while waiting for my buzz to kick in. That was the highlight of my morning— plus a few OxyContin’s, topped off with a cigarette. By noon, I had graduated to Tito’s vodka & Red Bull before finishing the night with a bottle of Pino Noir and a few Xanax. No one chooses to become an addict, but that is where I found myself in the fall of 2016.
How it Started: It was the 80’s. I remember the party—when I got drunk for the first time—like it was yesterday. I remember the friend I kissed that night, and what she said prior to my passing out. “You aren’t happy, are you?”
That was the understatement of the night. I felt as if I were dying inside. Having suffered with depression since middle school, drinking allowed me an escape from hopelessness, sadness, and the sense that something was wrong with me. Somewhere deep I was broken and I didn’t know how to fix it.
How Addiction Kills Our Lives: Alcohol was the drug of choice for me—that and a handful of opioids. This mixture, though fatal for some, was normal for me. Call it tolerance if you will, but there is no reason why I should still be alive. The recklessness of abusing alcohol and drugs to escape the present moment is beyond any rational thought. Even now as I type, I shudder at the gross neglect that I had for life and the complete disregard for my family.
It’s a widely known fact that having a drinking problem makes for strained relationships. I can remember friends telling me straight up that I needed to quit, but I’d shrug them off with, “I will…. just not right now.” When Aimee confronted me, I reacted with hostility, knowing deep down she was right. Pride and self-pity kept me bound in my addictions. That and a stubborn refusal to take responsibility for my actions. This behavior created a deep void in our relationship. The fact that we’re still married is a testament to Aimee’s patience, love, and her deep commitment to her faith. Although I was a happy drunk with no real appetite for violence, there remained a collective “walking on eggshells,” that my family did around me when I drank.
During those blurry years, if you asked me if I believed in miracles I’d say “sure”—but not in my life. The disappointment over the years of having prayed and begged God to take away my desires for alcohol and opioids was deep and painful. How could a loving God refuse such a personal request for freedom? This was not a selfish prayer! Where was my miracle? I felt God had abandoned me.
Choosing to Kill the Addiction: For me, the glass had been half empty for quite a while. As my life became more chaotic, my depression worsened. What I thought would open me up to be more social when around other people, just made me feel more isolated. Why was it so hard to stop drinking and using? Addictions are complicated and most often require a community effort at getting well. You can’t do this journey on your own. You must humble yourself, acknowledge the problem, and participate in a program that fits your needs. None of which appealed to me at the time.
It didn’t matter how much therapy I did, how many times I prayed for relief, or even the efforts of trying to drink responsibly; the addictions continued. It wasn’t until that first week in January 2017, when worn out by another hard week of drinking I had an epiphany. Is this all there is? I was exhausted and tired of the hangovers. In short, I was ready for a change. Step 1 of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” I called the local hospital to see if they had a bed in their detox program available, and they did.
Finally, I told Aimee that I was ready to check into detox. After texting family members and a few of my closest friends, I drove to the hospital, albeit with a six pack of Yuengling in the passenger seat. I must admit the first days at detox I felt I had made a major mistake in checking in. My roommate was a chronic addict/alcoholic who by choice was homeless so he could pursue his disease fulltime. Ironically, he too had once been in my shoes, feeling his addictions weren’t that bad, and that he didn’t need to quit just yet. He had believed the lies he told himself. Was I that deceived? Although the doctor told me I needed to quit immediately or this disease would take my life, I still mulled over whether I should stay or go home. Prior to checking into detox, I had given up all Hope that my Christian faith could save me. I felt God was disinterested in my sufferings and I had lost the conviction that my prayers made any difference.
Resurrection From Addiction: But on January 10th 2017, I started my first full 24 hours of being sober. Free from pills and alcohol, my mind started to open to the opportunities around me. The feelings of elation and euphoria—the “pink cloud”—of my early sobriety caused a shift in my thinking. I began to hope again. Hope for freedom, hope for a new opportunity, and lastly, hope for a miracle in my life. I saw my stay in rehab as the beginning of something great and magical. For the first time in years, I dreamed at night. Deep restful sleep came at the end of each day.
Detox was like having the winning ticket to the lottery. I began to see the value in staying with the program. Perhaps I could really make this run stick whereas in the past lasting sobriety had eluded me. “I can do this” replaced the “what if this doesn’t work.” I awoke each morning energized to learn all about my addictions. The shame of my disease was removed and a deep sense of belonging filled my spirit. No longer was I a slave to alcohol.
These new feelings were tempered with the fact that in a little over a week I was going to be let out. Was I going to be ready? Did I have a plan to stay sober once I left? The one concept they drilled into our heads during my stay was that this was a marathon…not a race. I remember a couple of sober “old timers” who came in to share; the one constant theme in each of their story’s was to take it one day at a time. Don’t get caught up in tomorrow or next week. Stay in the moment. Success was going to be realized in the nitty gritty minutes and hours of each day. My illness took a lifetime to develop, so it stands to reason it wasn’t going away overnight.
The Recovery from Addiction: After 10 days I was out. And the very first thing I did was find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on my way home. The meeting felt anticlimactic in a weird sense. Life was beginning to get real for me quickly. Here I was, still unemployed, deeply in debt, and surrounded by others who were equally struggling to find meaning and hope in a broken world. There is no silver bullet. You show up and do the work. I did 45 meetings in 45 days and that became the foundation for the sobriety I still enjoy today.
Ultimately, my Christian faith and AA worked together to free me from my addictions and have kept me clean and sober ever since. What is faith?
The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” My belief is that Jesus’ love for me is so complete that there is nothing that can separate me from His grace and mercy. That God loves me is because of who God is, not because of who I am. He accepts me with all my doubts and disappointments. How great is that!
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
Therein is the miracle of my faith! I have been set free, and it is now my responsibility to carry this message to other alcoholics. Sobriety isn’t the end goal but rather it’s a lifestyle that informs every decision I make. Out of my sufferings came a new perspective. As Soren Kierkegaard notes, “God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use, he first reduces to nothing.” This is the sweet spot I’ve found.
The Call of the Recovered: “Good morning Sweetie pie,” she said as I put my La Croix seltzer on the counter to purchase. She’s continually amazed that after all this time I’m still sober. I remind her it’s “one day at a time” and that she, too, can experience sobriety. This small but important relationship reminds me that there are always people watching you.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. I Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Today as I’m writing this article I’m reminded again of the nature of my sobriety. That just by getting sober, life has a habit of getting better each day. What I know to be true is that the Lord never left me during the addictive years. His hand of protection and grace abounded in measures that are difficult to comprehend but are true nonetheless. I love this verse in Deuteronomy.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
Friends, let the truth of God’s love for you fill you with all hope today and remember He is the same yesterday, today and forever!