I’m writing this in 2012 at age 36. In a way, I feel I’ve lived a hundred years, years filled with some good stuff and a lot of bad stuff. In another way, I’m a “newborn babe” excitedly learning the “pure milk” of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2).
In April, 1999, concerned drivers on I-90 at Cleveland, Ohio, called 911 around 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to report a car weaving in and out of traffic, traveling at 90-100 miles per hour. Before the car could be pulled over it struck the median on the highway and flipped six times end over end before coming to a halt. Paramedics arrived and took the driver to the hospital as stunned onlookers looked at the wrecked car, wondering who was killed.
No one was killed. I was the driver. I was injured but I thank God no one else got hurt.
This accident was the conclusion of an entire night out “on the town” for me, but my insane driving and accident were not enough at the time for me to even consider stopping drinking. In fact, for a while, I started getting hooked on pain pills in addition to my drinking.
I kidded myself that I didn’t have a problem because my everyday life appeared to be “normal.” I woke up every morning and went to work on time, did not drink every day, and did the bare minimum to keep a roof over my head. To me, I was “managing” my drinking. After all, not every time I picked up a drink was a bad time. It was only occasionally that it got real bad. But on some nights, there were lots of laughs, and that was part of the attraction that kept me living in the insanity of that lifestyle.
I could share with you many stories of times I began drinking with the thought, “I am only going to have a couple of beers” and the drinking soon got out of control. The night of the car crash was an example of this. I never had intentions of hurting loved ones, letting everyone down, and not being able to manage my life—but that’s what happened over and over again.
Drinking gave me a false sense of security and even seemed to fill the massive void I had inside. That internal void sent me looking in all the wrong places to fill it up but no matter what I did, I always ended up in a miserable state of mind. The quest to fill the hollowness never let up. Furthermore, I began to realize that alcohol was stopping me from doing the things I really wanted to do in life.
Amazingly, because of other poor lifestyle decisions, I had an opportunity to take a long break from partying and drinking—from the latter part of 1999 to 2005. My life began to move in a positive direction. Starting around 2001 I did a lot of spiritual searching. I researched all kinds of religions and began to read and understand things in the Bible. For example, I became convinced that the Sabbath is still the seventh day of the week.
I knew there had to be a God out there and I genuinely wanted to know who He was. Maybe he could heal me somehow. This period of seeking the face of our Creator was one of the best times of my life. I also read dozens of self-help books about relationships, substance abuse, etc. I really thought that by being armed with and this new information about life plus knowledge of God I could handle anything. I thought I could outsmart this problem with alcohol because of all that I knew about alcoholism and God.
But then in 2005 my human nature, weaknesses and dysfunctional thinking led me back to drinking.
The problem was that even with the benefit of knowledge, I lacked the Power to stay on the right track. You see, I have an allergy to alcohol—I am an alcoholic. The bottom line is that when I pick up a drink, I do never know what will happen—I am powerless over it. True change did not come for me until God showed me that I needed help—His help.
One day in December, 2010, after a binge, God gave me a moment of clarity and I knew I needed to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I had long resisted going to A.A. because of misconceptions I had—that you had to be living under a bridge, pan handling for change or eating out of a dumpster before one would resort to going to A.A. But my misconceptions were soon thrown out the window. I soon learned that I was like many other alcoholics, “functioning” alcoholics who manage to go through the daily motions of life like work but are nevertheless truly addicted to alcohol. I learned that A.A. is a fellowship of men and women who know and understand that alcohol prevents us from becoming the people we really want to be.
My first A.A. meeting was the critical turning point for me, partly because I was then learning much more about alcoholism and how to live a life of sobriety. But it was also the opening of a door to renew my search for God. The barrier of shame and guilt was removed so I could once again seek the face of God. Life was no longer just about me! More than ever, I was seeking God.
It took about seven months before God led me to His Church. While doing an Internet search, I discovered United Church of God. Shortly after I began attending the Sabbath services, I was baptized and given the gift of His Holy Spirit. The power of His Spirit is a huge help to me to live a sober life and it has enabled me to walk in God’s righteous ways, according to His commandments. Here I had been a person who had no hope or direction. Now to have God reveal to me His plan for humanity… well there just are not words for it!
While God has been giving me victory over alcohol day-by-day, the reality is that “sin is crouching at the door, eager to control” me (Genesis 4:7, New Living Translation). I must never forget that alcoholism is part of my fleshly nature and will be there until the resurrection when I’ll experience the transformation to a spirit being (1 Peter 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53). I must stay focused on saying no to alcohol and yes to God.
I realize that God has rescued me from my world of darkness and blessed me with the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). Because God has given so much to me, I’m now dedicated to giving as much as I possibly can to others. I hope to soon share with you part 2, in which I’ll relate many of the valuable lessons I’ve learned.
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