Thank you for allowing me to share my Road to Recovery with you this evening.
I was born on Sept 2, 1960, here in Lima, Ohio. I have 5 sisters, no brothers, and am the 2nd youngest of 6 children. Like most in the early 60’s, my father worked 2 jobs to support us. Mom was a stay at home mom and devoted herself to keeping a household and raising 6 children. We were brought up with good Christian values, but did not attend Church or pray at meals or bedtime. There was absolutely no childhood trauma associated with my life and I would describe our home as a healthy, nurturing, and safe environment. We were taught to be good moral people, good neighbors, and citizens bent on improving our way of life and to go on to raise families of our own.
I think we all come into this world with certain traits imprinted on our psyche. For me it was to be a boundary breaker. Before I could even walk my parents photographed me scaling the gate to our backyard, escaping the boundaries set in place to keep me safe. It was to be the story of my life to break the boundaries set in place by my parents, society, and God. Much like the Apostle Paul, I was “kicking against the goads” and resisting all of my parents, societies, and Gods attempts to lovingly restrain me and direct me to a place conducive to health and growth.
I remember living out these fantasies as a child in my make believe world of being great and admired by all. In the real world I was a skinny redhead, timid, introverted, and thoroughly convinced I somehow did not measure up. My greatest desire was to somehow be accepted and admired, yet I knew it just wasn’t so. That belief some how resulted in me being the class clown and the limit-breaker. It was behind this mask of life I hid my fear and insecurities.
I was an average student with average grades except for conduct, which was consistently an “F”. I remember my teachers saying during the many teacher/parent conferences my parents were forced to endure because of my behavior, that, “he has so much potential if only we can get him to behave”.
In 7th grade, my cousin and I found a bottle of cherry vodka in their garage and we decided to try it. As soon as the warmth of the wine reached my body and mind, I was a goner. All of the fear, insecurity, and self-doubt was replaced by this wonderful warm peace and I was free…..or so I thought, little did I know the latch on the shackles had snapped shut and my future sealed. I had become a prisoner and didn’t even know it.
At first it was all fun and games reserved for after school and on weekends. We had several hideouts where we would sneak away to experience the freedom of intoxication. As time passed it soon became more of a necessity to feel okay and before I knew it I was consumed with the need for altered states of mind to feel okay. My time spent with family and anyone else who was not using began to diminish and time spent intoxicated with others of like mind increased. Soon this led to trying new things…..anything that would alter my state of mind. I began smoking reefer, and taking whatever pills I could find including LSD, Mescaline, PCP, glue, paint….it didn’t matter as long as it got me high.
It wasn’t long after I started drinking that it became apparent the alcohol removed all of my reasoning skills and that pretty much I’d act out on whatever thoughts entered my mind with no consciousness of right, wrong, or the consequences of my behavior. By this point I had began to use theft and violence to get the outcome I wanted with no thought to who was hurt in the process, including myself. I stole from family, friends, the public, it really didn’t matter as long as my needs were met. My behavior had pretty much wore out my welcome in any but sordid places and all of my sisters had pretty much written me off as a lost cause. Only mom and dad was still there for me and was willing to hope for me to change.
When I was 16, I stole a car, got in a chase with the police, wrecked and was arrested for Grand Theft Auto. I was convicted and sentenced to 90 days in Juvenile Detention. In the quiet solitude of my cell without the numbing affects of drugs and alcohol I began to take a serious look at my life. I shed many tearful prayers asking God to change me to make me a good man and even went so far to read the bible, but it’s words were dead to me and I couldn’t understand it. My parents came to visit regularly and I wrote often telling them how I was gonna change and I sincerely wanted to. Upon my release, within a day or two, I ran back to the same people, places and things and nothing changed.
At this point I can fast forward as the story is the same and only the consequences changed. In 1979, I joined the Navy in an effort to change, and a year and a half later while AWOL I robbed two stores in Dallas, Texas, I was convicted and sentenced to 5 yrs in prison. In those days the Texas Department of Corrections was one of the roughest in the nation and my life was in constant jeopardy. I cried out to the Lord and he was faithful and I not only got through those years without harm, but also began to earnestly study God’s Word. I wrote letters home telling my family how much God had changed me and how things were going to be different. I had a peace in my life in the midst of the storm and God was working miracles and using me in many ways I do not time to share here. I was genuine in my faith and love for God and could not wait to return home and be a witness of His power to change lives. My parents arranged a flight for me to return home upon my release and when my plane landed in Dayton, I stumbled off the plane drunk.
My life continued in this fashion and each time I had a run in with the law I was intoxicated. I continued to work through it all and got married and had two children, but much of the time was spent in Prison or Jail. I was convicted in Ohio of theft, aggravated assault, and then theft again and each time was sent to prison. Being a man I’ve conditioned myself to not cry. My first wife got tired of me being in and out of jail and of her needs not being met and she left me. I was in the county jail on my way back to prison for the third time. She’d had enough.
It’s easy to look back now in a sober state of mind, and, say that, but, at the time I was devastated. Losing my daughter, Ashley, and Jon, my son, was more than I knew how to bear. I cannot, even as a gifted writer, put onto paper the ache in my heart. I had no remedy, was in jail and had no where to run to for alcohol or drugs. I had to just bare it.
I held my tears back all day and wept all night under the covers until there was no more. I learned after that to just cry and ache with no tears. On top of the stereotype of men being weak if they cried, I was simply broken and hardened by so many years of self inflicted misery. Shutting down my emotions didn’t stop my rage and hate for the man, a friend, who had taken my life, my place; in my wife and children lives, though. It stewed in my hardened heart with no where to go.
My wife still came and visited me with Ashley and Jon. I could see the parking lot from the day room and would stand for hours at the window waiting on her to come. Seeing her get out of the passenger side of his car…..oh, man, just killed me, and, I’d go to the visiting room with so much rage she soon stopped coming. When I was released from prison I tried to reconcile to no avail.
I began stalking Mike, her new man and my ex-friend. I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him dead. I used to go by their house at night drunk and look in the windows. Seeing him sitting by the window on my couch watching my TV was more than I could take. I threw a brick into the window hoping to smash out his brains, but, by the grace of God it missed. Knowing I had to get away, to put lots of space between him and I before something really bad happened, I fled to Corpus Christi, Texas where I spent a winter living off the streets shooting dope and drinking pretty much 24/7.
I used to sit on the break wall and look out over the ocean with my broken shattered soul crying out. I remember begging God to please just let me cry, but I couldn’t. I felt so guilty and shamed because I couldn’t shed tears for Ashley, Jon, losing my wife; my life. Not for lack of trying I assure you.
My wife stuck by me through this first two and divorced me on the third. I got into another relationship, got married and inherited 3 step-daughters. Then I ran from Ohio to avoid prosecution on two dwi’s and ended up serving a 10 yr sentence in Idaho for Assaults on multiple police officers. When I was released, after 10 years of sobriety, and walking with God on a daily basis and spending at least 4 or five hrs a day in the bible pouring over His Word, I made a beeline for the airport bar.
Let me say this…..my faith in God was never ever fake. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and I am saved. He loves me without measure and He has changed my life in so many ways and continues unto this very day. So, you may wonder, how can that be….naw you are just a jailhouse christian, you may say, but the truth is God loves me so much that he allows me to be a free agent. Once I drink the first drop of alcohol or use anything to feel better I am done and there are no more choices, but I am free to choose whether or not to begin the insane ride that always ends the same way irregardless of how I think it might turn out or whether I believe I can handle it. So, what does God do for me that I cannot do for myself? Well He can change me on the inside, in fact He already has, he did years ago. He wants me to follow Him and He’s given me everything I need. He’s given me a double portion in fact because He placed a hunger in my heart for His Word and He illuminated it in my mind. He has written his law on my heart and I have a ready scripture stored in my mind to illuminate how He wants me to respond to any given situation in life. Then, dear brothers and sisters, it is on me to choose to follow Him or the world.
I have been sober since a week before Christmas last year but I do not count it that way, I cannot, it makes me careless. For me I am sober today and that is all I care about. I quit saying things like I’ve changed and instead I tell myself I am changing as I walk out my faith. I will always be an alcoholic and addict, there is no way around that and I partner with God every single day to turn that into a blessing….I come to these meetings for two reasons. First, and foremost so that I can fellowship with other believers who struggle with addictions, because that’s how God set it up to work. You’ve heard the expression no man is an island and there is no where that applies better than to those of us in recovery. Secondly, I come to allow God to do what I so earnestly pray He does, to use my struggle, my defeats, and my successes to place hope in the hearts of others who struggle, pointing them in the the right direction so that they can not only have sobriety, but also a celebration of life in recovery. Only God, through His Son Jesus Christ, can do that. May He Bless and Keep you and thank you for your time and attention.
Thank you for allowing me to share my Road to Recovery with you this evening.