I was born in 1951 on a farm, into a poverty-stricken family, filled with dysfunction. I pique people’s interest in hearing my testimony when I tell them I’ll reveal how my father was married to two of my Aunts, and a third Aunt was the mother of my sister, yet nothing illegal happened.
Though not illegal, the circumstances were shameful, especially in a very small community where everyone knew everyone’s business. Added to that were secrets that stayed on the farm.
So, I grew up vowing to live the noble, respectful, and ideal life. By the time I finished high school, my goal was to find my till death do us, part wife, find a job making $100 per week, and get off that farm that held so much sorrow. I was sure I would do everything differently from my dysfunctional childhood.
The only problem was I had no mentors or solid foundation to guide my choices. But I was convinced my desire to have a great wife, children, and career would somehow lead to that destination.
In the interest of time and space, I fast forward almost 40 years to 2006. I had married 4 times, gotten 3 divorces, and headed for my 4th divorce. To some degree, I was alienated from all my children and most family members.
The only thing that seemed to go on schedule was my career. I ran a business and made more money than I ever imagined. But money isn’t the source of happiness. As mistake after mistake piled up on me, and I saw myself being the failure I always vowed never to become, I began numbing the pain of failure with alcohol.
Over time, and as the failures grew, so did my substance abuse. By 2006, I had driven everyone away who cared for me except my Godly wife who suggested I try a 12 step Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery.
Ironically, at that time, I happened to attend and serve at the only church in Rutherford County who offered a Celebrate Recovery program.
It was difficult to show up for that first meeting, and I was very surprised to see a couple of Deacons in attendance. After a few weeks of gaining hope and inspiration from those in the program, I chose to take off my mask, open up about my struggles, and accept the power of God and the program to bring about life change.
The decision to work the program didn’t just change my life, it saved it.
I made every meeting I could, then enrolled in expanded meetings called step studies. I earnestly worked the steps, and became involved in CR leadership.
“Despite getting and staying sober, no magic wand waved to fix my damaged relationships”
I had my last drink about 6 weeks after my first CR meeting. Despite all that, I didn’t no magic wand waved to fix all my issues. My wife and kids, who were painfully aware of my alcohol abuse, had developed a cold heart towards me, and for good reason.
I had made so many mistakes over the years and broken so many promises to change. Instead of building the ideal life I’d imagined, I’d recycled the same patterns I’d vowed to never repeat. But, by the power of God, I didn’t return to numbing my disappointment, instead, I gave it to God. He revealed to me that I’d dug my hole over years and I’d dig out over time, also. It took over 3 years to win my wife’s heart back.
The marriage we have now is much better than the idealistic one I’d imagined as a child. Three of my four kids are reconciled to me. My life is still a work in progress, and I realize I must wait on God to arrange his perfect timing and his will in my life.
He taught me that trust and patience are great allies. I’ve earned friendships and gained respect from people who truly know all there is to know about me. We are only as sick as our secrets, and I relish ridding myself of the fear and shame that those secrets cause. I’ve been able to remain completely abstinent from all substance abuse for over 13 years.
I have a wonderful marriage, a renewed relationship with my kids, and freedom from my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. But my greatest accomplishment by far is my relationship with God.
He’s no longer a cosmic Santa Clause to give me, or a cosmic policeman, to punish me, but he’s the one who loved me thru it all and was always ready and waiting for me to surrender to his power. It’s the ONLY power that could change me from who I was, to who I am becoming. Wives couldn’t, children couldn’t, and money/success couldn’t.
I have the very best of life now because everything good flows down from God. Seeking God first leads to the other things falling into place. Seeking the other things over God leads to a life that falls apart.
I thought I knew God, but CR introduced me to the REAL God. I discovered the father in the prodigal son parable. He’s the God who cared enough to give his only begotten son, so that a sinner like me, EVEN ME, could be forgiven and find joy.
He took a loser like me and gave me the privilege of supporting others who feel hopeless and lost. CR brought all that into my life and I’ve never been the same.
Celebrate Recovery was started in 1991 by Pastor Rick Warren and John Baker, in one church in southern California. It has since grown to be a worldwide recovery program located in over 30,000 churches and has changed millions of lives. If you want more information, Google Celebrate Recovery or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.