My name is Michael, and I am an alcoholic. I have been sober for over 15 years now. I once said this: “Almost from day one I was scared and I have been scared ever since.” That is not true anymore. Yes, I do have fear, but I know, in Jesus name, where that fear comes from and how to handle it. Knowing this is a miracle. I once hid behind alcohol and other things in order to avoid the fear.
I came out of hiding when I sobered up and boy was I scared. All I could do then in my early sober life, as I do now, is to give that fear over to Jesus. It hurt horribly, and often still does…to have that kind of fear and insecurity and lack of faith in myself. Coming out of hiding was the hardest thing I ever did. It hurt like hell, and it was very scary. But I have handled things better and better now for over 1,923 sober days. It hasn’t been easy, but then is life ever easy?
I bought into this with my Lord Jesus on the morning of October 22, 1994. I was sitting on a bench in front of Rizzoli’s book shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. The family was out and about in the stores. In Rizzoli’s I had just perused through a biography of Jack Kerouac, the famous author of “On The Road”, which was a defining book of my teenage years. I remember when Kerouac died up in Massachusetts when I was a graduate student there. All of the pictures recording his life, particularly the later ones, showed Jack with a bright gleam in his eye. He was a major drinker. He did not get past 50. He bled to death from his esophagus. The actor Peter Lawford bought it that way too.
I wandered outside Rizzoli’s and sat on the bench. It was a beautiful Fall day and the place was packed with tourists. Everyone was happy and relaxed, and there I was, my life in the trash can. I felt awful. I had been drinking fairly steady for 10 days. I was trying to do that and function too…in order to hide things from my family. Two colleagues approached me at work to tell me they saw what was happening. My wife confronted me about it. My two boys (age 19 and 12 at the time) were staring at me wondering what was going on.
In the midst of my physical and mental pain on that bench, Jesus spoke to me in my spirit “Michael, you are not a well person. The reason for your poor health is your drinking. If you stop drinking for good your health will improve and you will be ok.” Those were the words of my Lord to me through my spirit. There were no “thees” and ‘thous”. He did not condemn me. He came to me in my place and time just as He did for all the people we read about in the Gospels. Particularly I will never forget the “….you will be OK.”
I knew He had spoken. Later in the motel room where the family was napping, I lay in the bed shaking in withdrawal. I needed a drink bad. I knew I could go across to the 7-11 to get gas and that there would be beer there. Just one to take me off the edge, I thought. I laid there in my bed of horror and said “Ok Lord…you spoke to me. Now…how do I do it?” He gave me two verses: Proverbs 3:5 and Phillipians 4:13. The main thing about Proverbs 3:5 was that I always leaned on my own understanding, and it was always negative. I had to control everything. And I did a pretty good job.
But, as time went on and life became more complex, I found it more difficult to keep that control. Through the years I slowly lost the control to alcohol and thus I had no way to keep stable. Trust in the Lord! I did that immediately. I knew that ‘leaning on my own understanding” no longer worked. A burden was taken off my shoulders and I felt so wonderful and relaxed. The shaking stopped. I felt like a member of the human race again. From that day on, I knew I had to bring Jesus more and more into my affairs because I knew strength would come from Him, not me.
Still, in spite of these spiritual assurances, I drove back home the next day full of fear: I knew I had no place to hide. That was very scary dear friend…very scary indeed.
Two days later I read a book called “Under the Influence” by Milam and Ketchum. I concluded I was alcoholic and should never drink again. Soon after that I got involved with Christians in Recovery (CIR). I liked CIR because of my shyness and the difficulty I would have sharing with strangers face to face about things which were so personal. Frankly my first contact with AA was not helpful, although I am all for AA. The most important fact I held on to was that Jesus had to be a part of my recovery because of His confrontation in front of Rizzoli’s.
I have been active in CIR since that time. I served as a Board member for a time. There is one thing I learned from CIR: there are TONS of hurting people who love Jesus and are supporting each other. I also learned that there was nothing unique about my problem. In fact, I have discovered that most anyone has the same problems I have, and they are coping. I have to cope too.
I have received support from a variety of sources, and CIR is a big part of that support network. I am a teacher and my students saw more of me that way than my family. I would drink alone at night and come to work in that condition and they saw it. An entire generation of students saw it, were displeased and disappointed by it, and they have forgiven me. This is a miracle.
Early in my sobriety, I was trying to effect emotional maturity at a time when just about everyone else was finished with that. I matured at different rates in different circumstances. I had an early puberty. I was over 6 feet tall in the 8th grade. I liked the girls but in no way could I articulate that in a meaningful fashion. My spiritual journey started sooner than most. I was asking many questions at a very early age, and my faith in God was strong. I discovered that was kind of a “nerdy” thing to do, and so I kept it to myself. My intellectual development was slow, and it continues to this day. But over five years, with My Jesus, with CIR, and with my growing faith in my own abilities as a man and as a member of the human race, I am doing better. I can handle things pretty good when they occur. The fear is not as strong as it once was.
One of my “heroes” is Brian Wilson, the chief Beach Boy. Brian has been through a lot: physical and emotional abuse, drug abuse, and depression. Some of it was caused by his situation, but he clearly did some pretty bad stuff too. Yet he is still Rocking and Rolling through it all, and seems to be free of his addictions. Brian suffers from depression, no doubt, and is receiving treatment. He hears music in his head although he is deaf in one ear. Hearing the music and the voices drove him to distraction. But, no more. When he hears the stuff in his head now, he says: “I can hear it, and I can handle it.” Well, the same goes for me: I see life, and I can handle it. So far, I have.
My advice to you, dear reader, is this: if you are at any time sensing that you are no longer in control of your life, you had better examine what addiction might be behind all that. Alcohol was mine. CIR has services to reach out to people with many other kinds of addictions. If at any time you are concerned about what has taken place of that control, then you probably are addicted. I can only suggest two words: Get Help. Try the tried and true services available to you that emphasize 12-step recovery. Try CIR too. Open up your mind and your spirit and know you cannot control anything. Once you know you that, you are free…free to give that control to Jesus and be a Christian in Recovery; free to seek finally who you really are; free to discover finally who those people are around you; free to reach out into God’s good earth and be truly alive; free to have integrity; and most of all my good friend…free to BE free!!!! Freedom is an addiction I think I can live with.
~ Michael H., a Member of CIR