I was born in Africa to missionary parents who wanted and loved me. They raised me in the church to believe in God. When I was 4 years old, we came to America and lived in the Southwest where my father was a minister, my mother a school teacher. There was only one thing “dysfunctional” in my childhood — “Me”. School work was easy, making superficial friends was easy (we moved around a lot). I was however, overweight and extremely self-conscious about that. I felt like I never fit in –. I became a rebel and the class clown to get attention. We moved to Indiana when I was 16. It was at that time that I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ but then – life happened and in the course of “finding myself” I gradually strayed away.
I began smoking and drinking alcohol. My first experience with alcohol at the age of 17 was when a friend let me taste vodka! I loved the way it made me feel! And promptly bought some so I could drink as much as I wanted. I started driving home while drinking that bottle and passed out somewhere on a back road. A friend came along and took me home. My father called the sheriff and they walked me and kept me awake until I walked most of it off. The Sheriff asked me where I got the bottle and I wouldn’t say because even as I was dry heaving and sick as a dog, I knew if I told where I got it I wouldn’t be able to go back and get more!
I drank whenever I could and as often as I could from that point on but, I was the proverbial country bumpkin in that I didn’t know people that drank, I didn’t have money to buy it with and I didn’t know much about drinking. So it was pretty limited then. Suffice it to say that when the opportunity arose, I drank alcoholically – never just to be social. I drank to get drunk because it made me feel slim and pretty and all of the other things I didn’t feel.
I met my husband in a bar when I was 20 years old. We bar hopped and partied and I’m still not sure what I was most in love with then, him or the chance to drink! (I am still married to him after 35 years so there must have been something more than the drinking or maybe I fell in love with him along the way) The next 5 years we had three daughters. I drank every chance I got and when my doctor told me to drink beer so my milk would come down in order to nurse my 3rd baby, I used this as an excuse. (She is the daughter I eventually threw out of the house when she was drugging and drinking and who was instrumental in bringing me home to Jesus)
For the most part my drinking was controlled and only occurred on weekends or parties. However, in 1975 I started to sell real estate, had my own car and my own money and the drinking became less controlled. It was a progressive disease all along but having money and a car accelerated everything — or maybe it was ready to reach that point anyway.
Since I was smoking and drinking I quit going to church – I knew that God was “mad at me”. In time I built a pretty thick wall between me and God. I thought I had to quit smoking, quit drinking, quit practically everything before God would love me again. I tried from time to time to quit doing those things on sheer will-power but I couldn’t and every time I tried and failed, the wall got thicker. Somehow I managed to create in my mind a God of anger and hatred who sat in heaven with his thumb on my head and I knew I was going to hell anyway so I might as well have fun here. The less I thought about it, the less pain I felt. When my parents were around I had to look at it and so I separated myself from them as well.
To spare you a long drunk-a-log I’ll take you to the days before I finally surrendered to the alcoholism and I can best tell you where I got to by describing a typical day. I got up at 6:00 AM to fix my husband breakfast. As soon as he left for work, I would pour the coffee down the sink and open a beer. I would line up 7 or 8 beers on the counter and tell myself that when they were gone, I would quit drinking for the day… but I never could. Usually about noon I would pass out and set the alarm for 4:30 and get up ready for my husband to come home. The really “good” days were when he called and said he would be late. That meant he was probably stopping off with the guys for a couple of beers and so I would begin all over again and get drunk again that night. The really hard times were when he was home and I had to come up with an excuse to drink.
I had some kind of dark window covering on every window in the house so that if someone came to the house, they couldn’t see I was there. I drank to live and I lived to drink. I remember panicking big time when my husband informed me he would be off work for a holiday coming up. It was like, “Oh no, how will I drink?” I think something seeped into my consciousness at that time and told me that that might be sick or at best – not be normal.
In a drunken state I called AA one afternoon. I couldn’t find them in the phone book because I couldn’t figure out how to spell alcoholics. I finally got their number by calling a treatment center in the area. There was one in one of our city’s bedroom communities that had a koala bear as a symbol. I found it by the bear picture in the yellow pages, called them long distance and got the phone number for AA in my city.
When I called, I was drunk and intended to drink the rest of the alcohol in the house before I went to AA. They offered to have someone call me and I said no. They asked me when I wanted to go to a meeting and I said the next day. I don’t know how I got there. But I did! I arrived late and I left early.
The only thing I heard was “One Day At a Time!” Believe it or not, One day at a time I stayed sober until the following week. I somehow hadn’t grasped the fact that there were other meetings and thought I had to wait a week to go back to one. It was a week from hell. I had the DT’s, I shook, I cried and I sweated and thought about one day at a time and the following week, I went back to that meeting. I know today what a miracle this was – that God was really doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.
Again, I arrived late and left early. This went on for 3 weeks (another miracle) and finally somebody told me there were other meetings. I was blessed to have a car, no job and the time to do meetings. They told me, “Don’t drink, read the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous and keep coming to meetings.” I couldn’t concentrate to read.
I was in the program about a month before I figured out that the Big Book was not the Bible. (A bit brain fuzzy) I didn’t want anything to do with God. I had turned my back on Him way back in the beginning of my drinking and had built up a wall that was absolutely impenetrable. I told everyone who would listen that I didn’t want to discuss God! I didn’t know I was a sick person – I thought I was a bad person. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has the word God or a reference to God at least 6 places. These steps hang on the walls of rooms we meet in and we study these steps. I never saw the word God until I’d been coming to the rooms for over two years!!
The fellowship kept me sober. At 2 years sober, we moved to Florida and after a culture shock and a lot of adjustment pain, I began to see the word God in the steps and hear His name mentioned in the rooms.
My youngest daughter invited me to a retreat in Leesburg, Florida. The name of the retreat is “Came to Believe” It is put on by a group of AA people who are Christian and tie the AA program back into it’s beginnings using Christ as the Higher Power. She asked me to go with an open mind and I think I knew what she was saying but I wasn’t sure. But I was miserable! So I went and after that retreat I begged God on my knees to forgive me and asked Jesus back into my life!
I was water baptized in the pool at the retreat! I felt wonderful! But I was still very anti church and organized religion. I accepted Christ and God and my life gradually changed. I wish it could have been as easy as a burning bush transformation but it has taken much longer!! I began to get on my knees from time to time (when I wanted something mostly) I began to talk about God in the meetings.
When I had been sober 5 years, I tried to quit smoking but couldn’t. Finally in desperation I asked God to help me and I have never had the desire for a cigarette since the moment I prayed that prayer after smoking for more than 30 years!!!
I prayed and believed in it. I believed in Jesus Christ as my Savior and knew that I was saved and going to heaven. But…. But the church thing was a while yet…. They told me at the retreat that I needed to get into a church but I sort of ignored that advice.
My daughter was going to a class called “Help for Hurting Women”. She didn’t talk much about it –she knew how I felt about church. But she began to change!!! In an awesome way! She was what we in Alcoholics Anonymous refer to as “Happy, Joyous and Free”! I wanted what she had. I began to ask her about it and she said she was learning things in this class, “Help for Hurting Women”. I went to church a couple of times with her and sat in the back. Every time I went I would cry from the moment I walked in and heard the music until I got out of there. It was too painful. I didn’t want to come back but my daughter was so happy!
My beautiful grandson was to turn one year old soon and I wanted to buy him a special little car that I knew he would love but it was too much money. I prayed that God would help me get him either the car or something really special. I prayed this for a week.
On Friday night of that week I was flipping channels on TV and came upon the show with Connie Weisel doing Help for Hurting Women. I recognized it as the class that my daughter went to and out of curiosity watched it. I was absolutely and completely softened and drawn to what she was talking about. I called the number and asked for prayer and one of the “Walls” books. I spoke to a lovely lady who told me her name was Kathy.
The next morning I suddenly had the urge to go to a garage sale to perhaps find my grandson a gift for his birthday. (I do not do garage sales – I hate garage sales- I rarely get up early on Saturday morning – but I was up on this one and I looked in the newspaper for sales and found one on the very next block!) I went to that sale and found toys galore for my grandson and the very car I had been praying for in the sale next door. Answer to prayer #1 …but the really awesome thing was what happened next. I heard the lady who was having the sale talking about the “Walls of our Heart Book” and I was curious so I asked her and she had some of the books and offered me one. I told her that I had just the night before asked for one to be sent to me. She then said, “I’m Beth and this is my friend, Kathy who is helping me here today.” I knew when she said it that Kathy was the one who prayed with me the night before and even with that introduction, I knew that my life was on it’s way to another big miracle!
I started going to the class soon after and Jesus helped bring down the rest of the walls with Pastor Connie’s ministry and I started to go to church and Pastor Betzer and all of the other Pastors shared the same message of love and forgiveness that Connie did and I believed. I started to get involved and the miracle of rebirth is happening every day and the process is occurring daily and I love Jesus more every day. I celebrated 10 years of sobriety this last February.
The biggest and most awesome thing to me and I thank Him every day is that He waited for me, He helped me back and He loves me even though I was so bad for so long and I love Him because He first loved me!