A brief history
My history with alcohol was relatively typical. I drank a lot during middle school as a typical rebellious young teenager. I became a Christian near the end of middle school and stopped drinking. After high school, I attended a Bible college and worked for a church that taught drinking of any kind was wrong, going as far as to teach the wine Jesus made in John 2 was basically just grape juice despite it being “good” wine. After Bible college, I landed at another church where staff weren’t allowed to drink. After that church, my wife at the time and I moved back home and I started working outside of the church. One of the jobs was as a server that was eventually promoted to manager. It was during this time, I started casually drinking. I would have a beer after work with co-workers, occasionally with friends, and I usually had a few beers in the fridge or a bottle of wine lying around somewhere. But nothing abusive.
After a few years, I started working for another church. They were comfortable with alcohol and many staff members drank. Many of them became good friends of mine and we would often have guys’ nights where we played poker and had some beer. It was during this time, I started brewing my own beer and loved the hobby. I was good at it. I had a best friend that had (and still has) a passion for good Scotches and we often would hang out and talk over a couple of glasses of Scotch. It was during this time that I can think of some alcohol abusive tendencies beginning to form.
Next, I was sent to start a church. I was the head guy. Through the stress of having everything on my shoulders, I began to drink more. I began hiding it from friends and family. I was preaching almost every Sunday and I was proud of the culture and language of the church. We encouraged vulnerability, diversity, healing, forgiveness, and being a refuge.
One Sunday, a significant point I drove home was if you have been or are being hurt, talk to someone. The catch, however, was that I sat on a secret for almost 26 years. I had been sexually abused by two different people. I had been able to talk about the neglect, physical and emotional abuse, and emotionally unhealthy environment I grew up in. I could talk about the heart-breaking experiences I was victim of at past churches. But not about this secret.
So, I came out about it. And I swirled into a deep depression and began to drink heavily. More secrets were made, money spent behind my wife’s back, drinking in the morning, before church, hiding bottles, deception, and more. I got sick from what I now realize was my first detox. The Sunday my boys were baptized, I was unable to preach. I was driven to the hospital afterwards.
Eventually, my wife found out about my drinking and told the church elders. They had an intervention and sent me to a 60 day rehab that night. I ran away before they could get me in the car and bought a bottle and drank as much as I could.
That was almost three years ago. During rehab, my wife separated from me. When I got out, I slept on an older man’s bed while he slept in his recliner. My wife finalized the divorce. I have been struggling with alcohol ever since. I have been crippled by it. I thought I could eventually get through it. But I couldn’t. I lost everything to alcoholism…then lost it again and kept losing. I have become powerless against it.
That’s the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
And this is where I find myself. Trying to work my steps, in therapy, trying to stay sober, and get some kind of life that I don’t hate…a me that I don’t hate. I don’t want to hurt people any longer. I don’t want to hurt myself. I want to remember what it’s like to not be afraid, to hide, or to be lost. I don’t people giving up on me anymore.
The AA meetings I have been going to have helped me realize I’m not alone. My story is not that unique. People have gone through this darkness and come out the other side. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not an on-coming train. But the road will be long. I still feel alone, really alone. I still am terrified of losing everything and everyone. I am afraid I will make another mistake and another.
This was my choice. I can’t blame anyone for my drinking other than me. But I have to believe, with God’s help and others’, I can get through this. If you are struggling, you’re not alone. And, perhaps more importantly, if you are in someone’s life that is struggling, you are also not alone. Don’t give up on them. They need you now more than ever. If I didn’t have the few people I do have, I wouldn’t be surprised if I would be dead.