Impact StoriesLife-changing stories of hope, healing and wholeness
Let’s get some of the facts right out on the table:
- I’m 63 years old.
- I’ve been married for 25 years.
- I come from a strong, faith-based family.
- I’m retired from my job as a case manager for the homeless and addicted, and
- I am a recovering alcoholic.
Since I began my drinking, alcohol has been my drug of choice. My use and abuse began about 30 years ago. Like many of us, I thought I was covering my tracks and hiding the fact that I was drinking too much from my wife and others. My wife, though legally blind, was seeing the whole thing quite clearly. I recall coming home from one of my drinking escapades and being confronted by her holding bottles that I thought she could never find. Her words – “we need to talk” – and the strength and love with which she delivered them led to my first go-round with recovery. That strength and love, and the fact that it persisted over the years, would prove to be a profound and powerful gift that God gave me in the person of my wife.
That first foray with recovery didn’t stick, nor did many others. I spent years dabbling in recovery and playing tag with God, essentially asking and praying for God’s help only to fall back on my own, using God as a safety net so I could get back out and feed my addiction.
As a case manager for people who were homeless and suffered from substance use addiction, I knew lots of stories, lots of excuses, lots of ways to hide, lots of means of deception. I used that knowledge and became darned good at masking behaviors, hiding and isolating. I was in and out of recovery programs, but I always went back out and fell – at one point literally falling and breaking my hip and femur.
Soon after this collapse, my wife and I had a significant argument. I went back out. This time, with no place to go, I ended up in a homeless shelter. And who did I run into? Some of the clients I served as a case manager. This was after my retirement so their question to me was, “What are you doing here?” OUCH! After a moment to gather myself, I could only say, “The same thing you’re doing here.”
It was a God experience: one that allowed me a much clearer view of reality. I realized who I was and what I was. Then God opened me up. Now, I am an educated, articulate person, but what I had to say and the decisions I made certainly weren’t working. God made me dig deep, down past what I knew and professed, down to what God placed within me. It was hard work, this business of doing God’s will instead of my own.
It was at this shelter that I heard discussion about ISP: Who is that? What is that? I wondered. It wasn’t long before I met Larry, an ISP leader, who eventually became my spiritual mentor. I went to ISP gatherings and spiritual reflections. Eventually Larry asked if I would be a witness at an ISP retreat. After giving my witness and being on that retreat I could see that this was the start and the middle of something that would have no end.
If I hadn’t found ISP, I question whether I could have made it. I could never stay sober because there was a component of sobriety that was missing – spirituality. While drinking, I recall thinking that any given person’s life was worth about $2.99. If I could get $2.99 from this person (the cost of a bottle of vodka) then I could go on living. Now, I can see the infinite depth of value of each person of God. What a joyful difference! ISP has given me this gift of God.
Our marriage has survived because my wife, and eventually I, chose us. We lost so many things through my alcoholism. But we came more fully to God, which more that makes up for any ‘thing’ we may have lost. We have an honest, loving relationship. I get to hear the magic word “Grandpa!” proclaimed by my loving grandchildren. These are spiritual gifts.
Like the hemorrhaging woman in the Gospel account, I had to fight the crowd, that crowd within my own ego, and push Kevin out of the way, to be truly healed.