Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
I Peter 3:15, The Message
I Peter 3:15, The Message
“True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.”
- Alcoholics Anonymous, page 125, The Twelve and Twelve
Steve Shares His Life
My family has owned a lumber business for over 80 years. My grandfather started it and my father and his two brothers continued to grow it. Even in childhood, I knew that my dad and mom planned for me to go to college first and then come back and work in the family business.
I was very active in high school, lettering in baseball and football, and I always kept my grades up too. And I did more than my fair share of partying at the same time. My friends and I used to throw really big parties out in the woods and fields around the area, where we would drink beer and smoke marijuana. Actually, I only smoked pot at the time because my granddad and my two uncles had had drinking problems. I never saw my dad drink. He told me that he had a drinking problem at one time, so he stopped. I decided pot would be safer because I didn’t want to become an alcoholic like my uncles.
My wife, Mattie, and I met when we were seniors in high school. For me it was lust at first sight. She was smart and beautiful, popular and determined to go to college. Almost immediately we became boyfriend and girlfriend. We were inseparable. Our plan was to get into and out of college as quick as we could, and then get married and start a family. But, something unexpected happened. Mattie called me one afternoon to tell me she was pregnant. She and I were sexual on several occasions, always practicing what we thought was “safe sex.” We used a condom each time we had intercourse, but the condom did not prevent her from getting pregnant. Needless to say, our plans for the future changed.
We married the summer after graduation. I went to work driving a truck for the family business, Mattie gave birth to our daughter and we settled into a pretty good life. I worked long hours and made good use of the accelerated opportunities I had in a well-established family business. Our daughter was healthy and joyful, Mattie worked hard to be a great mom, and she attended the local community college part-time as well. I continued to smoke marijuana after work and in the evenings. It took the edge off the day and relaxed me. Mattie had immediately stopped all of her partying when she learned she was pregnant. I think she assumed that I would give pot up too, but she never gave me too much grief about it. Still, I knew she wanted me to stop.
Our daughter was about four, when I got pulled over by the highway patrol as I was driving home after work. I was a sales rep for the business by then, and I would smoke a bowl or two of pot several times a day to relax and chill out. I had marijuana in the car and I had smoked some just a few minutes before getting pulled over. Well, you can guess what happened. I was arrested for driving under the influence and for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and I was sentenced to a drug education and diversion program. The program required that I give regular urine tests to verify that I was no longer smoking marijuana. I wasn’t happy about this but I wanted to be a good father, a good husband and a good citizen. So, I gave up pot and soon realized that a few beers in the evening or at lunch did a pretty darn good job of replacing pot. I never smoked marijuana again, but I did pick up a pretty strong habit of relying on alcohol to influence the way I felt. It was not too long before alcohol began to cause problems for me.
Mattie and I had a second child, a boy. When he was about two-and-a-half, I realized that I had gone down the wrong road and become something that I never wanted to be. My two uncles still worked in the family business alongside my dad and me. In fact, as I had matured, I had become the spitting image of one of my uncles. We were the same size and shape, we talked alike and we had the same sense of humor. We also drank the same beer and went through each and every day being just a little drunk. Not too much, but just a little. When I was growing up, I had always felt a sense of loathing towards my uncles because of their drinking. I certainly loved them because they were good-hearted and reliable men, but their drinking made them obnoxious at times and it certainly was not what I wanted to become.
I was shocked the day I realized I had become like my uncle who had the habits I didn’t like. I caught a glimpse of him and me in a mirror that day as we were leaving a restaurant. I was shocked to see how much I was like him. Both of us had drinks with our lunch that day, and having seen how much alike we looked in the mirror’s reflection, I knew then and there that I had become the alcoholic that I never wanted to become. Instead of returning to work, I went home and told Mattie what happened. She could tell I was in a panicked state. I had been drinking for years by then, and alcohol had become more important to me than I knew. And, at the same time, I was desperately afraid that all of my good intentions and dreams for my family had been damaged beyond repair.
Now Mattie had been going to church ever since our daughter was born. In fact, she and my mom had been attending church together. Mattie suggested that I call a pastor she knew from there. Apparently this guy had some experience in helping people with problems like mine. That evening I found myself sitting in his office, where we chatted. He was very relaxed and confident. He seemed to understand the dire pain and concern I felt, but at the same time he didn’t share my panic. He explained to me how addiction is a disease and that my addiction probably didn’t start with alcohol, it probably started with the pot that I was smoking back in high school. He suggested that I get some professional help. Two days later I entered into a twenty-eight day detox and treatment program. This program had me going to AA meetings and I was surprised at how normal the AA people seemed to be. Actually, the people at the meetings were pretty cool.
Near the end of my twenty-eight days at the treatment center, I was visited by the same pastor from Mattie’s church. He told me about Jesus in a way that was different than how I had heard about Him before. The pastor told me how Jesus makes it possible for me to enjoy a relationship with God, and that a relationship with God was more of a personal interaction, not a religious endeavor. In fact, he said that I didn’t have to get religious at all; all I had to do was just be honest and open with God, and Jesus would take care of the rest. I guess I should confess by this time I was intrigued about God because of the great way the people from AA and from Mattie’s church would talk about Him. It was like He was their friend and helper, not like the big head-busting punisher I thought Him to be. I was thirty-seven days sober when I prayed to God, thanking Him for Jesus and asking Him to live with me and in me.
I completed the treatment program but I have never completed AA. I still go to meetings. I attend church with Mattie and I’ve gotten involved in the Restoration program for recovering people like me. On Tuesday evenings I set up chairs, make coffee, shake hands and help with the Twelve Step groups. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and I’ve grown to love the addicted people who come to visit us. There are several treatment centers around the area who bring their clients to visit us. I can’t wait to get there on Tuesdays to see them. I know the pain they feel. I know what it is like to have my ego crushed. When they cry, I cry too. I never promise them that their life will be easy or that it will be the way they want it to be. I just tell them about Jesus. I tell them that God does not hold their sins against them, and that His full love and forgiveness is theirs to have if they will just believe it, ask for it and act on it.
I am turning gray now. My daughter is in college and my son is heading that way. Almost every day I look back and fondly remember the day that I went into treatment. Even then, I sensed that my life was not going to be the same again. I was afraid and yet I was ready, too. I wanted to escape the addictions that had plagued my family and me. But, I never expected what I got. In sharing what God has done for me through AA, recovery and, above all, through Jesus, my life is complete.
As I examine myself further, I want to confess that I have often had the silly belief that I was “the king” of my own world. I don’t really know how to explain it anymore than that. Maybe it was because I grew up kind of spoiled, but I always thought that I should be immune to suffering, and that if I felt emotional or physical discomfort in any way, I was being treated unfairly. I bet this is why I learned to prefer being disconnected from life through pot and alcohol instead of facing life head-on. And, I think this is why I spent so much of my life flirting with women in very subtle ways. I never cheated on Mattie and I was never into porn or anything like that. I just had an insatiable need for attention and affirmation, which I would get by being charming to women. Having recognized this, I have admitted it to several of my recovery partners and I am working my Twelve Step program and going to meetings to help me deal with what I now know about myself.
In brief, this is how I see my life. I know that I was born into privilege and that I did not have the wherewithal to appreciate it. I have been loved all along, by my family, by my wife and by my children. Most of all and best of all, I have come to know that God has always loved me and that He has and will always love the whole world too. No one needs to be left out. I know, from my own experience, that God loves people who have addictions. And, on top of it all, I believe that those of us who have addictions and who are in recovery are well suited to take in and give out God’s love to all of those around us.