Backwards and Forwards
God’s story, from the very beginning
This is God’s story; it’s not mine. My story is one of self-destruction, listening to lies, exploding relationships and operating out of brokenness.
God’s story is of healing, truth, freedom and restoration in community.
Looking back, I can see both God and the enemy at work in my life from the start. I am the oldest of three children - the result of an unwanted pregnancy. I didn’t know this until I was 16 years old., I found out my dad was really my stepfather, not my biological one. And so, while my family was always loving and great, I always felt different from them. In school I had a lot of friends, but I could be in a crowd of them and still feel alone.
I always felt like something was wrong with me.
As a result of feeling out of place, at the age of 12 I started using drugs and alcohol. These substances seemed to fill what was missing, made me feel less different, and helped me feel like the person I always thought I needed to be. They enabled me to get attention, especially from my family; it didn’t matter if the attention was positive or negative. I decided that if a little drugs and alcohol were good, a lot would be better. By 16, I opened what was to become a decades-long revolving door of addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Self destruction and turning points
I’ve always been a functioning drug and alcohol user. In fact, I’m a high achiever with a tendency to learn new things easily and successfully. In the years after high school, it became apparent that, while God repeatedly put many opportunities in front of me for success, I was also prone to self-destruct.
That feeling of having something wrong with me spoke in a voice that said, “You don’t deserve this; you’re not worthy of that.”
I went to school to become an EMT, I joined the military to become a diver, I played NCAA college soccer and was a great athlete for a winning team, but every single time I landed on the verge of a great success in all of those endeavors, I exploded. For example, on deployment I began my diving training with the military. I had received favor from my superiors and rose up in my class quickly, but when I showed up for my exam and training the morning after I partied with some friends, I was surprised to be told I would be drug tested. I walked out that day, so angry at my seemingly bad luck knowing that I would be tested positive, and that I lost that incredible opportunity to become a Navy diver.
In my mid-20’s, I found myself in Tucson, AZ. I couldn’t stop using and drinking. I was a full-blown addict. God had given me more opportunities than few people get in a lifetime, and I had ruined every single one. I knew something had to change, so I looked up a local AA chapter, and found out they were meeting at a huge hospital in town.
I had no idea how to find the room for the meeting, but I did find the hospital chapel. Growing up, my family had not been religious but I always believed God was out there. So, I walked into the chapel, got down on my knees, and asked God for help. It was very emotional, very powerful and when I got up from the chapel, something supernatural guided me to the AA meeting. The next morning, I woke up with absolutely no desire to use - thus began the longest period of sobriety I had ever experienced, and it lasted about four years.
During those years I moved to Wyoming where I worked for some really successful and famous people. I met some guys from Italy who invited me to live in Europe with them, and I did for an entire year. God continued to drop crazy, incredible opportunities right into my path. I was sober in this entire period. But after a year of living in Europe, I started drinking again.
Me Going Backwards, God Moving Me Forward
So I was home in America and once again I was drinking, using and self-destructing. I heard all of the same lies the enemy had always been targeting me with, “You’re not worthy; you don’t deserve this,” and I believed them and wrecked relationships, opportunities, and myself. I had a daughter; I became a single father. And then, in the midst of parenting my little girl on my own, I met my wife, (a bartender, ironically) and I fell in love with her. She had a son already too, so we were both single parents.
As our relationship progressed, I started coaching her son's soccer team. While coaching, some friends on our team invited us to the Easter service at Sandals Church. My wife and kids went, but I didn’t want to go. When they got home, my wife said she liked it and really wanted to start going. At this point I was a raging addict: drinking way too much vodka daily, growing marijuana in my garage and using whatever other drugs I could get my hands on.
Eventually I agreed to start going to church with her and the kids, and the first Sunday we showed up together was the beginning of a study on the Gospel of John. One of the points that had always kept me from Christianity was my lack of understanding the Trinity. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and so I threw out everything about the Christian faith. But, week after week, I found myself crying through worship and finally realized that I couldn’t let my lack of understanding stop me from having a relationship with Jesus.
Even though we were going to church, I was still using, I was sitting at home on disability, drinking my day away. I can see now that in that period, my wife saved me, even while she was 7 months pregnant and working as a waitress. She stuck through my battle with alcoholism, my self-destructive nature and my physical unhealthiness. Her courage and strength led me to Christ. And so, one day while she was at work and our kids were at school, I was sitting on the couch, and there was Jesus. I couldn’t totally see him but I knew he was there, and we were having a conversation. I was telling him, “Jesus, you’ve given me so many opportunities and this, THIS, is the best I could do with them. Here I am sitting on the couch drunk, while my wife is at work, pregnant. I obviously have no capacity to live without you. You've got to be able to do better with my life than I can. You tell me to go down the path, and I will go, I will go no matter where you tell me to go.” And in that moment, I committed myself to following Jesus wherever he would take me. Wherever. Whatever. And the crazy thing is, Jesus opened up all those doors again that he’d always opened for me but that I had wrecked on my own.
Healing and Community
The next year, my wife and I got married. We now have 4 kids, including the two from prior relationships. With my new commitment to my faith, I began the hard work of getting clean. I went through spiritual counseling. I did a detox program. I did AA and I started a community group for other guys who struggle with drugs and alcohol. In fact, although the group has shifted and changed, we still have a community group meeting in our home. I was eventually asked to help co-lead a recovery ministry within the church and now I’m helping with one of the spiritual counseling ministries that helped change my life. I started seminary, which I’m still attending, and I started a business, which I am still running. My wife and I even had the opportunity to go to Vietnam with Sandals Church with some of our kids and we are excited about other missions opportunities.
Why It’s God’s Story and Not Mine
I still struggle with self-destruction from time to time; I’m not perfect, but I’ve learned to think before speaking. I started to actually believe what Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” I began to recognize that voice that always told me, “You’re not worthy; you don’t deserve this,” wasn’t coming from me. It was coming from the enemy. And then I started being able to distinguish between what the enemy was saying to me and what God was saying to me.
The enemy had always used relationships as a way to get me to self-destruct, and I realized it’s because it’s in relationships and community that truth and healing are best at work. It was in community and particularly in leadership that God really began to teach me humility. There wasn’t anything I could teach these other people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, but there was a whole lot that God could teach them. I was stuck thinking there was one formula, one right way for people to experience healing, and that’s just not true. There is no formula for healing. I had to deal with that as a leader.
It’s almost as if I was not needed at all, but God was using me and growing me and teaching me to unravel all the perspectives I had always held that were just wrong.
I see now that God had always been calling to me, I just listened to lies and used substances so I could ignore him. But, as Romans 8:28 says, “ And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” God uses ALL things. Nothing in my life has been wasted. He has used it all.