In June of 1987, I found myself in the Panama City Rescue Mission with one day left before I would be back on the street. The mission only housed you at night. After breakfast, you had to leave until six o’clock in the evening when dinner was served and you could check in for the night. Everything I owned was in a black, plastic trash bag. During the summer, Florida day I walked the streets and found refuge at an abandoned warehouse. There was a tree beside the locked facility. I was grateful for the shade.
This was not the first time I had been homeless. But this was the first time I found myself on the other side of burning every bridge in my life. My parents had kicked me out of the house twice. I had stolen from, betrayed, and offended every relative or friend in my life. My girlfriend at the time was in Panama City on vacation and refused to even give me a ride back to Nashville. Everyone was tired of the broken promises, the ceaseless alcohol and drug use, the lies, the jobs I couldn’t keep, and the daily routine I did.
Just to function, I was unhappy with anything less than five-to-six joints, a six-pack of beer, and a half-gram of cocaine per day. I was a drug addicted omnivore. What ‘cha got: Acid, Ecstasy, Valium, wine, whiskey? How much and when do we get started? It takes quite a bit of time and money to keep that kind of pace. So, you deal, and if it comes down to rent of a quarter pound of weed; the rent ain’t getting paid. I was, and remain, powerless to stop drinking and drugging. I needed a power greater than myself and I needed to believe.
I believed there was a God. I just didn’t believe he could (or would) strengthen me to overcome my addiction. To be honest, I did not believe it was God’s role to serve me in that way. I was raised to think of sin as something I had the power to overcome on my own. Well-meaning Christians would say, “God wouldn’t ask you to repent if you couldn’t do it!” “You just have to make a decision to stop?” or “You just don’t have enough willpower!”
I did not believe I could be happy God’s book of rules. I had yet to discover the life-changing teaching that had been right in front of me all the time. I would, but not in the church. At least initially, the group in which I put my faith, was not the Father, Son, and Spirit. It was Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholics and addicts do not willing give up the one thing in their life they think makes them happy. We must, “Hit a bottom.” or “Get sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Only after trying every other avenue will we listen to some basic teaching. When you get to the point where you just want it to get better, you are ready to hear, “Ninety meetings in ninety days.” “Don’t drink. Don’t drug. Go to meetings.” “One day at a time.” “Get on your knees in the morning. Ask God to keep you sober. Make a meeting. Get on your knees at night and thank God for keeping you sober.”
I prayed to God, but I was not yet walking in faith as a disciple of Jesus. The power in which I had trust was A.A. I saw lives changed. I heard people, with stories like mine, tell how the principles of A.A. worked to make them sober and even happy. I believed, “If I give control of my life over to the Twelve Steps and to the program of Alcoholic Anonymous, I will get sober and be happy.” I saw it work for others and the more it worked for me, the more I learned what it was to have true faith.
As my sobriety grew from days, to months, and now years, I learned all the life-changing principles of A.A. were in the Bible all along. Read: Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 9:23-25; 11:9-13; Ephesians 2:4-9; 3:14-21; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 8:13, etc. God loves me and wants me to experience forgiveness, grace, and the joy of being led by the Spirit. Thank you, Lord!
These words are read at the beginning of every A.A. meeting:
“Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
c) That God could and would if He were sought.”
Thanks to God’s Spirit giving me the strength to do what I could not; June 14, 1987, was the last time I used drugs or alcohol. Free at last! Free at last! Praise God Almighty I’m free at last.
Do you know my Jesus? Give him your broken life, he will heal and forgive.