Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I am still alive. Back in 2010, I got into a fender bender and ended up getting arrested for driving under suspension. I had just gotten out of the hospital for my first detox and was all messed up on the medicine they had given me. I had been drinking a liter of vodka a day for 26 days strait. The police report listed my eye color as “yellow.” I was jaundiced out. My liver was essentially telling me it couldn’t handle anymore. My alcoholism didn’t care.
I spent that night in a holding cell in the Grand Forks Correctional Center. As I came down from all the alcohol and medication, I started to hallucinate. I saw many evil things playing on the wall as if it was a projector movie. Among them were three obese cartoonish men toasting mugs of beer, a demonic looking figure beckoning me nearer, and a evil face chasing a running deer. Most memorable was a skeleton riding on a horse, carrying a flag behind him. My disease was celebrating its victory over my life, a pre-celebration of my coming death.
I came out with a firm resolve not to drink again. Two months later that resolve crumbled under the power alcoholism had over my life. No matter what I did, I always eventually wanted to drink so badly that nothing else really mattered. I was so miserable but couldn’t make myself strong enough to stop completely. I had already lost jobs, my license, friends, and had hurt my family to the point that some didn’t know if they could handle having me in their lives anymore. But I kept drinking.
In 12 step meetings, you hear these types of stories over and over again. People talk about how they lost their kids, homes, jobs, and family to alcoholism. If you are a true alcoholic, you wont get skipped. Alcoholism will take things from you. The longer you drink, the more you will lose. But more often then not, you always go back to drinking. Why? This question has not only baffled the family and friends of alcoholics for generations, but it also baffles the alcoholic.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my disease. I wanted to find out why I reacted to alcohol the way I did. In the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. William Silkworth gives his infamous “Doctor’s Opinion” in the same titled chapter. He believes we have an allergy to alcohol. He states that we (alcoholics) don’t react to alcohol the same way a normal drinker does. He goes on to describe the phenomenon of craving that develops after a alcoholic takes a drink.
“Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.” (From “The Doctor’s Opinion” Alcoholics Anonymous)
This all made a lot of sense to me, but it left the big question. What was going to make me stop? What was this “psychic change?” Losing jobs didn’t make me stop. Losing my license didnt make me stop. Losing my best friends and hurting my family repeatedly didn’t make me stop. Knowing that my liver enzymes were eight times what they should be didn’t make me stop. Having horrible with drawls and hallucinations didn’t make me stop. The doctor telling me I was going to die if I continued didn’t make me stop.Going to treatment, AA meetings, and working the twelve steps didn’t make me stop. So what was going to be the big thing that made me stop killing myself?
“ No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
There it was. The secret to my psychic change. It was God.
Alcoholics Anonymous gave me a fellowship and the twelve steps that have helped change millions of lives. But it wasn’t enough. Treatment gave me the tools and education I needed on my disease but it wasn’t enough. Hanging around with sober people helped with the loneliness, but it wasn’t enough. Getting some of the things back I had lost due to drinking wasn’t enough. I needed something more.
I found “something more” than I could ever imagine the day I decided to let Jesus Christ into my heart. He tied all my loose ends together and made me whole again. He made me believe the impossible: That I could stay sober and have a beautiful life.
Jesus Christ now stands between myself and the next drink. When the craving starts and I think I am done for, He gives me a way out. When I am gripped with fear and loneliness, Jesus says He will never leave me or foresake me. When I think about how there is no way I can go the rest of my life without drinking a beer, Jesus Christ says “With Me, it is possible.” When I put God in the center of my A.A program, I can do it. He is the big thing that makes me stop. He is the big thing that overcomes it all. He is the reason I am alive. I could continue to “do” sobriety, but without a total surrender to Jesus Christ, it was only a matter of time before I would drink again. I will forever be grateful for the program of AA and will most likely always attend meetings. But if Jesus isn’t at the top of my syllabus, I am not going to live my best sober life.
I know what Dr. Silkworth was talking about now. That “total psychic change” is a fancy way of summing up amazing grace. I know what they mean when they say “I once was lost, but now I am found. I once was blind but now I see.” I get all that. And it is the most amazing transformation I have ever felt. Today I am going to hang onto that with all my might.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)