That day on the Bed

I was born the third youngest in a family of nine children in a small rural town in
Washington State. Our family was poor and we lived among the bottom of the
social-economic ladder. With a high school degree and no formal technical training, my
father worked low-paying jobs to support us. I never spent any time with him
until high school so I didn’t know when his alcoholic behavior began. Later
though, he told me, “I never drank at work, but I wouldn’t pass a bar on the way
home without stopping”.

My mother never drank alcohol, but wasn’t well either. The love and patience it
takes to raise nine children, basically alone, was missing. Add to that my fathers
less than admirable behavior, to her and us children, and all the ingredients for
dysfunction were present. It was a hard life and we all knew it.

Both my parents ruled the home through fear and intimidation. It seemed to us
children that if Dad liked you, then Mom didn’t, or vice versa. My mother was the
biggest source of anger and hostility in the home. No one wanted to find
themselves on her bad side and, unfortunately, that’s where I found myself most
of the time. A couple of the other kids did too, but I got the worst of it. There was
no pleasing her. She would accuse me of looking like an angel, but of being like
the devil. I’m not exactly sure where that came from because I wanted and tried
to please her. Maybe I was just an easy target. She ruled with an iron fist or
whatever she could get her hands on in a fit of anger.

Very probably, some of her hostility towards me was because I was a late bed
wetter. Accused of doing it on purpose I was forced to sleep in the same bed on
the same sheets. I would do my best to alternate sides to find a dry area to lay,
but on cool/cold days, especially in the winter, things wouldn’t dry out. I must
have smelt awful at school.

I had no friends until high school, so I never learned to develop those skills when
most children do. Even if I would have had a friend, I would never have invited
anyone over to the environment I lived in. Home wasn’t safe. So, I grew quite,
shy, and a bit of an introvert. I found living in the shadows far more comforting
than attracting attention, so I hid; never developing much of a sense of selfworth,
communication, or intimacy skills.

My parents divorced twice. When entering high school, my mom sent me to live
with my dad. While I was still young, Dad had found God, stopped drinking, and
turned his life around. He hadn’t made amends to others for the wrongs he had
committed, but at least he wasn’t continuing to live life, so lost. He loved me as
best he could and in my final three years of high school I found a sense of
normalcy. I remained a shy person with developmental issues, but I learned to
mask them fairly well, so I thought.

I took my first drink of alcohol and got drunk at 17. Drinking was different.
Alcohol brought me out of my shell. It gave me a sense of confidence. I noticed
the difference, but didn’t start drinking heavily until later. After high school, the
family way was to leave and don’t look back so that’s what I did. As college was
for rich people, I joined the Navy. The Navy gave me a way out of nowhere, a
job skill, some structure, but also gave me four solid years to hone my poor
drinking habits.

While in the service I met my first wife. Wow, somebody actually loved me and
wanted me. It felt good. We were married not long after getting out of the
service and had twin daughters a year after marrying. Life was good. I loved my
family and began finding success at work.

Yet, there was still something not right down deep in my soul. I did my best to
bury and hide it. I didn’t want to spend time dwelling on it because that would be
focusing on my weaknesses and I saw no value in that, so I forge forward.

Silently, alcohol found its way back into the forefront. Drowning my insecurities
in alcohol seemed to help and before long it was front and center in all my daily
activities. It helped me cope. I wasn’t anticipating black-out drinking. I just wanted to
feel good. Unfortunately, far too often I would overshoot that mark and become
belligerent as I wasn’t a happy drunk. I was an unhappy, angry, drunk. The
relationship with my wife started seriously eroding and we began to separate
emotionally. I was doing the best I could, but the more our relationship eroded
the more I turned to alcohol and then to pornography also. I remember during
this time my wife telling me, “It’s like you don’t even like yourself”. I never
admitted it, but I knew she was right! Life went on like this for several years and I
found myself on this weird disconnected journey through life. Exercise, work,
drink, pornography, sleep, and repeat. I was stuck in a life that didn’t mean much
and that I didn’t like much, but was unable to change. Countless efforts to stop
my addictions left me feeling trapped. There was nothing I could do. I was stuck
and I knew it. However, getting help wasn’t an option as that would be admitting
weakness, failure, surrender, and defeat. Besides, these were private matters.

My job required weekly overnight travel, so drinking away from home allowed me
some freedom from repercussions at home. As life doesn’t stand still, I began
considering finding false intimacy away from my marriage vow and I eventually
did. Alcohol gave me the courage to do what I was a coward to do without it. I
knew it was wrong, so I’d drink for the courage and then would do my best to not
think about consequences.

My wife suspected my unfaithfulness and confronted me a few times. I lied, of
course. Until one day I just admitted it for some reason. I’m not sure why.
Maybe it was a God thing. Maybe it was because I was so numb, broken, and
unhappy inside anyway. I don’t know for sure. But after a couple days
considering what to do she asked me to move out. She was not going to waste
anymore of her life on me. She had told her sister before telling me so that she
would have the courage to go through with it and not let me persuade her
differently.

I spent two days crying like a baby. In disbelieve that my life was crumbling
beneath me. For real! Until then, I had continued deceiving myself that I still had
some control of things. Things weren’t good, but they were the best I could do
under the circumstances.

That’s when it happened…
I was sitting on the end of our bed crying, completely broken, when God made
his grace known to me. That’s the best way I can describe it. There was an
overwhelming sense of freedom that found me while I was sitting there.
Somehow, I knew I didn’t have to drink anymore. I didn’t have to drink! It was an
unforgettable moment that I cannot describe adequately. Before that moment, in
my mind, I had to drink. I had proven it to myself, quite positively, many times,
through many failed self-disciplined attempts to stop. This was a clear, free, gift.
I did nothing to deserve it. To the contrary, my behavior beforehand was quite
the opposite. My obsession to drink was lifted sitting there and hasn’t returned.
The following weekend I attended my first meeting. I don’t know what I was
looking for other than help of some kind, I guess. That meeting was held at a
church. Arriving, I thought I had the wrong address when I saw dozens of people
standing outside. Unsure, surprised, curious, embarrassed, humiliated, and shy I
decided to check it out and went inside. Once inside, I figured if I didn’t
participate then I won’t benefit, so I stood-up when they asked if there was
anyone attending their first meeting anywhere (I think I was supposed to raise my
hand). I’ll never forget how friendly and accepting everyone was.

When the meeting ended, a man approached me who later became my sponsor.
He was a friend of the guest speaker that night. He asked me several questions
one of which was God related. I told him I wasn’t sure if I believed in God. I had
reached out to God during a church revival once when I was in elementary or
middle school and it was unsuccessful. I had settled thinking God really didn’t
exist, I hadn’t done it right, I hadn’t meant it hard enough, or he didn’t want me.
But, truthfully, I didn’t want anything to do with him either. I understood him to be
a God of, “Don’t do this and don’t do that”. I couldn’t understand why anyone
would want to spend time praising and worshiping him. So he wouldn’t send you
to hell? What was that all about? The man simply told me that if I could admit
that “possibly” there is a God then that’s good enough. I told him I couldn’t
definitively prove it either way. So, I guess I passed the test and was accepted.

We met weekly and began walking through the big book and through the twelve
steps of recovery. I was eager and chomping at the bit most of the time. We
thoroughly went through my life’s timeline. We faced, and discussed, every
resentment, fear, or time I had harmed someone. We discovered what my part
was in every wrong I had ever experienced. I approached most everyone I had
harmed or wronged and tried to make amends to them where to do so would not
injure or harm anyone.

One of my biggest freedoms came when considering resentments. I found the
list of resentments written beneath my mother’s name was long enough to circle
the block. I had never allowed myself to clearly face these things before. My
mother had betrayed me by hating me, harming me, failing to love and nurture
me. And, as an adult, by never showing interest in me or my family. Wow! What
was my part in that? What I found was freeing. Somehow, I knew she had done
her best. It was awful, true. But, it’s all she had. She came from her own
unhealthy childhood. She was trapped in her own hell on earth and unable to
free herself from her own demons. Upon reflection, I was her. How could I
approach my wife, who I had betrayed, and ask her for forgiveness when I
wouldn’t forgive my mother? A light came-on and for the first time I saw, wideeyed,
how harboring anger and resentment had bound me. How, in forgiving
others there is really freedom for me. It was life changing. This is something I
probably had prior head-knowledge of, but not heart-knowledge.

Another freedom I’ve found in God is my value. Someone in the AA program
once said that he knew what God’s will for his life was. To treat others as he’d
like to be treated. To love and respect them to the best of his ability and if there
was anything big beyond that God would let him know. I like that philosophy. I
no longer subconsciously find my value in what others think of me. It’s not like it
worked for me before anyway. I try my best to treat others with love and respect.
If someone is not receptive to that then I will take a personal inventory of my
behavior. I may seek advice. But if my conscious is found clear then I let it go. I
don’t have to try and change. It’s not me! I’m not responsible for their behavior.
Sounds simple to me now, but it’s a deep issue I had before finding God.

I’ve found that life has a new, more real, meaning and worth. It’s not all about
me. Living God’s way makes more sense. Somehow there’s freedom in letting
go to God and accepting him rather than struggling to control things myself. I’m
past middle age and lived long enough for me to see a clear difference between
the two paths. My main sources for spiritual guidance and living are the Holy
Bible, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. 

Surrender isn’t always easy, but I’ve found it’s always my wisest choice. I’ve witnessed

many times how God’s ways work better than mine. I’m not always as quick to take

God’s path as I should be, but I eventually come around. God is patient and understanding

and life is really more of a marathon than a sprint anyway. So, I practice love, patience,

kindness, generosity, grace, gentleness, forgiveness, and self control as best I can.

I’ve found this path is more easily traveled utilizing God’s grace, power, and strength

than my own willpower. And he wants us to seek him!

Five and a half years have passed since that day sitting on the bed. Through
that time, I have healed, grown, and been given a new life; maybe even have
been reborn in many respects. I have new friends, new wife and family, and a
new home. I’m not living life half-numb and just going through the motions. Life
is more real, peaceful, comfortable, and fun. When I have impure thoughts, I
take them captive and don’t dwell on them. I give thanks for the things I have
and for the progress I see. This renewed thinking has changed my beliefs,
expectations, attitude, behavior, and life. None of this would have happened if
God hadn’t, first, that day on the bed, reached down and so clearly touched me
with his love and grace.

Martin Luther King: “I may not yet be the man I should be, or the man, with
Christ’s help, I someday will be, but thank GOD I’m not the man that I used to
be”.