I really had enough of it all. I wasn’t in a car wreck or in jail at the time. I had a job. I was using heavily but I had improved and wasn’t using the harder stuff. But I was tired, real tired. I was in my late 20’s, I had a son and a broken marriage. I was offering my son what I got growing up from my dad, no, it was even less. I just broke. I wasn’t crying or freaking out, I was just willing to do whatever it was going to take.
It was a Tuesday night and just after 7pm when I got into my car and drove to the church. In the corner of their massive parking lot was a small building with cars, trucks and people standing around outside. Most of those outside were smoking cigarettes. I parked and walked into the entry area nodding and passing out low level volume hellos. I stopped and looked over a table full of informational pamphlets and selected one to read. I found my way into the room and sat down in the back corner behind a pole.
It was just before 8pm when a loud rumble drew closer and closer until you could feel it outside the building. Moments later a group of black leather clad bikers strode into the room. I tried my best to make myself invisible.
The meeting started on time and there were some ritualistic phrases, a prayer I thought I remembered from Catholic church and then folks began talking. It was somewhat structured and topical. Men and women alike began to talk about life without drugs or alcohol. They talked about using and getting loaded. They were open to how hard it was and how some struggled each day, each moment. There were people there who had gone days, weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, even a year or multiple years. I heard people talking about things I felt and struggles I had in my life. This was all new territory. I was not alone.
I was with my best friend Evans. We met at the church that night. Both of us knew something had to give, something had to change. After an hour the guy up front in charge began telling everyone that they could stay clean if they just tried to do it one day at a time, came to meetings and got a sponsor to help them work their way through the steps. He asked who there was celebrating years, months, days. Then he asked if there was anyone who wanted to try it just one day. I did. So did Evans. We walked up front, took a white key tag, “the surrender tag,” and the girl handing them out gave me a hug. People applauded and whooped it up.
After the meeting, the biggest of the biker dudes came over to me and wrapped his arms around me and told me he was proud of me. He said, “Get here early for the next 90 days, set up chairs and stay after to clean ashtrays. You can do this.” So I did.
That was April 17, 1986. The night God began a big story in my life. Since that day, He has continued to teach me, show me and introduce me to a life I had only dreamed of. If on that first day I had written on a piece of paper my wildest dreams and wants, they would not even be close to the life He has given me since I quit using drugs and alcohol.
I am working on today right now, just today, to stay clean, to walk close with Him, to honor the life He has given me. I am so grateful to Evans and all those who have come alongside of me. John A., my fishing partner and sponsor. Mellissa, who taught me structure and service. My brother Mike. My older brother John, who never gave up on me. His weekly calls would always include, “You don’t have to live like that anymore, there is a better way.” Those calls saved my life. My mom, who prayed for me relentlessly. To my oldest Cody, who grew up on my knee in meetings, sometimes every night for weeks. To my wife and youngest. That you put up with all the broken parts of me that God is working on, the hardships and anger, frustrations and immature parenting and husbandry.
I can say that today, as I sit here and write this, I am a blessed man. I have everything I ever wanted and more. I have a family, friends and a life. I have a mission and meaning. Back on that first day I decided to try and make a change to stay clean, that ole biker’s hug meant the world to me. I was the prodigal son and he accepted me back to life. I so desperately needed that. Today I still need that, I need to be forgiven and accepted back daily. In all my brokenness and confusion God is the loving Father. You can have it too. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, He is there with open arms. Romans 10:9 is where you start. 12 Step Meetings are everywhere and those folks, the ones who walk in our same shoes, they care.