I think that I have always had a keen interest in God. I can remember going to our liberal church youth group. We would go on retreats and other activities that involved the church. On one occasion, while on a retreat, we were asked to go out into the woods alone and "talk to God," which I did but got no answer, so I thought I did something wrong. We also went to a Rescue Mission in the city, where for one of the first times I heard the Gospel message and wondered what it would be like to respond to the invitation. Several years later, I did respond to an invitation to have Jesus come into my life and forgive my sins. My response to God was not one of wanting to go to Heaven, but rather one of fearing that I would go to Hell. So this is the story of my life before and after accepting Christ as my personal Savior and struggling through an addiction to discover that Galatians 2:20 (Christ is living my life) is true for me.
This was the beginning of my odyssey with God. In the meantime, I had started an addiction that almost destroyed my life. At a young age I began a secret sexual sin. It gave me pleasure that I could control. As I have looked back at my childhood, I realized that my family did not communicate feelings verbally. It was not OK to be angry or sad. Any of the "negative" feelings had to be buried. (I learned in recovery that you can not selectively suppress feelings–when you suppress "bad" feelings you also suppress "good" feelings. The truth is that feelings are neither good or bad, but are neutral.) That is probably one of the reasons that my addiction had such an attraction for me. I could feel good any time I wanted. However, the consequence of that activity was isolation from everyone. I knew this was unacceptable action and had to hide it. And as I write this I realize it was the source of the underlying fear of being found out, that I really was not the person that you thought. That developed into a great sense of insecurity and wanting you to approve of me and make me OK. My addiction progressed (as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous indicates) from weekly to daily and at times bingeing.
I was raised on a small farm and along the way, I learned how to work on cars and other things by helping my dad and granddad. I also loved to take things apart to see what made them work. One of my favorite things to work on were wind-up clocks. It was a challenge to try to fix one that had been wound too tightly. The clock had to be disassembled and the main spring released without breaking it, then reassembled. My brothers and I also flew model air planes and were always making, working on, or repairing them. One of my best friends and I also set up a chemistry lab in his basement when we were in high school. We did everything from dissecting critters to making explosives. All the time I had my secret life of sexual intrigue.
Somehow I maintained the idea that I was OK and that I was a good guy. In retrospect this seems amazing that I knew that I had to hide what I was doing but still think I was OK. Today I call it DENIAL.
Where we lived was relatively isolated and I did not learn the social graces related to dating, such as dancing. I felt very fearful and self conscious about asking girls out. As a result, I did not date very much. But fantasies about being with a girl would consume a large part of my time. I would obsess about one girl and how her acceptance of me would make everything OK.
So far this story predates my accepting Christ as my personal savior. However, contrary to what many of you may think, my addiction (SIN) continued after my salvation and I continued to cling on to my nice guy image.
When we were seniors in high school, Pat and I started dating. We dated through one year of college. At the ripe old age of 18, we were married. Somehow I thought that the sexual freedom in marriage should be the end of my addiction and for a while it was. But Satan does not let go that easily. It was not long until I was back using pornography to fuel my addiction. After college came my first professional job and shortly after, along came our first child; our second and third followed shortly thereafter. Most of the time I felt like the children were keeping me from what I wanted–Pat. I wanted what I wanted, very selfish and self- centered. And when I didn’t get what I wanted, I was resentful toward Pat. I used this resentment to justify my acting out. My attitude was poor me–I deserve to feel good. At that time I was spending most of my spare time working on the lawn or on refinishing antique furniture, isolating from my family, and was not available emotionally or physically.
In the early 70’s, we met Norman Grubb. We went to Jim Seward’s house and tried to listen to this old gentleman who mumbled at the floor. Years later either Norman got better at speaking or we got better at listening to what he said. But, it started to penetrate. Pat was the first to catch on in her believing of who she was. I mostly tagged along for the ride until relatively recently.
As I have said, one of the results of my addiction was isolation, which I did to keep from being found out. I used my job, working on the yard, around the house and in my woodworking shop to do what I wanted to do. I kept myself busy without having to interact with people. As a result, I had no relationship with my wife or children. Our children would come to me for help with their math homework or when they needed a science project, but always went to Pat for emotional support. I simply was not available emotionally, I was interested in ME and my agenda.
We continued what I kept thinking was a normal, happy Christian family, until Pat and the children had enough. It was at a time when I had started my own business and was struggling to make it work. Our friend Jackie Ginn
would help me with how to do the sales presentations and for a while it worked, but I wanted to do it my way and refused to listen to her input (she had learned her sales experience selling insurance). The consequence of my wanting to do it my way (total independence and satanic) was that I had to shut down the business. I had lost my job, couldn’t make my house payments and was loosing my family because of my sin. One afternoon while talking to Jackie (she was trying to understand why I couldn’t maintain believing that I was Christ in my form for any length of time), I confessed my sin. That was the start of my recovery. I went to Sexaholics Anonymous and started working a 12 step recovery program (based on AA). That was almost five years ago and I have not acted out since then.
Another thing I had to do to be able to maintain my image of being a nice guy and that everything was OK was to numb out my feelings. I was very good at not being able to be in touch with what I was feeling. I had to so I would not feel the pain. The incident that started to break the block of ice that housed my feelings was a confrontation with Pat, my children and my extended family. It was after a conference at our house, and I was in unbelief about myself. Pat heard me lying and got angry and threw anything she could get her hands on at me. I was so numb from being shut down that it had little effect. Later that night my daughter confronted me about not knowing what was going on with her. At one point, Pat got in my face and yelled something, I felt myself start to unthaw. It was like having blood run back into my face. But that quickly reversed and I was like ice again. I knew that I was loosing everything and I had to make a change. That was when I went to a one week intensive treatment center for co- dependency. There I started to get in touch with my feelings and found out that it was OK to have sad or angry feelings. That was followed with a year of group counseling. Both of these methods of getting in touch would have failed had Pat not brought me back to the spirit truth about myself. There is danger in therapy that we will just stay there and feel sorry for ourselves, or always try to figure out what went wrong in our childhood. I believe we must acknowledge the truth about what happened in our childhood, but as one psychologist put it: "Go back, look at it and get back to the present. Don’t spend a lot of time there."
So after nearly five years of sobriety, I am constantly getting to practice feeling my feelings. Sometimes intense, sometimes not. I can have feelings and because they are just feelings and thoughts, and because Christ is living out my life, I don’t have to respond to them the same way I used to. When resentment of Pat starts to creep in (resentment was what I used to fuel my addiction), instead of acting out, I am grateful to God for her steadfastness.
The twelve step program has been an invaluable tool. I realized that my life was out of control (Step 1) and that God could restore me to sanity (Step 2). The third step was to turn control of my life over to Him, which is, in our words (Gal 2:20), it is no longer I but Christ living my life. When I try to take back control–I am in trouble (sin). It is only when I, in faith, say that I am a vessel filled with (operated by) the Spirit of God, that he expresses His life as me. One result of this spiritual program was a second chance to develop relationships with my wife, daughters, son-in-law and extended family for which I am very grateful to God.