Finding My Faith: My Journey Through Alcoholism
“It is a luxurious thing, wine, and inebriation is tumultuous. Anyone who is delighted by this will not be wise” – Proverbs 20:1
Hello everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Nathan Childers and this is the first installment of “Finding My Faith”. To start off, you might have figured out from the title that I am an alcoholic, and as of writing this I have 336 days sober. That is 11 months, 2 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes to be exact. Throughout this blog I want to document my journey through recovering from alcoholism and documenting how my faith in God, and my faith in my Church has been strengthened. Faith. Such a simple word, but a word I have always struggled with from an early age. What is faith? Well the first definition we come across with a quick google search is: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. The second is “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof”.
The second definition is the one I have always struggled with. How can I believe in something without proof? How can I believe in an all-powerful being that is responsible for creating everything that I see, and everything that is currently happening in the world? I still cannot answer that question, but I am no longer troubled by faith. I have tried to control my own path for far too long with destructive results, it was not until I turned control of my life over to God that I found peace in my soul. I think it is time to give some background information so you can see how I arrived at this cross roads in my life.
I was raised in a protestant household, specifically Presbyterian. We went to church on Sunday’s and Sunday school before church. I attended youth group in my teen years, but I was never really committed to Christianity. I would not say we were an overly religious family, I do not recall praying before meals except at family gatherings. I can recall specifically waking up on Sunday mornings hoping we would not go to church. I would try and stay in bed as long as possible hoping my parents would just forget it was Sunday. But still let’s go back a little further than this, and touch on a subject that just 11 months ago I would not have been able to write about. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my Mom and Biological Father got divorced but I think I was around 2 years old. We left our home and toxic environment and moved to California. My mom remarried to her high school sweetheart who became my Dad. For years my biological father had visitation, and when we moved back to Indiana, in the middle of my kindergarten year, he had visitation every other weekend. I can still feel the disappointment on those Friday’s when my Mom would have to tell my brother and me that he would not be picking us up. I have to say that my relationship with his side of the family, specifically my Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, and Uncles was very strong. It remains strong to this day, and I would not be the person I am today without their influence. After many issues over the years that I will not detail, my biological father signed over his parental rights to me and my brother when I was in second grade. The impact of this has carried over into my adult life. My stepdad, adopted both of us.
The sacrifices he made, and the impact he made in my life cannot be put into words. Over the following years my biological father made multiple reappearances in my life, while his family remained a constant positive influence amongst the chaos he would cause. We would go on a normal schedule of spending time with him and his new family, only then to go months or even years without hearing a word. This finally came to a head when I left for college. I found out that he showed up on the day I left for college and cried, because I was growing up and what he had missed out on. I jumped at this chance to reopen the long lost relationship. My girlfriend at the time, who would later become my wife, supported me. My Mom also supported my decision, and offered to go with me to meet with him. My Grandma set up the date and time to meet. I can still picture that day, and feel everything that I felt that day. Every single time the door opened my heart would stop. It was like I was a kid again waiting on those fateful Fridays for him to show up. Just like before, he failed me. He never showed. At this point in my life having a relationship with God would have been helpful. My girlfriend was and is still Catholic, but I was having a negative impact on her faith as we never went to Church. By this time I was claiming to be atheist. I didn’t believe in anything. This blinded me to the fact that I had all this support of loving people around me but all I could feel was despair and abandonment. On this day Hate took root in my heart. That is how the Devil works. He will blind you to all of the good in your life and only let you see the bad. I had a loving girlfriend, a mother that loved me unconditionally, the support of all of my extended family, and a Father. This is the one I feel most guilty about. I have ALWAYS had a loving Dad, but I always sought the affection of the one that didn’t want me. I let those feelings lead down a dark road of hate and resentment that eventually led to heavy drinking and depression. All I had to do was open my heart to God and look at all of the support that I have around me.
Now that you have the general idea of my background lets address the drinking. I will not discuss all of the instances of underage drinking for obvious reasons, but just know that I took my first drink and was truly drunk for the first time at the age of 12. Let that sink in for a second, 12 years old. I have a daughter around that age and the thought of this is terrifying. I drank in high school with friends when we could, but surprisingly in college I was not much of a partier. I credit this to my loving wife and to the fact that we were poor college students that could barely afford food! I became Catholic for my wife, and her family. She wanted a big traditional Catholic wedding and the only way to achieve this was to join the Church. My early years with Catholicism eerily echoed my childhood experiences with church. I simply did not want to wake up on Sundays and go to Mass. It was boring and I never got much out of it. I always thought when we would have our first child that it would be the moment that I could see the greatness of God. It never happened, with either child. We went about our adult lives and piled up debt like every good American should. We lived way beyond our means and by the age of 25 filed for Bankruptcy. It was always a struggle with money. If I was not working 2 jobs, my wife was working 2. We rarely got to see each other unless it was in passing. To say that it put a strain on our relationship would be a huge understatement. My regular drinking I guess started around this time. It was not heavy drinking, but it was a constant. I could always find a reason to take a drink. If I had a bad day, I would need a drink to take the edge off. If I had a good day, well that’s reason to celebrate with a drink. It was vicious cycle. This led down a path to heavy drinking that really became a problem when someone in particular made a reappearance in my life. The circumstances surrounding why my biological father made a reappearance I will keep private but just know that he was trying to make up for lost time. As I mentioned before, Hate had already taken root in my heart. I wouldn’t have the time of day for this man or his children. His daughters reached out to me on Facebook and I ran into one in a store. Let’s just say I didn’t handle either of these situations with much dignity. I acted selfishly. I wanted nothing to do with them. I would literally have panic attacks at the thought of going to a family gathering on his side for fear that he would show up. Again this is exactly how the devil works, he will prey on our fears and blind us to the good that is all around us.
My hate and fear drove me to dark place of anxiety and depression that I kept locked up tight. The only thing that would provide a release was alcohol. We still did not have a lot of money so I would get whatever I could afford and effectively hide. Beer was ever present in our house hold but it was never enough. The more I drank, the more beer it would take to drown and deaden the feelings of hate and depression. Then they would only be compounded and magnified by the guilt I felt the next morning. I was what is called a functioning alcoholic. My drinking never affected my ability to do my job, or take care of my kids. I never drank during the day, or when I was solely responsible for my kids, but at this time I somehow managed to find a way to get good and drunk on a nightly basis. This all came to a head 11 months ago. I didn’t have money and I was out of alcohol. This is not my proudest moment but it is the turning point in my life. I took allowance money from my son to buy alcohol. It just so happens that on that day my wife had to take my daughter to gymnastics practice, which is a very long practice. Our son would have to go with her. Well they went shopping that day while practice was going on and I had to work my second job. My son wanted to get something while out shopping and he knew he had money at home. My wife bought it for him and when they got home he got in trouble because he didn’t have any allowance money. When my wife confronted me with the fact that his money was gone I didn’t try and explain it away and I came clean. It was a moment of pure honesty, and I believe it was the moment that God came into my life. She was understandably furious. I didn’t know if my marriage was going to survive. I slept on the couch that night. I passed up another important life factor that happened in the middle of all of this. I lost my job of 11 years. My company closed its doors without much warning. I thankfully was picked up by another company but it still wreaked havoc on fragile emotional state. I had a week off in between jobs and this is where these events took place. So she gave me an ultimatum, get help or she was done. I sought the help of our Priest. In the beginning we had weekly meetings in his office. One of the first things I did was go to confession. I had never been one that had a high opinion of confession. In fact it was one of the things I disagreed with Church and her teachings. Why did I ever have to confess my sins to Priest when God already knew my sins and I could just pray directly without a middle man? Well its scripture time, John 20: 21-23 Jesus says to the apostles:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The relief I felt confessing my sins is remarkable. The penance was far too light in my opinion! Our Priest would rather celebrate the fact of someone taking part in one of the sacraments instead of punishing them. Our weekly meetings continued for months, then moved into bi-weekly, and then monthly. We now will only meet if I have something to discuss. But we covered everything that I have detailed here, and much more that I don’t want to commit to the internet. The biggest thing that I have learned, and what has helped me grow my faith the most is to forgive and let go of the hate. It took a couple of months for me to forgive my biological father, but I eventually got there. It was like scales were lifted from my eyes and I could see God for the first time. I am truly surrounded by wonderful people that love me and support me, now it is time I return favor. I am trying to be more involved in the lives of those that have supported me for all of these dark years. I am trying to be a better Husband, Father, Son, Brother and Uncle. Overall I am just trying to be a better member of society, and more importantly to be a better Catholic. I cannot state enough how important my faith is to me now, and how much I want to see our children grow in this faith. I do not want them to have the struggles that I have had with faith. I want them to always turn to God and the Church for answers. This is where I have failed them the most as a Father, and I am trying to undo years of harmful behavior. I want them to feel the peace that I feel when I pray the rosary, or “the Our Father”. I want them to get out of Church what was not there for me at their age, but is present in my life now. I am not writing this to throw a pity party for myself, those days are over, or to seek the attention of others. I have kept my sobriety from almost everyone in my life but a select few people. There is another piece of scripture that I want to share here that is important to me:
Sirach 2:5 – “For gold and silver are tested in fire, yet truly, acceptable men are tested in the furnace of humiliation.”
I had never had a moment when God was truly speaking to just me until last weekend in Mass. I cannot tell yet what the readings were, or what the homily was even about. All I could hear was God. No it was not a voice directly talking to me but my thoughts were being pulled in the direction of helping others. I have struggled with the thoughts of getting involved more in the Church, but I don’t know where I should start. I didn’t know where I should get involved, I still don’t. I felt God pushing me in the direction of my story of alcoholism and my life experiences. I told my wife on the way home from Mass that Sunday that I felt a calling. I didn’t know exactly what God wanted with me but he wanted me to write. I needed to sit down and do it and he would take care of the content. This is the end product. I am not sure what to do with this but I am positive that God wants this to reach as many people possible, which makes me very uneasy because it contains many personal experiences that most people do not know about my life. Isn’t that how God works? It is not supposed to be easy, but if this reaches just one person that is struggling in life and helps them to realize that all is not lost, but God is always there, trying to get you to see all of the good in your life over all of the bad. Then I would call this a success. I do not know if I plan to write any more but I have a feeling that I will. This journey with my faith is an ongoing and ever evolving process. The recovery from alcoholism will be a lifelong endeavor that will always be tested by the Devil. He will not be happy he lost one of his alcoholic atheists to the good side. He will always be testing me, trying to bring me back into the fold. I will end this with another piece of scripture from my favorite book:
Sirach 21:2 – Flee from sins, as if from the face of a serpent. For if you approach them, they will take hold of you.”
Author: Nathan Childers