” Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”
-Galations 6:7-8, MSG
One of the first questions we ask when trying to delve into the past of someone who comes to the ARC is “What was your home life like while you were growing up?” Although there may be some common themes, no two stories are alike. Roy’s life growing up was one of happy tales, loving Christian parents, and an active Church life.
Roy recalls walking with his mom one day in downtown Dyersburg TN; “I noticed some scruffy looking guys sitting on a bench outside the court house. When I asked my mom about them, she told me never to associate with them because they were the town drinkers. I promised my mother I wouldn’t, becoming one of many promises I end up breaking”.
Roy had a typical childhood, did well in school and loved the boy scouts. At the age of 12, wanting to be like his friends, he smoked his first cigarette. “I remember reading somewhere, years later, that nicotine is the number one gateway drug in the world, and sure enough, at the age of 13 I took my first drink and got very drunk while on a camp out with some friends. I don’t remember a lot about being 13, but I remember vividly that first experience with alcohol.” Drinking made Roy feel stronger, smarter, and braver. He couldn’t imagine after that “first high” why the church people didn’t drink. It was then that Roy’s attitude towards church and his family started to change. “I thought they must have been stupid or something”.
For the next 5 years, Roy continued to rebel against his parents and God. Popular among the party group, he drank and partied any chance he got, one bad scene after another. By the time Roy was 18 and attending the University of Memphis, he had lost all control of his drinking. He began having blackouts, often drinking in the morning to be rid of last night’s hangover. He joined a fraternity and became the “Frat House Drunk”, eventually flunking out of university. He found himself making promise after promise to his parents so that they would send him to another school. This went on for the next 8 years (and 4 schools). “I did graduate eventually, but I still didn’t associate my drinking with the problems I was having. I was convinced Alcohol wasn’t my problem, it was the solution”. The party door slammed shut, and Roy found himself alone, drinking to ease the pain in his life. “Alcohol and drugs became my medication, starting a vicious cycle. I drank to medicate my problems, and my drinking created more problems. I was always chasing that first high, that magic carpet ride but I found my highs were getting lower while my problems and depression were mounting around me. I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t.”
Over the years, Roy’s drinking took its toll on those around him. Failed marriages, broken relationships with children, losing jobs and homes and poor health eventually caused Roy to reexamine the way he was living. “As the negative consequences developed, I began to try and fix me. I went to all sorts of programs and meetings, AA, NA, CA, etc.” Roy credits these groups and meetings with helping save his life “I found the most caring people in these groups, very supportive”. However he was still struggling. “I still had not completely surrendered to God”.
Roy continued his path of self destruction and for many more years. “More Pain, Jails, Institutions and near death experiences. I was still trying to fix me. I swapped addictions. I stopped the drinking and drugging for a while and threw myself into my work.” Money, Relationships and Materialistic things replaced the drugs and alcohol, but Roy still felt empty and miserable inside. “And with all that pain I would sooner or later return to my medication to numb the uneasiness.”
Roy eventually found his way to The Salvation Army’s ARC program in Memphis TN. “My life was a train wreck! I had abused my health emotionally, physically and mentally. I had turned my back on the Lord. I was scared and lost, had very low self esteem and little hope for the future”.
Roy walked into the program and began to watch the men, and listen to what the staff were saying. Although skeptical, he began to notice that everyone seemed happy! As he got used to the program, and the sessions, he began to feel better. “The blending of the 12 steps of AA and the Word of God was new, and I began to have an opening of the mind experience.” Roy says his new beginning could be summed up in a line he once heard in a meeting. “I came, I came to, and I came to believe”
As Roy got to know the other men in the program, he started asking them how they got happy. “Several of the guys pointed me to two places they said were the source of their joy. The Bible and the Prayer Room.” Roy desperately wanted the happiness these men claimed. “I had tried all the world had to offer, and came up empty every time.”
5 days after entering the program, Roy entered the Prayer Room “I simply talked to God, Bible in hand. I confessed my sins, my rebellion and all the mess I’d made of my life. I asked him to show me the way because I didn’t know. I believe that at that moment, after 40 years of struggling with all the lustful desires of the flesh, I made my peace with God. I finally surrendered my life to Him, and as one of my sponsors has said, I made a turn and began swimming with the current, instead of against it.”
Today, Roy knows he has a long road ahead of him. “Ahead of me is a lot of wreckage I caused in my past life, but I have peace and joy thanks to my relationship with God.”
Roy has graduated the ARC’s Rehabilitation Program and has entered the “Step Out” program, which allows him to work and have a safe place to live. He’s currently taking Soldiership classes to formalize his relationship with The Salvation Army, and sings in the praise band at our Thursday night Celebrate Recovery meeting and the Sunday morning worship meeting. He’s got a great job he loves just 2 blocks from the center, his relationship with his family has improved leaps and bounds and he visits with them often. “This year I spent the holidays with my family for the first time in 6 years”.
“My addiction caused me to be homeless and on the streets for a while. I became just like the old drunks sitting about the courthouse I had noticed over 40 years ago but God, in His wonderful mercy and compassion saved me.”