Thursday, March 04, 2010
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Young people are dying everyday because of drugs and alcohol addiction. And if they aren't dying their dreams and futures are dying because the addictions are destroying them.
“Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Any way you’ll never know
The many times I’ve tried.” – Paul McCartney, The Long And Winding Road
Two years ago, my youngest son, Jeremy, was a high school senior trapped in addiction to drugs and alcohol. Addiction had isolated him from his family and those who cared about him. It had crushed, one by one, each of his athletic dreams and cast a dark cloud over what had once been a bright future for him.
He had given up on believing that he could ever follow the Christian path, as he had repeatedly tried, failed and believed God had “given up on him.” Little did he know then that his utter helplessness in this area of addiction would become THE way for him to truly come to know Christ as His personal Deliverer.
The last two years have been a “long and winding road” for Jeremy and our family but a necessary journey for us all to experience and grow from. This road has led him to his own path of recovery. His recovery process has prepared him to be a true blessing to others-not through his many strengths but ironically through this one particular area of weakness.
Through God’s grace, the prayers of many, and of course, his own faith choices, he recently has celebrated six months of sobriety. Now, two years after those dark days of his high school senior year, Jeremy, 20, will embark on a different kind of long and winding road that will begin in Georgia and end in Maine.
Yes, he has decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, all 2,175 miles of it, as his special way to celebrate the recovery journey he is on and at the same time raise support for others who are seeking recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
As his dad, I am VERY proud of him and what he is aiming to do through this journey, to not only take on this challenge but to serve others in the process. He has chosen to do it at this time of the year so he can return to college in time for the fall semester. He plans on getting off the trail on August 17th - at his one-year mark of sobriety.
I want Jeremy to tell you his story in his own words. If after reading it you would like to join him on his journey through reading his blogs and seeing his photos and videos (and perhaps by pledging support), you can follow the links provided.
My whole world came crashing down on me in February 2008 when I got kicked off my high school basketball team as a direct consequence of my alcohol/drug addiction. I had just been named All-State First Team and was looking forward to helping our team win the 1A state basketball championship. Unfortunately for me, consequences and humiliation alone weren't enough to get me to quit harming myself and my loved ones through my alcohol and drug use.
For the next ten or so months I continued down the destructive and progressive path knowing full well that I had a problem but not wanting to face the truth and make any changes. In December of 2008, after my family decided that enough was enough, I went to Capstone Treatment Center and made a decision to change the way I'd been living but still thought it was something I could do through my own will power despite being warned that freedom from addiction needed one’s total abandonment to God.
I had many misconceptions about God and Jesus, the main one being that I had to be perfect in order to be a Christ follower. I would occasionally recommit myself to do my best to live the Christian life only to fail miserably at it and then end up each time being more discouraged about it than the last. This is something that had haunted me almost my whole life.
So once again, after I got out of treatment this first time, I tried to stay sober and live my life on my own but shortly after relapsed and left home. My alcoholism and addiction only got worse and in August of 2009 I had a moment of clarity where I realized that I was either going to die doing what I was doing or I would do things differently and live a purposeful and fulfilling life.
I was in a very hopeless and lonely spot at that moment. I decided I was willing to go to any lengths to recover and not experience pain like that again. And so I checked myself back into Capstone Treatment Center for the second time on August 21, 2009. I came into treatment so confused about whom I was - I just knew that I no longer wanted to be who I had become. Knowing I needed to do things differently, I decided to put my misconceptions about God aside and let Him take over at my lowest point.
This was a totally different way I had come to God than in the past. Unlike previous times this was no “mountain top experience” but rather it was meeting Him in the valley and beginning to walk with Him there and allowing Him to lead me step by step.
As I began this new walk I reflected on how the drugs had sucked out every bit of passion from me and I had given up on everything that I used to love and enjoy, even my scholarship to play college baseball. But I did know two things that would still get me going if given the chance. I had always lived for competition and adventure and so, when a couple of young staffers at CTC started talking about some of their own adventures I was instantly drawn in.
One of them began to tell of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that goes from Mexico to Canada and the other had hiked the Appalachian Trail, the one I’m going to do! I was hooked.
First of all, I was excited just to be excited about something, other than drugs and alcohol! It was like my spirit had just woken up. It was a really cool feeling. I had already turned my life and my will over to God and so I guess that’s what happens when you do this, you wake up! So at this point, normally what I would have done was just strike out on the trail, needing to get what I want right away, but this time I didn’t. I waited. And I began to pray about it. I began to pray that if God wanted me to do this that he would show me by opening the right doors and if he didn’t that He would show me that, too…a big difference from the way I lived in the past.
But sure enough, one day He DID speak and what I heard made me so excited I could hardly stand it. I felt He was telling me that hike was a dream I was supposed to follow since after all He gave it to me in the first place. And so I decided to do this thing right. I made a sober living plan for when I left treatment and followed it through. I went to a sober living home in Dallas called Gaston House that’s run by a guy named Chico West. It’s a great place to go when you’re new to sobriety to learn how to live sober with God's help and get your feet under you. That’s why I’m doing this for Pay it Forward, because I want others to be able to have this same great shot at a new life that I was given.
While living in Gaston House, God sure enough started rewarding me for doing things His way and not mine. For example, one of my new friends in the house told me that he had almost all of the gear that I will need for my trip. Wow! Chico hooked me up with Brad Duphorne, who directs Pay it Forward and told me that they are a charity that is doing exactly what I want to support. They help people afford to move into long-term sober living who could not otherwise pay for it. All of this just fell in my lap. God has just flat out delivered.
One important thing I feel the need to point out is that I’m not doing this hike to “find myself.” As far as I’m concerned I’ve already been FOUND!
Here is a verse that my dad prayed over me before I was even born. It now has a new personal meaning to me: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that would last.” (John 15:16) and another Bible verse I feel God had for me concerning becoming clean and sober so I can help others who struggle with addiction: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
That’s it. I’ve been rescued from a dark and horrible pit, and now, by doing this thing that I’m dying to do anyway, I can serve out my life’s purpose now, to serve God and others in response to all that Christ has done for me. God is good!
To check out the mission of Pay It Forward click on www.payitforwardsa.org Jeremy's Blog will be available on this website next week, as well as the opportunity for you to support the journey. Hope you will take a look!
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