“For when a few years are past, I shall go the way of no return.”
This past Wednesday I celebrated 30 years clean. 30 years of not using alcohol or any illicit drugs. The years prior to this time were fueled by substance abuse that was accompanied by a co-occurring mental health disorder. It was during this time that I felt disconnected from God, wandering through the wilderness of life.
But when I attended my first recovery group meeting something happened. I would describe it as a form of divine intervention. With the supports of those in the program, professionals, and my family, I began to see a major improvement in my mental health. Mind you, this took time. I still experienced the after effects of impaired thoughts, however things certainly improved over time.
Another thing happened once I embarked on this journey. I was more intentional with the practice of regular prayer. I also joined my church, Pilgrim-St. Luke’s United Church of Christ (now known as Pilgrim St. Luke’s and El Nuevo Camino UCC). It was here that I found a level of acceptance and was welcomed unconditionally. This form of radical hospitality has served as means of helping me and many others feel the presence of Christ through the actions of others.
Over these 30 years I have experienced the presence of God in so many ways. I’ve had many life-altering experiences that have served to strengthen my faith. I’ve been tested through many trials and tribulations and have come to realize that God has been with me every step of the way.
One of the most significant examples of this source of infinite love was in 1995 when I experienced my last manic episode. My wife, Suzy, was pregnant with our first daughter and I was employed as a counselor at a Buffalo area addictions clinic. This was a truly difficult time for me and my family. The sense of uncertainty for my health and well-being was significant. I really didn’t know where I was headed.
It was at this time that I reached out for help. My pastor from Pilgrim-St. Luke’s, Rev. Bruce Mckay, was an embodiment of the support and love that God has for me. The time he took to minister to me was something that I needed so much during this time.
Another example of Christ’s unwavering love was displayed by my good friend Mark. Mark and I had known each other for several years and we were pretty tight. When I was recovering from my bipolar experience and in the midst of a major depressive episode, Mark was ever present. He took the time to be with me and demonstrated how healing the simple presence of others can be.
There have been countless experiences I have had in the last 30 years that serve as a testament to God’s unabiding love. I cannot deny this. This is my testimony. Some may say that I am still delusional. But this is not the case. There is a definite cause-effect relationship between my many challenging circumstances and the outcomes that are produced by me tapping into God’s power. This power serves a source of strength when I am feeling weak and in need of help.
When we allow the power of Christ to enter our lives, miracles happen. When I consider how truly lost I was in the midst of addiction and mental illness, I cannot deny the existence of a Power greater than myself that is at work every day. This presence has helped me to regain my health and live a life I once thought was impossible. God’s grace is infinite and real. And so, the journey continues.