The 6th February 2011 marked my first visit to the Everyday Champions Centre, that would one year later become my Church, I had been there before, but not to a service, this day would see my daughter’s confirmation.
At the time things in my life were low, money scarce, work scarce, relationship scarce, alcohol abundant! The balance of my life was tipping and I would continue to slip towards the edge over the coming year, but this day now when I look back holds many regrets.
I don’t really remember too much about the service, I was busy taking in the sights and sounds, this wasn’t Church as I expected it, my partner had told me about the usual Church services, but actually being there was an experience, it wasn’t an old building, with an elderly gentleman at the front reading from the bible, whilst we all try to stay awake, this was my vision of Church in England, but this was different, vibrant, this place was alive and I kind of enjoyed it, even going on stage for the confirmation was not as daunting as I expected, it was a great experience.
After Church it was back to my house for bit of lunch, my partner and her family were in the back room with the kids and food, I sat alone initially in the front room with the football on, Chelsea vrs Liverpool, Torres making his debut for Chelsea and Suarez making his debut for Liverpool, I am a Liverpool fan so I wasn’t going to miss this.
Gradually people from Church started to arrive, they all joined me in the front room with most of the men football fans and were happy with watching the football. I had met Gareth, our Pastor, before through other family gatherings, but many of these people I would meet for the first time, including James, I had never met him before, but I liked this guy, I remember talking to my partner afterwards and saying that I really liked him, that I felt we could become good friends.
I didn’t see many of these people again for over a year, when I turned up at Church on the 1st April 2012, this was the first time I had walked into a religious service of my own free will, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I needed change and this was the first place I was going look.
After that first service was over I remember standing in the foyer of the Church just about to leave, when James came over to me, we had met before just that once, over a year ago, he recognised me from that one previous meeting and we began to talk. Through the course of our conversation it obviously turned to why I was there, I confessed all, I told him about my lost relationship, my alcoholism, my struggle and my attempt to turn my life around. The first thing he did was gave me his phone number, he took my number also, he told me to keep in touch, let him know if I needed help. I had met this guy just once before, I felt a connection then, but now after all this time he was willing to help me, a lost soul, I was overwhelmed.
James certainly kept in touch, he would often text me during the week, make sure I was okay and that things were going alright, always with a word of encouragement, I was grateful for his text every time, I was not alone anymore. At the lowest point of my recovery, when the pains of withdrawal were too much, when I was close to giving up, it was James I reached out to, it was his reassurance that helped me make it through, for that one night alone I owe him a debt of gratitude.
Before the day of my Baptism I had never met James’ wife before, I had seen her at Church but never been introduced or had a conversation with her, I wasn’t even sure she knew who I was. During the amazing events that were my baptism, James wasn’t there, he was at one of the other Church campus in Wellingborough, when I texted James later to tell him about my day, he replied that Gemma had sent him a text during the service to let him know, she thought he would want to know and also be gutted that he wasn’t there. I was blown away, essentially that James had thought enough of me to talk with Gemma about me and that someone I had never met would do such an act of kindness and let James know what had transpired, as he was instrumental in getting me to that point.
James has certainly been a rock that I could rely on during these first months of my recovery, he’s not the only one though, all of those that sat with me back in the dark days of February 2011, have become good friends and have shown me great encouragement and kindness, so much so I owe them all so much, I met some fantastic people that day.
But I have one massive regret from that day, they were all great people, I sat there with them, the only none Christian in the room, but that didn’t matter, we laughed, we talked and we shouted at the TV (well the men did, I don’t think the women were that interested in the football), I really enjoyed their company, but I couldn’t wait for them to leave, as the afternoon rolled into early evening, my drinking hours were approaching, I hadn’t any drink in the house, I was beginning to get the cravings, I wanted a drink, but some of these people were still with us, we kept talking and I kept craving, I kept a lid on it but I found myself wanting them to leave, purely for selfish reasons, I wanted to drink, but I couldn’t whilst these people were with me. Once they had left I gave it a few minutes and left for the shop round the corner for a couple of bottles of wine, I was desperate.
Part of me thinks now when I look back at that day, that it’s such a shame I didn’t embrace them and God that day, that I continued to turn my back on it, things could all be so different now, but then on the other hand I think I’ve gone through what I have for a reason, it’s made me stronger, I’ve been rebuilt a better person, with a story that maybe can help inspire others.
His love is like a river wide
So let everyone beneath His skies
Lift their voice and sing
(The Kingdom by Starfield)
I have changed my life, I have rebuilt a broken man with God’s grace and the help and encouragement of some fantastic people.