Tag Archives: Everyday Champions Church

Children Of God – 1 John 3:10

Children Of God – 1 John 3:10

Today I have found
The true children of God
All those who placed an arm upon me
As my tears fell to the floor
They brought God’s word to comfort me
I’ve made it through by their love
For a brother who struggled this day
Tomorrow I’ll rise and surely know
That those friends are all children of God

1 John 3:10

1 John 3:10

My Voice, His Story – Celebrating 225 Weeks Sober

This is my voice, but His story.

This video was recorded back in March, just a few weeks before my four year Sober anniversary.  For weeks leading up to the recording I would find myself going over and over the story in my head, it had be suggested some time before that I make a testimony video, so I bit the bullet and arranged with Phil to record one, this is the result.

It has been played at all of our Church campuses, but this is the first time it has been shared on-line, I choose to share it now, the 225th week of my sober journey.

I am so thankful for those few days, where darkness turned to light and I felt the touch of God upon my soul, when the bottle fell from my hands.

I have to thank Gareth and Leanne, the senior Pastors at Everyday Champions Church, for not only giving me the chance to make this video, but for being there when I needed a second chance at life, also a big thank you for everyone who has stood by me on the journey so far.

Please feel to share this testimony.

MERCY TREE by LACEY STURM
On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the spot between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Beaten, battered, scarred, and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was his cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see his face
And every tear, he’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise him for the mercy tree

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

His Family (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

His Family (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

We try to face this world alone
I know that I have tried
And the world witnessed me fall
Still the Lord brought me to a family
That stands beside me evermore
Now we work through life together
Beside each other as we face the world
And if one of us should fall
We have our holy family to help us rise
This is the glory of the Lord
The way His family works for each other
And we call to all those who are lost
Or alone in face this world just like I
That this could be their family
And in the Lord
No longer called lost anymore

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Where Would I Be Now (Hebrews 10:25)

Where Would I Be Now (Hebrews 10:25)

Where would I be now?
Without the arms that You led me to
Their words of encouragement
All formed within Your word
Become part of the foundations of my recovery
In my darkness they bring Your light
My tears they have wiped away
In the shadows they dare to reach
To bring me back into Your light
I thank You for this family
That have watched over me as I grow
All part of my recovery
And without them this I ask
Where would I be now?

Hebrews 10:25

Hebrews 10:25

My Awesome Day

I have to say that so far this has been the most awesome Easter Day ever, for me it feels like a day of total redemption.

This coming Tuesday I will be celebrating 4 years sober, which in its self is a massive achievement, that I am both proud of and thankful for the strength of God to make it through this far.

But it was the events that led up to that in the preceding weeks, that are first and foremost in my thoughts following the events of today. Eleven days before that last drink, I found myself wanting to end my own life, to give up on everything, I felt so worthless and was convinced that my family and Victoria would be better off without me. I stood facing the mirror with a knife against my wrist, going through all these thoughts of worthlessness.

Then out of nowhere I heard a voice that said “It’s better that your kids live with who you are now, than what they are going to find!”

I remember seeing a vision of myself dead in a bath of blood and knowing that my six year old daughter would have been the one to come looking and find me. After that I put down the knife.

That started the process of seeking help, praying and discovering God, becoming sober and starting to attend Church.

So today just over four years on from that day I had the amazing experience of Baptising my now 10 year old daughter. Eve asked to be baptised so Victoria asked if I could be in the pool and do the actual baptism, which I am thankful I was able to do.

It was an amazing experience and very emotional, afterwards so many people came up to say that they had shed a tear whilst watching. I am so thankful I got that chance to do this for my daughter, it was an amazing experience for her too. She recorded a testimony video which was shown on the screen, she stated she wanted to be baptised because she wanted to do something that Jesus had done!

Eve - waiting

Eve – waiting

Eve - baptised

Eve – baptised

For me this feels like I put aside some of my guilt, my torment of what I did and became, the pain of that day four years ago now seems so distant, as I say, it feels like total redemption. To be able to do this and on Easter Sunday, celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and rising from the dead, is so special.

To top it off, my Mum and Dad attended Church. My Dad is now recovering well from his heart bypass operation, he’s still not able to drive for a few weeks, so my friends from my Connect Group chipped in to collect them and take them home. My Dad stated that he usually only goes to Church for weddings, funerals etc, but I have a feeling that he actually enjoyed it, although I’m not sure he was quite ready for the way we do church, neither of them have ever been to a Church like ours before. Although I’ve got a feeling they will be back, they brought my niece too, who went into Kids Church, she absolutely loved it, so I’ve got a feeling she will want to come back too.

So roll on now Tuesday evening, I have arranged for a number of the guys from Church, who have been amazing supporters on my four year journey to join me for a meal in town to celebrate, it’s going to be a great evening, I can’t wait.

My life may not be perfect, but at the moment it feels amazing.

All because of the sacrifice of the one, the one who conquered death.

MERCY TREE by LACEY STURM
On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broke and weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole

Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation brought the mercy tree

In the sky, between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
Sacred Hands pierced by our thorns

It is finished was his cry
The perfect Lamb was crucified
The sacrifice, our victory.
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth ‘quaked at love’s display
Three days silence in the ground
This body born for Heaven’s crown

On that bright and glorious day
Heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed
Praise him for the mercy tree

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

One day soon we’ll see His face
And every tear, He’ll wipe a way
No more pain or suffering
Oh, praise him for the mercy tree

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

Death has died. Love has won!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome.
He has risen from the dead.

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

Celebrating The Miracle Of My Darkest Day

Today is the 200 week anniversary of the darkest day of my entire life, a day when I sought the end of everything, life, everything, to walk away from the earth, from the people I loved, from everything I had left and everything I had to come. The day was the culmination of a binge that had started five days earlier when my sad, slow descent into my alcohol addiction had finally put the nail in the coffin of the relationship between myself and Victoria, I had let got of myself and in the end she had to let go of me too.

For five days I barely ate, just drank, when I wasn’t working or teaching I was drinking, every spare opportunity I had to drink. I tried not to, really did, when I left the house to go buy more wine and cider, I cried as I passed the door to Victoria’s room, apologising for what I was going to do, she said she understood, but I don’t think she really did.

On that Sunday morning, after putting away five pints of strong cider and two bottles of wine the night before, I finally realised what a mess I was and the voice in my head told me quite clearly I was useless, I was a waste of space and my kids and Victoria were better off without me around, the only way out was to end it ALL. I stood looking in the mirror as the voice over and over told me how useless I was, tears falling and my right hand holding out a penknife, reaching for my left wrist, I planned now to get in the bath I was running, cut my wrists and just lay there waiting to die, an end to the pain, an end to everyone’s pain, they would all finally be free.

That was the lowest point in my life that I have ever found myself, I had had episodes like this before, but never with the real intention inside, now I really didn’t have anything to live for, before I was still in hope I could turn it around, that the situation with Victoria, the drinking, the money, it all could be repaired, now it seemed it couldn’t, this was the end.

So today, 200 weeks, 1400 days on, I chose to change my opinion of this day and actually proclaim that this is the greatest day of my life, the day when the chains fell and I truly feel that God’s hand and voice were truly evident to me. I can see now points in my life where God laid out seeds on the ground for me to follow, some I did, most I didn’t, but on this day, it was the day of the breakthrough, the day God started His mighty work to my redemption, my salvation, His grace was felt, His voice in that moment changed everything.

As I stood there, facing this grim visage that was my tear stained face, crying along with every worthless thought, God’s voice whispered over all the noise and I heard it, I guess I didn’t know it was Him as the time, but now I know it most certainly was. Just as the bath was filled, just as I repeated all those thoughts of worthlessness, a voice said…..

“It’s better that your kids live with who you are now, than what they are going to find!”

I looked to the bath and vision of my there in red bath water, all life drained from me, this was what my children would find, I knew it would be my daughter that would come looking for me first, she was six years old, that’s a memory that no one should have to live with, let alone your six year old daughter. I put the knife down and cried even harder.

God’s voice in that moment told me there was hope, that what I had was somehow retrievable, what I wanted to do was not. There was a way out of this, there wasn’t a way out of suicide.

I remember at that point feeling so angry, I was in a place of nothingness, stuck in a void, neither living not dead, I was angry with myself, I felt I had neither the courage to live or the courage to die, I had nothing, nothing at all, I didn’t see the hope then, it would come later.

I truly believe I wasn’t being selfish at that point, I do not believe that suicide is the selfish option, suicide is the point of all hopelessness, you are drained of any hope, for you or the people you love whilst you are still alive. I have heard people say and I might add some Christians too, that suicide is the only way out of their problems for some people, unfortunately these people have never found themselves at the point of all hopelessness and had to stare themselves in the face and reason with this option.

But if that moment in my life taught me anything, it’s that God says there is always hope.

Later that day, Victoria brought me the telephone number for Gareth, the Pastor at her Church, I had asked to speak with him out of selfishness, believing that he could mediate something between us, now God was saying I needed to speak with Him so doors could be opened.

I knew Gareth, I had met him a number of times and only a year before we sat in my living room watching the football together, this I now see was just another seed God planted for me, to meet people along the way, that would be instrumental in seeing me come out of the dark and lonely pit I had dug for myself.

The next day I called Gareth first thing in the morning, against every fear in body I made that call, my addiction tried to stop me, it knew it would be the beginning of the end, start of the battle back, I nearly gave in, but Victoria knew I had to make that call too, she even checked with Gareth just to make sure.

The meeting we had later that night lifted the hopelessness that I was shrouded under and let in the some light, over the coming days the light would shine brighter and brighter, I would hear God’s voice over and over again, I would start to speak to Him, to pray, to let the miracle begin and life be renewed.

In a way I guess I truly died that day, maybe not physically, but something died that day so I could live.

That day God became real, maybe I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but over the coming months I became aware of what was done for me that day. The one thought that broke the chains, could only be the whisper of God that can be heard over chaos, my hands though holding tight to the steel blade, could move no further, I truly believe God held them that day, as He whispered in my ear, telling me to hold on, there is hope.

In my journal I have a number at the top of the page, the SoberDay count, each day I count the number of days since the 29th March 2012, when I took that last drink, when the chain of addiction finally fell, but at the bottom of the page I have the number of days since that Sunday 18th March 2012, day one being the next day when I phoned Gareth, that ‘s the first day of the rest of my life, my old life died before that mirror the day before.

THE REASON by LACEY STURM
All my life, I’ve searched for something to satisfy the longing in my heart
And everytime, I come away emptier than before

And now I finally see the reason
‘Cause I was made to be yours alone
You formed my heart with your own hands
But I just could not understand
If I gave you my life
I’d be healed by your Grace
I was made for Your love
And gave others Your place

I spent my days giving my heart away to anything new
Only to ache from the poison of my temporary muse
And there were times I’d cry myself to sleep at night
Only to wake up wishing that I didn’t

And now I finally see the reason
‘Cause I was made to be yours alone
You formed my heart with your own hands
But I just could not understand
If I gave you my life
I’d be healed by your Grace
I was made for Your love
And gave others Your place

Thank you for never giving up on me
When I looked to everything else and lived so selfishly
You bled, you died to be with me
Why would you do something like that for someone like me?

And now I finally see the reason
‘Cause I was made to be yours alone
You formed my heart with your own hands
And now I finally understand
And I give you my life
And I’m healed by your grace
I was made for your love that no one can replace
This is it
I wont miss everything I am made for
To be yours
All yours

Discovering The Heart Of A Champion

The Church I attend is called Everyday Champions Church, that was the Church I walked into on the 1st April 2012, just three days after finishing my last drink.   We have a motto as such which is “There Is More In You Than You Think”.

Over the last few weeks in our Connect Groups we have been discussing what it means to be an Everyday Champion, what it is that drives us on to be the best we can be.  A couple of weeks ago in our Group, my mind was drawn back to a comment I had heard, a quotation that a famous Karate Instructor had said and when I went away to find the actual quote, I came across a story I had heard before, but now found more relevant than ever.

Back in 1957, the Japan Karate Association organised the first All Japan Karate Championships, which was probably the first Nationally organised karate competition in the world.  One student, Kanazawa Sensei was training for this competition, until just four days before he broke his right hand training.  The J.K.A. withdrew him from the competition because of the injury.

His mother had travelled to Tokyo to watch her Son compete, when she arrived he told that he was unable to compete due to the injury to his hand, but she didn’t understand why he couldn’t.  He tried to explain that he wasn’t allowed, due to the injury and she questioned him further.  She asked if he only used his right hand, didn’t he have another hand and two leg also, couldn’t he use them?

She told him to go back to the J.K.A. and ask to be allowed to compete.  The J.K.A. eventually agreed, on the provision that he had a doctor with him that would take responsibility for the injury.  So he went along to compete, hoping to win just one fight for his on looking mother.

In the competition he used his left hand to block his opponents and counter with kicks, he won his first fight, then another and another, until he made the final.  In the final he once again used his legs to score the points that saw him crowned the first All Japan Karate Champion.

Years later he travel to England to teach, he was introduced as a Champion of all Japan and students would congratulate him on becoming champion, he would usually respond  with “Thank you but please remember that I was only a karate champion for that one day, what about all the other days of the year?” Then he would say. “Karate is not just about being a champion on one day of the whole year but karate is about how hard you train in order to perfect your karate and yourself all the time, for every day, not just one”.

The story of that first karate championships is a great example of how we think.  He only saw what he didn’t have, concentrating on what he had lost, his mother looked not to what was lost, but made him look to what he had, to use that and go out and win, she changed his thinking and his mentality.

We see a parallel here with many stories and heros of the Bible, the likes of Moses, when God instructed him to lead the Isralites out of Egypt, he saw his inability to speak as a reason he couldn’t do it, but God saw the heart inside and sent Moses anyway, sending Aaron to speak for him, God saw what Moses did have, rather than what he was lacking.

In Jeremiah 1, we see the same issue, God instructs Jeremiah to go out to be a Prophet among the Nations, but Jeremiah responds with what he does have as an excuse, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”  God sent him out anyway, seeing what Jeremiah had rather than what he lacked.

Despite being a karate champion, Kanazawa Sensei saw that as only one act, just that day, he saw his training as his way to perfect his character each day, to be the best person he could be.  In karate we have what is called the Dojo Kun, five ideals we strive to be:

  • Seek perfection of character
  • Be Faithful
  • Endeavor
  • Respect others
  • Refrain from violent behaviour

Kanazawa strove to live out this code in his daily life, not just a champion for that one day, but to live as a champion everyday.

Unfortunately these days we see too many champions of sport, not just karate, who fail to live this way, though they train to win on that one day, the rest of the time they unfortunately fail as human beings, consumed by success and riches gained, rather than living the real life of a champion.

We see in David, a champion on the battle field who strove to live the life of a champion everyday.  We see when he accepted the challenge of Goliath, it was those around him that saw only what he didn’t have, they saw him as young and small, inexperience and not a warrior, they didn’t see what David had.  Even Saul didn’t see what David had, otherwise he would have taken the challenge himself.  We don’t see Saul get down on his knees and pray to God, he was the King of the Israel, yet he never saw what he had on his side, only what he didn’t.

David on the other hand knew he had God with him, he answered Saul’s doubt with “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He knew he had God with him, he had all he needed and as we know he defeated Goliath.

We are all guilty of seeing what we lack, me included, I see everything I don’t have as a reason not to be the person God made me to be, I see all that is wrong with my life, forgetting about all that I have and what God has given me.

I may have overcome so much, but there is still much I am afraid to do, because I have fear in what I don’t have, rather than confidence in the God I have with me always, I just need to keep believing, like David, that the God that has delivered me from so much, will deliver me in all the battles I face.

What is it that you see as a reason not to face the challenges before you?

What is it that you don’t have that stops you from competing?

What is it that you believe you don’t have that stops you being a champion everyday?

For we all have God with us, in every battle, in every fight, so what is it that stops us living as a Champion?

WHOM SHALL I FEAR (GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES) by CHRIS TOMLIN
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light

Whom shall I fear

You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still

Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises

You are faithful
You are faithful

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The Story So Far – Chapter 23 – Inside The Fear

CHAPTER 23 – INSIDE THE FEAR

I started on the medication the day after I met with the Doctor, he suggested a minimum of a six month course, but stated I should come back within a couple of weeks to assess my condition, I booked an appointment and the only one I could get was on my 40th birthday.

The earlier side effects to the tablets were almost instantaneous, just as the Doctor suggested, which mainly manifested themselves as bouts of diarrhoea and some extreme dizziness.  The diarrhoea thankfully only lasted a day or two, but the dizziness lasted a week or so.  The only way I can describe these feelings was a little bit like on the Lord Of The Rings films, when Frodo puts on the one ring and his world turned to shadows and nothing seemed to be in focus, that was how I was seeing the world in those moments, thankfully they only lasted seconds, but it did leave me feeling very disorientated for a while afterwards.  I spoke with a work mate who I knew had taken antidepressants in the past and described the feelings to him, he identified with the same feelings and said when he knew he had to take them again, he would book off a week so he could get through these side effects, unfortunately because of the days I already had booked, I didn’t have this luxury, I had to tough it out at work.

I had kept Sarah and Paul informed of my visit to the Doctors and how I was feeling, on the Wednesday I went to their house a little bit early, neither of them were present the week before when I sat at Ally’s house in complete tears, but when the rest of the group arrived Sarah let me briefly explain where I was at and the medication I was now on.  It was hard to try and explain what the previous week was all about, as quite honestly, I don’t know what it was about or why it all happened the way it did, but in explaining the visit to the Doctors and the medication, I’m sure they understood things a little better this week.  As always they were all extremely supportive and once again, they prayed for my situation.

Once the early symptoms of the medication had all but worn off, I was left with just the odd mild jittery feeling, it would come and go, the dizziness slowly disappeared, but I would find that I felt really jittery from time to time.  By the time the weekend came around I was feeling relatively normal, compared to the last few weeks anyway, I still was struggling to sleep, I wasn’t getting many hours sleep at all, so it was making me tired, but I was getting through each day and the feelings of desperation were subsiding.

But as the day approached where Victoria was to go away, then a wave of fear began to come over me.  Although I felt that I was doing a lot better, those dark feelings of the previous weeks were still fresh in my mind.  The fear manifested itself as strong feelings that I was going to completely mess up in the ten days or so whilst she was away.  I’ve never had the kids for more than a full day on my own, yes I’ve looked after them alone, increasingly over the last couple of years, but now I had this fear that one of these dark moments would manifest itself and I would end up doing something stupid.  I couldn’t shake the feeling and after all the progress after starting to take the medication, I was beginning to be unravelled.

But I had so many offers of support, so many families at Church all offered their support and said to call them if I was struggling, a few offered to cook a couple of meals for us, which they very kindly did and dropped off for me, it eased the pressure.  Victoria’s mum had them for a couple of night’s so I could attend my Connect Group and took them over the weekend so I could have a bit of a break.

All the while though my struggle for sleep was getting worse.  I would just lay their at night unable to drift off.  The good thing about that was, that on a couple of channels on Sky TV by now were running Christmas films literally 24 hours, so on the nights I couldn’t sleep I would just lay their watching Christmas film after Christmas film, some were good, some were poorly made, but the feel good factor of the films took away any stress I had because of not sleeping.  In the daytime while the kids were at school I would catch up on the odd hour of sleep here and there, but essentially I was still only getting three or four hours sleep each day, but it was enough, I was getting by and gradually feeling better and better.

On the middle Sunday I was invited for dinner at a friend’s, I didn’t have the kids as they were at their Gran’s, so I spent pleasant afternoon in the company of my friend’s family and also a few of our senior Pastor’s who were invited too, it was a really nice way to spend the afternoon and their support and encouragement helped me even more.  Earlier that day at Church I actually felt I was able to participate in worship like I used to.  Over the previous month or so I found I just couldn’t engage with worship, I would sit at the back, on the floor, clutching my knees to my chest and just praying for help, rather than worship, if I tried to get up and worship I just found myself stood there, unable to open my mouth and unable to move, I would just sit down again and go back to that familiar position of holding my knees to my chest and crying into my hands.  But this was the first Sunday where I actually began to feel I was becoming “normal” again, it wasn’t the normal way I would worship, but it was an active worship, not crouching at the back in the shadows anymore, if there were tears, they were more of joy than despair.

We had a couple of film nights at home, I would get in sweets and popcorn and get a new DVD, myself and kids would watch the film and tuck in as though we were at the cinema, only in the cinema you’re not really allowed to lay down wrapped in your duvet like we were, but we enjoyed it, after we had done it for the first time, the kids wanted to do it again, they would have done it every night, if I had let them, but we did it a few times and we all loved it.

By the end of the second week of Victoria being away, all those fears of mine of failing and messing up big time were gone.  I surprised myself at how well I coped and began to realise that being a stay at home parent is not as easy as it looks, there’s so much to do each day, it’s not just about sitting down and drinking coffee!

On the last day of Victoria being away it was my 40th birthday, I spent the morning having breakfast with a friend and then went to see the Doctor again.  We chatted for a while and I explained how I was feeling and how I was doing so much better than when we last met, the Doctor was very pleased at the progress, but warned me to stay the course of at least six months, coming off the tablets too early will bring about a relapse, so I agreed to the six months and to come back after that for a review.

That evening at the suggestion of my Connect Group, I took the kids to see Frozen as a treat, I guess even though it was my birthday, the treat was mainly for the kids and how well they had behaved over the last ten days.  I must admit myself and Ben, my Son, both enjoyed the film, even though it was a Disney Princess film, but my daughter who was seven, totally enjoyed it, she sat engrossed in it from the beginning and talked about it all the way home.  She liked it so much so, that she insisted the next morning that she go and watch it again, so I booked her a couple of tickets so she could go with her Mum, who had arrived home in the earlier hours of the morning, I’m not sure she was too pleased to be going, but by all accounts, she enjoyed it too, they must have done, because over the next few weeks they would both go and see it a few more times!

With Victoria back and the Doctor’s pleased with my progress, the pressure was off and I able to relax a little bit.  I was feeling so much better and was actually really pleased with how I had coped, considering all the fears I had beforehand.  Although I still wasn’t sleeping, the Doctor had said it could be a month or so before I got back to regular sleeping patterns, things were going so much better and I felt I was moving forward again, slowly, but I was definitely moving forward.

FALL APART by JOSH WILSON
Why in the world did I think I could
Only get to know you when my life was good?
When everything just falls in place
The easiest thing is to give you praise
Now it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart

Blessed are the ones who understand
They’ve got nothing to bring but empty hands
Nothing to hide and nothing to prove
Our heartbreak brings us back to you
And it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart

I don’t know how long this will last
I’m praying for the pain to pass
But maybe this is the best thing that has ever happened to me

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when
You will find me when
I fall apart

The Story So Far – Chapter 17 – One Year On

CHAPTER 17 – ONE YEAR ON

With my Nan’s funeral out of the way, a sense of normally returned to my life once again.  All of the darkness that came about with the remorse for my actions had been lifted by my family at the funeral.  So as March 2013 came to a close I was able to focus on the first anniversary of being sober.

Somehow that date of 29th March 2012 doesn’t seem to be a random date to just quit drinking, that day seems to have some significance, I’m not sure why, but the anniversaries or significant milestones always seem to fall on days of significance too.  The first anniversary happened to fall on Good Friday, I’m sure it didn’t just happen to fall on that date, if it did I am thankful that it fell on that day, because it made it all the more memorable.

To be able to not only celebrate my freedom from addiction on that day, but to combine it with the day where we remember Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross for us all.  It was the first time that I really felt I understood what Easter was all about and to experience it on a day that was such an important milestone in my life was an added bonus.

The weekend after James held a celebration at his house, inviting a number of people from Church who had been so supportive of me over the previous year.  We had a great night, catching up and chatting about the previous year, it was a great way to celebrate and not a drop of alcohol in sight.

The previous twelve months had gone by so fast and so much had happened.  The only low points up until then had really came about with the death of my Nan.  There were times in those couple of weeks where I was at a real low and if I’m completely honest the thought of drinking again did cross my mind, but thankfully I was strong enough to avoid any temptation.  I knew that not drinking was the only way I could survive and get through it.

In reality the only serious threat to my sobriety in the previous twelve months had come during those few weeks were the pain of the withdrawals were at their greatest.  I knew then that my body was struggling to adapt without the alcohol that it had become accustomed to, I knew then I could end all of that pain with a drink, but through prayer and reaching out to friends, I found a way through it.  Now those friends were coming together to celebrate with me, twelve months on there were so many people I owed a word of thanks to and they were there that night with me.

After the low start to March, it ended in such a great way, celebrating the strength I had found in God to get through.  I had made through a year, I was grateful for that, because I knew in my heart, without that God intervention I would not have made it through the year, I was convinced that I would have suffered serious health problems or  even worse, took my own life.  But now I was celebrating life, celebrating all the amazing things that God had done in my life in just twelve short months.

By this time I was beginning to truly appreciate all of the points in my life before I got sober, in the those dark times when I was drinking to hide from my problems, where I could now really see God’s hand on my life.  I obviously didn’t know it at that time, I couldn’t see it or hear it, but now I could appreciate it all.  Even before I started to struggle I had stumbled across Christian music and found an interest in it.  I didn’t know why, I didn’t really understand what it was saying into my life, but I sang along, not knowing why I was really listening to something I didn’t really believe in, but now I began to understand that this was just one of the stepping stones that God was putting in my path so I could find him.

Then came the people I would meet, over the years before my recovery I met so many people that in time would become such a support when I needed them.  Before that they were just faces and names, people I liked, but never really thought I would have anything really in common with or would even really want to spend time with.  But when it came down to it and I needed a support network, they were there in place already.

When I wobbled at the death of my Nan, they were all there once again, helping my through it all the way once again.

I guess there were so many stepping stones that God put before me when I was a lost alcoholic, I found myself desperate and stranded on the far side of the river, separated from the life that God meant for me and the only way over was to take a step on each of the stones laid across for me.  Except when you then get close to the other side there’s one more step, but you can’t see it, you just have to believe it’s there, a deep breath and a step out in faith.  I reached that step the night I prayed, to make it across to freedom I had to step out and trust in God, I did that night I first prayed, I stepped out and found my footing even though I couldn’t see the step below, then when I found that sobriety I finally made it to the other side and found the Father’s arms.

As March 2013 ended and April began, I was back in the spring of things, I was back out walking again and focused again.  As the month went along everything seemed to be falling back into place after early March’s slip, but then it happened again, the numbness returned.

THANK YOU by JAKE HAMILTON & KIM WALKER-SMITH
Thank you for the summer
And thank you for the rain
And thank you for the pleasure
Thank you for the pain

Thank you for the flowers
That bloom in early may
And thank you for the winter
That washes fall away

I want to say thank you
Thank you for it all

Thank you for the deserts
Thank you for the trees
Thank you for the failures
And for the victories

Thank you for the pruning
That gives me room to grow
Thank you for the seasons
Where I learn to reap and sow

So come, let us worship
Let us release a joyful sound
Let us enter his presence
Let us all bow down

The Story So Far – Chapter 16 – Numb

CHAPTER 16 – NUMB

By the time March 2013 came around I was doing really well, I was well clear of any urges to drink, I was out walking every morning and getting my life back into some sort of order.  I had taken the last few days of February off work, I had a little bit of drawing work to do for the Architect’s, but I also intended to help out at Church on Friday 1st March in preparation for the Raise Conference the next day.

On the Friday I got up early as usual and set off for a walk, I remember shortly before 7am being sat at the side of the lake and watching the sunrise over the water, in a spot I had found to be very peaceful.  Then my phone rang, it was my Mum’s mobile number, this was odd as she never rang at that time of the day as she worked early morning’s, so something had to be wrong.

It was, she didn’t sound right on the phone, then she told me my Nan had died during the night.  I guess at first I didn’t really respond to the news, I wasn’t sure how to, she started crying on the phone, I had never seen or heard my Mum cry before, she’s not that sort of person, my Dad’s more emotional, but my Mum’s not that way, I didn’t know what to say, the phone call didn’t last long, there was not much more to say at that time.

I felt quite calm, but the peace of the moment was shattered, so I stood up and turned to walk home, by that time it had hit me, I rang Victoria as I began to walk home and instantly began to cry as I told her.

Overnight Eve my daughter had been sick and couldn’t go to school, Victoria was working in the morning so I had agreed before going out to walk to look after her.  When I got home I was a bit of mess, I just sat crying, Victoria asked if I was still okay to have Eve, if not she would rearrange things, I said it would be okay, I would look after her.  I decided that I actually needed to get out the house, so I was going to nip into town and then set off to Church to help set up.

It actually helped having Eve there with me in those hours that morning, I picked up a few things form town, got her something to keep her occupied and we both set off to Church.

As long as I was busy I was fine, as long as I put my mind to something I was calm, when I stopped and actually had time to think, I would just break out into tears.  I had not had to deal with a death of a family member, not since I was eight and my Granddad died, I really didn’t know how to deal with it, I guess nobody ever does, we all cope in different ways and there’s very little that can be said to people right in the middle of the grief.

I stayed at Church as long as possible, it was keeping my mind busy and free from dealing with the pain.  When I got home later that evening I just sat there blankly staring.  I remember Victoria coming into the room, the Inland Revenue were calling regarding my outstanding tax bill, I took the phone but couldn’t deal with it, I politely told the woman on the end of the phone what was going on and thankfully as I quietly broke into tears again, she kindly agreed to call back in a few weeks.

The next day I was on duty with the A.V. Team at the conference, I was on video camera all day, which was fine, it kept my mind busy and throughout the morning I was walking around with a camera on my shoulder getting footage as the event took place, it was tiring work, the camera feels quite heavy after a while, but it was keeping my mind off the grief that was really still waiting to hit me.

We broke at lunch and I remember going outside and speaking with Ally from my Connect Group, I felt okay at that point, I couldn’t eat anything, but I felt fine.  Then I went back inside and it hit me, I remember walking into the A.V. booth and crouching down, holding my knees to my chest and just crying, there was so much going on around me, nobody heard, but it was all beginning to catch up with me again.

It was a guy call Dale who found me, I didn’t know Dale that well, we had met a few times over the previous weeks and I got to know him a little more on the Thursday night when we were setting up the lighting for the event, he didn’t know what was going on at the time and jokingly patted me on the head, until he realised I was crying and in a bit of mess, I don’t think he knew where to put himself at the moment, the next thing I know James came in and sat beside me, Dale had obviously fetched him or someone had anyway.  James had that amazing way of calming me down, I had been there for me in the toughest parts of my recovery in the months before and he was the one clearing up the mess that was me once again.

It did the job though, I calmed down enough to clean myself up and get back to my duties.  Dale took over the roaming camera duties for the afternoon, I took over the static camera, which was a little easier, that was until another member of the team joined us later on and I was allowed to stand down.  I was so tired and worn out, I guess by this time both physically and emotionally.

After the conference I didn’t have the energy to stay and help clear up and get the Church turned around for Sunday’s normal service, I normally would have done, but the other guys made it clear that I had done more than enough over the weekend, especially considering the situation.  I walked home, slowly, I never walk slowly, but on that day it was all I had.  I cried a lot more when I got home that night, I also noted in my journal that my temper was getting the better of me, maybe that was the tiredness or even the onset of guilt which would hit me over the next week or so.

The next day I was a real mess, I tried walking in the morning, but it felt like I was just dragging myself along, I think I got as far as the lake and turned back.  Whilst at home I was in a real state, the temper that had risen the night before had taken over, I was on a real short fuse and clashed with Victoria because of it, I guess I was being completely unreasonable, regardless of what was going on there was no need for me to act like that, to take my anger out on everyone else.

I went to Church early that morning, I wasn’t on team, but I knew that it was better to be around people who could help me.  I broke down so many times during the morning and spoke with so many people.  The good thing about speaking with all these people and speaking out about the situation, is that eventually the truth starts to come out and the source of all this anger was routed deep in remorse I held for my actions over the previous few years, the anger was aimed at myself.

My parents were both working parents, they left school with no qualifications, yet neither had been out of work for more than a few weeks.  So as a child I spent as much time with my Nan as my parents.  I would go to her house for dinner instead of school dinners, I was a fussy eater when I was younger and refused to eat school dinners, so my Nan cooked for me everyday.  I would then go there afterschool as my parents worked until early evening.  My sister and I, together with my four cousins would spend every school holiday at my Nan’s, we took over her little one bedroomed bungalow, we ran her riot, but although she may have complained to our parents, she would have us every time.  Despite being as old or older than some of the other pensioners in the neighbourhood she would go shopping for them, cut their lawns for them, she would do anything for anyone, she was always happy when she was doing something for someone, though she didn’t like people doing things for her, she preferred to just get on with it and stay busy.

I guess that’s why she lived until she was 95, she stayed busy and even when she was well into her late eighties my Mum and her sisters tried to slow her down, but she would have it.  Victoria used to tell me that she would see her in town shopping, she would tell her not to tell my Mum, as she wouldn’t like it.

She used to come over to our house every Sunday and help cook Sunday dinner, even when I was in my mid twenties and still living with my parents, she would go into my bedroom on a Sunday afternoon, whilst I was out at karate and clean it, I couldn’t stop her, there was no stopping her doing anything.

I was her youngest Grandchild and in a way her favourite, again even until the day myself and Victoria moved out of my parents house, she would bring my crisps and cans of Cherry Coke every Sunday, she had done it for years and there was as I say no stopping her.

A few years earlier though she had had knee replacement, it was at that point that my Mum and her sisters insisted that she move into a home, as looking after her bungalow would be too much now.  But this was around the time when I was beginning to struggle.  My Mum would often ask me to go and see her in the home, but I kept making excuses, I always said I was busy.  But to be honest, at the time I was only working a day or so every now and then, maybe a week here or there, in reality I had plenty of time to go visit, I just couldn’t do it.  To this day I can’t really explain why, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to see her and I was her favourite Grandchild, all my cousins went regularly and my sister, but I never went.  I just made my excuses and went back to my life in the shadows, with my alcohol and my self pity.

So now my Nan had gone and I hadn’t seen her in so many years.  When I began to get sober I still made excuses, I didn’t want my Nan to see me how I was, I wanted her to see me at my best, to remember me that way, plus I wanted her to see me with Victoria by my side, not on my own, I didn’t want her to see how badly I had failed.

But now it was too late, she was gone.  All of a sudden this remorse, this self pity was materializing itself as anger.  But the more I discussed it with my friends and supporters at Church, the more I came to terms with it.  They made me see that my Nan wouldn’t want to see me this way, she wouldn’t blame me, she loved me.

Later that day I made it to karate, where I saw my Mum and Dad for the first time since I had received that phone call.  They seemed to be doing pretty well, but in truth I was still struggling and there was still an amount of anger bubbling under the skin.  I managed to get through it and teach the class, again as long as my mine was occupied I was fine.

Over the next week I picked up a bit, I got out walking each morning and felt a lot better about the whole situation,  I was tired, very tired and began getting a few headaches, but I was doing a lot better than the previous weekend.

But by the end of the week I started to suffer from panic attacks, which slowly got worse, until on the Saturday afternoon I had a real bad one.  I’ve never suffered from these before, I don’t know where they came from or why, but they were worrying, the worst one was that Saturday afternoon and after that they seemed to go as quickly as they started.

The Sunday morning though, everything came crashing down once again.  I got out walking and made it to the lake, I sat there just looking out over the water, then I began to think about walking out into the centre of the lake.  Just taking all I had with me, wade out into the middle of the lake and just disappear under the water.  I was convinced that nobody would notice if I just disappeared, nobody would be bothered by it.

I knew I had to leave that place and quick.  It was Mother’s Day again and for the second Mother’s Day in a row I was threatening to kill myself, why was this happening again, why did I feel this way?

I went home and did what I always did after my previous suicide tendencies, I went in the bath.  I remember lying there convincing myself that I couldn’t go into Church that day, there was no way I could let them see me this way, they had all worked so hard to help me, that me being this way was just letting them all down, I didn’t want anyone to see me like this.

But then I heard this voice in my head clearly telling me…

IF CHURCH IS THE ONE PLACE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE,
THEN THAT IS THE ONE PLACE YOU NEED TO BE.

That morning I dragged myself to Church, I was supposed to be on A.V. Team, covering lights, so I had to be there early.  I slowly walked to Church, fighting the urge every time I came to a point where I had to turn a corner, not to just keep walking by, somehow I made it to Church.

On the way in I met with Paul and Jo Tilley, immediately I think Paul could see there was something wrong.  He calming asked if I was okay, I not sure I really wanted to discuss what had gone off that morning with anyone, but eventually I told him what had happened.  He told me that after Church I was to go back with Jo and himself for dinner, I declined, it was Mother’s Day and didn’t want to intrude on their family dinner, but he wouldn’t have it, he insisted and I wasn’t allowed to say no.

I stood in the team meeting before all the teams split to begin their setup, Dominic my team leader that day could see that I was in no state to fulfil my duties and thankfully excused me, which was a bit of relief.  I spoke with a few other people that morning, in particular James and Gareth, but I didn’t tell anyone else what had happened at the lake, I didn’t feel like reliving that one all morning.

My headache had go worst that morning, I struggled through the service, if I closed my eyes, I drifted off to sleep, if I kept them open my head felt like it was going to burst open, I was struggling, for the first time in almost a year I was on the edge.

I went back with Paul and Jo, for lunch with their family, it seemed to make all the difference, whilst I was there the headache disappeared and the gloom seemed to lift, by the time I left later that afternoon I was beginning to feel normal once again.  I went home and slept the rest of the afternoon, which I think I really needed.  Later that night I posted on my blog what had happened earlier that day, I posted about the moments at the lake and how low I felt at the moment, once again the more I shared the problem, the more it seemed to be lifted from my shoulders.

Come Tuesday it was finally time for the funeral, I so wished it had been sooner, I really wanted it to be out of the way, to say my goodbyes and get some closure.  I made my own way to the funeral, I walked alone, refusing lifts from other members of the family.  During the service and the burial I stood alone, I didn’t want to grieve with anybody else, I wanted to grieve in my own way on my own, I guess I’m still very much prone to do things alone and in my own way.

I didn’t really speak with anyone until my Aunty came over to me at the wake, I know she could see I was struggling in my own way, she hugged me and quietly told me just to remember all the good times I had with my Nan and it would all be okay, from that point onwards I came around a bit.

The funeral really did bring closure, the pain of the last few weeks days was finally gone, as the wake went along I became more social again and even started to laugh as myself and my cousins recounted all the stories of our childhood and how we ran our Nan to despair.  It made me see things in a different way and as I say put all that remorse and self hatred aside.

I spent a few hours with a few friends from Church later that evening, discussing my feelings over the last two weeks, it helped to put it all behind me and begin to move on again.

As a tribute to my Nan I put together a lyric video to the song Mama by the band Flyleaf, which I posted on my blog.  A few months later I got a message on my blog from Lori Mosley, the Mum of Lacey Sturm, Flyleaf’s lead singer, she had found my video and blog, she congratulated me on my journey and told me how Lacey had asked her to sing with her on the song and how proud she was of her daughter too, she can be heard in the final part of the song, which she wrote and sang. It may have been a random message, but seeing as Flyleaf had been one of those bands that I listened to as a none Christian and they had become a band I got a lot of inspiration from in the early days of my recovery, it became a great motivation to receive such a great message of encouragement, especially at that time I received that message I was really beginning to struggle again.

With that all behind me and as March moved on it would soon be time to celebrate the first anniversary of some of the most memorable moments of my life.

MAMA by FLYLEAF (ft Lori Mosley)
What makes you happy
What makes you smile
And when you smile please
Is it for real

I know you’re not one
One to pretend
Even when I was a child

You grow up too fast
And have to be brave
Braver than most strong men
That I’ve ever seen

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Little girl
You can come out now
The danger’s all gone
You can come out

All that you’ve held
Was too much to hold
So let it all go now
And you will become gold

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful now

Laughter and tears
Gracing your face
The music of your strength
Held up this place

Your daddy’s right here now
You can let go
He’s holding it all now
And healing your soul

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful know

There’s something
I’m trying to tell you and
I’ve tried to tell you before and
Each time that I profess it
It just leaves me wanting more and

I think you are beautiful
And I’m proud of you
What I’m trying to say is
I love you
I love you