Seven Years Ago

Tomorrow will mark the seventh anniversary of when I decided to pack in alcohol. I thought I was Oscar Wilde when I was drinking, an irrepressible wit and the life and soul of the party. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I was, on the contrary, an idiot of epic proportions, putting my own selfish needs before others, most importantly my loved ones. They deserved better, they still deserve better, and I thank my lucky stars they’ve stuck with me through thick and thin.

I’ve achieved quite a lot in the intervening period. I’ve ran marathons, been promoted, become a published author. I like to think I’ve been a decent husband and father, although that is very much still a work in progress. I can, and must, do so much better. I thought I would miss alcohol but turning my back on it was surprisingly easy. I never feel the urge to return to it and the thought of its taste and the ensuing hangover make me shudder involuntarily.

I’ve lost touch with a lot of people as a result of my decision to stop drinking. Some of these have been conscious decisions on my part, necessary life surgery in order to live my life as I feel I should. Others have simply drifted away, alcohol seemingly having been the only interest we had in common. This saddens me but was the friendship that strong if we only ever came together in an intoxicated state? We’re they even friends, rather mere acquaintances?

Some undoubtedly think I went a ‘bit funny’ during this defining period of my life. The invitations to socialise started to dry up and I was no longer part of the work ‘drinking culture.’ There were mutterings that I’d ‘found God,’ or maybe he found me. I’ve never quite been sure how that one works but he has flitted in and out of my life during these seven years. I know he’s there but I’m not sure where I am with regards my relationship with him.

God and I are more on and off than Ross and Rachel. I get annoyed with him, I am annoyed with him, but there are moments I still miss reading the Bible and learning more about the times and teachings of Jesus. Sometimes I get a strong urge to pick up the Bible or the works of C.S. Lewis. Yet, I always stop short and find something else to do. I think of defining moments when God hasn’t been around, I think of the hypocrisy of many Christians I knew and know.

Jesus turned the other cheek but he never turned his back on those he loved. When we stopped going to church we were dropped like a hot potato by many Christian ‘friends.’ And where is God during the current coronavirus crisis? Questions like these niggle at me and make me hesitate. I stand on the fringe and I remember previous hurt and rejection. Once bitten, twice shy. I don’t want to be part of that scene, a scene where I never felt fully comfortable or accepted.

I don’t miss alcohol and I don’t miss church. I don’t miss certain people, just as I’m sure they don’t miss me. I don’t miss the falseness, the veneer of friendship which evaporated once the going got tough. Life is too short for such games, for that is all they were. All I need are my wife and kids even though I’m sure I’m driving them crazy with this enforced absence from work. I like visiting the cows with Rebecca, giving Fionnuala foot rubs and burning lasagne.

I’m better than I was, and alcohol is no longer part of my life. I still have recurring ‘drunk dreams’ and wake up feeling panicked. I have ‘phantom’ hangovers where I can taste the stale beer on my breath and sense the fear and shame. I don’t think I’ll ever drink again, I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up a Bible again. Maybe that part of me is gone as well, maybe it is merely hibernating. I don’t miss church, I don’t miss Christians but sometimes I miss Jesus.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

61 thoughts on “Seven Years Ago

  1. WOW! I love the honesty of this Stephen. I can relate so well. Not to the drinking bit, but to the falling away of so called friends. The discomfort with Christian churches. But like you, I miss Jesus. I don’t know what to say apart from I connect with this post. And maybe the Kingdom is actually amongst people like you and me, with no walls around it.

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  2. It’s a shame that the very people who should be helping develop your walk with Jesus are standing in the way. Your comment about where God is in the midst of this pandemic struck me. I see His hand or guidance in the lives of people sacrificing self, the giving spirit that has been rekindled in many people, the understanding and appreciation of the little things we have taken for granted. When the panic set in, I was a bit concerned that social unrest and the need for life’s basics may turn very ugly. I must believe that God’s grace has helped us put our inconveniences and differences into perspective. The Bible is still a great book and Lewis a quite good author who struggled with his faith. Stay in the fight, Stephen. The prize is worth pursuing.

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  3. Congratulations for not drinking. That’s quite an accomplishment.

    I’m sorry that you miss Jesus and that church is such a strange place for all of us. I finally found a growing megachurch with a lot of sweet people that I don’t even know but there’s great music and passionate followers, but my husband can’t stand it, too big, so he doesn’t go with me and I go with our nieces.

    I finally realized that the Bible is a library of stories of God looking out for His people, and that life is so incredibly challenging for all of us that maybe some of us stay home on Sunday. He doesn’t forget about us, and we can always visit the library of hope. We’ll never understand everything in one day when it’s all such a big story.

    I can’t wait to read your next book! It’s all part of the big picture of life on earth. Hope your sobriety yields more stories for your devoted audience to enjoy. Best wishes to your family and for your “fractured faith.” Please keep well.

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  4. Stephen, I walk with you in sobriety and turning our backs on alcohol as well as some of those alcohol-based relationships. It is freeing not to be laden with shame, isn’t it? I am thanking God you still miss Jesus, for I know He misses you. How do I know you ask? God loved us first, and as you said He doesn’t give up on those He loves. If you ever want to “talk” about Jesus, whom I didn’t decide to follow until 6 years ago, my email is juliedibblespeaks@gmail.com.

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  5. I love a great, honest blog. I drink a glass of wine each night, but have developed the ability to know that a little goes a long way. After 50, there’s really no need for binge drinking.
    As far as religion goes….it’s religion. Once I started thinking of Jesus as a guru, the most enlightening being of all time, things got better. I think the second coming, is in actuality, the coming of a universal “Christ consciousness “, if you will. The world is evolving and waking up. I guess I could describe myself as more of a Christian mystic. Meditation has become paramount. I respect some people need a physical building….Im just over it. Take care, Deb

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  6. I like your line: “necessary life surgery in order to live my life as I feel I should.” An apt description for actions that make us healthier. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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  7. Congratulations! I could sense the flow of life as you are a spontaneous writer. I felt the same, my friends left me too as I gave up certain self-indulgence lifestyle. It actually helped, clear off the reservations I had in my heart. Few years have past, I’m happy with my journey with Jesus, His word and Spirit, our family by my side. But, on the other side, I have begun making friends with whom I have no commonalities. This is so self-less, helpful to others to see whats there in life. I’m enjoying it.

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  8. I’ve never drunk (drank, drink?) alcohol. 🙂 I’ve had other addictive behaviors, so I can relate.

    I can also relate to the God thing. I’d say to go ahead and try a bit of Lewis or some Psalms.*Never* judge God by those who say they follow him, unless they have the same taste in movies as well. 😉

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  9. Happy “rebirth” day! That’s is an awesome milestone. Keep up the good work. And don’t give up on your intuition that tells you there is “something more” to this Christianity thing than meets the eye. There is. But sometimes it is damned hard to see.

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  10. Some questions will not be answered regardless of our own conclusions.
    James defines perfect religion: “look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”…it is the broad spirit of that statement that attains a life lived in peace.
    Churches are full of broken people. We get cleaned up and show up with our best faces, then struggle the rest of the week after we leave. But church is not about people, neither is it about what we should get from it. That is what it has become too many times.
    Peace to you Stephen, you keep tabs on yourself, because you know your newer self produces good fruit.
    That is honorable and not easy, just better.

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  11. The more I see Jesus as a pure example of LOVE , the more I love him and feel thankful for what he did for me. Churches can be so awful, but thankfully they’re not all like that. I found one that I like even though I used to think their theology wasn’t accurate. I think it’s accurate on the points that matter, God is real, he made the world, he hates sin, he sent Jesus, he forgave our sins, he is available through faith and the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will stop resisting those urges and seek Him, not church. 🙂

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  12. Congratulations Stephen on seven years. You post made me pause to think. Sadly enough, if we rely on people to be the foundation of our faith, we will forever be disappointed. Having said that, Jesus defined the church as people, His people. Every single one of us–imperfect and troubling. I miss church. I miss the people, the whole messy lot of us. I don’t miss Jesus, as He is with me daily, shoring up my failings and lack of true understanding of things only God can understand. I rely on Him, and Him alone, for my sustenance. And, I believe He (God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are right where He has been for eternity. He is where He was when Adam and Eve took us down the track we travel now. He is here to love in the middle of a broken, fallen world. He could make it all perfect again if He chose, but then what kind of relationship would we have? I appreciate you and the opportunity to think out loud.

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  13. First of all, I have to say, “Congratulations!” for your seven years of sobriety. Having lost many loved ones to alcoholism, I know it cannot have been easy, despite not “missing” alcohol. It took courage to admit there was a problem in the first place and a strong sense of discipline, and faith, to stay the course. I also want to give kudos! to your family for standing with you during this journey. It cannot have been easy for them either. You are blessed to have them in your life, to have them beside you. And that’s where God is in your life. He is in the hearts of those who love you, and whom you love in return. It’s that simple.

    One of my grandmothers used to say that you didn’t have to go to church to be “good”. She was pointing at the hypocrisy of those who profess to faith and then lie and cheat their fellow man, exploit those less fortunate, exploit the animals and the planet, who give in to violence, oppression, abuse, racism. People may be His church but, sadly, far too many do not do a decent job of leading by example. When Jesus says in the Bible to “love your neighbor as yourself”, He never qualifies. The color of one’s skin, orientation, gender, socio-economic status, etc. do not matter; we all bleed the same. I am often where you are right now, standing in the middle of this pandemic, for example, or after another school shooting, etc. and wondering where He is. I know in my heart that He is there but, sometimes, it takes a lot to find Him in the midst. While I hear doubt in your post, I also hear a soul thirsting for Truth…whatever that truth reveals itself to be in your heart. Thank you for sharing! May God bless you & keep you! Stay safe! =)

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  14. I admire your choice to quit drinking. It’s not easy for those who struggle, like my dad did. I admire your honesty too about your faith. Following Jesus can be easier than dealing with other Christians. At least for me. I love Jesus, but definitely not perfectly. I’ve got questions all the time too. Church can drive me crazy. Then God gently reminds me that I am part of the church and I can be annoying too. Thank God for His grace or I wouldn’t be here. Thank God for you, dear Stephen and your precious family.

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  15. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that I cannot base my life on what anyone else does whether they say they are Christian or not. When I leave this earth, will it be okay to say, “Well, so and so did it?” I never let my kids get away with that one. The Ten Commandments and Jesus’ teachings the only things that make sense to base my life on. I’m so glad that you ditched the alcohol. 🙂

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  16. Thank you Stephen for sharing your story.. It reminded me of the fact that God is the only person who can fill the “God shaped vacuum” inside each of us.. I can feel that vacuum only when I am truly lonely, broken and empty – so I keep praying that He keeps me that way.
    Proud of you dear brother, that you kept away from alcohol – His Grace will always be sufficient every single day.. 🙂

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  17. I packed it in last September. I will have a glass of wine here or there, but it doesn’t sit well and it certainly doesn’t have the romance it once did.
    Oh, you’ll pick up the bible again. Jesus is just waiting for you to realize those Christians are not what our faith is about. My daddy always taught me that it is not the people or the priest on the altar rather, the man hanging on the cross. That has gotten me through some sucky experiences that would have had me walk away.

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  18. Your honesty is refreshing. Congratulations on this milestone. The church establishment can certainly be frustrating, but Jesus stays the same. Missing him seems like a good sign to me. 😊 Take care.

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  19. Thank you, Stephen, a brilliant post! I can identify with everything you’ve written and you put it so well. I’ve been alcohol-free for almost four years. I lost most of my old friends, who turned out to be just drinking friends, as a result, but I’m starting to gain some new, truer friends now. More power to you.

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  20. I asked Jesus to be my Lord in 1993, but after a divorce I thought he didn’t love me anymore. Then I remarried and there was abuse in that relationship and I thought God must hate me. I still loved Jesus but my faith was attacked by the person closest to me. Then I felt at some point I might lose my relationship with Christ. Today, I find most churchgoers tend more to rhetoric than to any real substance. I read the Bible very sparingly, landing on verses like those in Lamentations 3, The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 11:28-30 and other favorite passages. We go to church online during Shelter-in-Place at my wife’s insistence, and I’m glad for her to watch. I do appreciate hearing some of the messages and I feel that somewhere underneath my hurt, anger and despair is a God who loves and cares for me. That we have a nice small home we can manage, a cat and dog who keep us company as we couldn’t bear children and as we love animals. We both have so far been able to keep our jobs and have our physical needs met, and a pizza, burrito, salad, or Chinese feast, sometimes “drive-up to our door”. In all of this, I’d have to say there is a loving God who cares for us, and that I am the most ignorant of men, so that I have my hypocrisy also. I get where you are coming from (as much as could be expected not knowing you), and I wish you all the best. Congratulations on your seven years free of alcohol. That is an accomplishment and I think a blessing.

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  21. Praying for the next stage of your journey, Stephen, and hoping the Bible, C.S. Lewis, and open-minded/hearted believers find a part in it. With you either way, my friend.

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  22. I am proud of your accomplishments Stephen. I wish I could say that I don’t miss alcohol but I do, not so much the taste but it’s effects. The way it rendered my anxious and perseverative mind calm, so quickly. I had become spiritually bankrupt and am journeying back into a relationship with Christ. I don’t think a church is involved in that equation. It may happen someday, just not yet. Best to you on your journey. Remember He is always there for you.

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