Hi, my name is Dennis and this is my recovery journey.
A Frightening Reality
My life nine years ago was unmanageable at best: my marriage was barely holding on, I had a broken relationship with my two sons, and to make matters worse I was a full blown alcoholic. Drinking was the one thing I would always run to, it was my life. But soon the very thing that once brought me pleasure no longer became fun. I felt trapped in my own body and was literally a slave to my addiction.
I felt angry all the time and I would often express it through verbal outbursts towards my wife and children who typically received the brunt of my alcoholic rages. Back then I viewed myself as a seething, hulking beast; not even human. If you’ve ever read the Bible I was similar to the Gerasene demoniac from the Gospel of Mark: unclean, unrestrained, and inconsolable.
I was powerless to change and at my lowest point in life I made peace with the fact that I was on the highway to Hell. Sadly, I believed I deserved nothing less and never once realized that grace and forgiveness could be found at the cross.
Ask anyone in recovery who has fought the fight and they will tell you the same, that it is downright tough to shake an addiction! For me it was nearly impossible or so I had thought. One evening, in a drunken stupor and at the end of my rope, I prayed for God to take my alcoholism away. He took this drunkard’s cry that night along with a mustard seed size faith and several weeks later did the impossible.
On a mild July afternoon as I was headed out the front door of my home as usual to pick up a case of my favorite beer. There, standing in the foyer between me and my next drink, was my courageous wife.
She had had enough and confronted me right then and there to choose between my alcoholism and my family. For the first time I saw the pain in her beautiful hazel eyes which I had been causing all these years because of my alcoholism and for that night only the urge to drink had left me momentarily.
The next morning I made amends with my wife and apologized like I had never done before. At that time I was in the middle of training for the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon and I remember looking deep into her eyes once again but this time pleading for help and said, “Hon, if this is going to work then I need to run.” Soon after I literally took off running.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
After a 17 year battle with alcoholism God had uprooted this dreaded mountain from my life once and for all. I continued running marathons and then ultra-marathons as a way to stay clean and sober. Little did I realize I was running for my life! But the more I ran and reveled in my new found freedom the more I placed an even greater distance between me and my Creator.
I became increasingly arrogant with each step I took and deceived myself into believing that I had beat this addiction all on my own. Man was I wrong! To make matters worse I had replaced one addiction (alcohol) with another (running) and became what is commonly known in recovery as a “dry drunk”. In other words I carried over all of the same traits of an alcoholic minus the alcohol – anger, arrogance, and rebelliousness. Nothing changed!
However, God never stopped reaching out and I literally began to see signs everywhere I went. First it was a billboard on my way home from work that spoke about the way to Heaven. Next, there was some random guy at the 2008 Miami Marathon just standing in the middle of a crowd of spectators at the halfway point holding up a sign that read, “Are you running from God or to Him?”
“Seriously!?” I thought to myself as I shook my head. Yet there came another sign along a highway not too long after which read, “Who rules your life: Jesus Christ or self?” I remember scorning this message and screaming inside, “ME! ME! I’M IN CONTROL!” But was I really? Thank goodness for faithful men and women like these because as I would soon discover, what they had done was plant a seed in my heart that would eventually take root and grow in Christ.
Cold Floor, Contrite Heart
Several marathons and ultra-marathons later I began to wonder, “Is there more to life than this”? To my surprise I would soon discover there was! For the next two and a half years God’s unconditional love for me persisted and it wasn’t long before He planted a book in my hands through the recommendation of a trusted friend and fellow Marine.
When I finally came to the chapter that revealed to me the spiritual condition of my heart and described the forgiveness and mercy that took place at the cross, Jesus’s knock at the door of my heart had become a deafening roar, one which could no longer be ignored or run from.
At that moment my soul was so consumed with grief over my rebelliousness towards God and the wrongs I had committed against everyone I had ever hurt. I fell down on my knees beside my bed on the cold, hard floor where I immediately poured out my heart to Jesus Christ.
I remember apologizing over and over again, admitting every sin I could recall from memory, and feeling genuinely sorrowful for the things I had done. I cried like a baby, but soon afterwards when all was said and done I stood back up, looked into the mirror and for the life of me I could not stop smiling.
For the very first time in my life I truly felt free! And it soon became apparent that the joy I was experiencing was the result of having escaped God’s coming wrath through the once for all atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So, on that day in January of 2009, I had become born again!
The Great Race
I answered God’s call and accepted His invitation to run in what was to become the biggest and most important race of my life. The”Great Race” as I like to call it is much like running a marathon where there are plenty of emotional highs and lows as well as several obstacles to avoid or navigate through.
But what makes this race so great is after having endured the trials of this life and once I step over that celestial finish line one day there is a prize to be had. Unlike any earthly finisher’s medal that will rust, or temporal purse prize that will fade, or any leafy green wreath that will eventually wither and die, the prize I run for is so much more than that!
Check out what James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Running to Win
In 2010, while I was training for another race, the Holy Spirit spoke to me the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 9:24 – “Run to Win!”
As a runner I can tell you that this verse spoke volumes to me and has since become a key factor in my faith, in my recovery, and all that I do. God’s Word had become a lamp for my feet and a light to my path which has helped me to put the past behind, lean forward, and press on towards the goal.
But just as important as my desire to obtain the prize itself, is the spiritual training in my life as a runner for Christ. As an athlete in God’s Great Race I no longer run about aimlessly or train my body in vain. On the contrary, I discipline myself through prayer and God’s Word each day in order to prepare for what lies on the road ahead.
Running to Win the spiritual race that is set before me takes faith, endurance, and perseverance. Thankfully I’m not alone. With me are the three greatest running Coaches ever: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Friend of God
As a result of my new found relationship with Christ, God had begun to restore my life all of the years that the proverbial locusts have eaten (Joel2:25). He’s kept me sober for 9 years now and has renewed my relationship with both my wife and my two sons who are now grown men.
In 2014, my wife and I adopted a beautiful little baby girl because God had opened our hearts to the notion of a pure and undefiled religion. So as of December 2014 my wife and I now have the honor of officially being Sophia’s mom and dad!
Today I no longer see myself as an animal with animal lusts, but rather a man; one who has inherent value and worth, a good man. Because of Christ’s righteousness I can now be the husband and father God had designed me to be.
God has also given me the desires of my heart, one of them being creative writing. Since 2010 I have been writing about my recovery journey in the hopes that it will encourage others battling addiction or in recovery (www.runningtowin-pgh.com).
I feel as though my life has purpose now and that it truly means something. No longer am I running from God, but now I run to Him.
Today I have peace with my Father in heaven and He calls me friend!