My Story and Testimony

It began with alcohol. I had been exposed to it all my life by my family members. Many of whom could best be described as “functional alcoholics.” I knew from watching them that there was something they really loved about drinking. I, as a young lad, was forbidden to partake of the substance and was repeatedly informed that it was “very bad for me.” I was not convinced. What they said was different then how they acted while they were drinking it. I snuck some drinks, it tasted terrible, but it made me feel like a champion. I realized then, why they drank so much of it. Thus, began my quest to find “the perfect high.” It became a part of my identity and soon, I was hooked and life without it would only be boring and unfulfilled. But let’s not get to hasty. I wasn’t quite yet hooked by sneaking a few drinks from the liquor cabinet, there were more experiences that would push me across the boundary.

I remember my first real good beer buzz. It got me hooked. My friends, Cool Don and Bobby, picked me up to go to a local arcade. In the mid 80’s, video arcades were the place to hang out. Cool Don was, well, “cool!” He was a tall muscular black fellow with a long “Lionel Ritchie” geri-curl and the chicks loved him. Bobby, my skinny, yet built, best friend, was the socialite of the group. Bobby was the life of the party and the leader of our little band of merry partyers. Me? I was the animal, appropriately nicknamed, “Rick-hog.” as spoof off of my last name. I was there for comic relief, Clint Eastwood impersonations, and to do the “crazy stuff” that no one else would do. Chicks loved us. We loved them. We were all basketball players.

Cool Don and Bobby picked me up to go the arcade. Now, in the mid 80’s , the legal drinking age for beer was change from 16 to 18 in the state of Ohio. However, if one was already 16, you were still legal and they “grandfathered” you in. Yep, you guessed it, one of us was “legal.” It was Cool Don!! Thus, making him even “cooler” than just he adjective would allow linguistically.

Cool Don had purchased a six pack of Budweiser “tall boys.” Two a piece. Bobby challenged us saying, “Whoever doesn’t drink their 2 beers before we get to the arcade was a lightweight!” “Oh no he didn’t.” came the reply from Cool Don. Recognizing this as the perfect opportunity for me to live up to my animal status, I retorted, “Just like Marvin Gaye sang, ‘Let’s Get It On!’” As I started to chug, I suddenly realized I had not yet acquired a great taste for beer. However, I would not be deterred. I finished, not first, but finished, and that was all that mattered. I would not be lumped into that class of losers affectionately known as “lightweights.” Feeling bloated and slightly nauseas, I played that off and went in to the arcade. My favorite game was one called Tank Commander. The player looked through a turret in order to shoot and destroy other tanks. It hit me like a blast of warm summer breeze. It crept up over my shoulders like a warm fuzzy blanket and suddenly, I was the greatest tank commander alive! I walked over to cool Don and said, “Hey, Cool Don, I think I’m buzzin.” Cool Don gazed and me and said, “You are, Yuk, Yuk, Yuk!” Life would never be the same after this experience. I now knew, what my family wanted when they drank so much of this repulsive liquid. Taste be damned, it made me feel like a champion. I remember being annoyed with my family for “holding out on me for all these years.” It became the solution to all of my woes and connected me with a social sphere of people who gladly accepted me as one of their own without condition, the party people. For the next 15 years, scarcely a day would go by that I wasn’t drinking, planning to drink, or planning to drink while drinking. My entire life would revolve around the activity. My parents and I felt that I should join the military to “straighten me out.” I did. I joined the infantry. I attended basic training, AIT, and airborne school at Fort Benning. I did 2 tours with the 101st Airborne Division and served 2 years in the Berlin Brigade, 1 year while the wall was up and the rest after it came down. I got out of the Army four years later, and moved to Texas with the “girl of my dreams” which I had, of course, met in a bar in Owensboro Kentucky called, “The Brass Ass Saloon.” We got married, got divorced (Rick-hog the drunk did not make a good husband), moved back to Kentucky, graduated from College with a Bachelors Degree in Nursing (was drunk the entire senior year including the times I was attending the lectures) and was planning to go back into the military. While partying again, I got a girl pregnant and couldn’t see leaving her to raise “my child” so I resigned from the military and took a job in a coronary care unit. Then, I got hooked on narcotics.

Pain Pills began quit innocently. I was taking care of a patient who had a simple knee arthroscopy. He was about to be discharged and he had some Tylox ordered for pain. I asked him if he was having pain. He denied any pain. Then it occurred to me that some nurses took these to get high. They got into trouble for it, but, I was Rick-hog, they would never catch me. So, off to the break room I went with 2 Tylox in my pocket. (BTW, Tylox is a combination drug of Tylenol and Roxicet) Got a simple cup of coffee, popped two Tylox and went back to finish my shift. Shortly thereafter, I was the greatest nurse alive!!! The same effects that I had with beer I had just experienced “afresh” with my new found love, narcotics! I was hooked from that second forward. I began stealing as many narcotics as I could get my hands on. I love them all. This went on for about six months. I had such a love affair with narcotics, I really felt like, “if someone would just give me a prescription of these, I would be alright.” They fixed me. At first, I was very careful and meticulous. Then, I just got sloppy. Now, I never took anyone’s pain meds that was really in pain. If the patient was having pain, I would call the Doctor and tell him that the Percocets weren’t working, could we give this poor patient some I.V. Morphine. They would always agree because no doctor wants their patients to remain in pain. So, the patient would get the morphine, I got the percocets and everybody was happy! Well, not everybody, particularly my nurse manager and the pharmacy. They weren’t happy at all with my arrangement. In fact, the we pretty upset about it.

They were confrontational and correct. They offered me treatment. I refused,. I couldn’t go to rehab, I had to pay child support and such. Besides, you can’t drink in rehab! I denied the whole thing and concocted some elaborate scheme as to how someone had stolen my Pyxis code (The narcotic candy machine) and used it to take all those drugs. They drug tested me, and I beat it. They pulled my narcotics logs and it looked like the Encyclopedia Britannica sitting on the table. I justified it all by saying, “I’m a very compassionate nurse and I never let any of my paitents every have pain. A half truth but they didn’t buy it. They fired me and reported me to the Kentucky Board of Nursing.

I was fortunate enough to get a nursing home to believe it was all a big misunderstanding. They hired me. I also got a Tennessee nursing license whole my Kentucky one was still good. Just in case I had to go on the run! Again, I had a plan to not change my life and continue to use drugs and alcohol successfully. However, things were about to change. Unbeknownst to me, God would have another plan.

I had always believed in God but wasn’t really sure how it all worked. I figured that He had his “gig” going on and I had mine. I did have a “Jesus encounter” when I was about 12 and I responded to an alter call and “got saved.” However, it didn’t last long for my family and me and within a year, we were out of church and back in the world. My theology had either evolved or regressed, depending on your position, but at this time in my life I had become an agnostic. The Greek word “gnosis” means knowledge, it the word we use for diagnosis and prognosis. The prefix “a” means without. The basic idea being, that we possess not the knowledge to have an adequate relationship with God. This was my theology. I was without the knowledge of having a relationship with God. But, I would pray. I prayed mainly the “jailhouse/fox-hole” prayers, “God, if you get me out of this one…” I had told God that I wanted Him to help me be a good nurse and a good father. Otherwise, stay away from my private life. God had other plans.

Since my early “Cool Don and Bobby” days, I was always looking for the next available female. I met one, at the nursing home, that I was working at. Rina and I started dating. She was attracted to my ability to intellectualize everything and I was attracted to her because she was beautiful and attracted to me. She was 11 years younger than me. I was 31 and she was 20. ( I never really believed that I was attractive or loveable, so, anyone who was attracted to me, I immediately feel in love with, not matter what kind of relationship I was involved in when I met that person) Rina was a Christian girl and I was a Parrothead (disciple of Jimmy Buffett) Rina wanted to read a book with me about Christianity. “Great!” I said, “Come over to the house and I will buy some wine and we will relax and discuss the book.” She had recently been saved at a local church that was having a “real” revival. She wanted me to attend and read this book with her. She came over to the house and we played “intellectual bad-mitten” while I drank wine, over the theological precepts put forth by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity.” the more I drank the smarter I got. It was a really fun time. Our relationship was about to change.

She called me on May 6 2000. This is the last day I would ever drink alcohol. She told me she couldn’t see me anymore because I was an alcoholic. “Who says!” I replied. “My Dad.” Came her retort. “What does he know about it?” I said. “Oh! He knows all about those kinds of guys, he’s around them all the time.” Well, I had already resolved to myself that I was not going into another relationship with anyone who wouldn’t drink as muich as me. So, “Take care of yourself.” I said. “We had some good times and I’m glad I got to know you, Bye now!” That was the end of it. Or was it? I drank until about 2 AM and then went to bed, it would be the last time I would drink.

Rina worked that night with one of the purest men I’ve ever met in my life. His name is Bobby Gilbert. Bobby was a Christian man, an elder in his church, and a truly, wonderful human being. Rina was sharing with Bobby that she felt like God wanted her to come to my house and take me to church. That church that was in revival. “But,” she said, “I’m not going.” Bobby encouraged her and told her that if God was telling her to do it, she’d better do it. I owe a lot to Bobby for that. So, Rina resolved to come and see me in the morning, I went to sleep.

My sobriety date is May, 7 2000. Here are the events of that morning:

Rina woke me up about 7:30 that morning, knocking on the door. I answered thinking to myself, “Now, she recognizes the error of her ways and want to get back with me.” Smiling, I let her in the door. “I think we need to go to church Jon.” She stated rather matter-of-factly completely bursting my “she recognizes” bubble. “I don’t think so, I have to work a double today and we’re not dating anymore, so I think I’ll go back to bed.” She spent the next few minutes trying to convince me. I was unmoved. “Fine!” She said, “I’m leaving.” Out the door she went. I watched her out the window because I couldn’t believe she didn’t “recognize.” She stopped at the car, and much to even my surprise, she came back towards the house. I lived in an apartment and my abode was on the top of the building, the third floor. So, as she turned to come back up, I had ample amount of time to stand at the door and smile my “you now recognize the error of your ways” smile. “Shew!” I said to myself. “Thank God that she now recognizes.” “God wants you to go to church today, Jon!” Again, my “she recognizes” parade was just rained out. This upset me. “Fine, you an God go to church and have a great time, but, I’m not going.” I’ve always had a knack for saying just the right things to drive people into fits of rage/anger, generally with sarcasm. This time would be no different. Rina was heated. She was pacing back and forth, trying to convince me to do something I didn’t want to do (not much has changed since then!)  She launched into a hell-fire and brimstone tirade that any Southern Baptist preacher would have been proud of. I shut down. I walked into the living room and sat down in my “command chair”, my affectionate name for my recliner. (Complete with drink holder and remote controls, it was a beauty) I was thinking, “How am I going to get this crazy girl out of my apartment?” Just then, an extremely bright flash of light appeared in the corner of my eye. Initially, I thought it was reflection coming in the bay windows at the end of the living room I was sitting in. As I turned to see the source, I soon realized it was no reflection. Standing in front of Rina was the figure of a man. He was the source of this brilliant light. He had white hair, a white robe and His eyes were blazing like fire. He had a golden sash across his chest and was wearing, what I thought were, bronze boots. He spoke to me and said, “Jonathan, if you don’t stop drinking, you are going to lose everything.” Then, as fast as he came, he was gone. I didn’t know what I had seen, but I knew the voice, somehow and I knew it knew it was Jesus. So like any professional addict, I got angry.

The only person left for me to vent this anger upon was Rina. I lost it. I grabbed Rina, threw her out the backdoor of the apartment and yelled, “Get out and never come back!” She was upset and crying. I watcher her go down the stairs, drive from the end of the parking lot and then pull out. I went into the bed and laid down. I was shaken by the experience.

Laying in bed, I began to talk to God. “I thought we had a deal!” “You can use my nursing and help me be a good father but otherwise, leave me alone.” The voice spoke back to me, not outside of my head this time but inside my head. He said, “I just want you to go to church.” “Why!” I shouted. “What difference does it make.” The voice said, “Maybe you can help some people there.” “Alright.” I said. “Since you are God and all, if you send Rina back her for a third time, I will go.” I said this because I knew she wasn’t coming back. I was putting God to the test. Can you really do the impossible. Fine, do this. “You send this woman who I just physically removed from my apartment back here and I’ll go.” I knew she wasn’t coming. God, however, is God. As soon as I spoke the word “go”, Rina was standing at the foot of the bed. She said, “please don’t be mad at me.” I said, “It’s ok, lets go to church.” You see, the whole time she was gone, she wrestled with God telling her to “Go back!” She overcame her fear, and returned to my apartment. I had, apparently, not locked the back door and she had come in just as I had finished my prayer. My agnosticism had began to crumble as God was now invading my life. Her obedience to His call probably saved my life.

What happened at church was nothing nearly as dramatic. Two things, however, did take place. First, this church was in revival and I felt an overwhelming sense of the presence of God. Just being in that atmosphere has a transforming effect. Secondly, I really identified with the pastor. A guy named Steve Ayers. He was a guy I could relate to. He could have hung out with Cool Don, Bobby, and me, back in the day. He showed me a Christianity that I never knew existed. Through all of this, God showed me a life that could be fun and fulfilling outside of drugs and alcohol. I never knew that this existed. This gave me some kind of hope, for whatever reason, it did and I can’t really explain it.

Rina and I didn’t talk at all after the service. I had lots to think about. I went to my apartment and needed to change the laundry because I was going to work. Remember, I was supposed to work a double. As I was changing the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I heard, again, the audible voice of God. “Are you mad at me?” “No.” I replied. Then I got freaked out a little bit because I’m the only one standing in the room. “No God, I’m not angry, just processing all this.” I said. Then I went to work.

Over the course of the next few hours, I came to a powerful conclusion. I had nothing to lose. I called Rina with a new plan. Here it is. “Rina, can we still date if I just cut it back to the weekend?” To me, this was a great idea. Please recall that I had been drinking everyday for about the last five years. For me, this was a huge step. “Well, that’s ok if it will eventually lead to you quitting.” She replied. “I’ll call you back.” I said. I just wasn’t quite ready for that kind of a commitment. Not yet anyway. The reality of the conclusion just kept coming back to me. I had nothing to lose, not one thing. If I tried this spiritual Christian lifestyle and it didn’t work out, I could always go back to drinking and drugging. I had nothing to lose and I could always quit and drink again. This really impacted me.

I asked Rina to come home with me to get rid of my stash. I flushed an ounce of weed down the toilet, poured out six beers, and made Rina, dump out the Wild Turkey, because I had not the heart to do it. (It was the 101 proof, of course, that 80 proof was for the lightweights, after all, I was Rick-hog) But, we did it, then I went and knelt beside the bed and prayed, “God, I’m all in.” I took a nap and went to my first AA meeting.

God put a love for scripture into my heart immediately and a great desire for the pursuit of spiritual things. I read every book available on spirituality and completely read the AA big book and the New Testament, in about 13 weeks. I was like a sponge. Every time the church was open, I was there. I took all of my old drinking money and bought Bibles. Then, in the early days, I came to the book of Revelation. I totally freaked out when I read this in the first chapter of Revelation. The apostle John has been exiled to an island called Patmos and while he is there, he has a vision of the resurrected Jesus. This is what He saw, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands. And in the midst of the seven lamp stands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice the sound of many waters.” (Revelation 1:12-15) Wow!! John saw the same thing that I saw. There was only a 2000 year difference between us, but the appearance of Jesus remains the same. If that is true, then what I saw was the resurrected Jesus and if Jesus is resurrected, then everything the bible says about Him must be true. This was the conclusion that I came to. It seems to make sense to me. Additionally, I had an experience, in real life, that was exactly as it is written is scripture. That means, that if it is written in the “good book” then I can experience it in life and vice versa, if it is experienced in life, then it is probably written somewhere in the ‘Bible. I have found this to be true. I’m not sayin that I have all the answer, I’m just sharing my experience.

It’s been 11 years, as of the writing of this book, since that day. I’ve still got nothing to lose. God has been so good to me. I’ve read the Bible 15 times, as of the writing of this book, from Gensis to Revelation. I just keep getting stuff out of it and still can’t get enough of it. I’ve studied Greek and Hebrew in order to study older manuscripts. I’m not tying to brag or give you my resume, I simply telling what my life is like now. I also want you to know that the biblical references in this work are the spiritual truths that I’ve experienced as I walk with God. Again, I’m no expert, I’m just sharing my experiences with you and hoping that God will do for you, the reader, what He has done for me. I’m still a nurse, and I work with substance abusing teens at a local hospital. I plead guilty before the board and they probated me for about 4 years and sent me through a monitoring and rehabilitation program, which I’m very grateful for. I still live in Kentucky. As for Rina, we got married about 9 months later. We currently, as of the writing of this book, have six beautiful children. Thank God they look like their mother. We’ve been married for 10 years and have truly lived, happily ever after.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. I’m a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I’ve seen Him alive and have experienced Him. If this story has touched you and you are ready for an encounter with the Living God, then Let us Pray!

“Lord Jesus, you are the Living God! Please manifest yourself in my life. Show up in unexpected ways to make me aware of your presence and power. I want you in my life and I need an encounter with you. Show yourself strong! In Jesus name, unleash heaven over me. Amen!”