I’ve always consumed alcohol throughout my entire life: college binging with friends, drinking an entire bottle of vodka on New Year’s Eve, or tying one on for anything that I defined as a “holiday,” whether it was marked on the calendar or not.
The problem was that my “holidays” became “daily.” With any job or career, we encounter stress. Some people handle it well; others don’t. Some people have more stress in their jobs; others have less. That’s life. It’s how we handle it that matters. But, I never asked God to help me with my career stress. I just chalked it up as the way things were supposed to be as I put on a Superman-façade and proceeded on with my daily work.
As I moved through a career in education and became a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent of schools, everyone was proud. My parents were proud. My entire family was proud. “We always knew Rick would become something great,” they said. But, there was a central flaw embedded within this entire equation: I rarely thanked God for what he provided for me when things were good. I wasn’t thankful for what I had. I wasn’t content with being content. I was always looking for further advancement, higher salaries, and better positions. I wasn’t fully obedient to God, either. I had tunnel vision on my career success and moving up the ladder which would soon provide a broken top rung because I wasn’t centered in faith. I wasn’t grounded in anything. I was a fly-by-night Christian, attending church with my family, but only obsessing about the chaos, politics, emails, and turmoil in my leadership positions even while listening to the weekly homilies. I lost all concentration.
The stress from my adversaries in the field of public education was killing me – yes, there are extreme politics and personal agendas that administrators and teachers encounter each day. I wanted to alleviate the “pain” and mental anguish that I felt during my fifteen hour work days. I didn’t really want to “beat” my adversaries or “join” them, either. I just wanted the stress to go away. So, I drank and after I was finished drinking, I would drink more. Then, I would do it all over again the next day.
When enough was enough, God pushed the ejection button from my career and he intervened; he saved me. The bottles of booze needed to disappear from my life. The reliance on self-medication, through drinking such large quantities of poisonous liquids, needed to end and I resigned from my position instead of fighting for it.
I was mad at God, at first, until I felt a certain kind of peace and alleviation. I struggled with forgiveness and carried it on my shoulders for over a year.
I needed a wake-up call from the Lord and I believe that my struggles and perils were meant to be. I was meant to experience what I experienced. Often, we cannot see God’s paved path for us because we are not supposed to see it.
But, there was a new path for me – a new opportunity to shine and get it together. I needed to grab hold of myself and think about my life as a cycle, not a sentencing. I read scripture from the Bible, photocopied pages from Joel Osteen’s book, I Declare, and cut out passages from it to hang on my home-office walls. I played Christian music which I never thought I would like, but actually now appreciate because it really can be powerful and progressive with its electric guitars, amazing tone, and spiritual verse. I worked out at a nearby gym, thanked my wife for her love and for sticking by me, and hugged my children tighter than ever while beginning my recovery and comeback.
I started to write each day while I healed. I produced three manuscripts over the next seven months and decided that I would try to publish my work. I wrote in multiple genres, researched the publishing industry, and submitted my work with passion and fervor. I invested in my own comeback plan and God was going to drive my yellow energy bus.
Looking for new work to pay the bills and support my family after a hiatus for my own healing, treatment, and recuperation, I found a new calling – designing curriculum for an educational resources company in my home town while also writing and publishing. These great opportunities and experiences soon landed at my feet. Or, should I say, God placed these new experiences at my feet. He took my hand, protected me, and guided me down a new path.
As I continue to battle against the daily struggles of alcohol because it really is everywhere – on billboard signs, in most social settings, at storefronts on every other block, and commercialized on television and in the newspapers – I feel healthy: mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually.
I also love my new boss. He hired me because he believed in me. My true friends rallied around me even though those whom I thought were friends exited my life. That’s okay because Spring cleaning in one’s life is inevitable, I guess. I needed to move on with the new Rick because God gave me a new life to be sober, stable, and happy.
Since my transformation and comeback, my work was accepted by three different publishers within the last year and I am working on five new manuscripts for future submission. I am thankful for waking up in the morning, getting a new crack at life, but also because I realize that God is the center even when life zig-zags from good to bad. It is the path that he paves, the belief that we must have, and the strength to transform ourselves which will provide new meaning in our lives and a new relationship with God. A recent WITH® Tweet on 4/8/2016 stated: “God’s plan is bigger than your mistakes.” Indeed, this is true. Liquor is no longer my healing. God is.