“I should have died that night, either from the fall or from alcohol poisoning. But God had something better in mind for me.”
On a summer Friday in 2012, I awoke at 3:30 in the morning. Half of my body lay on the road, the other half on the curb. Flesh was torn from my elbows, forearms, knees and shins. Blood seeped from my wounds. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me. Had a car struck me? I tried to get up and realized I was stinking drunk. As my mind cleared, I remembered I’d been walking home from the bar.
A recent, nasty divorce had caused me to lose everything and sent me into a deep depression. On top of these troubles, I suffered from constant pain in my back and joints. That humid afternoon, to ease my sorrows, I went to the corner bar, where everyone knew my name. I intended to have a couple of drinks. On my way home, hours later, I fell down a corrugated steel staircase and ended up sprawled on the pavement.
After crawling home, I said to myself, “Enough is enough. Things have got to change.”
A friend convinced me to attend some classes at the Alcohol, Drug & Gambling Services. Like most drunks, I lived in denial. I could stop drinking anytime I wanted to. And I only drank on weekends. What was the problem with that? The counsellor assigned to me was easy to talk to and, boy, did I have a lot to say. First, we tried to ascertain exactly how much alcohol I was drinking. We concluded that the night of my fall down the stairs I’d had 52 drinks.
With guidance and support I quit drinking. I joined a class at the community pool, even though I couldn’t swim a stroke and was afraid of water. At the outset, I weighed in at 417 pounds. After a mental health assessment, I was prescribed medication for depression and enrolled in a behavioural therapy course.
I lost 34 pounds and began to feel better about myself. The counsellor wasn’t finished with me. Next, she sent me for weight loss education.
After almost a year of sobriety, the depression had lifted and I was down over 100 pounds. My life had changed. I felt on top of the world. But trouble lurked just around the corner.
I was in a relationship with a woman I loved. She’d done a lot to tear down the defensive wall I’d built around my heart. As a recovered alcoholic herself, she was a good support to me. She began to sneak a few drinks, and her drinking quickly got out of control. She became depressed. One day her daughter called in a panic. “Mom just texted me ‘Goodbye,’ ” she said. I knew where to look for her and found her lying on her grandmother’s grave. Many boxes of sleeping pills and an empty bottle of whisky lay beside her. She spent two months in hospital, and I spent almost every waking minute by her side. She was in a bad place. Though I’d saved her life, she wasn’t grateful. Once more she attempted suicide. Again, I found her just in time. I loved her deeply, but our relationship ended. This left a serious void in my life.
Gastric bypass surgery was recommended to me, and I decided to go through with it. While I was recovering in the hospital, a clergyman stopped by. He told me that God loved me. After returning home, I remembered the Bible in the cedar chest at the foot of my bed. It had been given to me at my brother’s funeral and had been sitting unused for 25 years. I started reading.
For three months, I struggled to understand the King James language. Then someone gave me a paraphrased Bible and the words came alive. After reading almost half of the Old Testament, I gave my life to Jesus and started attending church with a few friends. I enrolled in a new believers class and was baptized in water.
When I found Jesus, He filled the void in my life. I found true love in Him. My goal was to bring every unjust thing I’d ever done to a satisfactory conclusion. I asked several people for forgiveness. Everyone forgave me except for one person. I met with Pastor Ross Brown, one of the pastors at People’s Church in Hamilton, Ontario. During our two and a half hour meeting, I felt God’s love for the first time. It washed over my soul like a gentle rain.
When I fell down those metal stairs on my way home from the bar, it was the turning point in my life. I should have died that night, either from the fall or from alcohol poisoning. But God had something better in mind for me. I’ve been sober more than four years. I’ve lost 235 pounds and have a lot less pain. Best of all, my Holy Saviour, Jesus, has come into my life.
Patrick Shea lives in Hamilton, Ont., where he attends People’s Church. Patrick wrote this personal testimony while attending the Write Your God Story classes at the church, taught by Rose McCormick Brandon.
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image background ©istockphoto.com, Patrick's photo courtesy of Patrick Shea
This article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.