6. His Way, Not Mine

6. His Way, Not Mine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

His Way, Not Mine

God’s will is not an itinerary, but an attitude.

~Andrew Dhuse

I can vividly recall standing just outside the Chronicle building countless times early in the morning, trying to clear my head enough to focus on my duties as editor of the small weekly newspaper. And I remember praying — begging, really — that God would deliver me.

My co-workers would begin arriving soon, so it was time to plaster a fake smile on my face and crack a few jokes. But in my mind’s eye, I was in a deep cylindrical pit, the walls hard and smooth as granite. It was pitch black and empty, like my life had become. And there was no way out.

I prayed, but I knew God wasn’t listening. And I couldn’t blame him; He knew as well as I that I was thinking about my next drink even as I promised to stop if he would come to my rescue.

I had no idea then, but He was listening. And waiting.

I was fifty, married, a father and a grandfather. A successful journalist. I was also a hopeless closet drunk, albeit a high-functioning closet drunk who spent nearly every waking hour drinking, planning to drink or disposing of the evidence of my addiction. It’s an exhausting and pitiful existence. I lied constantly and worked tirelessly in an effort to live a normal life and at the same time secretly feed this insatiable, abnormal habit that never really satisfied me.

It’s the sort of insanity that prompted me to get out of bed every morning and take that first drink. Usually a bout of puking followed, then I’d attempt another drink, and another, until I could keep down enough of that poison to ease the shakes.

In spite of my efforts to rotate from one store to another, nearly all of the clerks knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in the door. I wasn’t fooling anyone. I hated myself, because while I was never an abusive drunk, I knew deep down I’d rather spend an hour with a six-pack than with any member of my family.

The only thing more important at the time was my job. I was proud of my writing. I knew that as long as I could write, I could hang on to one last shred of self-worth.

But fear of losing everything, of getting called out for my drinking, of my liver exploding, was choking out any hope for peace of mind. A few more drinks and I wouldn’t care. Well, at least not for a few hours.

“Dear God, don’t you see me? Can’t you hear me?” I’d pray. “I’m going to die! Don’t you care?”

Nothing. But in my isolation, I continued to pray. I’m not sure why. After all, I knew alcohol would always answer my prayer to escape. It gave me what I wanted when I wanted it.

Until another weekend binge left me feeling sick. I literally couldn’t get drunk, and as I forced myself to walk into the office early that Monday morning in December, just before the paper’s biggest issue of the year, I found myself unable to concentrate on anything. I was sick deep inside.

I finally gave up and walked out the door, confused, hurting, without hope. Completely broken, because I had just walked away from the one thing I thought made me worth something.

I wanted to die. I prayed, waiting for an answer I knew wouldn’t come.

I finally made the decision to get some help, no matter how frightening the prospect. My wife and I made a couple of calls and everything fell into place for me to admit myself into a residential treatment program.

I walked through the doors, alone and scared to death. What I didn’t know was that, in fact, I wasn’t alone.

I went through detox and several rigorous days of rehab meetings, therapy and group sessions before finding myself wanting to pray again as I sat on my bed.

“Dear God,” was all I could get out before an overwhelming feeling came over me. My face was flushed and the tears began to flow uncontrollably. For a few moments, I knew what it was like to feel God’s presence inside every fiber of my being. It was incredibly intense, like electricity shooting through my veins.

I went to sleep that night without fear for the first time in years. And with the personal realization that God works His will according to what we need, not what we want.

Looking back, it was so clear how perfect His plan was for me. He was listening all along. It just never occurred to me that He might expect me to start cleaning up my own mess before taking over the reins. Had He simply “delivered” me, I probably would have gone on my merry way without trying to lean on Him, and without realizing how much I need His presence in my life every day. The truth is, I’d probably be drinking again today if He had answered my prayer the way I wanted Him to answer it.

These days — several months later — I still pray outside the Chronicle building, alone, but today I offer sober words of gratitude, knowing that He’s listening, just as He was more than a year ago when I was drowning in a cesspool of my own self-loathing, fear and selfishness.

I’ll never look at prayer the same way again. Just when I was ready to die rather than continue living in my own personal hell, He gave me another shot at life.

His way, not mine.

~Tom Montgomery

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