tes•ti•mo•ny: Kevin’s Story

Lifeonthewagon has turned 3 years old! In celebration, I decided to freshen the look of lifeonthewagon.com (when you have a chance, look around and see what’s new), but more importantly, I decided to do a series called: testimony. I asked several friends to share their stories. I am praying you will be inspired by their courage to share. I will be posting their testimonies over the next few days, so be on the lookout for each one. You will not want to miss the blessing of hearing their stories! To God Be The Glory!

The first testimony comes from Kevin, a graduate of the same ministry program my husband attended. You can leave comments on this post for Kevin if you feel led. I am thankful for his honesty and willingness to share….

Kevin’s Story 

I am honored to share with you my testimony and story of how God has saved me and restored my family. I am a native of Boone, born and raised by hard working parents.

 My battle with addiction began in my teenage years, though I did not see the signs early on. A verse comes immediately to mind in John 10:10, “The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy.” It all started with alcohol, but quickly moved on to methamphetamine abuse shortly after high school.  My father owned several tractor trailers, so the natural progression was to follow in his footsteps and become a driver as well. Being a long haul truck driver for many years really enabled me to be someone else while on the road. Those years took a huge toll on my wife and children. The physical and mental abuse that I bestowed on them was completely out of control.  I would frequently have thoughts of suicide, becoming so fed up with the direction my life was heading, and I blamed everyone except myself.

I attended my first 28 day secular rehab program in 2001; and sobriety lasted for a short time before returning to the hog pen, as I call it, again. During those years of sobriety, Tracie and I built a new home; and we were blessed with a third daughter. Of course, these blessings came with their own set of stressors which led me back to drugs again, because I didn’t possess the tools I needed to deal with the problems that arise every day. 

In 2010, I attended Hebron Colony Ministry for the first time. Life returned to normal again for a short time, but I decided that my family needed more money to live; and I found myself missing the road. The opportunity presented itself to buy another tractor trailer and I jumped at it feeling this was the right move for our family.  All along I believed this was Satan’s plan to pull me and our family back into his grip, like the thief he presented himself again. 

Things went fine in the beginning of my newest venture, but then I became tired from the high expectations and long hours that are required to be successful in the logistics business.  I began using drugs again to enable my body to stay awake and deliver the loads in a timely manner.  I justified my drug use by comparing myself to King David, telling myself I was making money for my family. Brothers and sisters, was I wrong!  Over a short six month period, I was deeper in that hog pen than I had ever been.  Our home that we had worked so hard to build ten years earlier was foreclosed on, my wife and children left me and moved to a small apartment while I was left living in my car.  One day, driving into Boone, God saw His opportunity and took it. He had brought me to my lowest point in order to save me from myself.  I cried, begging God to help me and fix the mess I had made of the life He had given me.  I knew it was time to go back to the Mountain of Miracles, Hebron.

I made my way to RD Hodges’ office, a man who now I am proud to call my friend and brother in Christ. I was ready for a lasting change in my life and the staff welcomed me with open arms. They had prayed that I would find my way back and those prayers did not go unheard.  Though my wife had left me and was so fearful of me that she had a restraining order in place, she agreed to be my sponsor and drove me to Hebron that Saturday morning.  She knew the man I could be and longed to have that godly man back in their lives. The last portion of John 10:10 “I have come that you may have life abundantly” rings true and I have not looked back. I graduated on August 18, 2012, and then God blessed me again, allowing me to extend for an additional 12 weeks and then 6 more months as volunteer staff assisting Gene Dooley in the kitchen. The pastors laughed, telling me I was the first student to actually request to be assigned in the kitchen and I was blessed to have godly men like Gene in my life.    

Our lives are now full of happiness and joy.  My wife and I have a closer relationship than ever before, and although two of our daughters now have homes of their own, we have an exceptional relationship with each other.  Our youngest daughter Maggie is now 9; and she trusts me and my decisions. I still go to Hebron every Saturday where I enjoy helping the ladies in the office and meeting the new men.  I also enjoy doing the sound for each Saturday graduation service.  Maggie goes with me and enjoys the services as much as I do. 

I have said all this to say that when I truly surrendered everything in my life to God, He gave me an abundant life right here on earth and the tools I need to maintain this life, being in His Word. God gave my family back to me, a nice home to live in, a great job that I like and a heart to help other men who are just like me.  I praise God for the life he has given me because without Him my life means nothing. God can take a mountain of mess and turn it into a mountain of miracles like me.

Yours truly,

Kevin 

Graduate 8/18/12

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:13

 

My husbands testimony

One of the most sacred things that Christians have is their testimony. We must protect it at all costs. No one can shut it down with their own philosophies. It isn’t a bunch of words you are talking(preaching) about. It is the action of your life. It is your story.  It is the moment when Christ began a good work in you. It is ongoing, it is always changing as seasons of our lives transition from easy “normal” days to the most difficult days we have ever known. Recently, my husband was asked to give his testimony in the newsletter that his ministry sends out. Now that it was in print I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share it on this blog.

On Thanksgiving of 2008 while attending the Hebron program I received an index card that had a simple quote stating: “An extraordinary plan for your life will mean an extraordinary trial to prepare you.” They also referenced James 1:12. It is not signed and I’m not really sure who wrote it, but I have held on to this card for many years. It permanently resides on the front of my refrigerator. James 1:12 (NIV) 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.” This verse (and quote) that we reference daily didn’t have much meaning early on in my new walk with Christ. Later though, it would prove as a daily reminder of God’s grace and mercy upon me and my family all the while giving direct instruction for our new lives in Christ.

My trials with alcohol started at an early age. Fast forward through a “lively” college era and a prosperous professional career and I arrived at 2008 where alcohol had become the center of my life. In 2008 I was coming off some of the most lucrative professional years of my life. I was married to the most beautiful Godly woman and we were expecting our first child. Life was good…Right? Well, despite all of God’s numerous blessings I found myself going into in a very dark place until my entire life became unmanageable due to alcohol. It was nothing short of a miracle that I learned about Hebron Colony Ministries and I began a journey that was no less miraculous.

I have my family to thank for paving a firm foundation in my life. I grew up with positive Christian influences in my life. When I embarked on attending Hebron Colony in 2008, it came with loving support from not only my expecting wife, but also my immediate and extended family. I looked forward to seeing God’s plan for my life unfold like many powerful testimonies I had heard from men who had taken the same journey through the Hebron program. The feelings of anxiety I had when I first arrived at Hebron Colony were quickly replaced with feelings of love and security that I had not experienced in long time. There are still no words to put it into proper perspective.

It was not long after arriving at Hebron Colony that I learned about the power of prayer and what a “relationship” with Christ really looked like. God used these men, the staff and ultimately His word to draw me back to Himself where I eagerly recommitted myself to Him for His purpose during my time at Hebron. While in the 10 week program my wife wrote me a letter. In that letter she spoke to me about what our life might look like given our new life. What I realized is that she was sharing this with me as a hope and a prayer. It was how she envisioned herself standing up and giving a testimony at Hebron for what we would have been through and how the Lord brought us through.

This is an excerpt from her letter:

“This is my husband Kirk and we have now been married for almost 5 years and we’re blessed with two beautiful children. Life wasn’t always so grand though. Our second year of marriage when I was pregnant with our first child his drinking became a severe problem and wreaked havoc on his health, our marriage and our families. There were many sad nights and days that seemed to never end. I cried out to the Lord alone in my room to heal him and protect me. I felt like the hand of God had left our marriage and was in a complete state of despair all the while Kirk slipped deeper into an alcoholic coma – there is no other was to describe it. Finally the Lord brought Hebron Colony Ministries into our lives and not a moment too soon. I was 4 months pregnant and 70 days seemed like a long time but the darker days could be coming to an end. When Kirk came home right before the birth of our baby he was a completely changed man. The Lord had restored peace in his heart, and a commitment to stay clean and sober not by his own strength but by the strength God gives us when we call out to him for help. I am so grateful that he was here for the birth of our first child and could believe that he would be the father he had always wanted to be. Since that time in our own lives the Lord has continued to help us through as a family and we are stronger than we could ever hope for on our own. To this day Kirk has never had a desire to drink again and I have continually supported this by not letting it be a part of my life. So here we are 5 years later and I am so in love with my husband, my children and most importantly my Savior Jesus Christ. He saves us from ourselves and He rescued my husband from himself and gave him back to me as a new man, changed forever by the grace of God.”

This letter had a profound effect on me. I keep it to remind myself of where we are now, how far we have come, and all that God has redeemed in our lives.

I returned once more to Hebron in 2010 broken beyond measure having turned away from God’s plan and will for my life and not understanding why. By God’s grace I was allowed to return and experienced radical transformation. By this time I was on the verge of losing everything. My wife, my child, my family, my friends, my job. What I came to realize this time is that I had only surrendered 99% of my troubles, burdens and self at the foot of the cross. It was out beside the Hebron Chapel that I fell to my knees. I said a simple prayer asking God to reveal to me “the known and unknown” that was deep seeded in my heart. Instantaneously, God revealed to me what it was that was fueling my drunkenness and pain: feelings of abandonment, resentment, shame, guilt, etc… It was that remaining 1% that I was finally able to turn over to Him. When I came to I saw one of my Hebron brothers passing by and for a moment I looked at that man with eyes of Christ. He allowed me to experience for a moment the outpouring of love Christ has for us. I believe God showed this to me for a reason and placed a calling on my life to serve Him. This was April of 2010 and I was a new creation saved by God’s grace.

In April of 2015 it will be five years since that calling.
We shall always remain amazed at His love for us and how He graciously answered that single prayer and hope that my wife wrote so many years ago. My wife and I now have a beautiful 5 year old daughter and a one year old son. God continues to provide for our family and we thank Him each day for allowing us to serve Him in the very ministry that provided an opportunity to change our lives forever. We thank God for our “extraordinary” lives and even the trials we’ve endured not our own strength but His alone.
In His Service,

Kirk M. Hamilton, Jr. Graduate 2010
Administrative Staff, Hebron Colony Ministries

Hamilton Family Final (46)

1,095

Hamilton Family Final (73)

YES! 3 years! We passed this milestone on February 22 and what a great day it was! Seriously, Praise the Lord. He has everything to do with helping us get to this point by providing the opportunities, the support, the friendships, the church, the counseling we needed to make it here. I firmly believe you cannot do this alone. It took a village of people, all placed here by God, to get this family back on track. We owe a lot to our families for their support and continued faith in us. We owe a lot to our friends for their encouragement, for lending an ear and for just being there cheering us on. We owe our mentors for being strong models of Christ’s love and how to live it out in this new life. We owe everything to God for taking these two messed up people and using them for His glory. We don’t deserve it, but He uses us anyway. I often think about what my life would have been like now if my husband had never turned the corner. I am a realist and know that the story doesn’t always turn out this way. Sometimes the addiction wins. I have heard countless stories of loved ones who were defeated by it. I have seen it play out personally with my husband’s father. I hate to see it happen because I now believe addiction can be conquered.

I think it has to do with exposing the lies of the enemy which is what I try to do here. If you have never read the book Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis then read it! It is life changing when we realize that there is a spiritual battle going on that we can’t see with our eyes but experience in our everyday lives. When the enemy has control over us we have a tendency to believe that things just happen to us…that there is no plan or force behind it, orchestrating. But when you see things from a spiritual perspective you understand that we get tripped up for specific reasons. A few weeks ago my husband and I watched the movie Flight. (Disclaimer: this is an R rated movie and there is nudity, language, drug use throughout). It was a tough movie. Intense. But you could see the battle going on within Denzel Washingtons character. He wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to have a problem. He denied it heavily at the beginning of the movie. At one point, for 9 days leading up to his trial, he remained sober. The day before the trial he goes to stay in a hotel room and they even place a security guard in front of his room to protect him from any outside influences or from himself. In the early morning hours after tossing and turning most of the night he hears a tapping noise. He investigates and finds that the door to the adjoining room is open. Guess what is in the adjoining room? Yep, a stocked bar. The enemy wins again. I am one of those people who believe things like this are not just coincidence. I think they are designed for us to fall flat on our face…especially when we are on the right path. My husband and I have experienced this A LOT within the 1095 days. But we know to expect it and we know to expect it when we are being beaten down by life. When we get incredibly stressed out. When we are tired. When we feel anxious. When things don’t work out like we want them to. Even when the first signs of Spring show up (this is a different story). We expect temptation. And that is how you keep yourself safe. I have realized now that part of the reason I write this blog is not just to give perspective but also to expose the lies that I let myself believe, so people might identify themselves as well. I do it by being specific with details, thoughts, or habits. If you read the blog and can find yourself in anything I am saying them you know what I am talking about….and that’s why I do it. That is why I will keep on doing it. Shortly after you have identified yourself though you will find yourself convincing yourself that its not true or that your circumstances are different. And so the lie will continue. It is subtle but as the song says “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” I don’t want to be right about it, but I have been through too much to know that I am not wrong. Don’t believe the lie.

So here we are at 1095 days later and I am eternally grateful to God that He gave us a second chance at this. He has blessed us with a healthy, vivacious, opinionated, loving daughter. He has blessed us with a warm home, two cars that work (most of the time), two jobs, childcare and the means to support it all. He has blessed us with family and friends. And most of all, He has blessed us with a story to tell that might change the direction of someone else’s life. If we aren’t here to help one another, then really…what are we here for?

One personal side note: To my husband, I am incredibly inspired by you and changed forever by our circumstances. I am humbled by your humility and willingness to continue to share your story openly. I am so thankful that our daughter (and son) will know you, if God allows it. I am so thankful that their story is forever altered by your determination and faithfully seeking Gods plan for our lives. I am encouraged daily by your resolve. I am blessed when you talk about your weaknesses or moments of doubt…it reminds me you are still working on yourself as I need to be. You have a heart with eternity stamped on it and I am thrilled to know that I am included in that game plan. All my love. bpp.

Why we need transparency

I am sure there are plenty of friends and family that wonder why I chose such a public venue to tell our story piece by piece. It’s a good question! Why be so public about it?? I think the answer is pretty simple: Because it’s real. It’s called being authentic. Can you be authentic quietly? Yes. But I don’t think that helps anyone. Part of the reason we are given challenges is to give people hope that they can overcome it, too. No one wants to go through the journey of life alone. Especially not to suffer through the many realities of life alone. I believe my mothers generation and the generation before that frowned on airy dirty laundry. But I don’t think we can call it dirty laundry anymore. I think we should call what it is: part of the human experience. I tried supression for a long time and all that happened was resentful build up. Then it started to pour out of me in unhealthy ways like getting raging mad at the little stuff or saying hurtful things. We become angry people. My husband and I were talking about angry people the other day. You know, the ones who always have something negative to say or like to put people down. They aren’t fun to be around. But what you realize about people like this is that there is a reason for their negativity. Something is happening at home and they have no outlet for expressing what they feel. It’s a lonely place to be. When recovering from addiction you NEED other people, you NEED an outlet to express how you feel, and you NEED honesty.

One of the most difficult parts about the road to recovery is regaining the trust that was lost. There is no road map on how to do this because each person in your life has to be handled differently. Please know that everyone will NOT agree with everything you do when making amends, but don’t give up trying to make amends with them if it’s not working. Time is your greatest asset. The more time you have to prove you’re recovered the easier this amends process will be. You will have a foundation. Reconciliation takes time. Sometimes the addicts or the family want immediate resolve. For the addict, their first focus for the first year should be on themselves. It sounds really narcissistic to say and hard to swallow since the addiction has already claimed so much selfishness, but it’s a fact. Every day of the first year is a battle. But if they are transparent with others about what they are going through, what they are fighting for then understanding and time will (hopefully) be given. When an addict starts to claim this new life, recognize the disaster they made of the old one, then you will know that they are making great progress. Let them come to terms with their past. I suggest writing letters or if they are in a recovery program, sometimes a family week is offered. Go. You might be angry with them, but this is the opportunity to unload and leave it behind. They will need to deal with what is unloaded but this way it is out there and dealt with in time. All family and friends really want is acknowledgement of the chaos and hurt. The addict can’t fix it at that moment. But they can hear it, process it, and decide how they want to handle the reconciliation. BUT it needs to be reconciled at some point. This is all part of the transparency process. Acknowledgement, reconciliation, honesty…these are words that need to part of the recovery process as a whole group.

Now that my husband and I have gone down the road a bit in this recovery, we are even more convinced on the importance of being honest and open about what we have been through. I know that we won’t get support from everyone and that’s ok. We aren’t doing it FOR everyone. We are doing it for those that really need to hear it. That want to know how to make their story turn out differently. For those that think there is more to life than painting this pretty picture of their lives. Our lives are being painted right now and I would prefer mine to be painted in a way that lines up with the actual photo. You see, the picture I inserted below…I love this photo. My husband is saying something that is really making me laugh. It’s a beautiful day and my daughter is behaving, somewhat, and it’s a perfect moment. What you don’t see is the battle we went through in the last 3 years to have such a beautiful, authentic moment. But we fought hard for that photo. I hope we have many more moments like this in our future and by God’s grace we will. A picture only tells 10% of the story and you have decide how to get real about the remaining 90%.

Hamilton Family Final (23)

In perspective, we are all the same

dads camera 122
I had a friend send me a message on Facebook letting me know that she liked the blog because it gave it her perspective on addiction. That is definitely something I had intended to do and glad that it is coming through. What I have realized through research and real life experience is that people still don’t know a lot about addiction and there is great divide between what is known, the stereotypes and the perceptions that people have toward addicts. There is definitely a sense of superiority between those that don’t have any issues with addiction and those that do. It’s an actual sense of strength versus weakness. I would hope that through some of what I write here, people who do not suffer from addiction would at least feel a deeper sense of empathy for those that do. Because we all have our hang ups. We all have things that we are addicted to, that we use to escape. It’s just that some things are more harmful to ourselves and to others. Unfortunately addiction doesn’t really get noticed until it is at the “affecting other people” stage. When the money starts to dry up or work suffers or jail/car accidents happen. Those are the moments when we wake up and think “ok, there may be a problem here.” But like I said in a previous post, the threshold has been passed at this point. If life is going well, if work is good, you can buy the house, the new car and no one gets hurt…then whats the problem?

I have seen this scenario play out. The result is always the same. Somewhere, at some point, you do not control the drug. It controls you. It’s like a light switch that goes off and you are hooked. Just one extra pill a day and then it becomes two. Just one drink at brunch, one at lunch, one mid afternoon, two after work, two at dinner, and then 3 before bed. You wake up the next morning with hangover and repeat the cycle the next day but this time you tell yourself you will at least wait until after work. So you do wait until after work but you have 3 then, then 2 at dinner, then 4 before bed. You wake up the next morning with a hangover and vow you won’t drink that day. And you take the day off. Good for you. You can go a whole a day! Then the next day comes and it is back to it again because you proved to yourself that you can go a whole day and be just fine. Here’s where I have to add in some “perspective”. One day, Two days, and even 3 days proves nothing to yourself. You have just fed yourself the LIE. It is a false sense of security. Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, Shopaholics…they ALL repeat this cycle. We don’t want to have a problem. We are all the same in this way.

Here are some statistics about alcohol that I found to be pretty shocking:

•Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.

•People with a higher education are more likely to drink.

•Higher income people are more likely to drink.

•Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol.

•There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.

-one-third of all suicides involve the use of alcohol

•Three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics.

•In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes.

•A 2000 study found nearly 7 million persons age 12 to 20 were binge drinkers.

•Three-fourths of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once.

•Adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than their counterparts who do not begin drinking until the age of 21.

One perspective that I would like to offer is on the family dynamic. Because alcohol is so socially acceptable, it is often difficult for an addict to hear that they drink too much especially from members of their family or loved ones who drink heavily. The first thing an addict will do is want to remind them about the 3 fingers pointing back at them. But do you blame them? Its like an overweight family member telling another family member that they need to lose weight. Or a smoker telling another smoker that they need to quit because the other smoker smokes a pack instead of a 3/4th of pack. It doesn’t balance out in an addicts mind. The addict becomes extremely defensive. This type of intervention is usually not effective because of the source. This goes back to what I was saying before about it being a family issue. In order for an addict to truly get well, the family has to get well also. All habits need to be examined by each family member. When I started to realize that I could have my own issues with alcohol it really helped my husband not feel so isolated. Like it was just HIM with a problem. Yes, I was angry for awhile about it but then I just thought to myself, “whats the point? What has alcohol, to date, given to ME as a person? The 100% truthful answer: nothing but pain and heartache.” When everyone in a family starts examine themselves then you have just increased the addicts odds for a full recovery. If that is truly what you are wanting to happen for them the work needs to start within each of you as well. Time to take some personal inventory on yourself and any hang ups you could also work on. The best time to do this is when the addict is getting the help they need. Let them know that you are looking at yourself too. It’s amazing what kind of boost this can give to them while recovering.

Just recently my husband and I watched the documentary on Bill W., the man who started AA. Something very poignant was said about him as a man. Something I thought ends this post nicely: (in reference to his seeking out other alcoholics to connect with)

“He had a real thirst for more, but will it ever be quenched? We are all meant to thirst so the question then is where do we aim what we thirst for?”

I think this says it all. I think God made us this way. We are all meant to thirst for Him and until we find Him, we will keep trying to quench it with everything else the world offers. In this way, we are all the same.