Addiction Stories

 

JOE FREEMAN’S STORY

My name is Joe Freeman and as of April, 2010, I am a new creation, one of The King’s kids!  Receiving Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and making Him the center of my life has transformed this former alcoholic/drug addict into a disciple of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  I have decided to follow Jesus until I am called home to Heaven.

I grew up the eldest of nine boys in the Philadelphia area before moving to the shore town of Wildwood Crest, NJ.  As a child I was physically and emotionally abused by my father.  My mother lived in fear of my father and was controlled by his anger and dictatorial style.  He was a punishing father, physically, emotionally, and verbally.  He hit first and did so often.  Degradation and public humiliation were the norm.  He expected us to do as he said, not as he did.  He drank a lot, smacked my mother around, and by all indications was unfaithful.  An agnostic at best and an atheist at times. he acted as if he were smarter than God and was angry with God.  My mother sent us to Catholic church on Sundays but she was too afraid of my father to go herself.  I never saw my father show forgiveness to anyone.  If you did it, you paid for it.  A mistake was a screw-up, not tolerated and generally beaten out of you.  He was brutal, not gentle.My opinion and image of God was that He did not love me or even like me.  God was a brutal punisher who looked for me to fall and then swiftly and brutally punished me.  He could never forgive me for even the smallest offense and I could never please Him or make Him love me.

I was also sexually abused by a female babysitter starting at age 11 for a year and a half.  This led to further pain and turmoil in my soul and damaged my concept of intimacy.

I began to drink heavily in college and ultimately became addicted to drugs, alcohol, and women, which continued for 40 years, costing me my marriage, family, job, and health.  I trusted no one and relied only on my three best friends; me, myself, and I.  I ended up in a crack hotel, broken in body and soul, and ready to blow my brains out because I saw no hope.

A friend told me about the Colony of Mercy at America’s Keswick, where he had found deliverance form the bondage of addiction.  I practically crawled across the street to the hotel office to make the call to the intake coordinator at the Colony and was able to go to Keswick in April, 2010.  My life was radically transformed when I began to understand the truth of Galatians 2:20, that Christ IS my life.  I had known of Jesus in earlier years but  had never had a personal and intimate relationship with Him nor the knowledge of what He had done for me that day on the Cross.  I went through the 4 month program, stayed for the Discipleship program, and then was offered an internship to work alongside the chaplains at the Colony of Mercy.

My wife and I were introduced to the ministry of Grace Fellowship International through the books of Dr. Charles Solomon.  We attended the conference/workshop/school in November of 2011 and have felt God’s calling on our lives to share the message of the Exchanged Life and Jesus as the Bondage Breaker on a full-time basis.  We desire to teach others that Christ came “so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).


MARY ANN’S STORY

Sometime around 1992 my world began to come apart at the seams. My marriage was in the pits and my teenage sons were getting out of control. They were using drugs and alcohol, failing in school and had become strangers to me. All I could think was, “How did I get to this place? Why was this happening to me?” I was selfish, depressed, angry and hopeless. The pity pot was where I made my home.

In 1992, I could not have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that the addiction that seemed to be destroying my sons’ lives would be the very thing that would save me, my marriage, and my family. In time I came to understand God would use addiction to open my eyes to Truth – His Truth….but this would take another six long years. God will get our attention one way or another. I had been ignoring His prompting in my life for years. Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:44. He was getting my attention now! I was so fearful that I could barely function and cried most of each day away. In my hopeless thoughts I saw only 3 possibilities: 1. My sons would die of an overdose. 2. They would kill themselves or someone else in a car accident. 3. They would end up in jail. You see, I had lost all hope that they would ever be free from addiction.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My Momma was Russian Orthodox and my Poppa was Lutheran. My older siblings and I were brought up in the Lutheran Church. We talked about God once in a while at home but “religion” and God were more of a tradition than anything else. For me, church, God and Jesus were separate from the “real” world. It all seemed more like a myth than fact. In church, I never heard about a “relationship with Jesus,” that I needed to be born again, or exactly what that meant. By the time I was married and had my sons, my church attendance had become less and less frequent. Around the time I was 35, I was dragging my family to church for Christmas and Easter just to “do the right thing.”

In 1991, my 81-year-old Pop was in the hospital and dying. After 3 days of being at his bedside and crying constantly, I was spent, exhausted and didn’t have anything more to give. My Momma and three sisters were in worse shape than me. I stepped out of his hospital room, slipped down on the floor, and cried out to God to help me be there for my Pop, to give me the strength that I didn’t have to get through this difficult time, and help me to do what needed to be done in the days ahead. Even though I wasn’t a believer at the time, I believe that God answered my prayer. As clear and instantaneous as a bell, I felt all my fear, anxiety and overwhelming grief lift from me. I stood up, went in to be with my Pop, and took charge of all that was going on at that time and even after his death. I believe that God answered my prayer because He was trying to get my attention to draw me to Himself. Unfortunately, I would need to go through many more trials until I finally surrendered my life to Him.

After my Poppa’s death, everything changed in my life. My parents were older immigrants from Ukraine. My Momma had very little education, spoke very little English, didn’t drive and couldn’t live alone. John and I sold our home, built onto her home, and moved our family in. I lost my home, my freedom, my privacy and basically became Momma’s “little girl” again. Our mother/daughter relationship deteriorated and became volatile. Within two years of moving in, John and Daniel were well on their way into the drug world and my marriage was hitting some all time lows.

By the time the fall of 1994 rolled around, I didn’t think things could be much worse, even though my younger son Daniel (16 at the time) was going into a 28 day secular rehab. A big sign welcomed us as we dropped him off; it read, “Expect a Miracle.” But no miracle was to be found there. Oh…God was definitely getting my attention! I knew I needed God in my life and that was just about all I knew at the time. A new friend of mine invited me to her church.

This church was warm and friendly. A small group of born-again believers took me “under their wings.” They didn’t know anything about addiction and couldn’t give me any help or direction in regard to it. What they did do was invite me to adult Sunday school, a Bible study, love me and pray for my family and me….oh how they prayed! I slowly began to see that the deep gaping hole in my heart could only be filled by God. I was beginning to understand what a relationship with Christ meant. Those “born again believers” were not some crazy Bible thumpers with daisies in their hands! I was learning and growing.

Ps. 40:2-3 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, He set my feet on a Rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

It wasn’t until March ,1998, when Daniel entered the Colony of Mercy and I began to attend chapel services  (Sunday evening, Wednesday evening TNT and, back at that time, Friday evening service) that I was really “hearing” what I needed to do to get right with God and ask Christ into my heart. I kept thinking I had to get my life right, clean my own act up so to speak before I could ask a righteous and Holy Savior into my heart. But Jerry Rusco’s booming voice kept ringing in my ears that there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation. There was nothing I could do change my life in my own will power. I needed to recognize my sinful, lost condition, confess, repent and accept Christ as my Savior….He would take care of the rest.

In my Bible studies I was learning so much about myself, marriage and about trusting God in the midst of trials. I was even learning something very profound…I was NOT in control…not of my marriage, not of my sons’ sobriety, and certainly not even of myself! Everything I read in God’s Word was telling me my problems began with me.  I needed to change my heart and my behavior and stop trying to change John, my sons, and everyone else. The book of Ephesians was having a great impact on my heart.

Eph. 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Instead of trying to change every one else, I was the one that needed to change.

Eph. 5:22-23 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Ouch! This one really cut to my heart! And also:

Malachi 2:15-16 Has not the LORD made them one? In the flesh and spirit they are his…”I hate the divorce” says the LORD God…

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord); A  wife must not separate from her husband…

God was asking me to surrender everything to Him…my broken marriage, my broken family, my broken relationship with my Momma and my sons’ addiction.

Daniel graduated from the Colony of Mercy July 4th, 1998. I had high hopes. Within a month he was using again, out of control, and I was crushed. We had tickets to the Sight and Sound Theater to see “Noah” in October of 1998. While Daniel was in the Colony he insisted that we get tickets for the whole family. Once again I had high hopes. Surely this would “bring him to his senses and have an impact on our other son.” The day was filled with anxiety and tears until I sat down in the theater. When I left that theater…I left as a new creation in Christ! At the end of “Noah,” Christ descended from the “heavens” with His arms wide open. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I finally understood I could do nothing to clean up my heart, that was His job. I couldn’t “fix” my marriage and love my husband, but Christ could do it though me. My relationship with my Momma could be “fixed” by Christ alone. I couldn’t “fix” my sons; only Christ could save them, and they were in His loving hands. I finally “got it” – confessed, repented and accepted Jesus as my Savior. I would love to tell you God repaired all of it…instantly. But that isn’t the way it happened. First I was made a new creation in Christ. Second, my marriage was reborn in November, 1998. Daniel re-entered the Colony in August, 2000, and has been walking with the Lord in victory ever since. Just prior to my Momma’s death in 2002, we were able to make our peace with one another. Many unanswered prayers are still lifted up in faith.

God had tried many ways to get my attention….addiction got my attention and now all these years later, I’m grateful for it, because God has used it in a powerful way in the life on my family. God used all my junk and turned it into treasure for my good and His glory!
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
It might sound crazy to many, but I am grateful because without it I may never have come to know Jesus as my Savior and missed all His blessings for my family.

2 Cor. 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
This verse began to speak to my heart. I heard God saying to me, “Hey I didn’t save you to just sit up on a shelf and look pretty. I saved you so that you could touch the lives of others and comfort them the way I comforted you.”

I felt called to go back to college (Philadelphia Biblical University). I earned a bachelors degree in Bible and went on to earn a Master’s in Christian Counseling. God in His mercy and grace brought me back to America’s Keswick in 2005. I had always felt that part of my heart was still here. I started out as a volunteer with the Women’s Ministry and now serve as full-time staff as the intake coordinator for the Colony of Mercy. I have a heavy heart for the men lost in addiction and their families. Since my son went through the Colony, I have a special place in my heart for the Colony and the men that find their way to its door. It is a privilege and honor to be used by God in a small way in their road to recovery and freedom from addiction. I still have to pinch myself when I pull into the long Keswick drive…God really does give you the desires of your heart as you seek Him in obedience. And He isn’t done with me yet!

Eph. 3:20-21 To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.

Thus far….the Lord has brought me……..


ALI’S STORY

My Story: Choosing Hope, Not Fear

Outside looking in, I was the cute little girl that belonged to a big happy family; everything was perfect, and everyone was happy. Inside looking out, I was a hurricane, tearing myself apart, pushing away the people who loved me.

I grew up in a household where I was the youngest of 5 kids. Anything more than one child means competition; competition in talents, sports, academics, and attention. I never felt good enough. I thought maybe I’d just do what my family does not. Striving to be different, not just so-and-so’s little sister, I did everything that was different than what my family did. I did gymnastics, while my sisters did ballet. I played guitar while my siblings learned piano.

My family loved God, and so I pushed Him away. The more I shut God out, the more blind I became. I was living life like a drunk driver, thinking I’m all good, but I was as good as blind. As I longed and sought for something to satisfy my heart, I opened my heart to anything that seemed promising. Depression crept its way in, bringing around an eating disorder, and self harm to punish myself for not being worth anything. I encountered several abusive relationships, but I thought that I deserved what I got, because I was worthless. I cried myself to sleep most nights, for many years, wishing tomorrow I wouldn’t wake up. And one night, I fell off my bed, and I hurt my arm. This is where I found what I believed was the cure for the depression, and the hurt, and the nightmares. I believed in this one accident, I found the one thing that would heal me and make me feel whole.

I got a prescription for Percocet. After just two pills, I saved them, because I noticed when I took a pill, I was happy. I didn’t understand why, but I decided that the pain in my heart was far worse than the pain in my arm. After a little while with those, I soon graduated to oxycontin. I had periods of using codeine, vicodin, and cocaine as well. Unbelievably, after about 2 years using the pills, I smoked marijuana for my first time, and I told my friend I had never been high before. That’s the thing about being a drug addict: I had heard all my life that drug users were bad people. I was not a bad person; I was hurting, this medicine made me happy, and I met other nice people who were sad and took the same medicine as me. I was a good person, not a drug addict.

I realized pain killers wouldn’t cure the depression. Neither would cocaine, or alcohol, or relationships. Every time I opened up to someone, I got hurt, so love was obviously not the cure. I kept throwing up my meals, hurting myself, taking my pills, and drinking myself to sleep. Nothing made me happy and I was sick of fit. So I drove home from school one day, with my mind all made up. I went off by myself, and decided to kill myself. If love and drugs couldn’t help me, nothing could. If I really was worthless, why even live another second? So quietly and tearfully, I slipped away from the world. I took all the pills I had left, and I smoked a blunt, and then went to stab myself.

Then there were footsteps. Then a dog bark. A woman and her dog began to come my way. Embarrassed and terrified that she knew what I was doing, I bolted. I climbed into my car and cried. I screamed out to God, until my throat too sore to handle another a cigarette, begging He would show me why I was alive still.

Addiction causes more than just a dependency on a substance. It causes you to live for nothing and no one but your pill. It becomes your focus, your life goal, your prize. You loose your sense of direction, because it leads you to places you never thought you could end up in. The addiction brings you to a fork in the road, where you must choose to fear it, or choose the hope of overcoming it. When an addict gets to that fork,the very worst thing you can do for an addict is tell them they’re wrong. I can not tell you how many people told me I was wrong and that I had to stop. It doesn’t help. They just need love, maybe even a hug too. They need you to say, “You are not okay, and what you’re doing is not okay, but what can I do to help you?” Don’t just walk away. They need to know that they are not the worthless pieces of trash the world calls them.

It took three years, but someone finally did that for me. My friend made me realize that Jesus Christ was waiting with arms open wide while I was pushing Him farther away from me. His arms stayed open, outstretched for the embrace of His child. And while His arms were spread, He died for me. While I told Him “I don’t need You God, I just need You to leave,” He took all my sin, all my tears, all my depression, all my worthlessness, all my drugs, and alcohol, and abuse, and He nailed it on the cross with Him. He died so suicide didn’t have to be the answer for me. He has scars on his wrists so mine didn’t have to.

I’m not worthless, and I have a purpose. Right now, you’re reading this, because you have a glimmer of hope that you, or someone you know, has a purpose. What you need to take away from my story is this: Drugs, alcohol, self harm, and eating disorders are all addictions. Addicts need love, not a judgement finger waved in their face.  At some point, they opened their heart to something they thought would bring them happiness.The first thing an addict needs is some to say they believe in them, and that they want to help. When an addict gets to that fork in the road, a little support from one person can cause them to choose hope over fear.

He sees you. He see when you cry all alone, in the bathroom, in your car, and as you get into bed. He sees the pain your mess is causing you. Jesus saw all of that in me, and he ransomed me. He did more than just that: He chose to LOVE me as well. Read Luke 15. This crazy kid runs off, takes his inheritance, and parties. Then, broken and humiliated, he returns home. While he was still a long way down the road, his father was looking for him, and he saw his son, and ran and embraced him. Sometimes our Father allows our lives to get as crazy as a hurricane, just so we can know what it feels like to come home, and feel his loving embrace. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what they did to you. It doesn’t matter how far you ran away from Him. He loves you and desires to have you. When you grasp that concept, you will know exactly why I know now that I am not worthless.


WILLIAM RAWS’ STORY

(William Raws was Cherri’s great grandfather)

I was born of good Christian parents. Father made considerable money in Australia where I was born, and my early recollections are of a comfortable, happy home in the country. Later we moved to one of the cities in the North of England. I became a Sunday school teacher, librarian of the school and a member of the church – but was not truly born again.

I spent five years in a Manchester warehouse and studied nights at the Royal Institution of Arts, and subsequently with one of the best portrait painters in that part of the country. At the age of twenty-one I married. Up to that time I did not know the taste of liquor. Unfortunately my wife did, although a woman of splendid qualities in other respects; and this proved to be the rock upon which we made shipwreck of our lives. We owned considerable property, had money in the bank, a well-furnished home, etc., when I first gave way to the curse of strong drink. Oh the misery, the heartaches, the wretched experiences and the ruin of the next ten years! I shudder when I think of it even now…[1]

The truth that hurts and the Truth that Heals…

We lost some money through a bank failure and then went into business. This we neglected for drink and failed. We mortgaged property, spent the money, sold that property, spend that money, mortgaged other property with the same results – until every house we owned (fourteen in all had gone. I was almost always under the influence of drink.

At times I would work a little but for several years did absolutely nothing but drink. For months at a time we would never miss a morning but the servant would bring the silver waiter to the bedroom door, and on it would be the milk and Jamaica rum, coffee, and the brandy decanter. Imagine how a day started in such a fashion would end. One night, coming in from the club, the nurse and my wife were about to take our little three-year-old sick child to bed. I said: “Here, let me take her. Papa will take his darling to bed tonight,” and taking her and the pillow in my arms, I retraced my unsteady steps to the hall, and when about half-way up the stairs I fell full length upon my dying child. A few days later I stood at her graveside, still under the influence of liquor, and saw the beautiful white ermine, silver-mounted casket lowered into the grave.

Some might say, “That man was a brute. He had no affection.” But, my friend, I want to say that I loved my child with all the strength of my heart. The demon of drink was in possession of me…[2]

Time would fail to tell of the black past. There is no poetry in a drunkard’s life; scheming and planning, broken promises, debts, rum, bankruptcy, a broken home, visits to the pawn shops to raise money, two thirds of which went to the rum seller, and one-third for food and family. At last I was induced by my relatives to leave England and come to America thinking that perhaps a complete change of surroundings would enable me to stop drinking.

I was drunk on the Thursday night when I promised. I sailed on the Saturday following. Oh the misery of the farewell to wife and children, to mother, father and other relatives! Any Hell? Ask the drunkard. He can tell you. For two years after my arrival here I lived an up and down life, oftener down than up.

Then news came of mother’s death and later of my wife’s. I was brokenhearted but knew not where to find rest or comfort until one day, fairly dying from the effects of rum, unable even to keep hot rum brandy on my stomach, I staggered penniless to my room and fell against an old armchair. (I still use it on our platform.) Although under the influence of drink, a poor dying drunkard, a swearing, lustful, sinful man, I cried unto God.

He heard my cry and saved me. Jesus Christ “was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” For days and nights thereafter I could neither eat nor sleep. I was on the verge of delirium tremens. I had had them before. But peace came at last and victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

That was twenty-one years ago and, praise God, I can now look back and say that during all that time He has kept me, and tonight I can honestly declare that I have no more desire to drink, or for tobacco, or to swear or gamble than when a little child I knelt at mother’s knee. To Him and Him only do I give the glory! He has been my Shepherd and has guided and kept me and supplied my every need. Today I can sing,

“I love Him, I love Him, because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calvary’s tree.”

I know from experience that His promises are sure, and He will supply our every need for spirit, soul and body.

About two years before I was redeemed, a cousin of mine in Germantown, PA told us at breakfast that she had dreamed of my being in the pulpit of St. Stephen’s M.E. Church preaching, and it was so ridiculous to our minds that we all laughed at it. I was living such a sinful life at the time that shortly afterward my uncle had to turn me out of the house.

But praise be to God, I have appeared since, not only in that church, but in almost every church in Germantown to tell the story of God’s power to save and keep saved. My children were brought over to me. I married my present wife, and after spending some time at my profession God filled me with the Holy Spirit and called us into mission work in which He has wonderfully blessed us.

He gave us the saloon in which I used to drink and carouse so much for a mission hall, and it is now widely known as “The Whosoever Gospel Mission and Rescue Home.”

The Beginning of a Legacy of Faith…

But the crowning effort of our lives was the purchase of 880 acres of land in the Pines near Whiting, NJ, and the founding of Keswick Colony of Mercy. Here, amid healthful and beautiful surroundings, many a drunkard has found Christ and redemption and is now a happy Christian. Praise God for His mercy and love and His power to redeem from all the power of sin.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

The reality of this verse is demonstrated in the lives of so many who have come to the Colony of Mercy. And it can be the reality of your life too.

• Are you in Christ?
• Do you know Him as personal Lord and Saviour?
• Do you know, without a shred of doubt, that you will one day be in Heaven with Him?

God’s Word tells us

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God … Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 3:16-18;5:24)

William Raws 1857-1910

[1] I would not, even if I had the space, tell all of the dreadful life of sin I lived, only just enough to show some other poor erring brothers or sisters that they may take heart and, trusting solely in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, be saved.

[2] I had as much affection for my dead darling [child] as I did only a few weeks ago when I stood sober, in full possession of all my faculties, at the graveside of our dear little eleven-year old girl, Dottie, as we laid her to rest under the pines at Keswick Colony.


MIKE & JULIA’S STORY

Testimony of Mike Quarles

The Strange Odyssey Of a Legalistic Preacher Who Became a Drunk, Discovered Grace And Was Set Free.

When I became a Christian in 1970 at the age of 33, I was really excited. This was what I had been looking for all my life. At last I had peace and something to live for. I hit the ground running. I went to church every time the doors opened. As Bill Gillham says, “If you had tied the average Baptist to me I would have dragged him to death.” I wanted my life to count for God. I pursued preparation for ministry with determination and zeal.

I was the President of a local Stock Brokerage firm, but I gave that up and headed off to seminary. How could I not take the message of eternal life to a lost and dying world? I graduated from seminary and went into the pastorate. It was my custom to spend at least an hour a day in Bible study and prayer. I memorized chapters of Scripture. I fasted and prayed. I read hundreds of books and listened to numerous tapes. I went to every conference that came to town. I went to Gothard so many times I lost count. I witnessed enthusiastically to anything that moved. It was my duty — how could I do less? My children didn’t like to ride in the car with me because I would pick up hitchhikers so I could witness to a captive audience. Julia, my wife, didn’t like to go out in public with me because I would witness to strangers while we were waiting for our ice cream cones in Baskin-Robbins.

I tried to do everything I had been taught in order to live the successful Christian life. What was the result of all this? My wife and children didn’t respect me because in my zeal to make them be good Christians, I became legalistic, harsh, and unloving. My marriage was a mess and my personal life was a shambles. I came to the realization that everything I had learned about living the Christian life just was not working for me. Finally I came to grips with reality and left the pastorate and went back to being a stockbroker. I became the manager of the E. F. Hutton office in Birmingham, Alabama and soon was making more money than I had ever made in my life. But I felt like such a failure. I felt I had failed God, my wife and children, and my church. I turned back to my old ways of dealing with my problems and began to drink. In a short period of time I became a full-fledged alcoholic. I didn’t plan to be one and began trying everything I knew to stop, but nothing seemed to help. This is what I tried:

  1. Consistent Quiet Time
  2. Bible Study
  3. Fasting
  4. Visitation Evangelism
  5. Christian Twelve Step Program
  6. Accountability group
  7. Hundreds Of AA meetings And Five Different Sponsors
  8. Christian Counselors
  9. Christian Psychiatrist
  10. Secular Psychiatrist
  11. Christian Psychologist
  12. Secular Psychologist
  13. Addictions Counselor
  14. Flew To New Jersey And Spent Three days With an Addictions Specialist
  15. Secular Treatment Center
  16. Christian Treatment Center
  17. Read Every Book On Addiction I Could Find
  18. Healing Of Memories Session
  19. Baptism Of The Spirit Session
  20. Casting Out Of Demons Session (Twice)
  21. Public Confession
  22. Group Therapy
  23. Took The Drug Antabuse
  24. Disciplined By My Church
  25. Rigid Schedule With Every Minute Planned
  26. Hundreds Of Hours Studying Scriptural Principles
  27. Memorized Chapters Of Scripture
  28. Discipleship Groups
  29. Prayer
  30. Promises To God And My Wife

Why didn’t any of this work? All were things I was doing in the flesh and “sinful passions are aroused by the flesh” (Rom. 7:5). Whenever we commit ourselves to a program, rules, method, principles, etc. to perform, we put ourselves under law and the law is what gives sin power in our lives (1 Cor. 15:56). Paul didn’t say, What will set me free, but “WHO will set me free?” (Rom. 7:24). There is no “What” (program, treatment, steps, plan, method, etc.) or anything you can do that can set you free, but “if the Son sets you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36). Where did all of this get me? I became totally out of control. I was depressed for days on end and suicidal. I was like the Prodigal Son — all I wanted was out of the pig pen. I had given up on being a good Christian and the idea of ministry seemed like a cruel joke. Jerry Clower, the Mississippi comedian tells a story that illustrates my predicament: Jerry and his buddy Marcel were out coon hunting one night and treed a big coon. Marcel climbed up the tree to shake the coon out, but when he got up there he found out it was a lynx, not a coon, and it gets after Marcel and is about to tear him up. Marcel hollers down at Jerry, “Shoot, shoot, this thang is killin me.” Jerry hollers back, “I’m afraid to shoot, I might hit you”. Marcel hollers back down, “Shoot up here amongst us, one of us has got to have some relief.” That describes exactly where I was. Now that was a very painful place to be, but exactly where God wanted me. I have since learned that God’s purpose for us is to bring us to the end of ourselves and our resources so that we can begin to trust Christ to be our resource and our life and to really live by faith. 2 Cor. 1:8,9 sums it up, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, we despaired of life. Indeed the sentence of death was in our heart. But that happened that we might rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”

Someone has said that it is when we have shot our last bullet and spent our last buck that God is able to work in our lives. There is no possibility of freedom, peace, victory and joy without coming to the end of self. The way up in the Christian life is down; revival is not the roof blowing off, but the floor caving in. Grace always flows downhill and meets us at our point of need — at our failure. Grace cannot be merited or manipulated. It is only available for those who have experienced total, absolute bankruptcy and failure in their own self and resources. Does God have an answer for addiction? Is there really any hope for the person who seems to be hopelessly enslaved? Is there such a thing as the victorious Christian life? I lived in constant defeat. My struggles seemed to be more intense and my defeats seemed to be more disastrous than most, but I really didn’t know many, if any, Christians who seemed to be free and living the victorious Christian life. No one seemed to have any answers for me.

As I look back now, I see that not only did I not have a clue as to the solution, I didn’t have a clue as to what the problem was. Dr. Bill Gillham, in his book Lifetime Guarantee, puts it like this, “The problem is you don’t know what your problem is. You think your problem is your main problem, but that’s not the problem at all. The problem is you don’t know what your problem is and that’s your main problem.” [1] What is the problem? The problem is not the bad behavior but the belief behind the behavior that causes us to act that way. Our behavior will always be consistent with our beliefs. What that means to the alcoholic and the addict or anyone in bondage is that their problem is not drinking alcohol or doing drugs or whatever, but it is the belief (really misbeliefs or lies) that causes them to act the way they do.

When I teach a weekly class at No Longer Bound, the Christian Treatment Center in Cumming, Georgia, I make it a point to say every time, “If you have a life-controlling problem, an addiction, etc. and want to be free, do NOT look at the addictive behavior, but look at the beliefs that cause you to continue in the self-destructive behavior.” As I reflect on my struggle to be free, it is amazing to me that I didn’t question my beliefs and my theology. I did try a lot of different things, but I stubbornly held on to some established beliefs that kept me from being free. Why did I do this? Because I had been taught the “truth” and I was convinced that my problem was not my beliefs, but my inability to put them into action. As far as I knew I had tried everything there was to try. Everyone had given up on me. My pastor later told me, “I didn’t know anything else to tell you.” Finally a close friend, Charlie Jones, handed me some tapes and said, “Here, listen to these, maybe they’ll help you”. I had listened to a couple of these tapes before and thought, “I don’t want to listen to these, this theology doesn’t agree with mine.” (See what I mean about stubbornly holding onto old beliefs?)

Then another thought came into my mind and I know now God was speaking to me, “Your theology is not doing you much good!!!” There was no denying the truth of that so I made what would be one of the best decisions I would ever make — I would listen to the tapes with an open mind. However, I went out and got drunk again. The next morning Julia strongly suggested that I go visit some friends out-of-town and give her a break. It seemed like a good idea so I packed a few clothes and headed to Lookout Mountain to visit our good friends, Jack and June Fagan.

I was driving along listening to the third tape, which was “Co-crucifixion is Past Tense”. Bill Gillham was teaching on our death with Christ. Rom. 6:6,7 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” What is this? I have died with Christ and I have been freed from sin? That’s what I need, but how do I make that true in my life? Then Gillham was saying, “It is not something you do, it is something that has been done; our death with Christ is past tense, the old person that we were ‘was crucified’ and ‘anyone who has died has been freed from sin’.” And then he said, “You ‘died to sin’ (Rom 6:2), you are ‘dead to sin’ (Rom. 6:11). I know you don’t act dead to sin, you don’t feel dead to sin, you don’t even look dead to sin, you think that is just a positional truth, that’s just the way God sees me, that’s just what God says about me. Listen, if that’s the way God sees you, that is the way it is. If that is what God says about you, that is the truth about you.”

It was at that moment that the lights came on and in that moment I knew the truth. I knew I had died with Christ and the old sin loving sinner had died and was no more. Oh I had believed the lie and acted like it for all these years, but that was not who I was. I now knew the truth was that I was dead to sin whether I acted like it, felt like it, looked like it or anyone else believed it — because God said I was. I also knew the truth that I was free, “….because anyone who had died has been freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7). Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). I had believed the lie that I was a hopeless, helpless alcoholic and had lived in bondage all the years that I believed it. But less than 24 hours away from a drunk, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that I, Mike Quarles, was a child of God who was “in Christ”, because I had died with Christ, was dead to sin and had been freed from sin. Free at last, free at last! Praise God I was free at last!!!!!!!!!

Rejoicing in my discovery of this truth and my freedom, I ran in to Jack and June’s house shouting to them that I was free. I grabbed the phone and called Julia and tried to explain to her what had happened. She thought I was on another wild goose chase and wouldn’t even hear me out. It didn’t dampen my enthusiasm though as I knew who I was in Christ and that I was free. I have never doubted it since that day! You may ask, how could anyone who had been in bondage for years and was drunk the day before be set free by listening to a tape? Actually listening to a tape did not set me free, but believing the truth that was taught on the tape did set me free. The truth is that I was free and had been ever since I became a Christian, but I had believed a lie about who I was that effectively kept me in bondage. Neil Anderson likes to ask the question in his conferences, “How many died with Christ?”. Most, if not all, raise their hands. Then he asks, “How many are free from sin?”. Then he says, “It better be the same hands because it clearly states in Romans 6:7, ‘Anyone who has died has been freed from sin’.” All Christians died with Christ so all Christians have been freed from sin. Now if they don’t believe they have been freed from sin, they will probably not act like it. We always act according to our beliefs, according to who we believe we are. That is why the issue is always identity. If you don’t know the truth about who you are “in Christ”, it doesn’t make any difference how much scripture you know and how many discipleship programs you are in or how much you pray or how long your quiet time is or how accountable you are.

Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist from a few years back, issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free in short order. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For thirty minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock. Finally after laboring for two hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all! But in his mind it was locked and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell. [2] Christian, the door to freedom is not locked — it was opened wide when Christ died on the cross and you died with Him. Not only have you been crucified, dead and buried, but the new creation that is you was raised up with Him ( Eph. 2:6). What does it take to walk through that wide open door to freedom? All it takes is for you to believe the truth. “It was for freedom that Christ set you free…” (Gal. 5:1). But if you believe that you have to work and sweat and strain then God will allow you to do that until you collapse in frustration and failure as Harry Houdini did. That is exactly what happened to me.

Watchman Nee puts it like this, “Oh, it is a great thing to see that we are in Christ! Think of the bewilderment of trying to get into a room in which you already are! Think of the absurdity of asking to be put in! If we recognize the fact that we are in, we make no effort to enter.” [3] Finally, what did I do to gain my freedom? You may recall that the day before I came into my freedom I had been drunk. The answer is that I did not do anything. I simply believed God. I believed that I had died with Christ (Rom. 6:6), and as a result I was freed from sin (Rom 6:7). You will notice that both of those verbs are in the past tense. What I am saying is that these things had been true of me ever since the first day I became a Christian. Of course they are true of every Christian. During World War II, Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright was commander of the Allied Forces in the Philippines. Following a heroic resistance of enemy forces, he was forced to surrender Corregidor and the survivors of the Philippine campaign to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. For three years he suffered as a prisoner of war in a Manchurian camp. During his internment, he endured the incessant cruelties of malnutrition, physical and verbal abuse, and psychological mind-games. Through it all he maintained his dignity as a human being and soldier. But after the Japanese surrendered the war, his captors kept Wainwright and the other prisoners incarcerated — the war was over, but the bondage continued. One day an Allied plane landed in a field near the prison and through the fence that surrounded the compound, an airman informed the General of the Japanese’s surrender and the American victory. Wainwright immediately pulled his emaciated body to attention, turned and marched toward the command house, burst through the door, marched up to the camp’s commanding officer and said, “My Commander-in-Chief has conquered your Commander-in-Chief. I am now in charge of this camp.” In response to Wainwright’s declaration, the officer took off his sword, laid it on the table, and surrendered his command. [4]

There is absolutely nothing you can do to make these things true in your life. They are already true. God has done it. The prison doors have been opened wide. Will you believe God and by faith walk through them and experience the freedom Christ has purchased for you? “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1, NIV).

___________________________

  1. Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee, Harvest House
  2. Don McMinn, Spiritual Strongholds , NCM Press, Oklahoma City, OK, 1993.
  3. Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton IL, 1977.
  4. Don McMinn, Spiritual Strongholds

Mike and Julia Quarles can be contacted at FreedFrom@bellsouth.net.

 

Julia’s Testimony

The decision had been made. It was radical. It went against everything I had been taught and in turn had taught in my nineteen years as a Christian. The last five years with Mike as an alcoholic had been a type ofhell. It was like living on a roller coaster that was out of control. After eleven and a half years of marriage, I had finally told Mike that he had to move out and that I never wanted to see him again. I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially.

During those five years, I had tried everything I knew of or ever heard of to help Mike quit drinking. I lived walking on eggshells trying to not irritate him. I took over his responsibilities. I had almost become a non-person in my pursuit of hanging on, trying to fix him and tolerating wrong behavior. He was more miserable than I was. He wanted to quit. He had tried everything that was ever suggested to him. Just before the drinking started we had renewed our wedding vows. I had promised God that I was committed to Mike and to our marriage. In these last five years I had tried and tried to hold it together. Did God really want me to live this way? I had been determined not to give up. I had finally realized that I needed to try to salvage the little bit of sanity and self-worth I still had. I needed to pull the emergency lever of this roller coaster while I still could.

Mike was gone. January of 1985 was bitter cold in Birmingham, AL. Mike was living in a Christian Treatment Center in North Carolina for two months. Our marriage was over. Even though my heart was heavy, it felt good to have made a decision and carried it through. My motions were mechanical as I went to work, ate tasteless food and faced life alone. Night after night I built a big fire and sat in front of it. It was a relief to not worry about Mike drinking and driving. That he would kill someone with his car had been one of my worst fears.

I wanted to believe that God was with me and that He did love me even if my life didn’t show it. I felt like I had failed God yet I desperately wanted to mentally crawl into His lap and be held. Would He let me? Did God really love me? If so, why was my main goal in life — to have a happy home and marriage — destroyed? My first husband, Bradley Fulkerson, Jr., had died in 1969 after a three and a half year battle with cancer. We had become Christians during those years so I knew he was in heaven but my dream life had been cut short. God had proven sufficient for me and had taken care of me and my little boy in the years after that as I learned to be very dependent on Him. I often spoke at Christian Women’s Clubs telling our story of faith and trust in God.

Then I met Mike at our church. We seemed to have the same desire for a godly marriage. He had given up a successful business to go to seminary. He was gung-ho for God. He seemed to be the perfect husband for me! Now I had concluded that God had let me make a huge mistake. Either He didn’t love me much or I was so wicked in my heart that he had to keep allowing difficult situations to keep me on my knees before Him. It was very confusing and depressing to me.

I thought about the bitterness I had hidden in my heart for many years, bitterness against Mike and other people that I felt failed us. I hated facing the deceitful way I had been with family and close friends, although they all knew about Mike’s problem now that he was gone. It seemed like I had “worn a mask” of godliness and contentment for years. My deception was now uncovered.

Night after night I sat by the fire alone. Gradually God helped me see that the sin in my heart was just as displeasing to him as Mike’s outward actions had been. It was startling to realize that even though I thought I looked like a wonderful Christian and even more so compared to Mike, in God’s eyes we were on the same level. Sin was sin and I was forced to look at mine.

When Mike called, I would slam down the phone. I needed to stay emotionally apart. I didn’t want him to interrupt what God was showing me. He started writing me. One day he called and before I could hang up, he begged me to listen just a few minutes. I did, reluctantly. He said God was teaching him about why he had failed as a husband. He was studying a book, The Marriage Builder, and he wanted me to read it. I was insulted! After all I had done to salvage our marriage and all he had done to destroy it! He wasn’t demanding though. I bought the book.

After a few weeks, he asked me to visit him. Was he crazy? What if God really was working in him? I honestly wasn’t ready to face the possibility of living with Mike again. I wanted his life cleaned up, but I didn’t want to let him back in our house. I had been hurt enough. I told God I knew it was He who works in us to will and do of His good pleasure (Phil 4:13) and that if this was the direction He was heading, He would have to work on my “willer”. Over and over I prayed for Him to make me “willing to be willing to be willing to do His good pleasure”. It had taken almost five years to get to the point of making him leave. It seemed too easy for him to go away for a couple of months — then come right back. But I kept telling God I was willing to do what He wanted.

The weeks alone were wonderful in a way. A healing slowly worked in me. My reason for feeling insecure, unsettled and apprehensive was gone. The fear and strife that tore at my emotions from all the tension and verbal abuse began to ebb and I began to rest and relax. After several weeks, Jack and June Fagan, our dear friends in Atlanta who had known what was going on with us all these years, said they would drive me up to visit Mike. I was nervous about seeing him again, especially in that environment. When I saw him, I was surprised that he didn’t complain about where he was and what he was doing. He laughed a lot. The change intrigued me.

During the next few weeks, I decided I would trust God and let Mike come home. He resumed his job as a stockbroker but his heart wasn’t in it. People with addictive problems started calling him and he counseled them and sent them to Christian treatment centers. It was like a job but he wasn’t making any income. Since I was always the responsible one, I decided it was up to me to solve our financial problems. I got a real estate license and started selling houses. We were still off balance in many areas of our relationship, but it was better than it had ever been. We were surprised to find an openness and freedom between us we hadn’t experienced before. I learned to transfer my trust to God to work in Mike, not to trust in Mike not to mess up again. Mike was God’s problem, not mine.

Something was still missing though. God had done so much healing and we were accepted and loved by our family and friends. For three years I saw evidences that God was working but it became more and more difficult to overlook Mike’s restlessness and anxiety. Finally he confided in me and our close friends, Ruth and Charlie Jones, that he was still fighting the battle to drink. We were exasperated and felt helpless. I again started hiding my fears and my feelings and the truth of what was happening. “God, where are You? I’m trying to trust you! What is going on?” Mike got so discouraged after a night of drinking that he resigned from his ministry and from his part-time preaching job. Then he just sat in a chair in the living room in a state of depression for days on end.

Finally in desperation, Charlie gave Mike some tapes by Bill and Anabel Gillham. “Here, listen to these. Maybe they’ll help you,” he said. A few days later, he went out drinking again. I was devastated. I told him I needed a break. I suggested he go visit Jack and June who were now living in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He called me as soon as he got to the Fagans. “God has shown me THE answer!” “Not another one,” I said, slamming the phone down. He called right back. “Please listen to me. I’m free. I’m really free.” “Sure, sure Mike”, I said. “I don’t want to hear about it. Give me a break. Quit bothering me. Don’t call me back.”

When he came home a couple of days later, he was more excited than I had seen him in years. He wanted me and everyone else to understand what had happened. It was like he had found a pot of gold — only better. He said he had finally learned the key to life and peace and victory. He listened constantly to the Gillham tapes. I got interested from his enthusiasm. His freedom from the bondage to alcohol and depression drew me. I wanted to know what was changing him.

I started listening to the Gillham tapes myself and hearing teaching I had never heard. I was dead to sin and alive to God? Jesus loved and accepted me just like I was? I didn’t have to perform for God? There was nothing I could do to make Him love me more? Nothing I could do to make Him love me less? The light came on for me that my good looking flesh is just as smelly to God as Mike’s bad flesh. God isn’t interested in strengthening either kind of flesh. God wanted to exchange His life with me. What great news! The Gillhams helped me see how I had known Jesus as my Savior and even my Lord but not my LIFE. What a difference!

In January Mike and I, along with Ruth and Charlie, attended a three day Exchanged Life Seminar in Montgomery, AL. We hung on to every word taught. This truth began changing us individually and as a couple. All the years of suffering and strife and confusion and unrest and madness started melting away as we renewed our minds in the truth of our identity in Christ and our position and authority in Christ. Why hadn’t we been told this before? Mike was the seminary graduate, the Bible scholar, the one who spent hours and hours in the Scriptures. We had been asking God to show us the way out of this hell for years. Why did He wait so long? For a while I was plagued with questions. To know more of this truth became my focus.

The Gillhams became my daily companions by tape and video. I listened on my Walkman when I walked and anytime I was in the car alone. It became a continual daily feeding on this truth. So much that I had been taught and even had taught didn’t line up with this. I had known that Jesus died for my sins but I didn’t know that I died with Him to the power of sin (Rom. 6:6,7). I learned that He gave His life for me to give His life to me so He could live His life through me.

We gathered a small group to watch the Gillham videos on Friday and Sunday nights. God was slowly teaching me. I saw that the things I thought were “normal Christianity” were law and that I had lived under law for years. I saw that what I considered “me” was my flesh and that my natural way of responding to life was in my flesh, and that I didn’t have to let my flesh control me anymore. In January of 1990 we moved to Atlanta when Mike joined the staff at Grace Ministries International. As we became friends with the staff families and interacted with them, God bathed my scarred heart and mind and emotions with His truth and His love through these people. . .

Having a godly husband and a happy home seemed like great goals — but they needed to be desires and not goals or rights. I learned that you can’t set a goal that can only be reached by someone else’s cooperation. Those were doomed to failure. Surrendering your rights to God is not dying to your desires and wishes. It is giving up the control of someone else’s behavior. I had a warped view of God and an inadequate understanding of grace. That began to change when I learned who God says I am in Him and how much He loves me. I had been a Christian for almost nineteen years before I started learning this. I thought the only thing settled at the cross was that my sins were forgiven. I had missed the other half that I was in Christ and He was my life!

A giant issue that I had to deal with was forgiveness. I felt like I had forgiven Mike 70 x 7 times as it says to do in Matthew 18:22, but it seemed there was always a need for more. As I became aware of God’s limitless forgiveness of me, I realized there should be nothing I couldn’t forgive Mike for. Not only forgiving for specific incidents though, but forgiving for all the effects of the incidents, to hold nothing back so that a root of bitterness wouldn’t grow. Forgiveness is possible even in the midst of the difficulties. Sometimes I would cry in the shower so I could have privacy. Then I would determine that I was going to choose to forgive him again. I realized that if I nursed the bitterness and anger, if I held on to it, I would be the victim more than he. It wasn’t worth it.

Forgiveness is a choice we make. I needed an open relationship with Jesus and I didn’t want to block it with unforgiveness. I learned to leave the consequences up to God . . .

As I look back on those awful years, I know God allowed them to mold me and make me and to teach me His truth. Sometimes I want to ask Him why He took so long letting me learn this, why so many mistakes had to be made, so many things had to be lost — but now I realize that so much more has been gained.

Now I know . . .

  • Who I am in Christ — I am a dearly loved child of God.
  • That I have worth and value because I am in Christ.
  • That God doesn’t require a wife to put up with sinful behavior.
  • That I didn’t have to be a doormat in the name of submission.
  • That sometimes love means saying no. Some love must be tough.
  • That God is not impressed with outward behavior; He looks at our heart.
  • That taking on someone else’s responsibility only fosters more irresponsibility.
  • That emotional, mental and verbal abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.
  • That if something is not true — then it is a lie and is from the father of lies.
  • That only God can change someone else.
  • That God did not want to strengthen my strengths; He wanted to bring me to the end of myself and my resources.
  • That the past is past and the pain can be dealt with, but only by forgiveness.
  • That relinquishing my rights is the way to face the future.
  • That God did know and care about what was going on in my life.
  • That I do not have to perform to please God and to get His acceptance.
  • That I am unconditionally accepted and deeply loved by God.
  • That God does work all things together for His good and His glory.

It is a joy now to work with Mike with Freedom In Christ Ministries and to pass on to other women this truth that sets you free. God is a God of hope and of restoration. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” has always been one of my favorite hymns. I have sung it to myself and to God many times. It is so true. “Great IS Thy Faithfulness”! I praise God He has taught me these truths plus much more. It was worth going through it all to learn this and to have the relationship with God and with Mike that I now have. Truly this is the abundant, victorious Christian life!

Mike and Julia Quarles’ ministry web site is http://www.FreedFromAddiction.org