Jesus said, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Mark 2:17 One of the most meaningful things in my pastoral ministry so far has been learning from people who have addiction in their story. When they give me permission to walk with them through the darkness, I gain an understanding of how they got there that I never had before. I see how alike we really are. As I learn what is all behind the addiction, I find that I am flawed in similar ways. Tears come to my eyes when I see Jesus come between us, take both of our hands and lead us to the light of his forgiveness and a new life of healing and service. I am beyond thankful to have permission to share one such story with you from someone who continues to teach me so much through their faith-filled struggles.
-Pastor Aaron Schulz
I’ve kept the job, my family loved and supported me, I even had a church family. I struggled in isolation surrounded by many. I cannot pinpoint exactly how, why, or when things became unbearable, unacceptable, and desperate.
In my journey I had been given the suggestion to go into detox, because the person feared, in my situation, I had been drinking far too much to quit on my own, that it could possibly turn fatal. Rare for an alcoholic, I took the advice. After a long month of wanting to get on with the next phase of my life, which was terrifying, on December 26th, 2015 I was admitted to a treatment center. From there I was given choices, suggestions, and a direction.
I learned that in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that I could have a stronger connection with God. I was blessed with the opportunity to contrast a Sunday morning church service that I regularly attended with what I had just heard shared at the meeting. Almost always there was a God connection and a solution to any thoughts I may have been struggling with.
A few months after I became sober my family relocated across the state. God had removed the obsession to drink. The community in which we were transplanted offered a variety of meetings to go to. Again surrounded by a church community and with the help of AA, my sobriety was on a well maintained path. I met with my pastor, my sponsor, and a therapist. All three expressed the importance of each of their roles and also the others to my early recovery.
The problem with addiction is not the substance, but the thinking. Attitudes need to be shifted and our brains need to be retrained into focusing on a solution and not on what is unacceptable to us as addicts. It is cunning, baffling, and powerful when alcohol or any substance enters an alcoholic or addict, all goodness and light is clouded by the darkness of the disease.
About a year after settling, I was approached by the pastor, he told me that there was a need for recovery in our church and wasn’t sure how to get a group started. I offered to start a group or two, one in the evening and one in the morning. I gave the pastor all the literature I could to educate him on the way an AA meeting is run. The success of the program is based in christian values and principles. Traditionally the meetings close with the Lord’s prayer. By using Alcoholics Anonymous our church has reached a greater part of our community. A wide variety of the attendees do not attend church at St Paul’s, however we are opening the doors and offering a safe place for recovery. I have many inquiries about our church from questions about our organ to how to register for our school, or even about services and times. Some of the attendees were raised in the church and at some point in their life and were treated badly by church leadership at the time. The meeting offered those individuals an anonymous way to reconnect to the church, and to receive some healing.
My experience has allowed me to be of service and connect the suffering to a solution, if they will listen. The stars aligned in a way I can only attribute to God. The meetings are held at St Paul’s are not only vital to my recovery but help so many others, from the addict to their families. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience, strength, and hope.