Today is a happy day for me, but for most Americans, December 7th is remembered as a day of infamy because of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
Seven years ago, on a cold December 7th I experienced my own day of infamy. That’s the day my prideful life of drinking, womanizing and hypocritical living was exposed when I was arrested and charged with assault after a one night stand involving S&M sex with a lady I met on Facebook. Two weeks later, I learned that I was the target of a grand jury pay to play investigation from my time as Speaker of the Missouri House. My life came to an abrupt halt and that’s exactly what I needed! God had been trying to get my attention and “straighten” me out for a while, but I had rebuffed all His gentle offers. Finally, He shook up my world and the only thing I could do was turn to Him for help.
That night I had to tell my parents and children about my secret lifestyle and the next day I closed my business down. In just 48 hours my world had fallen apart and I thought life was over. I locked myself in my apartment and hid out from the Missouri press corps while spending a LOT of time on my knees begging God for forgiveness. I’d asked for His help before when I was trying to keep my wicked lifestyle a secret, but this time I really meant it; finally, I was truly sorry for my actions. This time… I was serious about stopping my immoral behavior and making the needed changes.
One of the first things I decided I had to do was stop drinking. It wasn’t easy, but God who was my Higher Power gave me the help I needed during those dark days. I had been to AA as a teenager and with my sponsors help I was able to stop drinking while still a young man but for some reason, once I was Speaker of the Missouri House, I picked the habit up again. I don’t know why I did. It wasn’t peer pressure because I didn’t pick the habit back up until after I had become Speaker. As a matter of fact, I gained support for the job without drinking and in many instances people supported me because I didn’t drink.
Maybe it was the pressure of cutting deals or compromising my values to get things done. Maybe it was the long weeks away from home with the long drives across the state. Most likely it was the pride growing inside me as I rose to power. Sometimes pride can make you feel indestructible and I remember questioning if I had really had a drinking problem when I was younger and telling myself that I was just a teenager then but now, as an adult, I could handle a few drinks and everything would be okay.
I don’t know exactly what caused me to start doing something I had struggled so hard to overcome as a young man… but I did. What a foolish choice…and our choices always end up determining our future. In my case, that choice changed a guy with a loving family, great friends and bright future into someone with no future who greatly embarrassed his family and friends.
Some say I shouldn’t talk about that day seven years ago and that I need to move on and leave it in the past, but I NEVER want to forget how God saved me from myself! I’m not wanting to live in the past and I am in no way trying to glorify my sinful life. That lifestyle and those choices left my body with painful bruises, broken bones, and deep cuts which, even after healing, left deep scars to remind me of my mistakes. No, I don’t want to relive those troubled times or glorify my past mistakes, but I do want to remember them…I don’t ever want to forget the pain my bad choices caused me and those I love. I pray those memories will keep me from ever becoming that man again!
But today I look back with joy to that dark day of seven years ago. That’s the day I stopped drinking and started down a better path. It’s the day I began to realize what is most important in life. That’s the day I turned to God for help and promised Him I would try to do things His way. Since then He has brought peace to my life and given me a joy and contentment I never knew before my troubles when the world called me a “success.” I’m still far from perfect and I still make mistakes. Temptations still come and I don’t always resist as well as I should, but I’m thankful that I have been able to stay sober these last seven years and that has made such a HUGE difference in my life.
I would never had made it without God. He amazingly delivered me of all my troubles and despite being arrested and testifying in front of a grand jury, I was never convicted of a crime and have a clean criminal record today. His grace is amazing and without His help, the last seven years would not have been so wonderful. All honor and glory for anything I have accomplished belongs to Him! As I reflect over these last seven years and remember all He has done for me, I realize there is no way I can adequately thank Him for his blessings.
I also would never had made it without the love and prayers of my family. I credit my parent’s prayers as the main force that moved God to rescue me from myself. Their love and example have continuously guided me throughout my life. My children were also kind and forgiving. I will always appreciate their forgiveness despite me living the opposite kind of life that I taught them to live. My brother and sisters were also helpful and understanding. They prayed for me, took me in, picked me up and helped me get back to my feet. I embarrassed my parents, children and siblings more than anyone else in this world and they sure didn’t deserve it. Their prayers and love have been the biggest blessing in my life!
In life most people have very few true friends and while I didn’t have as many as I thought I did, I have been blessed with more than I deserve. I’m so, so thankful for the friends who stuck with me when they shouldn’t have. Many of them were also in politics and I was a complete embarrassment to them. I let them down badly, yet they were there to encourage me and help me keep going. At some of my lowest times a kind word, call or text lifted my spirits. I will be forever grateful for their friendship in those dark days after my fall.
Prayer is a powerful thing and since my fall I have met numerous friends and acquaintances who have told me they were praying for me. There are people who would never have approved of my actions, and didn’t know the facts, but prayed for me anyway. They prayed that I would get my life straightened out and I thank God their prayers were answered! In life, we never know what others are struggling with, but if we pray for them, God will answer our prayers. I hope I can live each day praying for others just like so many did for me, instead of criticizing their bad choices.
None of us can beat an addiction alone and I’m so thankful for my Celebrate Recovery family at Living Water Worship Center in Bloomfield. I found this group when I moved to Dexter in 2014 and it has been such a blessing to me. The praise band always lifts my spirits before each big group meeting and the testimonies or lessons on the 12 steps have been a tremendous encouragement to me. It’s amazing how often someone else’s testimony or advice has given me the encouragement, inspiration or warning I needed at just the right time. We have a great group of guys in the men’s small group and hearing about each other’s struggles and triumphs has given each of us strength to avoid a relapse.
I’m thankful for the last seven years. There was a time when I asked the Lord to just take me out of this world, but I’m so glad He let me stay and experience some wonderful memories such as my children growing into adults, my grandson being born, and my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. God has allowed me to make new friends and repair old relationships while even reconciling with longstanding political enemies.
Amazingly, he has even allowed me to try and make up (in a small way) for all the damage I have done by helping others get their life on the right track through my activities with the Dexter Gideon Camp, the young adult Sunday School class at my church and our Celebrate Recovery group here at Living Water Worship Center.
Thanks again to all those who encouraged me, stuck with me and prayed for me. I will never be able to repay you, but I will be praying for God to bless you.