I'm an alcoholic. I remember my first drink. It was the spring of 1998. I have always been a rule follower so I never drank alcohol before I was 21. But I was now 21 and what the heck; I will give it a try. It was a Coors Light. That began a 10 year alcohol addiction. My marriage was nearly lost because of it. I never wanted kids because of it. However, my story was not going to be defined by alcohol.
Today I celebrate 8 years sober.
We talk a lot about defining moments. We call them sticky note moments. Sticky note moments are memories that you can remember the sights, the smells, and the sounds. Such defining moments change the course of history from that point forward.
January 30th, 2008 was a sticky note moment that forever changed me.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 was not like any other normal day. How can it be when you wake up on a cruise ship getting ready to port in Cozumel? We had a snorkeling excursion planned for the day and looked forward a fun filled adventure. As we rode the bus to the dock, I remember wondering how many people would be drinking during the day of snorkeling. I had remembered reading that it had an open bar the entire time we were on the excursion. Secretly, I was excited about this but didn’t want to be one of the few drinking.
January 29th, 2008 in Key West. My last picture holding a drink.
The morning of January 30th, 2008. My last picture before surrendering my alcohol addiction.
After all, we were on the K-LOVE cruise with other followers of Jesus. I was among 50 other believers on the catamaran. Surely this is a safe environment, right?
For just a second, let’s go back to late November, 2006. Shayla and I had made the decision to have her move back home after nearly two months of separation. Alcohol abuse was a HUGE issue within our marriage. Together, we put boundaries around drinking.
Rule #1: There would be no more drinking unless we were together. Rule #2: We would only social drink such as a beer while watching the ball game…a glass of wine with dinner.
There would be no more nights of drinking until becoming intoxicated.
We lived within the rules for 14 months…until January 30th, 2008.
Okay, back to the catamaran boat. We make it to the reef and had a blast snorkeling together. Once we get back on the boat, the drinks started flowing. There was a waiter on the boat who would walk around with margaritas handing them out as fast as you could drink them.
I knew that Shayla was counting how many drinks I was consuming.
There was a bar at the back on the boat and I had an idea! I could go back to the bar and get our own drinks. Guess what the best part of this idea was?
Shayla couldn’t count the drinks if she couldn’t see them.
I remember the bartender asking me what I wanted. I asked for a couple of margaritas and while he was making them, I was taking shots of tequila and drank a beer before going back to Shayla with two margaritas. Each time we would finish our drink, I would go back to the bar. And each time at the bar, I was watching Shayla to see if she was watching me.
Shots of tequila, another beer or two…then back to Shayla with two margaritas. You get the picture.
I really do not remember the bus ride back to the cruise ship to board. What I do remember is standing in line with thousands of other people waiting to board. I remember how angry Shayla was. She wished that she could have left me in Mexico. The “rules” that we were living by over the past 14 months had been broken. The “old” Bryan was back and she was crushed.
We had big plans for the night. On the K-LOVE cruise, you go about your normal day time cruise activities and then at night, there are concerts throughout the evening. Some of the artists on our cruise were Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant, MercyMe, and Sanctus Real. However, there was one artist that I had been looking forward to seeing all week.
Once we finally made it back to our room, Shayla was no longer angry. She was extremely hurt. The look of disappointment in her eyes is something I will never forget. There was no way she was going to go to the concert with me. I do not blame her. I was a drunken mess.
As I made it to the venue where Jeremy was playing, I found a pillar to stand against. I was so drunk that I need to lean against it so I would not fall over.
There was no band. There was no fancy light show. It was Jeremy sitting on a bar stool with an acoustic guitar. But as Jeremy began to sing, I began to hear God’s voice.
The chorus of Jeremy’s song, Sweetly Broken, says this:
At the cross You beckon me. You draw me gently to my knees, and I am Lost for words, so lost in love, I'm sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.
It was in that moment, that I heard Jesus beckon me. To beckon means to encourage someone to come nearer or to follow. Jesus was begging me to come to Him.
Through all the noise, this is what I heard Jesus say.
“Bryan, you gave your life to me over 15 months ago, but you didn’t surrender THIS to me. Leave your alcohol addiction at the foot of the cross. I will bear your addictions. Surrender and you will be set free.”
It was in that moment that I put a stake in the ground and surrendered my addiction to alcohol. I have been 100% sober for 8 years today. Praise Jesus.
Jeremy Riddle, thank you.
Thank you for being the messenger. Thank you for being the light in my darkness. Thank you for being an answer to prayer.
I hope you have an opportunity to read this blog. Until I can meet you in person someday, I want to thank you through this post. What people do not realize is that you were extremely sick during that cruise. You could have easily told the promoter that you didn’t feel good and they would have had Matt Hammitt, Aaron Shust, or Bebo Norman fill in for you and no one would have complained. They would have understood.
But you didn’t. You got up on that stage and fulfilled your obligation. Thank you. God used you that evening to change the course of my life and generations to come.
Maybe I would have surrendered my addiction at another time or with another artist but I didn’t. That’s not my story. My story is you. My story is Sweetly Broken. My story is Jesus.
Jeremy, until our paths cross in the future; from my family to yours, we are forever thankful for you on the night of January 30th, 2008.
To the Christian artist who wonders if they are making a difference in the world…or thoughts of whether it’s worth it to leave your families week after week to go play another gig.
YOU ARE. IT IS.
Keep fighting the good fight. You are making a difference.
Tonight you could be someone’s Jeremy Riddle. Please, never lose sight of that. You are doing Kingdom work. Please, never lose sight of the cross.
To the person in ministry who wonders if you are making a difference on a Sunday morning.YOU ARE.
To the person who leads a small group and wonders if you are making a difference by investing in people’s lives.YOU ARE.
To the follower of Jesus who wonders if you are making a difference by being different than the world.YOU ARE.
And finally, to the addict who wonders if there is any hope. THERE IS.
Maybe your addiction is not alcohol. Maybe your addiction is drugs, or pornography, or pain-killers. Whatever it may be, there is hope in the cross. There is hope in the blood of Jesus. Jesus is beckoning you to surrender whatever you are holding onto at the cross.
Trust me. I know it’s not easy. I know it’s scary. Thoughts of “what if I can’t” or “what will people think” can become overwhelming and suffocating.
You can fight this. Who cares what others will think. You can do this. With the help of Jesus, you can overcome anything. He wants to heal you. You can be set free. Just put your trust in Him. One hour at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, and one year at a time. I’m praying for you.
I am forever thankful that Jesus allowed me to become sweetly broken on this day, 8 years ago. My life has never been the same. My prayer is that my story will encourage you to write your own story of sobriety. Contact me through Facebook or email me at email@example.com. I am here for you.
If you know someone battling an addiction, please share this post with them to encourage them.
One day at a time,
Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle
To the cross I look, to the cross I cling Of its suffering I do drink Of its work I do sing
For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed Showed that God is love And God is just
Chorus: At the cross You beckon me You draw me gently to my knees, and I am Lost for words, so lost in love, I'm sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
What a priceless gift, undeserved life Have I been given Through Christ crucified
You've called me out of death You've called me into life And I was under Your wrath Now through the cross I'm reconciled
In awe of the cross I must confess How wondrous Your redeeming love and How great is Your faithfulness