Eight months of sobriety: no booze, no pills, no weed. Those were my three amigos.
Then I took a trip to Mexico with my wife. How I would do? Maybe I should let my guard down and just relax. Maybe I should drink alcohol on this trip, nothing crazy. Casual drinks. Could I even do it? Am I really an addict? I’m not like those other guys, drinking all day and destroying my life. I’m not like them, right?
Sure there were a few “tequila months” when I was drinking straight blue agave, right down the hatch, and right into oblivion. But that was eight months ago. It was during a rough patch. That was in my transition from professional hockey player into now what? We’ll call it a rough patch, and leave it at that.
I replay all the hockey fights in my head.
I see the times I took damage.
What if my brain is destroyed? What if this is permanent? What if I have CTE?
Is the reckless behavior a symptom? Or was it always there?
Hockey is over now. Nothing matters. So I’ll drink tequila and smoke weed every day. It makes me feel better. Nice and numb.
But that was the old me. That was lifetimes ago. I’m not that person anymore.
That was before the Christian conversion.
I knew I couldn’t be drinking tequila every day like I was. So I went out to Colorado to smoke weed. I thought maybe I’d become a weed farmer. God intervened. I left a full-blown Christian convert, sober for the first time in my life, and filled up with the love of the Lord.
I wasn’t expecting that.
Eight months have passed and I don’t feel the yearning. The scratching. I don’t have the urges. Sometimes it crosses my mind, but I don’t crave anymore. Not like I used to. I spent my whole life filling a blackhole in my chest with every chemical I could—nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, pain pills, sleeping pills, any pills.
The subtle drugs.
But for the first time in my life the craving isn’t there.
Something happened to that empty pit where I used to stuff my drugs. God’s love filled it up to capacity. There is no more room for drugs or alcohol. His love is real. And I feel it. And I know it. It’s all I want. It is enough. I want to be addicted to that. I want to be a slave to Him and His grace. A slave to righteousness. No longer a slave to sin. No longer a slave to fear.
I was out there lost in the woods, dehydrated, exhausted, and dying. I broke down physically and mentally. I had already been broken spiritually for so many years. I couldn’t go on. I just laid there in the dirt. I got onto my knees and let salty tears spatter onto the ground. I put my hands into the air and I surrendered. It was my only option.
The worst part was that I knew that I was going to hell. I knew that it was all real. I knew I had failed the test.
I begged for a second chance.
“Please let me see my daughter again. I will do anything. Please let me see her one more time. I’ll give my life to you. I’m yours. I will do whatever you want. Just please, please let me see my daughter again!”
That’s when a ray of light came down from above the treetops.
It illuminated an area down the side of the mountain. I was so exhausted and on the verge of death. I had nothing left. All I knew was that this was God giving me a second chance. I stood up and stumbled toward the light.
I made it to the area where the light was shining. It led me back to the path was that I had strayed from.
He saved my life. It was a miracle. It was a second chance. I got to see my daughter again. I couldn’t go back on my word after this.
So now what am I supposed to do?
I used to be really good at forechecking and smashing guys into the glass. I was really good at fighting on hockey skates. And using jersey-jabs as a good defense. I don’t know, what else can I do? I guess maybe I can tell my story. I guess maybe I can write. I’ve been able to do that all along, and I always wondered why.
Maybe God is using me. Maybe I’m supposed to tell my story. Maybe I’m supposed to be honest.
Maybe I’m supposed to stay sober.
Or maybe I can control it.
Maybe I can have just one.
So on day 8 of our Mexican vacation, I let my guard down.
Two glasses of cabernet went down like silk.
Now I’m out on the rooftop deck of the hotel with my wife. And I’m awesome again. I’m fun again. More like Old Bobby. Before the injury.
I want to be more like that guy.
We decided to call it a night. We left our second glasses of wine on the table. They were half-full. Old Bobby wouldn’t have let that fly. First time for everything.
This was the stipulation we decided on—I could have a drink, maybe two.
But no getting drunk. I lost those privileges.
Every mistake I have ever made. Every regret I buried deep down. Every betrayal of trust. All that wickedness. It all happened when I was drunk on wine—and beer, and tequila, and weed, and cigarettes, and chew, and pain pills, and sleeping pills.
Meet Blackout Bobby.
How many drugs did I put into my body? I desecrated this temple the Lord entrusted me with.
I’m surprised I never died.
Maybe God has a plan for me after all.
I’m in Mexico with my wife. I’m on the roof of a mega-resort. I’m looking at the bluest water I have ever seen. If I’m going to test myself, now is the time.
I accept that I can no longer say I’m eight months sober. I’m not so sure that I want to carry that badge with me anyway. I don’t want labels anymore. I only want to be called Christ’s.
Hi, I’m Bobby, and I’m a child of God.
What will I be then? I won’t be sober. Am I a drinker now? I do drink wine every Sunday at church. Does that make me a drinker?
What’s the definition of an alcoholic?
And whats the point in drinking anyway if I can’t get drunk. I love getting drunk! It’s the best. But is it real, is it meaningful? Are those memorable nights real if I don’t remember them? Are they genuine? Or is it just an illusion, a drunken lie?
Too many drunken lies.
But this time, I control myself. I don’t get drunk. I don’t stumble back to the hotel room. I don’t breathe hot burps and kisses all over my wife.
But I’m fighting it.
I’m fighting against the urge to drink everything I see. All those bottles behind the bar, glistening. Fighting against smoking everything that I can get my hands on. I’m already wondering if any of these hotel workers are selling weed.
Here comes that craving again. To gobble up pills until I just float away. I melt. Even now, I know that God loves me. He knows my heart. He knows I’m changed. He knows I’m fighting. He knows I surrendered. And I know that he loves me. And I know that he forgives me.
Vacation is over now.
We are sitting in the airport about to head back to the US from Mexico. I look over and see a small kiosk with a neon sign that says, frankly, DRUGS.
Underneath there is a scrolling marquee—
And a bunch of other drugs I have never heard of.
But I know those first three.
Then the thoughts come—
A Cialis could be a good time.
How good would a pain killer be on the flight? Tramadol is pretty low level, but if I took a few to the bathroom, I could snort them.
Melt into my plane seat.
Next thing I know, I’m standing right outside the DRUGS kiosk. My face is one inch from the glass. I’m reading through all the boxes of chemicals. Searching for something good.
I had my heart set on a Valium.
If they have Valium, I’d be a fool not to pop a couple before this flight. Please have Valium.
I don’t like myself like this. I’ve spent too much time like this. This is called craving.
And I hate it.
Maybe I shouldn’t have had those glasses of wine. Can I control myself any more? I haven’t thought like this in eight months. I hate this feeling. Lord, please help me. Please give me strength.
Am I an addict? Do I have to be sober? I hate this. I didn’t get any of those pills. Instead of melting into my seat and embracing oblivion, I take out my laptop and write these thoughts.
I wish I didn’t get the itch when I was so young. I’ve been chasing the buzz since fifteen. I wish I had followed the rules. But this is who I am. I accept it.
So who are you?
Nice to meet you.
I’m Bobby, and I’m a slave.
And I love my Master. And I’m so grateful for His love. I don’t deserve it. I know that much.
Grace. Amazing grace.
I pray that these strange cravings inside my chest disappear. It’s suffocating. Please fill this blackhole with your love again, Lord. When I’m filled up with His love, there is no craving for anything else. It’s better than any drug or buzz. It’s something real.
It’s a gift that’s available to all of us. Even for an old sinner like me.
If only you knew my heart of stone. He rolled it away. He replaced it with living blood and flesh of truth. He made me new. If God can love me after everything that I have done, he can and will love you too.