Quit Drinking. Still Thirsty.

Chad's Story by Steve Mitchell

A fading, gray light framed Chad’s reflection in the window of a liquor store. It was a typical February afternoon in 2004 so the gloom wasn’t unexpected. Neither was it unusual for him to stop and buy something to drink on his way home from work. After all, he was an alcoholic. He had been a drinker for almost two decades. It felt good. And it numbed the pain of a childhood marked by a dad who also drank. Like his father before him, alcohol had become a welcome companion.

That night was anything but usual though. He still bought the bottle, drove home, and drank it, but he knew it was his last. A life-transforming change had begun.

He’d recently been diagnosed as a diabetic and the logic behind his new thinking was air tight: “If I keep this up, I’ll die. But I can’t quit on my own. I need God.” Chad sensed a divine nudge leading him through the process and is convinced the invitation to quit was authored by God. He characterizes it bluntly, “God told me to quit.”

Of course God could sound a lot like his brother, Chris. Chad’s twin happened to be across the street from the liquor store that afternoon. He was leaving a parking lot with his wife, Sherry, as Chad exited the store. The brothers’ eyes met and Chad could see disappointment mirrored in eyes that looked just like his. Chris drove off without a word.

When his brother called to confront Chad the next day, there were echoes of God’s voice in the familiar rebuke, “What are you doing?” Chad understood. The implications of his addiction weren’t lost on him. The only things that lay ahead of him were loneliness and an early death unless he quit. Chad didn’t defend himself when his brother chewed him out. He replied that he was quitting. That was it. No more drinking.

Chris was unimpressed. He’d heard his brother’s pledges before. Along with the rest of Chad’s extended family, Chris loved him. They all wanted him to quit, but everybody still had a hard time believing Chad was finally serious. What they hadn’t counted on was God’s power in the change. God hadn't played much of a role in Chad’s life up to this point.

“I grew up in a house where we didn’t go to church. My dad thought the Bible was just old made-up stories that tried to explain the way the world was.”

Chad’s dad and mom had made a happy home despite their lack of faith. Or so their children thought.

“My dad and mom divorced when I was 10 years old. My brother and I had no idea it was coming. Our parents never fought. One day, we came home from school and they said, 'We need to talk to you.' They sat us down and my dad said, ‘I’m leaving.’ My brother and I just broke down crying.”

The divorce was a tough blow to Chad, who describes himself as “the emotional one.”

“He was my hero. The only person I ever cared about impressing was my dad. He was the greatest father in the world for 10 years, but that changed after he left.”

Chad saw his own abuse of alcohol as rooted in his father’s drinking—a painful realization to pin on the man he called hero. Quick to say that his father never directly encouraged him to drink, there is no denying that the constant alcohol in his father’s hand had an influence on Chad.

“My mom tried to introduced us to God after the break-up. We went to church here and there, and said our prayers at night.”

But Chad’s intermittent contacts with church never connected him with God. It was almost a decade after his dad left that the Lord again approached the then 18-year-old Chad.

“My best friend in high school, Tad Drake and his family, attended Beaverton Foursquare. Every once in awhile they’d talk me into coming with them. I liked the experience. I always felt like the pastor was talking to me.”

His occasional attendance with the Drake family was meaningful. He felt closer to God, but he didn’t come to personal faith in Jesus. High school offered a lot of distractions to a good athlete. Like a lot of students his age, Chad was more interested in his friends and his basketball game.
After graduation, the freedom of college beckoned with promises of a good time. Chad recalls life away from home, as “heavy drinking and a lot of drugs. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t quit.”

The comforts of a good job followed college. He was a responsible employee and a beloved uncle. But Chad’s drinking continued. For nearly 20 years he kept drinking and using drugs–until that stunning day in 2004. That’s when the then 38-year-old felt God say it was time for a change. His decision at the liquor store marked a radical departure from alcoholism and drug abuse. The process of following Jesus began and blossomed in gradual steps.

“I thought, ‘You need to get God in your life,’ so I started attending the only church I knew, Beaverton Foursquare. I was there every Sunday. I was locked in. Over time I developed this passion for God. It was like a first-time love.”

Like most people who find freedom from substance abuse, Chad’s journey had its ups and downs but he never lost faith. He kept pursuing God and the life of a Jesus follower. People began to notice.

“I made some friends at church and they kept saying, ‘Chad, you should teach Sunday school.’ I didn’t have any level of knowledge. I knew Jesus was my savior and God created everything, but that was about it. They told me that didn't matter because I loved kids. And I did.”

The man who already loved his brother's kids like they were his own was a natural fit. Chad began to serve in Children’s Ministries with three and four-year-olds. He was a classroom helper, did check-in, and even taught some. Unmarried and without children of his own, the kids he taught each Sunday—and the church—became Chad’s family.

While Chad continued to serve, the children’s pastors who cared for him were worried that he might burn out. They suggested he concentrate on serving in the one classroom where his gifts were best suited.

The timing was perfect. While Chad was content with being single, that changed when he met his future wife, Kerry. Introduced by mutual friends, they were married in 2010. They now continue to serve together as classroom shepherds to four-year-olds.

When he took his first step of obedience in 2004 and got sober, Chad never imagined that God would lead him so far. He only knew two things: “I needed to stop drinking and I needed God.” The intervening years have made him a rich man. He has a church he loves, a vibrant faith, and purposeful ministry that he shares with his wife. His relationships with friends and family are healthy and strong.

God has been so good, and yet Chad longs for more of everything God has for him. Turns out after all these years, he’s still thirsty.

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