Monday, February 14, 2011

Eleven Years of Being Sober

Today is not a special day for me because of Hallmark or the present that I bought the love of my life.  Today is a special day to me because eleven years ago, this morning, is the last time I went to jail.

You may think that sounds funny... and to be honest it does.  February 13th 2000 is the last time I was arrested.  That night when I went to Vista County Jail I was sure that I was going to serve a one year sentence for violating my probation.  That night in jail, though, something different happened.  I specifically remember looking around the jail and questioning the choices I had made to get to this point in life.  I often wondered what had gotten me here and understood that it was a series of unwise decisions.

As the night wore on and I began more uneasy about staying in jail I did something that I hadn't done in a while; I prayed.  I started talking to God like He was real.  I started telling God all my unwise choices and how sorry I was for them.  I started telling God that I was sick of the life I have created for myself (I think He was sick of it too).  That night I asked God to do something for me.  I asked God if He would get me out of jail that I would quit everything and do whatever He wanted in my life (be careful when you say that).

I did the normal rounds in the jail: I went from cell to cell.  I got fingerprinted.  I got my mug shots again.  I made a phone call to my old youth leader.  As morning came around, and the alcohol wore off, I went to the last station.  This is where I was prepared to get my orange jumpsuit, again, and head down to county.  At this window came a pleasant surprise.  When I got there the lady at the window handed me all my belongings and told me this: "The bailiff will be around in 5 minutes to let you out.  Head over to that cell."

I thought it was a dream
I didn't know what to say
I was silenced
I did what she said and sure enough the bailiff came over and released me

That morning was the first time, in a long time, in my life that I thought God was real.  Well from that day I knew that I had to keep my promise to God.  He got me out and it was my turn to quit everything that I had been doing.  That week I stopped drinking and quit doing cocaine.  I didn't smoke anymore pot and to be honest it was one of the toughest weeks of my life.  Some people may think this is a tough story and it is but if I didn't get arrested that night I truly think that I would have died years ago from something drug related.

Today I celebrate new life
Today I celebrate having an amazing wife
Today I celebrate two little girls that love their dad
But most important today I celebrate a God who loved me so much that He released me from the jail I created for myself and pointed my feet on a road that leads to Him.
Thank you for loving me Lord; I need you just as much today as I did eleven years ago!


brian c. berry said...

Thanks for loving God, students, your wife and kids in Vegas Neal!! U bless me. U are blessed. So dang excited to see where God takes you and how he'll continue to use you. U da man!

Tom Turner said...

Awesome Neal. I had never hear your sobriety story before. January 1 was nine years of sobriety for me. After battling alcohol addicition for 15 years, Kathy & I had a fight and she called me pathetic. It was the first time she ever tore me down like that. I checked myself into rehab the next day.

My struggle came with withdrawals. About the 5th day, I was in bed having the nausea, sweats and overall body pain. I lapsed into a dream where I was physically fighting Satan for my life. I was losing the battle and in my dream, I begged God to help me. I promised Him that if He would save me, I'd never drink again. I was overcome with Light that blotted the darkness away.

When I woke up, I had scratches up and down my legs, arms and neck. The doctor said it was due to my DT's but I believe it was Satan scrambling to hold onto me...and he lost!

Since that day, I have not touched a drop of alcohol. No relapses, no slips, nothing. Don't get me wrong, I have not been a perfect person since then. I have the same struggle that all Christians do in their walk, but I am honoring the promise I made that day.

Congrats on your sobriety and continued Blessings to you, your family, and your ministry in Vegas!

Neal Benson said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

Tom, that is crazy. I had some gnarly withdrawals at my house; crazy stuff.
Its fun to see how God takes our broken lives and changes them!

Nikki Allen said...

Wow Neal I am so happy I found this. I am so happy and proud of the man, husband, dad, leader, friend and so much more that you have become. Your awsome! I have a year and a half sober :)

Neal Benson said...

That is so rad! I love to hear that. Ya this is kinda my little corner to share what is going on in our lives. I miss you!