IN MY HEART, I think all I'd ever wanted was to feel valued and loved. But there I was in jail again for drunk driving. I'd lost my marriage, a good job, and friends. It had been a downward spiral I'd felt helpless and unable to reverse—that is, until right there in my jail cell, while suffering extreme withdrawal symptoms and hallucinations. Suddenly, the words "God is Love" kept coming to me over and over again, even though I didn't really understand what those words meant for me.
My parents had sent me to Christian Science Sunday School, but it never interested me. I thought drinking alcohol would make me funny, likeable, cool. It wasn't anything anyone had said about me, but I'd simply accepted a negative image of myself. Deep down I knew I was an OK person and I felt I should be content, but I never was and didn't know why. So much of what I did was about trying to fit in and feel that people liked me.
Years later, when I had all the things I thought would make me happy—a wonderful wife and son, a good job, money, a nice house and car—I still wasn't content. I looked outside my marriage for love. But that didn't help, and the resulting guilt I felt for my infidelity was so overwhelming that I simply drank more to try to forget it. I felt out of control.
After that night in my jail cell, things began to change. I was given medication to calm me down, but I soon stopped taking it because it felt like the wrong choice. In my own way, I think I was beginning to lean on the loving messages I was receiving from God. And then this promise came to me: "You won't ever have to fear about drinking again."
That was 18 years ago. Since then, I've been free of the desire for alcohol. But what's been most important to me is what I've since learned from my study of Christian Science about true love, true value—and trusting God. This statement by Mary Baker Eddy explains how I feel: "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds" (Science and Health, p. 1).
It was while I was still living in a court-ordered treatment center, with alcoholics and drug addicts, that I began an indepth study of Christian Science. I gradually faced those negative feelings I'd been harboring about myself. I asked my exwife to bring me my Bible and Science and Health. And my son, who was then around 11 years old, insisted that he come along, too. His unconditional love helped me see what love was and that I was lovable. I saw, too, that I could rest, moment by moment, in God's love. And I gradually started to feel worthy, rejecting the old negative thought-patterns.
Every night I read and studied. I remember clinging to this Bible verse: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa. 41:10).
After I was released, AA meetings were still required, but I knew I couldn't say the usually expected, "Hello, I'm Dave and I'm an alcoholic," because I simply couldn't identify myself with that life anymore. I knew, as God's child, I was free. And God took care of this desire, leading me to an AA sponsor who didn't require me to label myself as an alcoholic.
What stood out from my spiritual study was the need to check my motive for everything I did. So many things I used to do were to glorify "Dave." Now it became apparent that I needed to see God's good everywhere and in everyone. My constant prayer became "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10).
During that time I got up the courage to call a Christian Science practitioner, who agreed to pray along with me and help me see my selfhood as God's creation, His image and likeness (see Gen. 1:26). Wonderful things began to happen as I kept studying the Christian Science Bible Lesson, and strove to live what I was learning. Soon I began to look for consistent—though often unexpected—good to come from God.
For example, though I still had my house, I needed a job. My driver's license had been rescinded, so I had no transportation. Then one day, out of the blue, an old acquaintance, who knew I had skills with carpentry and fixing things, stopped by and said: "I hope you don't mind, but I got you a job at a remodeling site. I can drive you there." And he did. The work was in an old restaurant/hotel that I used to drive by years earlier and think, "If only I could do the remodeling there. ..." Now there I was, doing just that! The only difference was, my job was cleaning up after the carpenters, plumbers, and electricians—not remodeling. Still, each day I thought, as the Bible promises, that God would restore the years I felt I'd wasted (see Joel 2:25). I knew I was where I needed to be and prayed to always be where God wanted me.
In retrospect, this proved to be a perfect time to ground myself in spiritual ideas and to focus on trying to love everyone and everything. Plus, I learned new skills just watching the others work. And I kept praying to see God's love at work in that building project and in all areas of my life.
I kept praying, "God, put me where You want me to be"—a plea that had nothing to do with money or status, but was simply about wanting to be where God would have me. Soon I was asked to do some carpentry work at my jobsite. Then the owner asked me to take charge of the remodeling. I kept trusting God to provide every need and skill, not every want. And He did. Soon I got my driver's license back and could drive myself to work. I was seeing firsthand how prayer can work, and it was like tasting heaven.
During that time I'd also begun to regularly attend Christian Science church services and, later, public lectures on Christian Science. The first time I went to a Wednesday church meeting, I was thrilled to hear the testimonies of healing. I couldn't wait until the next Wednesday to hear more. One night I actually got up and said, "It's awfully quiet in here. I need to hear more testimonies," and then I sat down. I was afraid to testify myself, but finally my gratitude was stronger than my fear and one night I stood up and gave a testimony. When I joined that church a year later, I was floating on air. I finally felt the deep, satisfying love I'd been yearning to see expressed in my life.
Here are a few steps that were key for me:
• Recognizing that my true value came from feeling God's presence.
• Trusting God moment by moment.
• Accepting that I was ready to love and be lovable.
• Finding that my purpose was to glorify God.
• Realizing that I didn't have to make Christian Science prayer effective; in the spirit of Jesus' own words, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me" (John 8:28).
• Sharing the peace and love that were and are such a taste of heaven for me.
The experience from my other job provided me with what I needed for my current position. When my life got back on track and I no longer expected it to spiral out of control, I saw that all the good that came to me was God's doing—and I felt I was finally doing "His work." Friends I knew back in my drinking days would say to me, "Well, I guess it's true; you have to hit rock bottom for things to get better." But I like to say that God showed me I never had a bottom to hit, because I was never actually out of His constant care.
They that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
Dave Mather lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he is Facilities Manager of The Alcazar, an independent residential facility and bed and breakfast.