My name is Ken. I’m determined to be a faithful believer in Jesus Christ and to follow His ways. I’m celebrating over 18 months of freedom. That freedom is not just from incarceration, but more importantly, a freedom from a life of alcohol, drug abuse, sexual immorality and infidelity. My out of control lifestyle not only resulted in me spending 12 years in prison, but caused so much pain and shame to those who loved me.
For years it appeared as if I were living a perfect life. I was married and had two beautiful daughters. I was a military veteran, owned my own business, and coached T-ball. My wife and I were room parents for both our girl’s classes and were even PTA presidents for three years. Additionally, we were heavily involved in our local church. I taught Sunday School, served on the church board and eventually went on staff as Associate Pastor.
However, I had a secret. I was addicted to sex. I had been introduced to the demon of pornography before I was ten years’ old and struggled with it my entire life. I was abused and sexualized early in life. As a teen and into my early twenties, I was very promiscuous. At the age of 22, I became a stripper and that lifestyle fueled my addiction. I brought those past experiences into my marriage; my wife never had a chance because I had set the bar too high in my expectations. Regardless of how badly I wanted to be a great husband and father my secret sexual addiction led to my having extramarital affairs. I began to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with my guilt. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was completely out of control, and soon found myself incarcerated.
Prison can be a dark place. I struggled to find myself. I wanted so badly to be mad at God for allowing me to be there, I wanted to blame my wife for not being able to meet my needs but, in reality, it was my own actions that got me there. I heard others compare themselves to Job, in that they had lost everything, but Job was a righteous man… I couldn’t see myself in his story. Instead, I found myself in the life of Jonah, a Godly man who chose to turn and run from God, ending up in a bad situation. I also found myself in the story of the prodigal son… one who had left those who loved him and ended up at rock bottom. And like the prodigal son, I had to come to my senses, get up and begin to walk back; hoping to at least be a servant in my Father’s house.
Ten years into my sentence, my youngest daughter turned 18 and could finally visit me unaccompanied. I decided it would be a great time to clear the air and allow her to ask me anything she wanted about what I had done to tear our family apart. However, I was totally unprepared for the question she would ask. She looked me in the eyes and said, "Dad, the only thing I want to know is, were you thinking about us at all when you were doing all that stuff?" It pierced my heart like a knife as I tearfully had to admit to her that I was not. That very day God began a work on my heart. The moment I got back in my dorm I hit my knees and cried out to God for help in making me a man my daughters could be proud of again.
Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God came running to me. Within a month I was placed in confinement for 28 days before being transferred to another institution. I was dazed and confused, to say the least. I couldn’t understand why God was allowing all of this to happen to me. After all, I had become quite comfortable where I was and had a great job working in education, helping others. I spent all of my time in confinement questioning His motives. Finally, I reached my next destination. It was an institution known more for its violence than its programs.
It was about this time when I read a flyer about a new program called Celebrate Recovery Inside coming to the chapel. I had no idea what it was, but felt I needed to check it out. I was a year and a half from being released and maybe it was time to begin addressing the demons of my past.
I attended my first CR Inside meeting and step study in January 2014. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, at first I was a bit leery when I was told it was a long term commitment and would take about seven months to complete a step study. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal for me… I had nothing but time. However, in all my years of incarceration, I had seen many volunteers come and go. I remember asking my table leader if he was really committed to it, or if he was going to drop off before we finished. Those awesome men from Celebrate Recovery, Enterprise, Alabama said they were in for the long haul.
The first thing I had do was step out of my denial and come to grips with my own powerlessness. (Principle 1, Step 1) You see, up to this point, even in prison I was calling the shots. My attempt to assist others was even a bit selfish in that it was a good and positive way for me to do my time. I had tried many times to get better on my own and had always failed miserably. I had to admit I was powerless to change on my own, and surrender control over to Christ. This wasn’t easy, but as we began the working the steps I felt myself being broken and the tears flowed. These weren’t the same tears I had shed after being arrested, these tears came from a much deeper place. The healing process had begun.
When we reached to the part in the step study (Principle 4, Step 4), where we had to work on our spiritual inventory, I was told to make a list of all those who had hurt me in my past. This step seemed unnecessary to me, because I had already accepted all the blame and responsibility for my actions. But with the persistence of my table leader, I decided to play along. I had no idea what a healing step this would be for me. I soon realized that it wasn’t about blaming others, instead it was about understanding how I got to where I was. You see, I soon caught on to a pattern. Every time someone had hurt me in my past, I quickly built a wall to protect myself from further harm. Those walls in turn isolated me from letting anyone really love me, from allowing them to see my pain and, as a result, caused me to feel loneliness. It was in my loneliness that I would find myself acting out.
Through Celebrate Recovery Inside, God began to heal my brokenness. He has taught me that I truly am powerless without Him. I’ve learned that I no longer have to struggle alone with my secrets and that there are people who love and care about me. After completing my first step study, I stayed in the program to be a co-leader of a new step study, and by my third study I was leading a group on my own. God is so good!
As my release date quickly approached I found myself facing much anxiety. Though I had found acceptance with Celebrate Recovery Inside, I was very nervous about stepping outside the gates and possibly being rejected. I feared that I would be judged for my past sins and that I’d have a big label stamped across my forehead. My original table leader encouraged me to sit down and write a letter to the ministry leader of the CR in my home town, asking for a sponsor to help with my transition. Honestly, I was very reluctant to even write them at first; fearing they would not reply, or even worse, respond with a rejection letter. However, to my surprise, I received a letter back inviting me to attend not only CR, but church as well. I was so proud of that letter! In fact, I still have it. I was accepted!
I attended the very next meeting, just a week after my release. That was more than 19 months ago, and I am still faithfully attending. And, not only have I been warmly accepted, I have become part of the leadership team, serving as the Assimilation Coach and teaching several of the lessons in open worship. I completed another step study and am now co-leading one. In addition, I serve as a small group leader and help with the Newcomers 101 group. I took advantage of sponsor training and am currently sponsoring two men. I’ve not only shared my testimony in my local CR group, but was privileged to share it at a CR One-day Seminar in Niceville, FL (Destin) speaking to the CR Inisde break out group. I was also honored by being able to meet and speak with Pastor John Baker personally at that seminar.
By sharing my story, other men in my group have been inspired and have become part of CR Inside. They first began volunteering at the institution where I was first introduced to CR, and have now started a new CR Inside group at the very institution I had that heart to heart talk with my daughter. I can’t help but smile and thank God for all he has done in my life since attending that first Celebrate Recovery Inside meeting in January 2014. All that fear and anxiety I felt was for nothing. I’ve felt nothing but love and acceptance from the CR community on the inside and outside.
Part of the recovery process is giving back (Principle 8, Step 12). Besides my involvement in CR, God has also opened doors for me to serve in other areas of my local church. I volunteer every Saturday at a Community Breakfast, my church sponsors, feeding and ministering to over 100 homeless and down and out individuals.
I thank God for Celebrate Recovery Inside, and for men who were willing to take on a long-term commitment to reach out a hand to help. My heavenly Father knew exactly what he was doing when he had me transferred near the end of my time. He knew he had to get me to a place of healing. Every day I am becoming more of the man God intended for me to be. A man of purity, sexual integrity and of faithfulness. God is turning my mess into a message. And if I can help just one person by telling my story, it was worth the entire twelve years.
Thanks for letting me share.