Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope and Possibility

I have a friend - we'll call him Larry.  Larry's not his real name, but I think people are probably over-exposed enough online, so I won't add to "Larry's" online profile.  But I do want to share some of Larry's story.

I met Larry 2 and 1/2 years ago.  He had just checked himself out of an addiction treatment center and moved back to Dublin to begin a new life.  We had placed an ad in the "Northside People" newspaper promoting Bible studies for those interested.  Through God's providence, the ad actually ran in the "Southside People" one week and Larry saw the ad and contacted us.  We met up and planned on meeting weekly for Bible study and conversation.  I also got Larry in touch with some Christians we know on the South side of Dublin. 

Larry and I met up from time to time and he occasionally joined some other Christians for study and prayer.  However, Larry's previous life of addiction still had a powerful hold on him.  One Sunday morning I was to meet him to take him to a local church service.  He never showed up.  I called his cell-phone and a friend of his answered and told me that Larry was off his head on drink and drugs.  I spoke with Larry, but he didn't remember the conversation later.  Another Sunday I went to pick up Larry for church, and once again, he was a no-show.  I tried to contact him again, but he never returned my calls.  It was months before I heard from him again.

Out of the blue, on a day in late May, I received a call from Larry and he mentioned that he had got sucked back into drug and alcohol abuse.  But, this time he was serious.  He really wanted to give sobriety and God another chance.  I was due to travel to the States for a month, but I put him in touch with some other Christian friends in the meantime.  When I returned from my trip back home I didn't hear from Larry.  But a week after returning, I was up in Northern Ireland helping set up Camp Shamrock when I received another call from Larry.  He was stoned and talking all kinds of rubbish.  He was threatening to kill himself.  I let him know that I was a couple of hours away from Dublin, but that if he would just hold on, I'd come down and see him.  Once I got to Dublin, I called Larry and because he was sounding violent and out of control, I decided not to see him that night.  The following day I spoke with him over the phone and then I went and gave him a lift to the bus station so that he could meet a friend down in Waterford who he felt could help keep him off the booze and drugs.

A month or so later, Larry contacted me again.  He had again fallen into substance abuse and needed a place to stay before he could check himself into rehab.  We would have put him up in our home, but with a young daughter and wife, I didn't feel like I could risk their safety if he wound up relapsing.  So I booked him into a hotel room and the following day I gave him a lift to a treatment center an hour outside of Dublin.  Larry stayed in treatment for a few weeks and many of us from Dublin popped down to visit him from time to time.  But as before, he left treatment early and found himself back in the grip of addiction.

So, when Larry contacted me yet again, I was sad and disappointed, but hopeful that one of these days he would snap out of his addiction and seriously turn his life over to Christ.  Larry needed a lift down to a different treatment center even farther away from Dublin.  Since he had left the treatment center early last time, they would not admit him back.  However, there was another place across the country that had a bed available.  So I picked him up and we drove to county Limerick and checked him into the center.

In early December of 2012 I received a phone call from a lady at the treatment center.  She informed me that Larry was planning on leaving the center, but this time he had actually completed the entire program.  A few weeks later it was exciting to receive a phone call from him - it was a cry for help, yet not one of desperation, but one seeking salvation and reconciliation.  Larry asked me if I would baptize him.  A couple days later Larry, me, and some others from our Christian community met in a coffee shop and talked about what it meant to surrender to Jesus.  The following Sunday, Larry was immersed into Christ in the Irish Sea.

I'm excited to tell you that Larry is going from strength to strength.  Oh, he's had a few slip ups (so have I - so have we all), but he's on a path of discipleship and sobriety.  I would estimate that 19 1/2 of his past 20 months have been spent in complete sobriety.  He recently moved down to Waterford and I was thrilled to receive a phone call on his behalf.  It was a charity organization asking for a character reference.  Larry had decided to volunteer - to help others, because others have helped him so much!  He's active in his church community and he's very involved with AA - once again, giving back to others because he's been given so much.  Sometimes other people's lives seem hopeless.  Sometimes our lives seem hopeless.  But they are not; our stories always have the possibility of a happy ending.  Since Jesus defeated death on that Sunday morning 2,000 years ago, the hope and possibility of new life is always just around the corner.  As it is for Larry, may it be for all of us. - Shay          

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