God’s child “by recycling”

I am a child of God “by recycling”, torn from the jaws of a roaring beast. My story is a stormy one in many facets, and especially on the facet of spiritual life. Several years ago I was so close to the bottom that only God could remedy this situation…

I’m 43 years old. I come from a believing family with many children. You could say that it was quite normal. I am the third of my parents’ seven children. Practically all of us so far have found ourselves in many ways in complicated situations in life, principally because of our addictions. I spent the first 12 years of my life in a village, and the next 6 years in Krakow. During this period I participated several times in spiritual retreats for the youth. My mother is a very religious person and tried to convey the faith to us as best she could.

When I was at the retreat, I had a dream that Jesus invited me to follow Him. I regarded this as a call to the priesthood. But ultimately I didn’t follow Jesus. My first “love” appeared, along with a youthful sinfulness that developed into a habit that plagued me throughout my life. Later, I emigrated to the United States, where my life began moving very quickly. At first, I remembered about my girlfriend in Poland, but after almost two years when she gave up on me, I gave up … on God. I was angry at Him, feeling that He had failed me. I turned my back on Him for the next 20 years, although I missed Him and had glimmers of wishing to return. However, I recognize that God never gave up on me… We have two children, and two more “weekend” children.

Little by little I stopped going to church; I became caught up in a hopeless marriage, which, as it turned out, was invalid from the very beginning, as an ecclesial court later decided. The fruit of this union is my oldest daughter. After our divorce, which took place 15 years ago, my son was born from an illegitimate union with another woman. Then a final relationship began, which has endured to the present. Thanks to God, some years ago we entered into the sacrament of matrimony. This became possible when the ecclesial court confirmed the nullity of my first marriage. We have two children, and two more “weekend” children.

I took Holy Communion at our wedding, even though I hadn’t prepared myself well for a thorough confession. Everything had been prepared in a hurry, more for my grandmother and family than for us. My wife had a baptismal certificate, but she was practically a nonbeliever, and I was so indifferent that God for me was distant and absent.

At the time of the wedding I was an alcoholic, but at the time, I didn’t think about myself in those terms. I knew how to keep my drinking secret, and how to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone around me. After a certain time, an alcoholic becomes an expert at hiding his dependency, as well as at lying. This is how our life was going – without sense or purpose. My wife complained and didn’t know how to deal with me. Her father is an alcoholic, so many things seemed normal to her, in fact to me as well – in our home alcohol was part of the daily routine.

For many years I ran a business which always provided me with good income, and I was never short of money, which only encouraged my lifestyle. I was never interested in a family in the deeper meaning of the word; only superficially and out of necessity. My wife stayed with me even though she couldn’t change anything. She didn’t even know how to pray for me, since no one had ever taught her. These were the years of spiritual emptiness. My alcoholism began to greatly annoy others, especially the family, but myself as well. At that time I was drinking a lot alone. I argued with my wife to have more time for myself and my god, which was what alcohol was to me.

My wife returned to Poland to save her father from his addiction, while I stayed home with my own addiction for a few weeks. I became involved in a brief romance that my wife found out about. We were supposed to get a divorce because I was obviously “in love” and tired of our marriage, which seemed to me to have been dead for a long time. I was convinced that I was making a good decision. At the last minute I still had the strength to ask the Holy Spirit for light. The next day the Holy Spirit showed me the pain and despair of my small child. That changed my decision. I determined to try to save my family.

My alcoholism began to greatly annoy others, especially the family, but myself as well

That’s when the breakthrough came about. I prayed to the Holy Spirit every day for help. I tried to stop drinking, but I couldn’t manage. I was physically tired, and I was slightly paralyzed on the left side of my body. I decided to get an injection which wouldn’t allow me to drink for a year. But before that could happen, Satan struggled with me and for me as much as he could. I deferred the decision from week to week, but I finally decided to take the step. I felt like a rock had fallen from my heart. I didn’t have to fight any more. At that point I told God that he was now in charge, since my leadership up to that point had led to the destruction of everything that was good in my life. And God took over.

After 10 months of chaotic but systematic prayer to the Holy Spirit, my wife, who was pregnant at the time, and I went to a retreat for married couples. I was no longer drinking, but I was still smoking, and not just cigarettes – I was frequently getting high. The Holy Spirit led me to the understanding that I couldn’t go to church in that state. I promised to comply, and planned to go to confession. During an all-night vigil I came to realize what a tragically poor father I had been up till then. God opened my eyes and my heart, so that I could see my own misery. He also permitted me to physically feel the greatness of His fatherly love. Cleansing tears poured down my cheeks for an hour until I was soaked with them, and my heart was filled with a profound love and longing for God. My confession lasted more than two hours and the tears were flowing once again. That was the beginning of a new life. After returning home we found out that my wife’s pregnancy was at risk, but by that time, we knew whom to turn to for help. I also asked the community and our friends for their prayers. The child is now almost two years old, and is in perfect health.

I began to spend many hours in daily prayer, at Eucharistic adoration, and going to mass. I listened to hundreds of hours of sermons, and read many books on religious topics. I was and am thirsty to know about God and about those who have experienced His presence. At first I faced many doubts and temptations. Satan tried to convince me that God doesn’t approach sinners like me, and that I was only deluding myself. On three occasions I felt a physical presence of evil, which tormented me in the first months after my conversion. These began to diminish from the moment when I began to invite the Lord Jesus into my heart every evening before I went to bed. My trust grew, and is growing every day. And without a conversation with God in the course of the day I would feel bad and lonely. Practically every day I experience a stirring in my heart when at prayer and with every prayerful utterance. I have Jesus’ peace. Under the cross of Jesus I consider the suffering of His mother. At that time I think that such suffering is beyond description, and we can only bear the suffering along with her.

Praying before a portrait of the Virgin Mary, I felt a warmth in my body and I knew that I would never take another drink again. Later, the Virgin Mary helped me free myself from smoking marijuana, and halfa year ago through the intervention of St. John Paul II, I quit smoking cigarettes. God also freed me from the sins of impurity and, even though I am still sometimes tempted, I don’t give in.

At that point I told God that he was now in charge, since my leadership up to that point had led to the destruction of everything that was good in my life. And God took over

Much has changed in our marriage over the last two years. Everything is moving in the direction of goodness and love. Little by little Jesus is healing us from the many wounds of the past. With His help and blessing we are learning to love each other again, and to live in peace and harmony. We still experience occasions of weakness, but at the same time we are growing in mutual love.

Someone once said that it takes a long time to repair something that took a long time to damage. This is certainly a slow, but visible process. And what’s most important is that it isn’t a process we go through alone, but with Jesus in our hearts, with Jesus who LIVES and IS always with us. He overcame my addictions, and did so in a very short time.

I know that conversion is a lifelong process, and I have no intention of slowing down the tempo. I take part in the Eucharistic feast every day, along with praying at least five mysteries of the rosary. Twice a week I include the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. I adore Jesus after masses and on various other occasions. I never miss my daily prayers. Several times during the day I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, so I practically reach out to God all day long. I marvel unceasingly at God’s goodness. I am perpetually experiencing the beauty of God’s mercy in my life – and that is what I want to share with you here. Praise God!

Jack