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Eric: A Chronic Relapser Builds the Life He's Meant to Have at Guiding Light

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“I finally got to the point,” says Eric, “that I texted a friend and said I was going to die unless I got help somewhere.” That ‘somewhere’ ended up being Guiding Light.

/Guiding Light

Blackouts. Hallucinations. DTs. Too many trips to the hospital to even count. Downing two fifths of liquor a day.

“I finally got to the point,” says Eric, “that I texted a friend and said I was going to die unless I got help somewhere.”

That ‘somewhere’ ended up being Guiding Light, but only after Eric, now 45, ventured in and out of detox and rehab centers and medical centers, fighting an addiction to alcohol that he traces back to early high school years.

Born in Indiana, Eric lived there his first 10 years, until his parents divorced. He moved back and forth between them, attending five different schools en route to earning his high school degree.

After high school, Eric worked a variety of jobs – mostly in restaurants – but with no real purpose or long-term plan in mind. He spent much of his late teens and early 20s couch-surfing among friends, and one entire summer following a popular rock band from city to city. “From 18 until 22, I was pretty much hitchhiking all over the place,” he recalls.

He eventually suffered what he believes was a nervous breakdown and ended up moving back in with his father, who by now was involved with a church in Indiana. “I gave my life to Jesus,” says Eric and, at 23, married and started to raise a family. Before divorcing some 16 years later, the couple had four children, now from 16 to 25.

“There was some infidelity involved,” he says, “and I don’t think I ever recovered from that. My solution was to drink myself into blackouts.” He found himself in and out of rehab centers. He also was admitted numerous times to hospitals, where pre-existing conditions that included diabetes and high blood pressure only made his bouts with alcohol more grave.

“My drinking started with beer and wine and moved on to a really bad phase with vodka,” he says. “Then I started with tequila, and I once went on a 10-day bender where I woke up and there were at least 15 empty bottles of tequila in my room. I once blacked out while driving a moped and woke up in the hospital. The last time I was in a hospital, they feared I was going to have a stroke.”

While drinking, Eric struggled with his spirituality, combating feelings of guilt and of feeling unworthy in the eyes of God. “I couldn’t accept my past, and what had happened and all the people who’d hurt me and people I’d hurt.”

By the year 2020, Eric says, “I had no hope. I was desperate.” He sent the text stating he feared he might die. A friend reached back and told Eric about Guiding Light. He entered the program in May 2021 and, as part of his moving forward, embraced support group meetings, attending nearly 150 of them in his first 90 days.

Initially, he figured “A few months and I’ll be out of here,” but it wasn’t to be. “I found the spiritual direction I’d been looking for,” he says. “I got a life coach who helped me see the causes and conditions as to how I am and why I am. Guiding Light was the best choice for my life and my family’s life.”

By October of last year, he’d progressed through Guiding Light’s Recovery program and secured a job in a Grand Rapids restaurant as kitchen manager, where he works up to 50 hours weekly. This past winter, he moved into Iron House, a sober-living apartment community where he has more freedom to come and go.

“It’s wonderful,” he explains. “It has to do with the brotherhood…the community, as well as a lot of accountability. It’s an excellent place for me since I’m a chronic relapser. It’s the best alternative for me.”

Eric is on a “cordial” basis with his ex-wife, and hoping to re-connect in meaningful ways with his children as he progresses. “Before,” he says, “they weren’t talking to me for years, so I’m trying to make amends. I leave that in God’s hands, trying to do His will.”

Eric says that God is at work in other ways as well, helping him to live in the moment rather than focusing on and regretting his past. “The further I get from my last drunk, the more hope I have,” he says. “I believe that if you have the willingness to want to change your life and the capacity to be honest with where you’re at and who you are, this program can unfold that for you.

“It can show you the life you were meant to have, the person you were meant to be. And that’s a powerful thing.”

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