I never saw David drunk but he is very clearly an alcoholic. He managed to keep his addiction pretty well between the ditches in the later years of his life. He was about 60 when I met him at the Brantley Center. I was half his age.
My best ministry tool in working with David was the ability to make long-term, caring relationships. Over time the Lord does some of His most incredible work! Now maybe it doesn’t matter why someone drinks but in the case of David, once he told me his story, it was clear why he did.
David was a career Marine and served his country for about 25 years. He has been pretty much homeless ever since. David hasn’t always been an alcoholic but it became his constant friend after the death of his wife and young son. Alcohol is for him a mental elixir in his endless desire to erase memories.
David makes no bones about how it happened. He was on leave, visiting home, driving around with his young family. “I had too much to drink. I was drunk. I had a wreck. I killed my family. I walked away without a scratch. They were dead. It wasn’t fair.” It was awful to hear him tell the story. But oddly enough, that is not the worst part of it to David. The part of the story that continually drives him to the bottle is this, “My punishment… I spent two hours in jail.”
It was back in the day before drunk drivers were prosecuted. They kept him till he sobered up. He went on being a Marine. David has systematically punished himself ever since through drink, homelessness, and self-flagellation. He occasionally retells the story. David’s drinking is understandable.
The gospel is for David. The gospel addresses failure, pain, sin, regrets, and salvation. He feels he is too far gone… too deeply sinful. But these words were effective in helping David, “Come unto me, all ye who are troubled and weighted down with care, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and become like me, for I am gentle and without pride, and you will have rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 (BBE). David was able to find the peace that passes all understanding.