He was using pot and alcohol by 13. Ecstasy by 15. Cocaine soon followed. Then methamphetamines.
“Growing up, I never had any morals,” says Charlie. “No values, no respect for authority, no real education. All my feelings and thoughts and actions led to anger. You took what you want, got what you wanted however you could.
“I was chasing the wind.”
Born and raised in London, England, Charlie grew up knowing nothing about love. He never once stepped inside a church. Both his parents were alcoholics, and on an almost daily basis, drugs were being sold out of his home. “It wasn’t unusual for the door to come flying in and there were the police. Just lots of crime and drugs.”
By 15, Charlie had moved out and was sofa-surfing. He eventually got involved with the dark side of Great Britain’s music scene, which meant staging “rave” parties at warehouses and airport hangars, making his living by charging at the door. He also attached himself to hooligans who followed an English soccer team, and under the guise of being fans, roamed from town to town, crashing taverns and creating havoc alongside other wayward young adults.
Charlie became adept at installing carpet, but he couldn’t be counted on to show up regularly for work because it was more important to get drunk and stoned. “
It was accepted to drink and use drugs, or you were looked upon as weak,” he says. “My only reason for being on earth was because my mother had given birth to me.”
He fathered a son at 19, when “I was still just a kid myself.” That son would be 24 now and “possibly in jail,” for “my relationship with him and his mom ended badly.’’
Charlie spent time in jail for violence-related offenses committed among his hooligan friends, but when England started to impose stiffer sentences, Charlie retreated from those behaviors and focused more on the music.
Ten years ago, he was invited to a party, and it’s there he met Mary*, an American from Grand Rapids studying business in London. “At first, I didn’t want to go to the party, but my friend convinced me by buying some cocaine and a couple of bottles of vodka.”
Mary and Charlie connected and married within a year, then had a son. They eventually settled in her hometown, where Charlie found a job in maintenance, even though he was still abusing alcohol and drugs like cocaine and other stimulants.
Their second son was born in 2013 but by 2016, “things had gotten really bad with my marriage,” and Charlie tried Alcoholics Anonymous for the first time. He stayed sober for three months, and the couple became pregnant with their third child.
Charlie got stuck on Step 3 of AA, which challenges alcoholics to turn over one’s will to the care of God. “I didn’t believe that,” says Charlie, “so I stopped calling my sponsor, stopped going to meetings. My drinking and using got real bad. I didn’t want to be at home. My life was unmanageable.”
Last year, Mary filed for divorce and changed the locks on the doors of their home. Charlie wandered back to England, re-connected with old friends and went on a 5-month bender.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalls. “Days were nights and nights were days. I was a mess. I thought I’d hit bottom, but then I found a trap door, and went even deeper. I was completely broken.”
From criminal friends, Charlie acquired enough money to buy a plane ticket back to Grand Rapids. He’d heard about Guiding Light while in AA, and this time, he took action. In trying to enter the program he “dropped dirty,” (failed a drug test) so he wandered the streets of Grand Rapids drinking water and coffee and hanging out in a diner until he could drop clean, and was finally accepted into the Recovery program on Sept. 9, 2018.
“I was scared,” he recalls. “I didn’t know if my intolerance and anger and impatience was going to allow me to live with other guys for four months. I felt like a time bomb about to go off.”
But Charlie found acceptance within Guiding Light’s walls, and he embraced time with coaches, who helped him understand the source of his addictions and behaviors.
Eventually, he and Mary agreed to give it another go, and he’s taking classes to join her as a Roman Catholic. “Mary is running a small business, the divorce is off the table, and the five of us are connecting again,” he says.
“We’ve been swimming together when we can on weekends, and Mary and I attended a marriage retreat. This summer, we’ve booked a rustic cabin up north. Things like that never would have interested me before, but I’m not that same man anymore.
“Guiding Light has taught me to be a better person. It’s taught me to be a better father.”
Charlie recently finished the Guiding Light Recovery program and is now living at Iron House, eager to return to his family, but patient in knowing it can happen too soon. He’s also secured a job in maintenance, a pivotal move toward regaining his independence
“I grew up in an environment where it was not OK to express my feelings,” Charlie says. “The only emotion I ever had was anger, and I had no role models to show me how to be a father, how to teach my kids right from wrong. I’m learning now to be the person I want my own children to be.
“I don’t need to be that monster anymore. And anytime I need help, I can always get on my knees.”
*Names have been been changed to protect the privacy of involved individuals.
THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST HAS BECOME A NEW PERSON. THE OLD LIFE IS GONE; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17