Why I have three birthdays every year.
December 6th 1986 was the day my life changed forever; the day of my 2nd birth.
My first birth date (or belly button birthday as it became known) was Nov 28th 1952. I was born into a loving home with two elder sisters & a brother yet to come; a home full of fun & celebration. I became aware at a very early age that in order to have a really good time, you needed alcohol, and the more the better.
My first taste of drink was at the family Christmas table when I got a small sip of “Blue Nun “sparkling white wine. I didn’t much care for the taste then and for me beer tasted something akin to a dirty ash tray. But by age 13, I had my first real drink. A school mate’s dad bought us a large bottle of beer and it was enough to get two small school boys pretty silly, I loved it.
From that point on my drinking career took much the same path as most young Australian men, or so I thought. Drinking only on weekends it wasn’t really a problem but I was conscious that I always seemed to drink to excess. There never seemed to be enough, I would always drink until it was all gone or I had to go home to bed…..
By my early thirties my drinking had progressed to drinking almost every day. I often set aside a couple of days or even a week to “dry out” but I never seemed to get past Tuesday. There was always an excuse for a celebration.
Drink had started to control me and much of the joy had gone from my life. I felt empty and un-fulfilled. I had a wife and two little kids, a mortgage and had started by own busyness. It was obvious I needed to do something so I began developing strategies to control my drinking.
December the 6th 1986 we had a BBQ at our house. I made a solemn pledge to myself that I would drink only 2 cans of beer. NO MORE. It was kind of a self test. I failed. I was unable to stop at 2 and drank all I could get my hands on. By the end of the day I felt gutted. There was no joy or celebration, only the realisation that I was a slave to alcohol.
That was my last drink. The following week I went to AA and learned the truth about myself & my addiction. It didn’t happen over night, in fact it took a year before the penny really dropped but during that time, by the grace of God, I didn’t pick up a drink.
I started the AA 12 step program, carefully avoiding the “God” bit by declaring AA as my “Higher Power” I was fiercely agnostic and radically uncommitted to the notion of the God of the bible. In fact, if I had known that AA was actually a Christian based program, I would probably not have gone.
But I did, and the good folks at AA, the twelve steps and my nebulous concept of a higher power served me very well for about 6 years. Then that higher power began to run out of power. By now, I knew deep down in my heart that God was real and he was calling me, but I resisted, too proud to admit I was wrong. I don’t know why that was so hard, over the previous 6 years I had realised & freely admitted that almost everything I though was right & good turned out to be wrong & bad. I had re-evaluated almost every aspect of my life but stubbornly retained by rebellion against the God of the Bible, the one I had known as a child at Sunday school.
But that empty, unfulfilled feeling had returned & I could not shake it. I knew there had to be more to life but doggedly I held on to my position; that was until, out of a feeling of desperation, I open the door ever so slightly to Jesus and the light of his love bowled me over.
I had attended a breakfast with some Christian businessmen and when I tried to leave to go to work, I could not drive. In fact, I could not do anything. For 30 minutes I sat in my car shaking & weeping and crying as my heart cried out for Jesus. I knew I had to surrender to him and a few days later, at a Christian Businessmen’s convention in Queensland, I finally accepted and admitted him into my life. That was my Third birth date, when I was truly born again.
Since that day, God has led me on an amazing adventure of growth and pain and celebration and love and fellowship and a knowing that surpasses all understanding; a realisation of my place in the universe, my destiny and my eternal gratitude for his love and sacrifice.
He has given me the ability and strength to love my wife and my children and grandchildren and my family and all his creation in a way I could never have done before, without first knowing His unconditional love and forgiveness.