06 Mar Alpha Testimony from Steve
Steve did the Alpha Course with us last term (autumn 2018). This is his story.
There’s always been a hole at my centre. At the very core of me, there’s always been something missing; something I’ve always felt I could fill with enough of this, or enough of that, or enough of whatever.
I was born into a pretty ordinary family, no real dysfunctionality, apart from my Dad being in the R.A.F and therefore having to move around a lot as a kid. I grew up in Malta, my Dad got based at R.A.F. Luqa, and although my memory is sketchy wholesale, I remember two things vividly. The first was my Dad frying an egg on the bonnet of his Renault 12, and the second was trying to run across the road with no flip-flops…I couldn’t do it…it was just too hot.
The first thing I remember about the U.K. was landing at Manchester airport and feeling cold rain. It came from the sky and it was cold, what was this, had someone up there turned the warm rain off? I was 10 years old, and had to start school again, the new boy again, I didn’t have the luxury of already formed friendships, I had to try and act like it didn’t bother me…again. A year of school in Yorkshire until my Dad found us a house in North Wales near to where he’d been posted in R.A.F Sealand, near Chester, then another year (again as new boy), in yet another school. It was like a roller-coaster of trying to fit in, trying to adapt. It was like running all the time, just to stand still. Exhausting.
I don’t know if this was the reason that I always felt different….but I did. I never once, during my early years, felt like I belonged…to anyone, or anything. I always felt like a fraud, a trickster, someone who was constantly just managing to keep my head above water; never drowning but never letting anyone see what effort it took to stop from going under….it was taking its toll.
I was always pretty damn good. At home and at school. I could always make people think anything I wanted them to. I actually excelled at school, but never let any of my new friends know it was easy. I took to most things I put my hands to. I auditioned for the school play during the last (my first) year at primary school and got the lead part. It was whilst on stage at ten years old that I knew what I wanted to do with my life…I wanted to act, after all, I’d spent the first decade of my life doing just this.
During secondary school, I did finally make some real friends. My Dad stop getting posted here there and everywhere, so I finally had some stability, but the feeling of being the new boy never really left me. I always felt as if I didn’t really belong, or, probably, more honestly, that I didn’t deserve to. There was a hole inside me that I needed to fill, and I didn’t know how to. Despite my achievements, I never felt I deserved them, I never felt truly good enough.
I left school at 16 and joined the R.A.F…it didn’t work out.
Some people need a disciplined structure to their lives, routines and rules, regulations and they have the ability to take orders…I’m the antithesis of this. I’m creative, inventive, imaginative and exactly the type of person who shouldn’t ever have these things stifled…although of course, I knew nothing of this at the time.
I came out feeling like I’d failed at something for the first time in my life, and then I discovered a cure for feeling like this….alcohol. After a few drinks, it didn’t matter. After a few drinks, I felt just like I assumed everyone else felt…comfortable. Comfortable with the world around me…comfortable in my own skin. It was lovely.
Having discovered what I thought to be the elixir for life and for happiness thereafter, I took it to excess, obviously. My Mum nicknamed me All or Nothing when I was about 7 (show me the boy at 7 and I’ll show you the man), and once I was on this treadmill, there was no getting off…I’d found what I was born to do….drink. I was good at it, it came naturally….and then I discovered drugs too….surely this was what life was all about. Surely.
The next 20 odd years passed by in a haze, they actually passed me by, without me even noticing: I got married, I had a son, I got divorced, I got jobs, I lost jobs, so I got more jobs, lost more jobs, girlfriends, fiancés even, pregnancies/terminations… then ecstasy, raves, arrests, police cells, stories to tell down the pub, stories that meant I was someone, rooms I lived in, sofa’s I’d stay on, always with a drink in my hand or a spliff in my mouth….a crazy 20 years…the golden years I called them at one point. Ha…the golden years.
The thing is see…I saw madness as a competition…and I never lost. I needed validation…and I couldn’t validate myself. I needed it externally, I needed people to see me, and even if I couldn’t be the best at something, I needed to then be the worst…because at least that was a talking point.
I had no faith. No faith in the world around me, no faith in the words people said, or in the actions I witnessed, but more importantly than any of that…I had no faith in me. I was in free-fall, and I knew it, and I didn’t care.
I drank and I drugged for 23 years before something happened. Those 23 years were crazy, senseless and hard. They were exhausting and they left me emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, but I couldn’t stop…I knew nothing else. Then, 12 years ago, I was out one Saturday night, and I got beaten up, battered to within an inch of my life. I spent 8 days in a coma, sustained 3 skull fractures, and a subdural haematoma. I had to learn how to walk and talk again, but even this….all this wasn’t enough to stop me.
I’d been out of hospital for 10 months when I finally hit my rock bottom, and that Wednesday afternoon in August of 2007 was (I now truly believe), the first time that I allowed myself to feel God’s presence. I was finally getting ready to let him in.
I’d never been an atheist, I simply wasn’t that brave. Instead I took a stance of just in case, so I suppose that made me an agnostic, atheism for cowards maybe, I don’t know.
I knew I was on the precipice, I had a choice to make. Live or die. So….
I started going to meetings, to AA meetings, and I finally, one step, one day at a time, got sober, got clean and gradually began to know I was being guided by some kind of higher power other than myself. I started praying, for the first time in my life, but I never really knew what I was praying to, who I was praying to or who was listening to these things I was saying late at night whilst on my knees in the dark. But it didn’t matter…it was working.
I stayed clean and sober for over 5 years, but then something happened and I picked up again. I let my meetings slip; other things became more important, and I forgot what it meant for me to drink, because for me, to drink is to end all other things….life, and all the good things that life means.
I started to feel as if I was missing something again, that ‘hole in my soul’ had come back. I was praying but it seemed empty. The relationship I’d formed with my higher power couldn’t sustain me through times of hardship and temptation any more. I needed something else.
A close friend of my girlfriend gave me a shout about this thing called Alpha, a course that was meant to get you believing in a Christian God, and Jesus. I’d always cried shy of any organised religion, I couldn’t get the logical side of my brain to believe in an immaculate conception or even a resurrection, but I decided to go, to have a look, see what it was all about….and thank God I did.
I went along to the course in Walton-on-Thames armed with thousands of questions, and I left with a million more, but over the course of the 3 months that Alpha ran, I gradually came to believe in, not a higher power of my understanding, but in God, and Jesus and the Gospel and everything I now know that I’ve been looking for my entire adult life.
The hole inside of me is, and always has been…God shaped. I spent my life in fear, but now I have faith. I simply can’t hold the both things in the same hand, one has to squeeze the other out, it has to….and so, from now on, I choose faith…it’s that simple.
It’s only the truly insane that never question their sanity. I’ve been insane most of my life, making the same mistakes, repeating the same patterns of behaviour and expecting different results, but now I don’t. I know now who I’m praying to, and I no longer feel the need to change things; the way I feel, the world around me, or the people in it.
I’ve lived the last 12 years with M.S. I was diagnosed in early sobriety, the first symptom of which was the loss of sight in my left eye, but there are two different ways I can look at this. I can either feel sorry for myself oh no, I’ve only got one eye…or, thank you God, I’ve still got one eye….and one of the main things I give thanks for when I pray is that God has always given me a glass half-full mentality, and for that I am truly thankful.
I take part in life again thanks to my relationship with God and Jesus. I’m back on stage, acting, where I believe I belong. I’ve got a degree in English and a Masters in Playwriting. My first play is being produced later in the year and I’m busy re-writing another. This all fuels my creativity, something which is an inherent need in me, just like food, just like oxygen.
God hasn’t just given me a second chance, he’s given me hundreds. He never abandoned me when I was in the depths of despair from my addictions….I simply wasn’t ready to accept him into my life. I have something now which is more precious to me than anything I’ve ever had…a newfound freedom and a newfound happiness, all through the realisation of God in my life, and for this I feel truly blessed…So thank you Clare for letting me know about Alpha, thank you to Alex and John, who ran it, and thank you to everyone who did the course with me, everyone who helped out and specially the cooks, who didn’t half cook us some nice dinners along the way. Thank you all!
Steve Webb. (Alcoholic. Drug Addict…… Christian.)