Real Peace

“My fights with Amy were worsening, and our family went into a severe crisis. I felt like I’d done everything I was supposed to do. How could God let this happen?” – Hugh Stephenson

“It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. My buddy and I had gone to a Mavs game, a bar and an all night after-party,” said Hugh Stephenson. “Pouring myself into a cab, I mumbled my home address to the driver. The taxi pulled up to what I thought was my house, and I stumbled out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly I realized I was actually a couple of miles away from home. I could barely stand, much less walk. If the police found me, I’d be arrested for public intoxication and lose my professional licenses and everything else I valued. Scared by the lights of an approaching car, I crawled behind a tree so nobody would see me.

“I’d always been the anxious rebel. I thought the solution was to be self-reliant, work hard and make a lot of money. I tried to control everything and everyone, though I knew that was impossible. I was sure if I worked hard enough I could manage the complexities of my life.

“Angry and resentful, I frequently lost my temper and yelled at employees, bosses, my wife and kids. Nobody ever met my expectations, and no amount of accolades or success was ever enough. Exhausted by the end of each week, I would withdraw into alcohol and pornography.

“I attended church and even took classes on theology, philosophy and church history. I concluded that God was uninvolved in the details of my life. Self-reliance was all I could count on. The problem was that self-reliance worked just enough to keep me under the illusion of control.

“That fallacy of self-control came unraveled as I sat there drunk on the sidewalk. Everything I valued hung by a thread. My wife, Amy, rarely woke up during the night. But as I prayed for God to rescue me, Amy called. I mumbled out exactly where I was, and she came and got me. That was both a relief and the beginning of the end.

“Over the next two years, my self-reliance failed. I’d already gone through 10 administrative assistants, and I lost two more. My fights with Amy worsened, and our family went into a severe crisis. I felt like I’d done everything I was supposed to do. How could God let this happen? I had a few glimpses at a different way of life when Amy and I visited Watermark. But that seemed like a very small hope.

“I knew I should not start drinking again, but on a hunting trip in December of 2012 I drank so much I could barely walk. Defeated, lost and alone, I cried out to God and prayed for Him to take control of my life. I felt a very strange sensation come over me that lasted for several seconds. I knew right away I had been healed. For the first time since I was 15, I did not have a craving for alcohol.

“I knew I needed recovery and wanted Christ-centered ministries to show me the way. The first night I came to Watermark’s re:generation recovery ministry, I heard an amazing story of struggle, surrender and redemption through God’s grace. I was so encouraged to be in a place where people were authentic. The next night I went to Prodigal, Watermark’s ministry for families in crisis. I have been involved with these ministries ever since, and now am privileged to serve on the leadership team in both.

“As I continued my recovery, my hard heart melted. The Lord showed me how much damage 40 years of rebellion, pornography and alcohol had done to my life and my family. My addiction to self-reliance – the real source of my misery – robbed me of the opportunity to trust in the Lord.

“The knowledge I accumulated about God became real to me as I studied God’s Word and built community with other believers. I fully trusted Jesus, and He helped me related to others in a different way. My wife and I learned that a more joyful life together and as parents was possible when we surrendered our lives and our kids to the Lord. I started spending time praying for direction from God and loving and serving my family in practical ways.

“When tempted by alcohol and pornography, I would pray for strength from God to keep me sober and pure. I started turning to the wise counsel of others and making decisions from a biblical foundation. Surrendering every part of my life to God, I finally understood that my only chance at true peace and joy was through embracing God’s will.

“Today Amy and I are literally on the same page as we read and study the Bible together. Of course we still have issues, but we are committed to talking things through
and using the Bible as the foundation of our life together. Our community has been a great encouragement in this as well. We’ve also accepted that God’s plan for our kids is much better than ours. At long last, the negativity and yelling are gone from our home.

“My relationships are much better now because I’m no longer trying to control and manipulate others. I stopped trusting in my own efforts and put my faith in God. As a result, I have the peace and serenity I always wanted. It’s not the peace that comes from this world, but rather, the real peace that only comes from trusting God.”

Last Sunday Hugh’s wife, Amy Stephenson, shared her story in Watermark News. Read her story and many others here.

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