Back from the Wild Side

Steps away from God lead only to destruction.

by Rick Stock as told to Jeanette Littleton

Somewhere inside, my brain knew it was cold. I saw white puffs when I breathed. I heard the wind whipping the chains on the courthouse flagpole.

But as I put my head against the frosty green Pinto, I didn’t feel cold. It was a good thing: I didn’t know where my coat was.

Dilemma

If I had noticed the cold, I probably would have noticed the stink. My shirt was soaked with a regurgitated mixture of grain alcohol and orange juice.

“What will we do with him this time?” I heard one of my cousins say.

“Doanworryboume,” I slurred. Then everything went black as I felt my head bounce against the door. I came to later when I heard the word hospital.

“Can’t take him there,” Ronnie said. “We’ll all get in trouble.”

“What if we can’t bring him around the next time he goes out?” Phil argued.

“Let’s go to the emergency room.”

“Mom and Dad will kill us if they find out we’ve been with Rick again,” Donny said.

I tried to tell them I was fine. But the effort was too much. I was out again.

Partying

Being at my cousins’ mercy was nothing new. I’d started drinking at 16, three years earlier, when my manager at Dairy Queen had brought some whiskey to work. We started partying after closing every night.

At first he picked up the stuff for my co-workers and me because we were all underage. Later we drove 20 miles to the state line and found places that would sell to us.

False freedom

I soon learned how to mix drinks for the quickest buzz. That was my purpose: to get drunk as rapidly as possible.

Once drunk, I felt free. I could be as goofy as I liked — do things I would never do while sober. I felt free from feeling like the lonely outsider I’d been ever since moving from Los Angeles. And I felt free from the guilt of knowing I was the biggest hypocrite around.

Spiritual decline

I knew that what I was doing was not right. I’d been raised in a Christian home and had accepted Christ as my Savior while still a young child. In my Los Angeles church of 500, I was pegged as a leader. People thought I might grow up to be an evangelist.

When I was 13, we moved to Missouri. Our tiny country church offered no spiritual challenge. We didn’t have any activities or youth group, and I wasn’t a leader anymore.

My Bible reading became sketchy. Because I’d been regarded as a super Christian, I saw myself as “above the law.” I didn’t consider a lot of things I did as sin because I thought I was too good to sin.

So when my manager introduced me to alcohol, it didn’t seem like a major step away from God.

Black sheep

I was still going to church every week. I felt conviction sometimes, but I became callous. My parents didn’t have a clue about my drinking; they worried only about drugs. They caught me coming home drunk a time or two, but were too naïve to know it.

My cousins all knew, though. They were the ones I usually drank with. My Aunt Fernie and Uncle Buck had recently found out too. They had forbidden my cousins to spend time with me. Once I’d been the spiritual leader. Now I was the black sheep of the family, the bad influence, the outcast.

Fury

When I came to again, I tried to focus on the car’s dome light. I could hear steps shuffling through the gravel.

“Ronnie said we can’t take Rick into his house,” Donny said. “He doesn’t want to see Rick in that shape. He said he’s sick of it.”

“Aren’t we all,” Phil muttered.

I felt fury rising in me. Of all my cousins, I’d been closed to Donny. And now, he didn’t want to see me.

“Take me home,” I demanded groggily, focusing my eyes on Phil’s face in the seat beside me.

“Yeah, I think he’ll make it now,” Phil said. The dome light went off.

Fatigue

At the same time, a light went on in my brain. I realized I was tired. Tired of living just to party. I was tired of the expense. That’s why I’d started mixing grain alcohol and fruit juice — it was cheaper.

I was tired of feeling that I didn’t belong. That’s why I’d started drinking. In the quest to gain friendship and acceptance, I was losing the people who meant the most to me.

Most of all, I was tired of being a hypocrite.

Returning to God

I kept drinking, but it stopped being fun.

A few weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, I walked into a party and saw the emptiness in my friends’ eyes. I knew there was a better life waiting for me. And I knew the first step to getting there was going across town, where my church was holding a watch night service.

When the pastor gave an invitation, I nearly ran to the altar. This time my commitment was a lifelong dedication. I was tired of what I’d done and wanted to put the old life behind me forever.

Rebirth

Immediately, the drinking stopped. Even though I already knew the Bible pretty well, I was like a new Christian. Hungry to learn, I spent hours reading my Bible and praying. The pastor got me involved in leadership again and frequently checked on me.

I couldn’t help telling others about my faith. I’d found something I really needed and wanted. I’d embarked on the best lifestyle a person could have, and I wanted everybody else to live that lifestyle too.

Life lessons

Years later, I still feel that way. I’m partly glad for my prodigal experience. Some Christians are wishy-washy because they’re curious about what it would be like to walk on the wild side. I’ve been there. I know it’s destructive, not fulfilling. As a result, it’s easier for me to maintain a lifelong commitment.

I’ve found that there’s too much benefit to living the committed Christian life. I’m glad I came back. I’ll never leave it again.