‘… That moment’
“I loved that smell,” Chuck recalls. “There was something about it. I used to say to myself, even way back then, ‘Someday I’m going to be able to go in there.’ ”
Chuck moved to New Jersey when he was 10 and joined a rock band at 13; he would hide small bottles of alcohol in his guitar case.
“It came to a point that I wouldn’t play without it,” he said. “That’s really how I started drinking.”
Chuck says he didn’t drink much in high school. But he was drafted shortly after graduating in 1969 and shipped off to combat in Vietnam, where he smoked marijuana and took speed and opiates.
He returned home in 1970 and started using hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, and peyote.
“Constantly,” Chuck said.
One hot day, Chuck was working construction when he went to lunch with his foreman, who ordered a beer.
“When that guy poured that beer, it looked like a commercial,” Chuck recalls. “I said, ‘I’ll have one, too.’ That was the beginning of the end.”
“I would make sure that I knew [of] a bar that would open up at 8 o’clock in the morning, and I would have a couple of shots and a couple of beers before I’d even go to work,” he said.
His life soon spiraled out of control. He and his wife divorced.
Chuck remarried, but his lifestyle didn’t change.
“I would go out on a Thursday night when I got paid, and I wouldn’t come home sometimes until Sunday morning.” He would throw $20 on the table; it was all he had left.
Chuck would often wake up in his car and pray for God to deliver him or let him die.
“There were times I tried to overdose on cocaine,” he said.
On New Year’s Eve 1994, Chuck was sober and at home with his daughter, who was almost 2 years old. She went through a crying spell, and Chuck could not get her to stop.
“I said, ‘Do you want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about,’ ” Chuck said.
He turned his daughter on her stomach and slapped her once on the behind.
“I raised my hand a second time and right then and there … it was like I was laying in the crib looking up at me,” Chuck said. “I got to see what my daughter saw, and it was a monster. It was horrendous. I never did bring my hand down that second time.”
Chuck ran to his bedroom and got down on his knees and cried out to God.
“I said, ‘I’ve begged you to help me. I’ve begged you to take my life … but you didn’t help me. So you know what? You take it. You deal with it. I’m giving it to you.’
“It was literally like He was just waiting for me to say that. That’s all He ever was looking for from me—for me to hand it to Him and to leave it at the foot of the Cross.”
Chuck adds, “Nothing worked until that moment. Literally from that moment, I’ve been sober.”
Chuck worked for a printing business where alcohol was readily available. “I knew I couldn’t stay there,” he said.
A co-worker showed Chuck a job ad for a printing position at The Salvation Army’s Territorial Headquarters in West Nyack, N.Y. He took the job and worked for 19 years in a Christian environment.
“I was safe,” he said. “I was secure. It was a wonderful, wonderful place to be.”
So wonderful that Chuck remembers that one time when he was working late, then–Captain Kenneth W. Maynor, now the territory’s program secretary, brought him dinner from his own home. Chuck told Maynor that his father was dying.
“Right there in the hallway, with people coming and going, [Maynor] said, ‘Let’s pray.’ I will never forget that as long as I live,” Chuck said.
Chuck, who left The Salvation Army last year to care for his mother in Canada, considered his years with The Salvation Army a blessing.
“When I handed everything over to God, He didn’t only take care of the drugs and the alcohol,” Chuck said. “God said, ‘Now that you’ve given it to me, let me show you what I can do.’ ”
Years after he stopped drinking, Chuck walked past a bar in New Jersey and was astounded that the smell had no pull anymore.
He walked past twice just to be sure.
“That’s when I knew that scent that called me for so many years was taken from me,” he said.
by Robert Mitchell