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God Always Had His Eyes on Me: A Celebrate Recovery Story

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By Roland Wade

Halito! I’m a believer in Jesus Christ. My sobriety date is May 28, 1983. God has delivered me from alcoholism and drug addiction for 33 years, and I am grateful for what the Lord has done in my life and my family. I’m a believer who is in recovery and I struggle with alcohol and sexual addiction. My name is Roland.

I am half Choctaw. I was born in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, on January 18, 1950, to a full-blood Choctaw father and a full-blood Coushatta mom from Alton, Louisiana. When I was 5, my father beat me so bad that it left a scar on my leg. Over the next 20 years I became an angry, selfish kid. I hated myself and others. My spirit was broken. Fear had entered my life because I lived in an abusive home.

I didn’t feel like a part of my home and I hurt everyone, including kids. I lied, stole, and drank alcohol until I passed out. When my dad drank too much, he became angry and would beat my mom. I heard stories that my mom got pregnant while my dad was overseas during World War II. All of us kids were afraid of him and I resented him. He went to church on Sundays if he didn’t wind up in jail on Saturday night.

I promised I would never be like him but I became much worse. My drinking took me to jail, institutions, prison, rehab, skid row and almost to the grave.

I started experimenting with alcohol at age 12. For eighteen long years, I stayed intoxicated.  Alcohol became my best friend and I liked it because I no longer felt like the scroungy little Indian boy on the block. I also began having sex with teenage girls. When I was down, one shot could bring me back to life.

I left home at 15 because my drinking was out of hand and the juvenile court sent me to a government boarding school for American Indian kids in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I met teenagers from broken homes. Many had abusive parents.

A bootlegger living a mile from school made it easy to stay drunk just about every weekend. The only discipline the school had was every Friday night, called “Belt Line.” It was two 50-feet lines down the sidewalk where everyone was holding a belt. I got the Belt Line at least twice a month.

Even though the school had church services every Sunday, I never attended. My drinking was more important. I’ve regretted leaving school at the age of 17 with only four more credits to finish.

Over the next few years, I bounced around between Texas and Oklahoma drinking, getting arrested, and doing time in the county jail and the state prison. I was miserable and had no direction in life.

I met a young woman in Dallas and we had a baby girl named Linda. I tried to quit on my own, but the addiction was too powerful.

In 1971, I went to a 30-day alcohol rehab. This was my first introduction to recovery. After 30 days of sobriety I went out and celebrated. For the next 12 years, I was in and out of recovery for drug and alcohol addiction.

During the 70s, I was a thug and a gangster with AIM (American Indian Movement). I traveled with them for many years and served four years in state prison for my crimes. People, gang members, siblings, and family members feared me. I received gunshots four times and stabbings dozens of times from those who wanted me dead and put away. For some reason, I survived.

In prison, I was a gang member. I was surrounded by people who thought like me and lived their lives like I did.

My three daughters were born during my drinking and drug years, each with a different mother. I was like a tumbleweed and a tornado. I messed up people’s lives everywhere I went. My relationships with women never went past a year. I was a runner with no idea what real love was. I was a loser who couldn’t hold onto a job and was afraid to look for one because I thought they might hire me!

After my last prison sentence in Texas, I decided to move on to greener pastures in California, the Golden State. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come ” (ESV).  Change was coming.

In 1980, I was in my 13th recovery home, sitting in a group with twenty-two men when the leader told me that only Jesus could break the chain of my bondage. I told him I could do it on my own and so I stayed sober for 11 months to prove my point. But then … I went out again. I never forgot what he told me about Jesus, but I wasn’t ready to accept him yet.

My turning point came in 1983 when I was arrested for hit and run for the second time in one month. The judge gave me no mercy, ordering me to rehab for two years. I was released from jail and had one week to enter a drug and alcohol program. I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I lost everything and had no hope of ever getting any better. All my relationships and my family were gone. I could not stay sober and I wanted to die. Suicide was my way out. I had already attempted suicide three times in the past, but this time I was going to succeed. Being homeless, I went to live under a bridge to escape and die alone. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (NIV).

I had been leaning on my own understanding and it was getting me nowhere fast! I didn’t know what to do so I just did whatever I wanted to do. However, God was working on my behalf and things were about to get a whole lot better.

To my surprise, an elderly lady named Ruby Smith came to me and asked where I was from and how long I had been here. “All my life,” I said. She asked me if I knew Jesus and I said, “Yeah.” We called him Je-sus, a drug dealer in East Oakland. Ruby said, “Jesus is the Son of God.” I said, “I don’t know him.” She led me in the sinner’s prayer. That moment, the urge for alcohol and drugs vanished from my mind. Now I was stuck with me. I went to an A.A. meeting that night and got my first sponsor. He helped me check into rehab the following day.

Now I know that God always had his eye on me and loved me. He even had some surprises ready for me that helped me grow in my faith because when I got to the rehab I saw someone I knew. Ruby, the lady I met under the bridge, was a cook at the rehab! Her husband was a pastor at the American Indian Baptist Church. My life began to change.

After one year in the rehab program, I was offered a job working as a house manager in the rehab at $3.00 an hour (honest money). I served twenty-two months in the rehab program as a saved man.

I was now a follower of Jesus and after I got out, I became a member at the American Indian Baptist Church in Oakland and served eleven years as an usher on Sunday mornings. Later, I taught Sunday school for kids and attended A.A. regularly.

I met a young lady at an A.A. meeting. She was a marathon runner and had the same kind of upbringing as  I did. She was in recovery and she had a good sponsor. This sponsor would bring five people she sponsored to the meetings every week and she helped them work their program. Anyway, her sponsor told her existing marriage wouldn’t work and she listened.  I led my young lady to the Lord. For five more years I  continued serving in Prison Fellowship , which Chuck Colson started. Then she married me.

In 1999, as a missionary to the American Indians, I met a group of people from a local church and became part of their alcohol program called Overcomers Anonymous.

My wife and I opened our home, which quickly became a recovery home for six men. Once they got sober they could use their skills again and so we started helping the community. People donated food and money for our services. Once there were so many cars at our house the police came because they thought we were doing drugs! We were known as AIM (American Indian Mission).

In Luke 8:39, Jesus states, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”  I was obedient to this Scripture and after three years of sobriety, I worked in the prison ministry and county jail ministries in California. After four years, my pastor invited me to join the Mission Ministry. We started three churches in Northern California. I shared my testimony everywhere the Lord led me. We mainly focused on the American Indians. Ten percent of our people were Christian; ninety percent were traditional or did not believe there is a God.

I met many Native American men and women on the streets and the reservation. Alcohol and drugs was the #1 killer and suicide was #2 among our Indian people. The Lord used me to share that Jesus is the answer. I’m still praying that God intervenes for our Indian nation.

In 2015, someone invited me to Celebrate Recovery at First Baptist Church in Durant, Oklahoma. I was attending A.A. and N.A. and sharing Christ with my friends there. It seemed like I should come and check out Celebrate Recovery because it was the recovery program where Jesus is the higher power. Since I had been following Jesus all those years, it sounded like something I needed to know about.

I started coming and I liked what I saw and heard; Jesus first loved us and Celebrate Recovery talks about this love Jesus has for all of us. When the men’s step study class started, I got in it. I did the homework and made friends in the class. Jesus is the reason I got sober and I want to tell everyone.

In step study, the first thing I had to do was admit my faults and realize I was powerless over people, places and things. I learned things about myself and I completed the inventory. It was easy because I’d been doing this kind of recovery work for years. These steps were different than the other twelve steps I had done because I could now share my deliverance through Jesus Christ.

When I look back on my life, I can see how God watched over me and kept me from dying. Remember when I was in my 13th recovery house and first heard that Jesus could break my chains? Well, the seed was planted and it grew. It took three years, but by the time the elderly lady talked to me under the bridge, I was ready to accept Jesus into my heart. God has always watched over me and I know he is the reason I’m alive today.

I decided I wanted to be a leader at Celebrate Recovery so after I completed the step study, I filled out the application, took the training classes and now I have written my testimony. You will see me leading the men’s Open Share Group on Monday nights. All of this happened because of Jesus and the way he healed me and keeps on healing me.

This year Celebrate Recovery has started to focus on the American Indian community. At the Summit meetings, they talked about Celebrate Recovery Native Nations, which means they want to encourage all Celebrate Recovery groups to pay attention to my people who need recovery. This is starting at the same time I am becoming a Celebrate Recovery leader. I think God had a plan for me and my people and for Celebrate Recovery a long time ago. He is a good God.

In Celebrate Recovery, I pray we can teach every person to know that Jesus is the light of the world. I am going into the Bryan County Jail every Saturday morning to witness to the men about Jesus and invite them to come to Celebrate Recovery when they get out. I am there on Monday night watching for the newcomers. Sometimes I give them a ride. We eat supper together and talk. I know it is important to have a friend who will help. Principle 8 at Celebrate Recovery says: “Yield myself to God to be used to bring this good news to others, both by my example and by my words.” That is what I’m doing and that is why I’m giving my testimony. I want to be used by God to help others.

Remember I told you about the young lady I met at the A.A. meeting in California? We have been married for seventeen years. Today we are still in recovery … serving the Lord … and serving others. Thanks to Celebrate Recovery, we are growing and glowing.  I am clean and sober for 33 years, and I am happily married. We have three daughters, a son, and eleven grandkids. God is good and life is good.

My suggestion to all of you is that if you are in bondage to drugs, alcohol, or anything, we here at Celebrate Recovery invite you to join us. We love you because Jesus Christ first loved us.
Thank you for letting me share what Jesus has done for me and my family.

Yakoke (thank you in the Choctaw language).


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