Monthly Archives: June 2016

I Came Here To Live: Father Of An Addict’s Story

By Wes Emerson

My favorite country singer is the great Trace Adkins. Trace is known for many great hits, and I own his greatest hits CD. The last song on Adkins’ Greatest Hits somehow is not familiar to many: “I Came Here To Live.” This song resonated with me and struck a chord in my heart during my son’s seven year struggle with drug addiction. While it invoked sadness in my heart, it also gave me hope for my young tormented son.

“I Came Here To Live” tells a story of a young man in the grips of alcoholism. Though Aaron was addicted to heroin (not alcohol), I related well to the story in Trace’s story as a father. The afflicted son in Adkins’ song has a devout God fearing mother and a good, albeit frustrated father. Trace sings,“Mama taught the Sunday Bible class. For 18 years I remember thinking, there was more to life than that. So I ran the streets to beat the devil, goin’ as fast as I could fly… Cuz’ I came here to live, I didn’t come here to die.”

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My son was raised in a Christian home. He knew right from wrong. He placed his faith in Christ at a young age, but numerous turmoils struck his young life and he turned to drugs to alleviate his pain. He quickly became an addict. Drug offenses placed him into the criminal system at an early age and he spent much of his youth behind bars. However, nothing deterred him in his drug quest and we spent many sleepless nights worrying about Aaron. As Trace sings, “Mama used to wait for me with the porch light on, worried bout her little boy til’ I got home. Daddy he’d say ‘Listen son,’ but back then there wasn’t much I already didn’t know.”

As parents of a seemingly hopeless addict, we suffered greatly with broken hearts. I personally had reached the point where I had lost all hope for my son. Finally, there did come a turning point in his life. He became sick of being sick and was tired of the dead end lifestyle of drugs. He was a child of God and the Lord never gave up on him. As Trace sings so beautifully, “I reckon I was doin’ close to 80 when I felt the tires slip out from underneath. And I never set out lookin’ for Jesus, so I guess Jesus came lookin’ for me…and He found me upside down, in a ditch, with smoke and gas in my eyes. And He said son you came here to live…you didn’t come here to die.”

The alcoholic teen in Adkins’ song had an encounter with the Son of God. He found the will to live and set forth to rebuild his life as a result. Throughout my sons’ addiction from age 14-21, this was my prayer for him. Repeatedly I found myself listening to this song. Each time it brought tears to my eyes as I mourned for this young kid. But it also provided hope when hope was hard to find. My son came here to live, he didn’t come here to die.

My son–and your loved one–came here to live. He didn’t come her to die! Jesus said,”I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”(John 10:10). Trace Adkins’ song reminds us that there is always hope for our addicted loved ones. Let go and let God! He will bring them back. He will bring them home to you. They came here to live, they didn’t come here to die!

The Day I Decided I Had To Get Sober

By Aaron Emerson

It was a bright, sunny day in Lansing, Michigan. Walking up to the Volunteers of America homeless shelter on the downtown outskirts of Michigan’s capital city with my Dad to my left, I almost felt like he was going to see the run down building, the mean, desperate looking older men outside the door and the place that almost looked caged in and decide that it was not the right decision.

But no, there was no going back. Tears streamed down his eyes and his face still had that sour, depressing, hopeless look as he walked me up to the place that all but spelled out “last resort.” He was out of options. He really meant it this time when he told me the day before that if I used heroin one more time in his house, I was not welcome in the family home.

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Yes, even though I was 21, it was still a family home to my siblings and I. My sister and I still lived there, and even though my two older brothers were moved out, it was still the place we all felt the safest at. But me, Aaron Emerson, the son of a successful, local pastor, I was not welcome there anymore.

I chose heroin over my family again. Sticking a needle in my arm to pump a chemical into my system that would rid me of my sickness and self-hatred, well, that was the only thing that mattered to me. So here I was with a father that literally lived up the “best Dad in the world” claim,” getting hauled off to the home of the unwanted, societal-low-lives, and drug addict thieves.

When he finally turned to walk back to the car and head back to the warm community of Mason, leaving me there with a backpack full of clothes and old bag of needles, I saw how sad he was. Tears streamed down his face. He couldn’t look me in the eye. But even though he was so defeated, lonely, and angry at me, he still had the love in his heart to tell me he loved me.

I decided right then and there, when I saw his back to me and the slow, humiliating walk back to his Toyota Corolla, that I was going to do anything it took to get sober and make him proud of me again someday. I had done long stints in jail – even a full 12 months at one time – been to countless rehabs, and overdosed several times, but the pain I experienced that day was what finally hit me over the head to force some kind of change.

Heroin completely ran my life up to that point. I was a shell of the person I used to be. At one time a popular, top-notch athlete, I was now someone nobody even wanted to consider having around. Everybody knew my only objective in life was to find heroin each day, destroying anything in my way to get it. But that time after my Dad dropped me off at the shelter, I knew that was going to change.

So after sleeping on a filthy, smelly, dirty floor cramped in a day room on some uncomfortable, skinny mattress, I woke up at 6 a.m. – when the shelter kicks you out on the streets – and immediately came up with a plan to get better. A case manager I knew, Deb Smith, got me into a 10 day detox and rehab in Jackson. At that rehab, for the first time in my life, I took sobriety serious and did everything the counselors and staff asked of me. I chose to stay as long as I could instead of getting out after the detox was over. I got hooked up with a recovery coach when I got out named Phil.

Phil had lost a son to an overdose and didn’t put up with any bullshit. He called it how it was and told me exactly what I needed to hear. He met with me and put together a recovery plan that laid out what I was to do one day at a time. I did everything he told me to. I went to 12-Step meetings, I let my parents control my money and phone, I deleted my Facebook and cut off all contact from anyone remotely involved in the drug world. And after 10 days of following his plan and miraculously staying sober, I finally felt some dignity and pride. I decided that was what I wanted.

Let me be honest: it wasn’t easy from there. Even though I got into recovery at that point, there were relapses and troubled times. But since that day my Dad threw up a hail mary – the last thing he could do when the end was staring him in the face – I changed my life. I am now a contributing member of society, a successful college student. My family and I – including my Dad – are now in great standing and have had our relationships restored. After many years of opioid addiction, it was the look on my Dad’s face that finally got my attention and made me get my life together. I never thought I could ever stay sober for more than a few hours, but here I am, sober and loving life. I know you can too. It doesn’t have to take a horrible, life changing experience. Sobriety is a one day at a time journey, and if you decide you want recovery, just stay clean one day at a time, even one hour at a time. I promise you can do it!

New Recovery Video Series

I recently started a YouTube video series where I talk about what I’m doing for my recovery. In the videos, I will share how I’m feeling, how long I’ve been sober, what I’m doing to stay sober, and inspirational messages. I really think it could be a new, positive attitude to spread hope and show people what it’s like to try to stay sober one day at a time. Here is my first video!


Major League Pitcher Matt Bush Enjoying Sobriety

By Aaron Emerson

Matt Bush is a Major League Baseball player. He has been a very productive pitcher out of the Texas Rangers bullpen. He is 30 years old. Oh, and one other thing: he is a recovering alcoholic who served a lengthy prison stint because of his addiction.

Bush is having a terrific season. If you know baseball stats, you know that a 1.08 ERA in 18 games pitched is about as good as you can get. But to me, that’s not the most interesting part. He has a very troubled past and turned his life around. Now, he lives his life for God and is very active in his recovery.

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It’s a pretty rare story for a professional athlete. Often times, it’s the other way around. Someone with a ton of talent gets rich and spirals out of control with booze and drugs like Johnny Manziel. But Bush got his life together after a long period of alcoholism and messing up his life.

Bush was the number one overall draft pick in 2004, but his drinking got out of control. He picked up three different DUI charges and in 2012 was sentenced to more than four years in prison after crashing into a 72-year-old riding a motorcycle while driving drunk. But he turned to God in prison and decided to turn his life around for good.

After getting out of prison, he went to Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and begged for a chance to pitch. At first opposed to it, Daniels agreed to give him a shot. He is definitely not regretting that decision today. Bush is dominating and is a big part of a solid bullpen for one of the best teams in baseball. But God and sobriety are at the front of his mind at all times. He doesn’t ever step into a bar with his teammates, even to have a pop. He can’t drive for 10 years and the team has someone designated to follow him around at home at all times, helping him stay sober and stay on track.

“This time, I leaned on God for help and support,” Bush told USA Today. “Allowing the Rangers organization to help me, give me guidance and structure.”

Bush has now been sober for four years and two months. He puts up with a lot of harassment from fans on the road, but he has learned to not let it bother him. It’s a unique story for a professional athlete, but to people in the recovery community, Bush is just one of us. What an inspiration.

Addicts: Hurting People, Not Losers

By Wes Emerson

What I am about to share with you, as the father of a recovering addict, is deeply personal, even painful. It is submitted to offer insights as to why some turn to drugs. I share this, not to condone drug use, but rather to hopefully enlighten those who view drug addicts as “losers.”

He stood there at the window of my office in the parsonage. Silently and without expression he stared across the field at the only church he had ever known. He remained this way for several minutes, before retreating to his bedroom with tears in his eyes. When my son came home from school the day after Easter, he learned that his dad had been abruptly fired after pastoring the Eden UB congregation for over fourteen years. It was April 17, 2006, and Aaron was 14 years of age.

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When he went to his room he did what came naturally to him–he wrote, putting his feelings into words on paper. He emerged from his room an hour later, and handed me a letter he had written to the church board. I will always remember that note, which began with the words, “Congratulations. You have just fired the nicest guy in the world.”

He went on to mention all the good qualities he saw in his dad and talked of my accomplishments as Pastor of this growing church. He then proceeded to mention the many losses that I, his dad, had endured while pastoring at Eden from 1992-2006. In this sensitive letter my son talked about his dad’s personal suffering in words I had never heard him express.

However, my suffering was also his suffering! Many tragedies took place in my life during my pastorate at Eden. When Aaron was four, my dad was killed in a car accident. My son had a special bond with Grandpa Emerson, and suddenly he was gone. In the aftermath Aaron was diagnosed with separation anxiety. Four years later my brother Reg died, and later that year my mother died on December 16,1999. At age 8 my son had experienced yet another loss.

Being a quiet,?introverted kid Aaron bore his pain silently. Two years later my sister Becky, who was a part of my sons life, committed suicide. A couple years later we received the news that my brothers son had died of an accidental overdose, on the eve of my oldest child’s wedding. Aaron had always looked up to his cousin Don and he dearly loved him. This obviously put a damper on the wedding celebration, and God only knows how this tragedy affected my boy Aaron, then a young teen.

Looking back, my suffering was also Aaron’s suffering! Grief and loss had impacted my young sons life. He was hurting! He was wounded and deeply scarred, to say the least.

In addition to the grief Aaron experienced in his formative years there was another significant factor which compounded his struggles. In his teen years he suffered from two major concussions while playing baseball and football. The second concussion occurred while he was playing quarterback for Mason HS in the ninth grade. After being knocked unconscious by a dirty, late hit by a Fowlerville player, Aaron was unconscious and didn’t know where he was, what day it was, who he was, or who I was. He didn’t even know his own name!

So it was that in the 9th grade, after all these traumatic events in his young life, my son began to use drugs. After all of these “events” my son began to use drugs. We sought the help of a reputable psychiatrist, who referred him to a noted neuro-psychologist for testing. We learned that Aaron’s brain had been impaired as a result of the concussions and that his choices and actions afterwards were directly attributed to the impact on his brain.

You may wonder why I am telling you all this. I am sharing my sons story to enlighten those who deem drug addicts as “losers.” So many think that addicts choose on their own accord a life of addiction. Many take the position that the addict made the decision to use and should therefore suffer the consequences. Many refer to drug addicts as losers, the scum of the earth,and even say “Let them die–who cares?”

I submit to you that many drug addicts are hurting, wounded people, just like my son. But you dont know their story. At a tender age my son experienced the unjust firing of the dad he loves. He was forced as a result to live in someone else’s home for two years. He lost many close loved ones at an early age and sustained two major concussions. It was then that he turned to drugs as a means to escape the pain he silently endured.

Can you call this young man a “loser.”? My son was a very good person, a caring, sensitive person at heart. To this day he possesses a loving heart for others, especially the underdog ‘s of society. He is anything but a loser! Always remember that drug addicts are not “losers.” Many of them are hurting, wounded people. Pray for them and support them as best as you can! Please, do not despise them. Drug addictds are hurting people, just as my son was and continues to be.

Please, do not despise them and always remember the old saying,”There but for the grace of God go I.” Drug addicts are hurting people…