Jesus changed my life. Here’s my story.
I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. I was the kid who always worked and played hard. I knew I could be anything I wanted to be if I just put my mind to it. I loved sports and exercise. I pretty much had a normal childhood…except for the physical and mental abuse I endured from my father when he was drinking. That abuse led me to a life far from what I had dreamed of as a child.
I never knew real love from my father. I only knew broken bones and fighting with him. He was very physical, and I was scared to death of him. The abuse grew worse as I got older. My sister escaped the turmoil of our home by leaving for college and marrying soon after.
My mom did her best to hold our family together. She smoothed over the bumps and made everyone feel loved. She took us kids to church on Sunday, and I attended occasional youth activities. But church was just something I did; God was just someone I called on to get me out of trouble.
There was a lot of pain in my heart because of my father’s abuse, and early in my teenage years, I became a binge drinker. It helped mask my pain and confusion. It also seemed fun at the time.
When I was sober, life was good. People loved Sober Scott. It didn’t hurt that I could fix just about anything. My friends’ parents loved me! But when I drank, it always ended badly for me and those around me. Every good relationship I ever had was blown because of alcohol and self-centeredness.
Because of my substance abuse, I had numerous run-ins with the law in my teenage years. To straighten myself out, I enlisted in the Navy immediately after high school graduation. I hoped military life would change me.
In the Navy, I continued to use alcohol to the extreme. Because of an injury, I was honorably discharged in 1979. The drinking and drugging continued, and I racked up six DUIs. In 1982, I was sent to prison. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Not long after my release from my first prison term, I met the girl of my dreams, got married, had two great kids, and moved to England. I was doing very well and was known by those in the community as “the Yank plumber.” I had picked up the plumbing trade from my father.
It seemed everyone liked me. But lo and behold, I patted myself on the back and picked up a drink…and then another…and another. Drinking ruined that life within four years and brought more pain to myself and my family. My wife, understandably, divorced me, and I ran back to the States.
Unfortunately, I brought me with me. And the cycle continued.
Because of my behavior while under the influence, I ended up back in prison for four more years. When I got out, I did a little of the church thing, got healthy, and swore I wouldn’t drink again. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, did the steps, and tried to stay in control of my life, but it wasn’t long before I was right back at the bottle again. And again, I ended up in prison.
The cycle kept repeating itself. It’s a wonder I’m not dead because of the life I led.
I had great work habits and had so much to offer to the world, but when alcohol entered my system, everything good about me went right out the window. Alcoholism caused me to be unemployable. It caused me to lose everything precious to me and to break every promise I ever made to anyone.
I wanted to be different, but I wanted to fix my problem my way. It never dawned on me that I couldn’t fix myself. I didn’t know yet that Jesus was the only One who could release me from my alcoholism and its underlying cause, pain. Programs are great—I believe they are essential to a person’s healing process—but without God, the program’s success is temporary at best. God is eternal.
It was during my most recent prison sentence (30 years for burglary) that I finally realized something had to change. Society was tired of me, and I was tired of me. I decided it was time to be teachable; to do things God’s way. I finally asked God to take the controls of my life and to teach me a new way to live. That was in 2000.
To help me in my journey, Mom got me a new Bible. I got myself involved in every program I could. But something was still missing—a personal relationship with Jesus. In 2003, behind prison walls, I found this missing piece through a four-day program by Kairos Prison Ministries that teaches inmates to walk closely with Jesus.
During this event, God moved on me like never before. Through His Word and the Kairos team, the Lord showed me real love. I wanted this love, and like the men of Kairos, I wanted to bring God’s message of hope and love to others like me experiencing pain. At that event, I put my faith and trust in Jesus and I’ve been following Him ever since. Praise God, He has removed from me every desire for alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and many other character defects.
For the past 15 years, I have served the Lord behind prison walls. Currently, I am incarcerated at Avon Park Correctional Facility. I’ve facilitated many programs and have done my best to help others see that Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems. Admittedly, I am a work in progress. I’m grateful that God isn’t done with me yet.
One day, when I’m on the other side of these walls, I hope to continue to impact the world for Christ and be the man I always wanted to be. I know as long as I keep Jesus first, it’s possible. All things are possible with God!
Does this story strike a chord for you? Read the entire May 2018 issue here.
Written by Scott Obertson
Photo by Ben White