Thursday, February 9, 2012

The week my life changed

A beautiful Tuesday morning, and I was sitting in the exam room at the clinic, my left foot in a walking boot, unable to put any pressure on my big toe at all. The joint was inflamed, tender, and sore. It had a bright red color that screamed infection, and it was warm enough I could have toasted a marshmallow over it. I had a pretty good idea what the diagnosis would be, and the doctor didn't disappoint. 37 years young and I have gout.

This is probably the most painful physical affliction I have ever had. I don't think I would wish this on my worst enemy. I spent a week in a walking boot when I had to move, or laying on the couch with my foot propped up when I didn't. I was taking ibuprofen like it was candy, and it barely touched the pain. A round of corticosteroids finally got the inflammation under control, and I can finally wear regular shoes again.

Naturally, I got the lecture from the doctor about lifestyle changes. I need to lose weight (5' 6" short, I clocked in north of 200 lbs on their scale that morning). I need to cut back on my protein, because that's one of the main sources of uric acid in your body. Drink lots of fluids, because proper hydration helps your kidneys flush the acid from your system. Definitely cut out the beer, and should really just cut out all alcohol period.

Over the next few days, my wife and I spent a lot of time talking to people, and researching "gout-safe diets" online. A veritable ocean of information, a lot of it contradictory and confusing. But there was one constant in all of it: Cut out the alcohol, especially beer.

I slowly came to a realization. I was spending as much time trying to figure what alcohol, in what quantities, I could still have in my diet as I was trying to figure what foods I could and couldn't eat. This was very eye-opening. Here I was, with a health issue that can be very debilitating, and I couldn't just say "Okay, no more of that" to one of the major catalysts of the problem.

Houston, we have a problem.

A gorgeous Sunday morning, and I was sitting in worship with my wife. Our church is going through a time of change. Our Senior Pastor retiring, and the Pastor Search Committee came forward with a recommendation for a candidate. He would be coming the next week to preach in view of a call (that's Baptist-speak for "interview for the job" or "audition for the job"). The interim pastor was wrapping up his sermon and leading up to the altar call, and asked that everyone physically able come down front to pray for the church, for the candidate, and for the selection process. We stood up and walked down front with the rest of the congregation, but I didn't head for the altar. Grabbing my wife's hand, and apologizing left and right as we weaved through the crowd, I headed for one of the pastors. I had a confession to make.

Hi, my name's Matt and I'm a believer in Christ that struggles with alcoholism. For me, at least, there is no such as casual drinking. When I care more about the next drink than I do about what's best for my health, it's serious.

It has now been over a week and a half since I've had a drink. I have started trying to study my bible and pray every day. It's hard, but in the end it's worth it. With my dietary changes and quitting alcohol, I'm already down to 190 pounds, well on my way to my current goal weight of 170. My attitude has improved, and my wife says that I'm more pleasant to be around these days.

The biggest thing I've learned about myself so far is that it's hard admitting I don't have it all together, that I can't do it all myself. I want approbation. I want people to think I'm in control and under control, forgetting that we are all broken, that we are all sinners, that we all fall short of God's perfection. I finally came to that point of brokenness that Sunday morning, and that has made all the difference.

Here are a few verses that have really touched my heart this week.

"I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him"
Isaiah 57:18

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him."
1 John 5:14-15

"Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer."
Psalm 4:1

"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."
Job 23:10

"Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught."
Psalm 55:1-2


  1. I bet this was a tough post to write.

    Kudos on your realization, and your life changes, and your working on this through your church.

    I've not experience alcoholism myself, having been a teetotaler for the first 40 years of my life, but I've seen it close up - several times - and I know it's tough.

    Hang in there. I have no doubt that you'll do great, given your self-insights, your rationality, and your faith.

    Good luck, and my prayers to you.

    1. A very tough post. I've been debating whether I should all week. But, it is who I am. I'm NOT perfect, and denying a fundamental aspect of myself is not being honest about it.

      Also, if it can help even one other person address a hard fact about themselves, then it's worth it.

      I thank you for prayers.

  2. We'll be keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers, not only for your health, but for the strength you and your family is going to need.