Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) at WCC
Joe Miller is the coordinator of the group that meets at WCC each week.
the meeting is a Closed Men’s Meeting that meets every Tuesday at 7:00 PM in building “B”.
Read Joe’s story here.
Joe Miller’s Testimony:
I grew up in the Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois as a nominal Catholic. My parents did not go to church because they had not been married in the church, but they sent me, and I took my first communion and was confirmed at the appropriate ages. Although I went to public schools through the 12th grade, I did attend a Catholic college for my first two years. This is where I began drinking heavily and began to feel hypocritical as many of my fellow students did not seem to be leading a Spirit-filled life.
I transferred to a secular school for my junior year, but was unable to complete my degree in Economics due to heavy drinking and my initial bouts with clinical depression. I was going to be drafted as the Vietnam War was on and decided to join the United States Marine Corps Reserve program in 1965 to avoid the draft. By this time I had fallen away from the church.
After my six months of active duty, I went to work as a sales trainee for a Fortune 500 company and continued to pursue my degree at night. I progressed rapidly in the company. I worked for this company in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles in various sales capacities, and continued my heavy drinking. In fact, I actually got paid to drink because the way business was done in the oil industry those days was through heavy entertainment of the customers. My life was essentially Godless and the farther I got away from Him, the more often I suffered from periods of depression. All the while the heavy drinking continued. I eventually got my degree in economics in 1968.
I met a wonderful girl (My wife of 44 years Caroline) in 1968 and she had just joined the Episcopal Church so I started attending again with her. We belonged to a parish here in Southern California and were quite active. I eventually was elected to the vestry (board) of the church, ran the men’s club monthly pancake breakfast and participated in many other parish organizations. I remember sitting in church on Sunday with my mind drifting to all the church business I was involved in, and I never really had a personal relationship with Christ in those days.
There were a lot of parties with alcohol in that church which fit my lifestyle well, and I continued my heavy drinking. I never lost a job or missed a day of work due to the drinking, but I did take time off for the regular bouts of depression and contemplated suicide more than once. There was clearly something missing from my life, but I just did not know what it was.
In 1978 the company selected me to be General Manager of a major division headquartered in Kansas City with four separate factories and about 600 employees. This was my first chance at an upper management job and I was filled with false pride. I threw myself into the job and worked 6 days a week while actually cutting back my drinking significantly for about 18 months. The job paid so well that we were able to tithe for the first time in our church lives, but again I was a distracted, nominal Christian. The family was unhappy in Kansas, and in 1980 I took a similar job as VP and General Manager of another Fortune 500 company division located in Los Angeles. After the move from Kansas, we went back to our old church for a time but there was a scandal with the pastor and we did not like the direction the Episcopal Church was taking. I shortly quit attending and did not go to church again for almost 20 years. Needless to say things got worse, and even though I started a successful business of my own in 1984, the drinking and depression continued until 1991 when I felt completely lost and empty. I had this awful feeling that I just wanted to run away from all my responsibilities and die. I didn’t have a friend or a God I could talk to and was despondent.
By this time, our 19 year old son was doing drugs and getting in trouble. We put him in a 30 day recovery home and it was there that I was first exposed to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had always thought AA was some kind of a cult, and since my denial kept me from acknowledging my alcoholism, it had no appeal to me. But we attended many 12-step meetings with Johnny over the month he was in rehab and I began to see that my drinking was a problem.
I started attending AA at the Lutheran Church on Irvine Center drive every Tuesday and learned that the program’s purpose was to bring the substance abuser to God. As a result of that decision several things happened:
- I stopped drinking October 5th of 1991 and have never had a drop of alcohol or other mind-altering substance since then.
- I created a God of “my own understanding” for 10 years according to the tradition of AA and turned my will and life over to Him.
- I sought out medical and counseling help for my depression at the suggestion of a long-time AA member and have had my mental illness in remission now for 18 years.
- At the ten year mark of my sobriety I began to attend Saddleback Church as a result of the witness of a fellow recovering alcoholic and have been a tithing member there since 2002.
- After reading the Bible through for the first time in my life and Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized in 2004.
I thank God for that church and other congregations here in Irvine that opened their doors to meetings of AA over the past 20 years. Although many sober alcoholics remain unchurched, many Irvine AA members have come to Christ through the program. That is probably why there are scores of AA meetings at Irvine churches every week.
The interesting thing about my decision for Christ is that I first had to accept a “generic” God through the program of AA. Thanks to my drinking and the parish scandal previously mentioned, I did not think that God much cared about me or anyone else. I had always believed in a Creator but had not taken the Bible as the literal, inspired word of God. As I began to explore “religion” through my newly found sobriety I found salvation through the risen Christ, and this changed my entire outlook on life. I now have that peace that passes all understanding and have been able to conquer many other defects of character as a result of my relationship with Christ. As an example, I had been overweight almost my entire life until I turned the sin of gluttony over to God and lost 70 pounds over the past two years. The money we save by eating less is used to sponsor a child in Rwanda and other worthy charities as well as tithing to our church.
As a 21 year sober AA member, I sponsor/mentor a half-dozen other men who have had problems with alcohol in the past. Three of them have long-term sobriety and others are born again Christians. I use my stature in the AA community to highlight the Gospel by my words and deeds, even though I am far from perfect. How gracious is our Lord to have died for our sins of the past, present and future.
My wife Caroline and I have been hosting a small group Wednesday Bible study at our home for at least the past five years and almost all of our friends our practicing Christians today. My once drug-addicted son is now a sober 40 year old and leads high school students along with his Christian wife at Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo. Together we are working to bring our other son and his wife to Christ.
At age 70, I am in reasonably good health, retired and I believe that God has kept me here to serve him and my fellows. My life’s scripture is Roman 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” As Pastor Rick Warren would say “My sins are forgiven, I have a purpose for living and a home in heaven.”