Memories of a brother lost to alcohol

The churches in my hometown got together with a charity that provides temporary accommodation to  the 18-25 year old age group with the vision of providing a night-shelter.

God did amazing things and with little prayer all the funding was quickly in place along with over 90 volunteers including our local MP and some councilors (no publicity either). The only thing is that it can only run for two weeks for now.

God is good and I am convinced this is a signpost of something greater.

Serving the dispossessed is such a no-brainer Heart of the Father thing, I do wonder why the church misses this in so many towns, instead caught up in trivia of internal relationship and numbers of “bums-on-seats” and stuff like that…

The foregoing, though, is not the point of this post, but a rambling scene setter.

Because I am “less able” at present, I have been coordinating prayer for this ministry rather than physically serving there.

Every occasion that I spend time-serving the lost homeless, and at present I visit the shelter to pick up the vibe/latest news for prayer, I find myself remembering my brother Malcolm, killed by his addiction to alcohol back in 2005.

Up until my meeting with Jesus in 1995, he and I hated each other.

Then God did that remarkable thing that only He can do and He transformed my heart, draining the boil of hatred that festered within me and leaving only love in it’s place.

That same night, two men threw a paving slab through my drunken brother’s patio window, waking him from his drunken slumber (by this time his wife had left, taking their 3 kids), and as he stumbled down the stairs these two beat him to a pulp, leaving him for dead and stole his money.

The night I was born again, satan tried to kill my brother…

It turned out that neither my dad nor his wife were prepared to go and see him in hospital, I was told about this the morning after I met with Jesus and I went he next day.

In the ward, he was alone in the corner, curtains drawn around the bed with him unconscious. His jaw had been shattered and was rebuilt and held together with wire. More seriously, his brain was beaten and swollen, pressing against his skull.

I just wept and prayed over him, asking Jesus to heal him, then left.

The next day I went back to see him and his bed was empty, his brain swelling had quickly resolved overnight and he was down in the TV room smoking! Jesus had healed him!

We had time to talk, understand the roots of his resentment and eventually find a love for each other.

Over the next years he stayed with us and stole from us.

I watched him sink lower into desperate alcoholism.

I watched him surface, connect to a spirit filled church only to pull away because he could never submit the control he foolishly thought he had over his own life and dive back into the bottom of a bottle of whisky.

He tried to kill himself at least twice and was saved every time, even thanking God…

He would disappear as he was ashamed but, in answer to prayer, would appear when I really needed to connect. The circumstances were often so unlikely that it could only have been God moving.

He had surgery on a stomach ulcer and told to quit drinking, he didn’t and I won’t go on with the full story but despite the grace shown to him by our wonderful Father in heaven and His desire to see Malcolm free, my brother awoke one night coughing up the contents of his stomach as another ulcer tore open and it ruptured, leaving him to collapse choking in his own vomit and blood.

I will end this note with the eulogy I gave at his funeral, attended by my wife and kids, his ex-wife and 3 boys but none-other.

“I really wanted to say something to celebrate Malcolm’s life, I asked Andrew & Craig to tell me of good memories of their Dad, but I think that we have all found this hard due to the issues of this week just gone.

Up until 10 years ago I think it’s fair to say that a festering hate existed between Malcolm and I. Then one weekend while something happened to me that allowed me to let go of all that hate, Malcolm was beaten and left for dead in his living room. I found myself by his bed-side in hospital, and in that time we talked and we were able to set aside a lot of those issues that had led to the hate between us – I am grateful for that.

Malcolm was a restless person who always sought to be more than he was; he was never really content with who he was or what he had.

It seemed to me that the more he sought to be to others what he believed they wanted him to be… so the less satisfied he became with what he thought was the true Malcolm.

Years ago, he started drinking to “fit-in” with all the hard-working, high-earning bankers & dealers he worked with in the city of London. It must have been at that time that he discovered that the alcohol somehow dulled the pain of failing to be the person he thought others expected him to be.

The paradox of Malcolm’s life was that the more he drunk, the less pain he felt, but he more pain he caused to those around him.

A man called Eric Hoffer said “We run fastest and farthest when we run from ourselves.” Malcolm ran very fast indeed…

He found it very hard to accept the help offered by those who loved him; he seemed incapable of taking the help and counsel that would really have helped him. Instead his focus was often on the quick fix that provided short term relief but longer term difficulty. Consequently he began to live his life on his own, even with his family or friends around him. To quote Hoffer again:

“When we leave people on their own, we are delivering them into the hands of a ruthless taskmaster from whose bondage there is no escape. The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself.”

My brother loved his family, he loved Carol, he loved Andrew, he loved Craig and he loved Lee. He even loved me! But he got confused about how to demonstrate his love, what love was meant to look like.

Jesus said that the second most important thing for any of us to do was to “love your neighbour as yourself”. The remarkable thing is that Malcolm lived by that instruction: He didn’t know how to show love to his family as he didn’t know how to love himself. He did to others what he did to himself; He sometimes hated others because he often hated himself. He found it difficult to tolerate those of us who challenged him about the choices he made because often he couldn’t tolerate the choices he made. He found it hard to forgive us for anything we may have done that hurt him because he couldn’t forgive the hurt he had done to himself.

So I am choosing to remember Malcolm as a man who left behind three wonderful sons who have the ability to reach out and obtain all the hope and promise that life offers. My prayer for them is that they can put down the pain and hurt that they have suffered and find that essential contentment of being themselves that comes from loving themselves in the knowledge that they are loved, important and capable men.

And for Malcolm, I hope that in the time before he succumbed to death he found the forgiveness, love and acceptance that had always been available to him from the One who really matters, because I personally believe that this was what my brother really was looking for.”

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One response to “Memories of a brother lost to alcohol

  1. Pingback: My personal testimony and how Jesus transformed my life. | Media 4 Life Ministries

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