Tim Stroup | Survivor of Addiction

Photo of Tim Stroup

June of 1968, my journey into addiction began when I took my first drink at 8 yrs. Old.  By the time I was 12 I was getting drunk pretty much every weekend.

I also participated in every sport available to me at the time.  I did them all; football, basketball, track, boxing, baseball, swimming and golf. Somehow, in my sick way of thinking I thought it was cool to be an athlete that partied.

My high school years were filled with drinking more often, more partying and more success in the athletic arena. By my senior year, alcohol had already affected many areas of my life. By the end of my senior year, I turned 18 and now I could drink legally.  Now, no one could say anything about my drinking, but I wish they would have.  Now, I was an adult (at least defined by age) and I could live my life the way I wanted.  And, besides, life was pretty darn good; I had received a scholarship to play football at the University Of South Dakota.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to enter a University that was one of the top ten partying schools in the country and I did my best to keep the schools reputation alive and well.  What started off by just getting drunk on weekends turned into more drunk days than sober days.  I also started smoking marijuana regularly and would use speed whenever available.  Blackouts started to be a common occurrence in my college years.  I would wake up in strange apartments or dorm rooms, not remembering a thing from the previous night.  I didn’t let this bother me very long though; a little smoke and another beer would take care of what little remorse I might have had.  Somehow, someway, I guess by the grace of God, I lived and actually graduated from the University of South Dakota in the fall of 1982.  But now what?  All of sudden I realized I had this huge void in my life.  No more football.  What will I use to fill this void?  No worries, I’ll figure it out.  After all, I still have the alcohol.

Over the years, God had gifted me with leadership skills.  However, at the time I certainly didn’t recognize that those skills came from God.  I always believed I learned or earned everything I had.  I always believed I could do anything I put my mind to.  So now I have a plan.  I would go to work for a large company and start working my way up the corporate ladder.  I always figured I’d be successful at whatever I did.  I’d make a lot of money, get married, have some kids, quit drinking and live happily ever after.  I never ever believed or dreamed I’d grow up to be an alcoholic and a junkie.  

So here I go into the working world believing I’m in control of my destiny and I can manage my own life.  My first job out of college was….you guessed it, bartender at a large night club in my old hometown, Sioux City, Iowa.  That was the craziest three months of drinking that I’ve ever experienced.  

My next job, as a bar and Banquet manager, was at a very hectic and stressful place to work. One late night, a co-worker offered me some cocaine to help with my energy level.  Wow, I was off to the races.  I loved the euphoria but I hated the withdrawal, so I did more.  Pretty soon, I found myself needing it to make it through the day.  Then one day I swore I’d never use it again and I didn’t for a while.  I convinced myself I could stop drinking and using at anytime, because I had the will power to do so.  While working at the Marina Inn, I met several executives from IBP.  Iowa Beef Processors was the world’s largest beef processing company.  These executives were impressed with my work ethic and communication skills.  Heck, call it what it was, I was a BS’er just like them and they loved to drink just like me.  They thought I would be a great addition to their sales team and wanted me to come work for them.  Here I go moving up that ladder. 

Oh, and by the way, my girlfriend is pregnant.  What’s a guy to do?  The right thing, Right?  Marry that girl that’s having your baby.  A few months later we have a beautiful little girl.  She steals my heart the moment I lay my eyes on her.  I’m going to change; I’m going to be different.  But how?  How can I change?  Alcohol has a hold of me and I can’t shake it.

I told myself, I’m going to work at IBP and things are going to be different.  At least that’s what I wanted to believe.  During my interview process, one of my references told the IBP executives that he thinks I may have a drinking problem.  “Ya think.”  Anyway, they did hire me.  They just wanted me to start in the plant to get experience and learn the different cuts of meat.  So that’s what I did.  I vowed to myself to be the best at whatever they wanted me to do and work my way up to box beef sales.  After a couple of months working as an hourly, I was promoted to a supervisor.  I became a packaging supervisor on the B-shift.  B-shift hours were 3 PM -11 PM.  This was perfect! I still had time to stop at the bar and have a few beers before they closed at 2 AM.  Pretty soon only drinking until the bars closed wasn’t enough time to get drunk like I wanted to, so I would go to house parties until 4 or 5 in the morning. 

It wasn’t very long before I got my 2nd and 3rd DWI.  I think I failed to mention that I got a DWI back in college.  My home life was terrible.  My whole life was becoming unmanageable.  I decided to check myself into a treatment facility.  I was determined to quit drinking and I actually did for about a year.  I went through a divorce and said to myself, the drinking wasn’t the problem, “she” was.  I controlled the drinking at first.  I would drink a couple of beers then switch to pop.  Then it became 4 beers, 5, 6 and so on.  I found myself right back where I started.  In fact, things were worse, I had no home and no family.

I had two bright spots in my life; a girl and my job.  I met a girl, and she had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. I would eventually marry that blue eyed beauty and I was moving up the ladder quickly at work.  I was promoted to production superintendent.  I was the youngest superintendent in the history of IBP.  The president of the company, Bob Peterson, came over to the plant to tour my shift.  I’ll never forget the words he spoke to me.  He said “Son, keep your nose clean and you’ll have a great future with us.”  You’d think those words of encouragement would be enough to motivate a guy to stay clean and sober.  I did really good for about six months. 

Everything was going good until one night I went out partying with a couple guys that worked for me.  One guy got busted and threw me under the bus; next thing I know I’m unemployed.  This was the end for me.  I had just invested the last six years of my life to a company that I had fully intended on retiring from someday.  February of 1989 I threw it all away because my drinking and drug use were more important.  Now what?  I know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to move to Arizona, where I can start a new life.  No more alcohol, no more drugs.  I’ll start fresh in Arizona, after all, all my problems were back in Sioux City.  I surely wasn’t the problem.

March of 1989, I take a job as a car salesman with Earnhardt Dodge in Gilbart, Arizona.  Things are going to be different this time.  I haven’t had a drink for a couple of months and I just found out my beautiful blue eyed girlfriend was going to have a baby.  I couldn’t be any happier.  I was even having quite a bit of success selling cars.  Everything was so good.  I couldn’t just leave it that way.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt just to have a couple of beers after work with the boys.  I use to believe so many lies I told myself.  The bottom line is I was off to the races AGAIN! 

October 20th, 1989, I married that blue eyed beauty in LasVegas, NV.  I didn’t know it at the time but that was the second best thing I’d ever done in my life.  I’ll explain why second best a little later in the story.  Two months later, Dec 27th, my son was born.  I was so filled with pride.  I was going to be the best dad in the world to this little guy.  But deep in my heart, I knew I couldn’t as long as I continued to drink.

My career as a car salesman started to sky rocket.  I learned all the different aspects of the business and became very good as a sales professional.  I was promoted at work and soon I was making over $10,000 a month.  I was a huge success at work but failing miserably at home.  I believed as long as I kept the bank account full, everything should be fine at home.  That was just another lie I would tell myself.  After all, we lived in a beautiful home, had new cars, we had a lot of nice stuff. 

In July of 1991, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  She had the biggest blue eyes I had ever seen. I really tried to quit drinking but to no avail.  I was hopeless.  In fact, it was right around this time that someone asked me if I wanted to try some meth.  I was pretty much drunk when I first tried meth.  After trying a little, I immediately felt a serge of energy and completely sober.  I can vividly remember saying to myself, “I want more of this stuff.” 

I started off using it to prolong my drinking but it soon became a necessity to make it through the day.  Late 1993, I lost my high paying job with Earnhardts.  The next five years I spent moving from one car dealership to another.  Finally my reputation had preceded me.  I could no longer get a job in the car business.  I was a liar, I was a thief, I was a cheater, I was a drunk, I was a drug addict and I was a drug dealer.  The only thing I had left was my family and I was about to lose that.

Several years before this my wife had made a change in her life.  Something was different about her.  She had this confidence and boldness and joy all while I was putting her through hell.  She told me she had asked Jesus to come into her life and to save her from this life she was living.  She told me that he could save me too.  I wasn’t quite ready to believe that anyone or anything could or would save me.  And why would the God of the universe even want to save me?  She said he loved me so much that he sent his son to die on a cross.  A death that I deserved but he took for me so that I could spend eternity with him.  Not only that, but she said he could make this life better.  He could take everything that we’ve screwed up and make it into a beautiful testimony of what he can do with a life that surrendered to him.  I wasn’t buying it yet.  I really believed I was too far gone.  My wife just continued to love me and pray for me.  She gave all she had to provide and hold the family together.  Then the day came when she could not allow me to continue to put her and the kids in danger.  She asked me to leave the home.  She did tell me when I was ready to make a change that I could come home, but for now I had to leave.  So I left.

July 1998 everything was gone; my family, my home, my job, my dignity, my self respect, I had nothing good left in my life.  In the next two weeks of heavy drinking and drug use, I had come to my breaking point.  I hit my bottom.  Like the prodigal son who came to his senses in the pig pen and decided to go home to his father and ask for forgiveness.  I too decided to go home and ask my wife for forgiveness.  I told her that I was ready to make a change and I went to bed and prayed.  Please understand I was high on meth and I had been drinking but I still prayed.  I said “Lord I can’t live this way anymore.  I’m going to die.  Jesus, I need you to come into my life and change me.  I surrender all that I am, all that I have to you.  Please change me.”  And I fell asleep. 

July 22,1998 I woke up in the morning clean and sober.  It was as if I had never used alcohol or drugs.  I knew that I had met Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior that night.  He had come into my life and healed me and I would never ever be the same.  I got up and showered and told my wife what had happened.  She was skeptical but trusted that God had a hold of me now.  I had to go tell someone, God spoke into my spirit to go tell other addicts.  I left the house and headed over to the house where they were cooking the meth.  I was welcomed there because I had been such a good customer over the years.  I told them that I had found a way out of this addiction and his name was Jesus.  They laughed at me and offered me some meth.  I said “No thank you and good-bye.”  I often wonder about those two guys.  I hope and pray that they made it out.  I knew that God had placed it on my heart to forever tell people of his saving grace.  If he could save me he could save anyone.  I was hopeless and he gave me hope.  I was blind and he gave me sight.  I was dead and he gave me life.  And all I wanted to do was give away this Jesus to a world who desperately need him.

A new journey begins.  A life lived surrendered to the will of my heavenly Father.  I just wanted what he wanted.  Where and how was I going to find out what he wanted?  So I prayed and I asked him; God told me to read his word, the Bible.  So I began to read.  He drew me in and I allowed him to teach me.  He is still teaching me to this day and I will always be a willing student.  He first taught me how to love my family.  How a husband is to love his wife and how a father is to love his children.  My children were 8 and 7 yrs old when God saved me from my life of self destruction.  They had seen much of the destruction and now they were about to witness God’s re-construction of the family.  My wife and I felt God was leading us back to the mid-west where we had grown up. October 1998 we sold our home, I mean God sold our home.  Yes, God sent the buyers.  Off we went, the four of us, in a u-haul with all our worldly possessions in the back.  We didn’t know where we were going to live.  We just trusted he would provide. Where God guides, God will provide.  He led us to a bobby farm house just outside Pipestone, MN.  It was perfect.  I walked into a local meat processing plant and was hired immediately because of my previous experience. 

I need to remind you, four months prior, I was unemployable.  God is so good.  We had a home and I had a job, and most of all I had a relationship with my Creator.  While we lived in this farm house, I walked the gravel roads at night.  The stars were so bright, so beautiful.  I would walk and talk to God as if he were right there with me.  I could feel his presence.  I could feel his love flowing through me.  It was as if he was telling me “keep your eyes on me, I am going to show you even greater things.”  One morning as I was reading my Bible, I heard my seven year old daughter talking with my wife in the kitchen.  She said “wow mom, you and dad don’t argue and fight anymore”.  My wife said “That’s because God has changed your dad and he’ll never be that way again.”  With tears in my eyes, I could only say Thank you Lord.  Our six month lease was coming up and we had been unsuccessful in finding a new place to live.  Everything we tried seemed to be blocked somehow.  We tried buying a house, we tried renting, everything we tried fell through.  It’s like God had different plans for us and we just kept trying to make our plans work.  One day at work a co-worker asked me how do people with bad credit buy new cars?  I told him I use to do that kind of financing for people when I was in the car business. 

The very next day in the newspaper was an add for a sub prime finance manager at a Sioux Falls Car dealer.  I was like, God is this you?  Do you want me to get back into the car business?  I made the call and got the interview.  During the interview the general manager was reading my resume’ and asked me what happened?  Obviously, you have many skills and a ton of talent.  What happened?  I told him I was an alcoholic and a drug addict.  I asked the Lord to come into my life and save me and he did.  The general manager said, “You’re hired.  When can you start?”  Only God can do stuff like that.  Only God can wipe the slate clean and give fresh starts.  Only God!  He is so so good. 

June 1, 1999, my first day as a new person in an old business, I was introduced to a new pastor in town.  He was starting a new church.  We spoke for a couple hours, he shared the vision of the church.  I shared my story with him and he said you’re exactly the kind of people this church wants to reach.  All my wife and I wanted to do was reach out to hurting people.  We wanted to show them and tell them what God can do if you let him.  So, we were in.  We wanted to be a part of a church family like that.  We actually became the very first members of that church.  Not only were we members but we became leaders; I was asked to be on the elder board and my wife was on the music team. 

God was growing me into a leader for him at my work also.  I led a small group of guys at my work who were struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.  It wasn’t long and my reputation was completely restored.  Other car dealers in town actually wanted me to come work for them.  Over the years, I’ve counseled and mentored many people on various life issues from addictions and finances to marriages.  All of which I had failed miserably at during one point of my life.  Two words “Only God”.  Only God can take something that was meant for death and destruction and turn it into life and beauty.  Miracles still happen.  God still heals people.  And I am just blessed to be a part of what he is doing.  I just want to give my life away serving others so that they too can come to know his saving grace.  Jesus is my example.  He did not come to this world to be served, but to serve.  Someday when my time is up and purpose is fulfilled on this earth, I want to crawl into heaven totally exhausted and bear those words “Well done good and faithful servant, well done!”