My Side of the Street
By Patricia Clowers
In Alcoholics Anonymous I learned that I can only "do my side of the street." I can only tell my story. This is my side of what God has brought me through.
I am the oldest of five children. My dad was everything to me. I needed him and his acceptance. There was love in our house but there was also abuse. My dad had a drinking problem and when he drank he became mean. My younger brothers, Joe and Ken, had a hard time with our dad. The drinking and the abuse were not OK with me but I loved my dad and always stuck up for him. I felt guilty about that later, like I betrayed my mom and brothers. But, I needed my dads love. I was 11 when my dad died and I felt a painful emptiness for a long time.
I knew my brother Joe was very hurt also. Our father caused him a lot of pain. I didn't talk to him about it. In fact, I was mean to him for years. He was fragile. Mom protected him and, I felt, loved him more. In high school, he was shy. People made fun of him and called him gay. Eventually, Joe surrendered to his sexual desires for men. He participated in drunken orgies and wild times thinking it would bring him happiness. After a few years he started getting sick. He found out that he had Hepatitis and AIDS in 1985.
In the early 70's, my husband, Nick, and I and our two sons, age 5 and 7, traveled from California to Minnesota in a VW bus to live a different life. Nick stayed home with the kids while I supported the family as a 'professional dancer.' I was starting to feel good about myself but then things happened that I had never wanted to have happen -as it will in that profession.
We moved to Washington to start over. I remember I bought a Bible at a garage sale during the move. The eastern religion we were practicing was empty. I worked in a restaurant and Nick worked building houses. We were doing well except that my drinking was causing me problems. I couldn't quit. Several people from a local church came into my work and said they would "pray for me." Shortly after, I had a strong desire to go to church. One week after Easter as I walked into the church, the Holy Spirit met me there. I heard the message that Jesus loved me and died so I could be forgiven. My marriage improved after that and we had a daughter, yet it was five years before Nick would give his life to the Lord. We moved to the Oregon Coast but it wasn't long before Nick slipped back into drinking and drugs. The boys were becoming teenagers. It was a difficult time. I was not nice to my family. I prayed but I could not trust God with my family.
In 1987, Nick died of a heart attack. Months went by where I felt numb. I was losing it. I started drinking again and having sex. I drank a lot for a year before I went to AA. I quit but still was not right with God.
My son, Bob, told me he was gay in 1988. We were sitting in the car. We cried. I told him I loved him. I was not going to church at the time. I was in sin myself, struggling with my own sexual needs and needs for love. What could I say to my son? I loved him. I believed in him. He was so handsome and talented. I did tell him that I thought homosexuality was like alcoholism, that he did have a choice. I always believed that. I was living with a man who treated me poorly. I finally got the courage to move out and the very next week found out I was pregnant. He insisted I get an abortion. I would not. I thought I would give her up for adoption but decided to raise her myself. It has been a joy.
In February of 1993, I came to a place of total surrender to God. I had failed in so many areas of my life. God, through the Holy Spirit, spoke His love to me. "I will never leave you" (Heb. 13:5) "Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will hold you in My righteous hand." Isaiah 41:10. These words went down into my very being, my innermost part. For the first time in my life I totally trusted God.
It was at this time I started getting close to my brother Joe. He lived in California and, though he was gay, I loved him. We talked often. He knew he had AIDS and kept telling me he was going to die. I didn't want to believe it. I'd say, "Joe, you'll out live me." I told him about Jesus. He was always mad at God. Our baby sister, who was free from a 20-year heroin addiction, told him about Jesus. In May of 1996, Joe lapsed into a coma and was put on life support. When I got to the hospital all I could do was pray in the Spirit, anoint him with oil and sing over him. I felt the Spirit of God so strong on him and in the room. Death comes but we don't know what God and His Holy Spirit are doing at the time. God was there.
My son, Bob, sang in a gay men's choir. He was in a relationship and talking about marriage. I had a hard time since it would not be a marriage. This man was a professional. He was successful and Bob thought he had arrived. But, Bob still did not feel good enough. He was drinking heavily. When the man my son wanted to marry broke off the relationship Bob, overcome with hopelessness, completed suicide in their home on May 16, 1998.
I was in California because my brother, Ken, was dying from an overdose of cocaine and alcohol. I wasn't there with my son. I'm sorry he was in so much pain that he hurt himself so bad. Where was God? Was He there? It was the worst death. The worst everything. My brain didn't function right for months. I still have a hard time thinking when I'm tired.
I had the memorial for Bob in a gay church. I felt it would help his partner, who was suicidal and all Bob's friends. I wanted to tell people how wonderful my son was. I prayed that God would put the words in my mouth that would tell of God's great love. God was there. I know the preacher was afraid I was going to preach hell and damnation but I wanted to show God's love. My daughter got up and sang "Amazing Grace." She was strong but in the middle, she broke down. I went up to help her. Her friends came up to help us. The gay men's choir just looked at us. They missed it. I will not try to say Bob is in hell or in heaven, or my brother, or husband, or father. But I will tell you that God is able to pluck us out of the pit of Hell and His Holy Spirit is always there with us.
I have since married a wonderful man of God and got a new job working for a Christian radio station. I am paid to pray for the station and the Word that goes out! God shows me His great love everyday. Surely He has set me free and is healing my broken heart.