By Dennis Stinson
"Lord, teach us to pray, as John
(the Baptist) also taught his disciples"
My mother’s mother and her husband were Baptists and their whole lives
were guided by Scripture. I grew up surrounded by the Word of God,
because my mother knew the Lord, too. She had a lot of trauma in her
life, but she loved Him.
I was not spiritual as a boy. I tried to keep the ten commandments but
when I was in the service, I drifted away from anything to do with God,
and I became a drunk. I started drinking when I was 17, and it just got
worse from there.
Over the years, I developed what I thought was a unique idea about
God. I thought He was a "cosmic intelligence" that bound us together. I
was comfortable with that belief until about age 48. A lot of bad things
happened during all those years, but God was at work even when I was far
In 1993, my mother and father, who were married for 51 years, were both dying of
cancer. My father lasted three years; my mother lasted five. That was
very traumatic, watching them fade away. Dad passed away in October,
1996, and four months later, my sister was diagnosed with a malignant
brain tumor, and they gave her a "short life expectancy." It was sad and
hard to watch Dad deteriorate, and then Mom, and then my sister.
But it was even harder on my mother. She watched her husband of 51
years slowly die, while she was fighting her own cancer, and then saw her
daughter start a battle that could not be won.
I got to see a real demonstration of faith from both my sister and my
mother, who trusted Him in the worst of circumstances. They went through
it with strength and dignity. We would go to visit my sister in order to
comfort her, and we would come away comforted by her.
My sister died October 9, 1998. I got drunk after Dad died, and also
after my sister died. At the end of that month (October) I got down on my
knees and said "God, I can’t do this anymore." I got sent to a
rehabilitation clinic where I went into a 12-Step center. It was there I
found faith in God and then later accepted Jesus Christ as my personal
savior. Quite a change for a man that earlier had not believed in
My recovery emotionally and spiritually began October 30th.
My Mom died in February of 1999, and I did not get drunk after that one. I
spoke at her funeral, whereas I could not speak at my father’s or my
sister’s. I said, in relation to my mother, "Now she’s with her real
Father" and I knew it was true.
I began to understand what my mother and my sister had, and wanted it
for myself. I liked what God was doing for me.
I had felt (and still feel) God worked a miracle for me. My Mom was
experiencing great pain and the medications did not control it. I was
praying for other people at that point and I asked God to relieve her of
the pain. I called her the next day. She said "I slept the whole night
last night. We finally found the right combination of drugs that helped
me with my pain." I knew that God had answered my prayer.
Several months later, she had a stroke that was the beginning of the
end for her. The pain began again. I prayed that God would take her
quietly and peacefully. At that point, her kidneys failed and I then was
the one who had to make the decision as to whether she would have
dialysis. The doctors did tell me that kidney failure without dialysis
would result in a peaceful death. That’s what we did, and she died
peacefully in her sleep. God had answered another prayer.
He (God) was doing things in me. I had thoughts that were not my own –
they were His thoughts in me.
But then came the "slip." I was doing the right things with Him, but
then my wife found out about some things I had done in my drinking days,
and she got rightfully angry.
I got the idea that my energy should be spent helping her overcome all
this – I wanted to "fix" (help) her. In that regard, I stopped doing what
I needed to do for me. The only thing we can really change in our lives
is our attitude – we can’t change other people. Only God can do that. I
was no longer listening to God’s will, but instead went back to listening
to my own ideas.
I then had that one more episode of drinking, which I call a "slip."
It all happened in an instant. I did not pray, I just reacted. It took
me just an hour to enter a blackout, and I woke up a month later as a
quadriplegic, unable to move any part of my body.
They told me that I had entered a bar, where they refused me service,
and I climbed over the bar to get my own.
I was taken to an emergency room for stitches in my face. My right arm
was placed into a cast (it was broken by a police baton). While I was in
there, I wasn’t able to control my arms and I stopped breathing. They
barely got the tubes inside me in time. Then came a month in a coma.
After coming awake, I had plenty of time because I did not have the use
of my body anymore, and I started reading my Bible again. My spiritual
foundation has been building again, since that time to now (eight months
I was in the Long Beach Veterans Hospital, and
began been doing and
saying things that are uncharacteristic for me. I have consistently been
saying morning and evening prayers, and I have even been praying through
the day. As taught in AA, I am daily renewing my conscious contact with
God. As I do that, the more He is revealed in me, and the more He works
I know He is working through me. I am a Quad, with no use of my hands
or legs. I no longer have the $75,000 per year income, because my career
as a telecommunications consultant is over. I am not living at my
three story former home. I don’t have five vehicles anymore, and my
motorcycle is gone. Everything has changed and I am starting over at age
But I’m not afraid anymore, because God is working in my life. I’m
looking forward to the future and the best is yet to come. I’m no longer
doing things Dennis’ way, and God is teaching me to pray, several times a
day. I want God’s will for me, and the power to carry it out. He is
answering my prayer. I like what He is doing, and I don’t want to give
I’m an infant in my spiritual growth. I wasn’t sure how to pray, and I
asked Him "how do I pray?" He showed me
Luke 11:1, where His disciples
asked Him the same thing. He answered them, and He is answering me, as
I’m not asking for myself, but for others and for the Lord to guide
me. He created every one of us to be loving beings that help others. He
is forming who I am today. I thank Him and praise Him.
I met Dennis Stinson while he was a patient at
the VA Hospital, in Long Beach, CA. While visiting another patient in
his room (Jonathan Merchant), Dennis and I became friends. After
sufficient recovery, he was discharged and lived in Long Beach. He
logged over 5,600 hours volunteering at the VA, a member of AA who
sponsored others desiring sobriety & recovery, and helped
others. Dennis was on the Board of Directors of Friday Study Ministries.
He recently passed away.
Friday Study Ministries