A Transformed Life
by Peter Petroski
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My Testimony My name is Pete Petroski, I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a recovered alcoholic. I once found the following quote written by a Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon, this describes my life: “But suppose a man can be so changed that just as freely as he was accustomed to curse he now delights to pray, and just as heartily as he hated religion he now finds pleasure in it and just as earnestly as he sinned he now delights to be obedient to the Lord. This is a wonder, a miracle which only the grace of God can work, which gives God his highest glory”. I grew up in the Mechanicsburg area, in a kind of Ozzie & Harriet home, a dad, mother, brother in a middle class development. Dad always had two jobs to make ends meet, so he was rarely home, he was a good example of a great work ethic…. but I would have rather had him home more often. I started drinking with other kids in our neighborhood in my mid-teens, we stole beer and cigarettes from our parent’s homes, where we had many parties, getting drunk and sober in time to go home for dinner. When I graduated from HS, I had my first pot party at my house when my parents went to the beach for a week. This began a 20+ year habit of always having a bag of weed, smoking after work daily or all day on weekends. Also, I was arrested for underage drinking for the first time. I wanted to leave home after High School and with a small inheritance, I had enough to attend a business school in Minneapolis. I majored in partying the whole year and had a part time job mopping floors at night in a department store. In early 1968, about six of us left Minneapolis and drove to Chicago, we heard the airlines at O’Hare in Chicago were hiring. The business school in Minneapolis focused on Transportation, Trucking and Airline operations, we were all hired and I started with Delta Air Lines. We went back to Minneapolis, packed and moved to Chicago. This became the worst time of my life, a good job, great money, but drinking, smoking pot, experimenting with LSD, all became the norm. I got my first DUI in Chicago and my second arrest for underage drinking and I lost my license for a year. After two years in Chicago many of the guys I came with were drafted to Viet Nam or moved home. I flunked two Army physicals’ in Chicago due to a high % of sugar in my blood, they said I was a borderline diabetic. This was due to the amount of whisky I was drinking daily. I moved back to Pennsylvania in the spring 1970, briefly lived with my parents, reconnected with my High School drinking friends and made contacts for a regular supply of pot. I was hired by an Insurance Company as a claims adjuster trainee and I married my first wife. In 1973 I got my second DUI-on Rt 83 in York, I lost my license again for a year, I did not drive the entire year except for the night my wife went into labor with our daughter in January 1976, I drove her to the Harrisburg Hospital and left my car there. For the next 15 years, I moved upward in my Insurance career, several promotions, transfers/moves, my focus was all about making money, as much as possible. My Insurance jobs changed from claims adjuster to marketing rep, eventually to Regional Marketing VP. One of my responsibilities was entertaining clients and my expense account paid for everything…Dinner, drinks, weed or whatever. I was running a $50 million-dollar region, making the Company more money than any other VP which gave me lots of flexibility. As my job responsibilities increased, I had to spend more time building relationships with large accounts, including regular trips to Caribbean with clients and wives were never invited, there was lots of drinking and other activities I am embarrassed to share. In 1992 my life started to crash, I was making lots of $ as Branch manager & VP of a wholesale insurance agency in York, driving a Mercedes they were paying for, wearing custom made suits, I was very successful in the worlds view…but inside, I was miserable. I left my first wife and daughter and moved into an apartment in the office building my Employer owned. One day I met a guy at a health club who asked me about my walk with the Lord, I blew him off and turns out later I found out he was a pastor. A few times, one of the guys from work invited me to church, I always declined, as they were the same guys drinking and smoking pot with me on Monday so why be a hypocrite just like them? In January 1993 met a lady named Brenda during a hike with the York Hiking Club. I could tell by her car and clothes, she did not make a lot of money. This was how I measured people, what do you own? How much money do you make? But, she had a sense of peace and joy that I could not understand. She was raising two teenage girls, lived in a small apartment, was working at a local Nursing Home, drove a 10+ year old car….how could she be happy? Then she told me about her relationship with Jesus Christ. My first reaction was Oh no, another Jesus freak, but I was curious, and we started dating and nine months later we were talking about marriage. However, she said I had to go to church if we got married, I agreed and one of the first we visited was the Church where the guy I met at the health club was the Pastor, the York Grace Brethren Church. The first time there I was overwhelmed, felt like he was pointing at me during his message….convicted. I told Brenda, boy he sure got carried away! We later decided to go to Olympic National Park outside Seattle to get married. Back home, we started visiting other churches, we ended up back at YGBC. Without telling anyone, after listening to B take a brief course on Baptism, I asked Jesus to come into my life. At this point, I knew I could not quit drinking on my own, I tried many times. I drank less but my drinking turned into a binge session. I had given up Pot about 5 years prior due to drug testing and my upward move at work. A few weeks after accepting Christ, I was out drinking again and came out of a bar and was getting into my car to drive home. I now understand what it means to be convicted by the HS because as I sat there in my car, I remembered what I used to call my friends who invited me to church and on Monday we were out after work in the bars. As I sat there, I asked Christ to forgive me and take away the desire to ever drink again and I committed to serve Him forever. That was 23 years ago in August. When I introduced myself tonight, I mentioned I am a recovered alcoholic…. arrogant? It might be, but my life changed, forever….I am recovered. Here are some of the changes that kept me from going back to old habits. We started attending York GBC on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wed nights, I started being discipled by PDW-continued for the next 15 years. Not long after I stopped drinking I had to figure out how to explain to my employer I was no longer taking those trips to the Caribbean with clients, no more drinking at all! First time a trip came up was our first wedding anniversary and I told my employer I would pay for my wife to accompany me…they refused so I did too. I could not do some of the things my job required of me…so January 1st 1995 I was fired from my great paying job and escorted from the office. A month later I was hired by JOB-Christian Insurance Agency specializing in Churches, Christian Schools and Camps. I started at the bottom making less than half what I had been making…God provided. It was not an easy transition, it was humbling to transition from working with million dollar clients partying in the Caribbean to answering phones taking claims and learning about insuring Churches. Brenda and I were growing spiritually, I was asked to lead the Mission Commission at the Church, we had been on two mission trips, Western Europe, and Chile. We moved to downtown York in a row house near the YMCA wondering how God would use us. Soon we found out we were surrounded by crack houses, street people, homeless people and God started using us in that neighborhood. I gave free haircuts, we were praying on the streets with strangers, getting people off the streets into the mission, serving at the YMCA, getting addicts into rehab programs, God was taking my hurts, habits and hang ups to help others. In 2003 we moved to Columbia. We decided to try to start a church there and went through a Church Planters assessment process, and started New Vision Church in 2005. Our Bible studies were split up between men and women and God kept sending people struggling with addictions. I searched online and found Celebrate Recovery (CR)-Millersville, I took one of my guys and I loved it. I brought Brenda and we started attending every week for months. In December 2006 we opened CR in Columbia, thanks to encouragement from Frank & Sharon from Millersville CR. Our Church plant turned into a Friday night recovery ministry and God did some amazing things. In 2013 we came along side another Church plant called Vision Columbia, a Mennonite church with the Lancaster Conference. Eventually I became Pastor of Prison and Recovery ministries. I visit men in both York and Lancaster County prisons. We had a great group of leaders, Scott-George-Steve were on that team. On May 27th of 2016 we closed CR in Columbia as we felt God nudging us to move on. I retired from JOB October 2014 and I now work there part-time from home. My passion today is 1 x 1 accountability and or discipleship meetings with men. Some of these are still in prison but God keeps opening up doors for more opportunities. So, what does it take to stay in recovery…for me, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of my recovery. Daily Bible reading and time meditating and praying, at least one accountability partner, be involved in a church, and attendance in a faith based recovery meeting like CR once a week. The Daily Bread became an inspiration to our leaders to encourage them to read through the Bible in a year and keep them accountable to daily reading of the Word. I have lived a full life, traveled a lot, lived at least 26 different places, had 10 jobs, did sailing & did scuba throughout the Caribbean, hiked here and abroad, had lots of toys and money. But, nothing has been as rewarding or as satisfying as the last 20 years serving Christ. I no longer wear fancy suits and our best vacations have been mission trips. It’s not about what I have at the end of life, it’s about who I am and how I have served Him. He took away my desire to drink, I gave Him my life and will continue serving Him until I go home. Today I serve as Assoc Pastor @ Community Cornerstone Church in York, as I said in the beginning when I quoted Charles Spurgeon, “This is a wonder, a miracle which only the Grace of God can work”. Thanks for inviting me to share my testimony!
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Pete, you have come through a lot I can relate too your family life...It makes it very hard when your dad and mine are not home working all the time. Thanks for sharing your testimony God Bless You Always,,,Don.
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