WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Wichita faith-based program is helping men overcome alcohol addiction and restore their lives.
“I was feeling a call from God to come back to him and do the right thing and try to straighten my life out because I knew there was something better for me out there,” said Alexander Watson. “I had to get beat up enough in order to finally come to him and say, OK, I finally give up, and I surrendered my life over to Him.”
Watson, 42, first stepped foot inside Wichita’s Union Rescue Mission (URM), a nonprofit dedicated to helping those recovering from homelessness, hunger, addiction, and poverty, in February of 2021.
“Thought I just needed to get back on my feet for a minute, secure a job, make some money and be on my way,” Watson explained.
Thought is the keyword. Watson spent a couple of months at the mission before relapsing. That’s when he joined the URM’s Solid Ground Program; a program he credits for saving his life.
“They give us a program that’s Christ-centered and allows us to focus on confronting some of our demons, the things that led to our addictions,” Watson said. “It also gives you time, and that’s very valuable. You can press pause on your life for just a little while and really get right with everything and everyone you need to get right within a controlled environment that is going to be supportive and help you and nurture you to develop your relationship with God.”
‘I had lost everything’
Watson told KSN News he hit rock bottom before entering the Solid Ground Program.
“I had lost everything in my life, and I could not put myself together enough to make a good decision at any point in time because I was so involved with just getting my next drink,” Watson said.
By 2021, Watson said he had lost his relationship, car, and job.
“Let’s say you love roller coasters, and you go on that ride, and the very next thing you want to do when you get off is get back on and do it again. That’s exactly how alcohol feels 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Watson said. “It’s all-encompassing. It’s the only thing on your mind.”
Watson’s friend and roommate at the mission, Tony Lockwood, is also a recovering alcoholic.
“I knew that if I got back to God, that was my best chance of staying sober the rest of my life,” said Lockwood.
Lockwood, 61, started drinking when he was a teenager.
“I went to work for GM (General Motors) when I was 18 right out of high school, and you know afterward you go to the bars with the guys, and while all the guys were going home at 9, 10 o’clock [at night], I was going home at 1 and 2 in the morning,” Lockwood said.
He said that alcohol controlled his life for decades.
“I had periods of sobriety in there, you know, I would get a DUI and then stay sober for a few months, try to straighten up, but nothing ever lasted. It was just like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound,” Lockwood explained.
Lockwood eventually lost his 14-year career with General Motors after getting caught drinking on the job. In 2018, he drove drunk and hit a police officer. He spent the next three years in prison. When he was released, he decided to change his life for the better and was introduced to the URM.
“There’s more to addiction than just the drug and the alcohol. It’s something inside of you that you are lacking and until you find out what that is and replace it and what we are placing it with is the word of God,” Lockwood said.
Finding Light in the Darkness
Both Watson and Lockwood say they credit the URM, its staff, the brothers they have met in their program, and God for putting their lives back on track.
Lockwood has been sober since June of 2021. Watson has not had a drink since July of 2021.
“Where before my issues I dealt with it with a bottle, now, I deal with it with a Bible,” said Lockwood.
Scripture is now a way of life for the pair. They read it daily while Watson leads a weekly Bible study. He also works one-on-one with other men at the mission, helping them to better understand the word of God.
“Our God is a wonderful God. I mean, I have fallen down so many times, and he is never given up on me. Here I am 61, and he’s still in my life and still having not given up where a lot of people in this world wrote me off years ago, but I am still kicking,” Lockwood said.
“When you are in your greatest sense of desperation is when you are most likely to come closest to God because you finally let go of everything and just say I can’t do it, you take over,” Watson said.
Watson is in school to be a minister. He and Lockwood hope to use their experience with addiction to help and inspire others.
“I think I will be able to reach other people by sharing in their struggles with them and giving them the peace to know that somebody else has been where they are at, and they can come back from it,” Watson said.
“Don’t ever give up because God won’t give up on you,” Lockwood said.