My name is Willem and this is my story:

I was born in 1941 in wartime Europe. The first time I became aware of me was when my parents took in a Jewish baby in 1942-43. It seemed I woke up from my sweet dream and was plunged into fear.

Fear was my first identifiable emotion. My sister and brother would arrive home from school and relate, how so and so was not at school today. They would never be mentioned again and never seen again. The Gestapo did not take kindly to the local population hiding or harboring Jews.

The war looked like it was disappearing like the deserters who left the city in trickles. As a three and a bit year old I could tell the difference between a deserter and a non deserter; there shoulders were drooped. What I saw in them was the same fear I experienced. I felt sorry for them. My mother told years later that I asked to go outside so I could tell them all that it would be OK.

As the Allied forces landed in Normandy, and the battle started , a hush fell over the city. We whispered to each other. I wanted to find a hiding place for myself and my adopted Jewish sister. My mother came and knelt beside me and said lets pray together. This was my first experience of prayer. I remember the effect of a warm peace overcoming me like a warm blanket, and I knew everything would be all right.

The Allies were not far away and I knew the Gestapo were not going to come through the door and shoot us all. When that dark cloud of misery parted there was a huge party in Amsterdam, where I saw happy people for the first time. My own party lasted as long as I stayed drunk, when that stopped working I became a heroin addict and a compulsive gambler. During all this time I needed a lot of money so I stole from everyone. I had become an accomplished liar, conman with absolutely no remorse about anything. I was married at 20 and had 3 children.

I couldn't stand the responsibility of marriage. I left and took the two youngest boys with me and married an heiress. We had three more boys so there are five boys and a rich wife. I still hadn't learned how to behave. I was still looking for happiness and sure it was out there somewhere. I was determined to find it. So I went into another relationship, had another child and the whole thing ended the same way. By then I was drugging drinking and gambling. At 24, I was sent away from a facility by the psychiatrist who said I was normal. At 40, I knew I was washed up and hopeless.

The terror I had experienced when I was three had returned and my way out was to go into another relationship. I really thought I had found true love this time. I did a geographical from the west coast to to the east with a young wife and two babies. I brewed my own beer, which meant I was drunk from the moment I opened my eyes to the time I hit the pillow at night. I had a total disregard for my wife, my children and my friends. No one wanted to know me with the exception of the drug squad and certain very persuasive gentlemen called the casa mantra. I finally hit the wall which meant I jailed myself in my own mind and relived every moment of my past over and over. I was screwed. I couldn't move, I couldn't live I couldn't die, although I was already dead.

When I was at my lowest, a small spark arrived in an alcoholic, who introduced me to the 12 steps, and suggested I come to an AA meeting. He said he would pick me up. I didn't know he had to go 60 miles out of his way. Bless him. At my first meeting I shook so much, thinking they would ask me to share. When they did I managed to say my name is Willem, I'm an alcoholic and my life had become unmanageable, and as I spoke the words a heavy weight was lifted from me miraculously. I had found a way to peace, I cried and cried, I was 49 years old and was beginning to see a light at the end, there was hope. So I started out on the road to recovery.

The first thing I discovered was that I could not sleep and that I ran all the old tapes, I was still full of guilt. I would always want to drink after those thoughts. I shared this at an AA meeting, where an old time AA'er told me to pray. I was horrified, because I still preferred my own council. So after thinking this over about one million times and getting nowhere I finally prayed, with the result of falling asleep like a baby.

When I awoke I never felt so peaceful. Then I didn't believe it was prayer and convinced myself it was just exhaustion. It was at that point I had to choose between my ideas and God. So I did decide the prayer had worked and that God is real. It was then I started working the steps. This coincided with my wife asking me to leave. It was a real test of my new sobriety. But I didn't bust or pick up. I was working the program. I have a new partner now and though we have had our ups and downs and aren't lovers we are friends . And that my fellow alcoholics addicts and gamblers is my story. PRAY, IT WORKS.


The 12 Steps and A Course In Miracles

Editor's Note: Many of you may remember that Margo wrote an article for us about Willem in our July issue. See Death Gets a Bad Rap. I was so touched by Willem's story when I read it on the Miracles Prisoner Ministry site I decided to share it with you all. In that moment I felt Willem's presence and saw his mischievous grin and was reminded once again that it is impossible to lose the things I love. God bless you Willem!