Kenny Clark and His Faith in a Bottle (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell14 Minutes

John Farrell: Could you please tell me a little bit about your book, Faith in a Bottle?

Kenny Clark: Faith in a Bottle was something that came after years and years of struggling with alcoholism. Being a Christian myself, I was moved to write it simply at a time when I wasn’t sure what the problem was. I spent a lot of time in my life thinking, “Well, because I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have issues like this.” But it was undeniable that I was an alcoholic—a severe alcoholic—and I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t find the solution. So, I actually got into the Word like we often do. I started looking at different passages throughout the Word.

The book kind of wrote itself, to be honest. I was inspired to record everything I was thinking. What’s the truth about my alcoholism? What’s the truth about my Christianity? What does God have to say about these things?  And it just kind of came out in one pass from start to finish. It wasn’t something that I sat down with an outline for.

As I started writing, I was always three chapters ahead in my mind. That’s the way it came out. I was referencing some other books as you can see in the book. I did a lot of spiritual reading when I was trying to get sober. Trying to get sober was an incredibly difficult time. It was a couple of days here, a couple of days there, and then that spirited demon, as I call it, starts talking again. But during that time, I did a lot of reading, not just from the Bible, but a lot of different spiritual books and that’s kind of what happened. I was moved to write and it just kind of came out the way it did.

JF: The title of the book, Faith in a Bottle, is catchy. Is there any special meaning behind that title or did you just choose it because it represented your struggle with alcoholism as a Christian man?

Kenny: Yeah, that’s exactly it. One of the chapters is titled “Faith in the Bottle.” When I was writing I got down into that chapter and I started realizing, “What’s the allure of alcoholism? What is it that drew me to alcohol to begin with?” And the truth is that I’ve always been a fearful man. I can go down the list of all the lack of virtue I have, and it always had to do with my weak Christianity. My weak approach to it.

Ultimately, what liquor gave me, even in the early years before I was an alcoholic, was a quick dose of faith, as I like to say. Immediately I don’t have fear anymore. I have all this false faith in myself and who I am and my capabilities. I can go right down the list of all the falsities that alcohol gave me. But ultimately it comes down to faith. I had weak faith in God, or questionable faith in God, and I supplemented that with alcohol and then eventually alcohol became the dominant force.

JF: Could you tell me a little bit about your journey with your alcoholism and trying to find sobriety?

Kenny: I was a late bloomer. I can’t say that I ever took a drink until I was in my twenties, but I quickly became an alcoholic. Within a year I was an alcoholic. And for the next 12 or 13 years that false faith I got from alcohol continued to dominate my life. I made it work for a while, as many alcoholics often do. But when I got into my mid-thirties, it started affecting things like my marriage, my family, my career even.

That’s when I first decided to give sobriety a run, and I reached out to God. It had been the first time in a long time, and the Lord was there for me. He redirected me back to the life of sobriety, led me back to the church. It wasn’t long after that I started living for myself again.

I talk about “self” in the book and ultimately that’s the root of all my problems. It took about nine and a half years, but eventually I took a drink. After this relapse, this had been the most difficult time to try to get reestablished sobriety for me because the consequences had been greater. The costs had been just overwhelming. I lost my marriage, I lost my career, I lost hope, as I talk about in the book as well. And through all that, all I wanted was another drink. It was really that bad.

So, it’s me knowing that I need to get sober, but being absolutely unable to do it. It’s beyond obsession. We talk about obsession a lot in alcoholism. That’s an understatement. It’s just an overpowering, all-controlling thought. “I need another drink, but I can’t have another drink.” Living like that is the struggle of getting sober. Every day waking up and the very first thing on your mind is getting a drink, but feeling like you can’t.

That led me back to looking at God. God is the answer for everything, I’m finding. The most difficult thing I’ve ever done was getting sober again. And I’m not saying that to be dramatic. That is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done … getting sober from alcohol.

JF: You mentioned that alcohol gave you a “false faith.” Can you explain that a little more?

Kenny: To a guy like me—a chronic alcoholic—and I’m saying for me personally, fear was by far the dominant force in my life. Fear of relationships, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of everything. I spent a long time in my life putting my faith in God on the back burner. It was always there in case I needed it, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my life.

When you take a drink, and most alcoholics will tell you this, even non-alcoholics will tell you this, anybody that’s ever had a drink knows that you take a drink and suddenly you have a little more confidence in the man or woman that you are. Very few people probably haven’t had a drink ever, but most people that have will tell you, you loosen up a little bit, you get a little bit of confidence. You might say something to somebody that you ordinarily wouldn’t. When I take a drink, I start looking at myself a little differently, through a lens that’s warped. It gives me a little more confidence in the man that I am. It gives me a little more confidence in the things I’m going to say, or the things I’m going to do, but they’re totally false. It’s a false faith. It gives me faith in my own abilities. It gives me faith in myself that’s completely false and it’s completely non-sustainable. The faith only lasts as long as the drink does.

JF: What is the overall message you hope people take from your book?

Kenny: I would be what you would call a hopeless alcoholic. I was on the way to drinking myself to death and I had more than one professional tell me that. There’s a scripture I love, Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I love that scripture because that scripture essentially tells us what the answer is. Here I am conforming to the patterns of the world as a chronic alcoholic, what do I have to do to escape that? I have to renew my mind. I have to renew my mind first by renewing my faith, and renewing the way I think, renewing the way I treat people, renewing the way I demonstrate life as a Christian. And through that I’ve been able to find sobriety again.

These scriptures aren’t just neat things to talk about on Sunday. There’s real truth there and once I started living life as an honest man, once I started living life as a compassionate man, once I started living life as I think God wants me to live, suddenly that compulsion to drink was slipping away. So, the basic message in the book is the answer lies with the Lord. It really does, but it’s going to take some work. It takes some action. I can’t wear my Christianity like a suit, take it on and off when I want to look good. I can’t do that. God expects something and He expects some action, He expects some commitment. The message of the books is that you can take a chronic, hopeless, in dire straits alcoholic like me, add God to the picture, and healing is possible. Healing is possible.

JF: What role did faith in God play in your overall story and more specifically in your healing and sobriety?

Kenny: I always had faith in God. I always believed in the Lord. I always believed in Christ, but I always had this weak faith when it came to following God’s will in my life. You know what I mean? I would get up, say my prayers, and then go about my business. I believe it was my lack of faith in God and His will for my life that ultimately led me down the throat of the bottle of alcohol.

Conversely though, it was taking that leap of faith, literally taking that leap of faith and stepping out and saying, “God, I’m going to live the way You want me to today. Today. Right now. Not tomorrow, not on Sunday, not when it suits me. I’m going to suit up in my best faith-driven suit and I’m going to go out and I’m going to represent the kingdom today the best I can. And I’m going to accept whatever you have for me, Lord. I’m going to have faith that you will provide. You will take care of me. You will direct my life. I may not have any idea where it’s going, but You’re going to direct it in some way that’s beautiful, suitable for Your kingdom.”

When I started living like that, when I started actually exercising, not just having it, but exercising my faith in God—I can’t explain it—the need for alcohol, those demons were chased away.