I like to say, “Your biggest secret is your biggest problem.” For me, that secret was two-fold. Consumed with work and performance, I spiraled into alcoholism and pornography. But once my secret was out and I sought treatment, I began a journey to spiritual and emotional health, learning that relationships are more important than accomplishments.
I am a “lifer” in Fairview, Oklahoma, having been born here, lived here and attended Fairview MB Church since birth. I realized my need for salvation at a Larry Jones evangelistic tent meeting at age 13. A child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I married early and had two children by age 20. I finally settled down and started acting like a father around age 24. I began attending church regularly, recognizing that my boys needed a stable example. This was my path through the first 25 years of married life.
In the late 1990s, after my children were off to college, my wife and I enrolled in two years of training to do biblical counseling for emotional, relational, marriage and other life issues. After training, we became involved in counseling in the Fairview area. In that time frame, I also accepted a time-consuming oil field opportunity.
Distance drifted into our marriage, and I was consumed with work and performance. What started out as light social drinking grew into an issue and became more addictive and a real problem. I was living a lie. Communication in my marriage relationship grew more distant until it was broken. Separation and divorce followed. I felt helpless, ashamed, guilty and very angry at where I found myself, all along not reaching out for help as I spiraled further into alcoholism and pornography. Inside I knew I needed help, and in August 2007, my children became aware of how severe my problem with alcohol was and urged me to seek treatment. I couldn’t say no because I knew they were right, but I didn’t want to be humiliated by my failure.
The day I entered treatment I was set free from the alcohol because the secret was out. I came home from treatment and have been alcohol free for 12 years. This does not mean life is free of struggle or worry. When you give up ground in your life to sin, there can be and is instant forgiveness in Christ, but the path to spiritual and emotional health can take the same amount of time to recover as it did to develop. I quit drinking instantly, but working through the emotional and relational costs that were created by my choices is an ongoing process.
In early 2008, some mutual friends decided that I should meet Brenda. Neither of us was seriously looking for a relationship at the time. We were married in May 2008, and our families graciously accepted one another. God was so faithful to bring me a wonderful wife after the path I had been on.
In 2013, I started serving on the Board of Directors for Transformation Living Center (TLC), a 13-month in-house biblical recovery program for men with addictive behaviors. I now serve as chair and teach one day a week at the TLC facility.
I find that I can still be very selfish and look for instant results and get very impatient with people who don’t change instantly. Working with men at TLC reminds me to slow down and offer grace when I remember how slow I can often be to yield to God. I still struggle with being driven, but taking time for ministry helps put the brakes on how much time I spend working. I continue to learn that relationships are more important than accomplishments.
Slow down, don’t keep secrets, press into a disciplined relationship with God and admit your faults quickly. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Jay Bartel, a life-long resident of Fairview, Oklahoma, spent 21 years working in manufacturing, with the last 17 in engineering. He has studied counseling and spent 11 years in oilfield services. Bartel is retired and has served on various community board and church positions at Fairview MB Church. He and his wife, Brenda, have six children between them and 11 grandchildren.