A Judges Decision

Reversing the Death Sentence

For 25 years, alcohol and anger filled the emptiness in my life. Then I found a new wine.

by Robert Alexander with Chuck Goldberg

Drinking and fighting became my life because it seemed nobody loved me.

Adopted by a Christian family, I enjoyed a wonderful life until age 5. Then the bottom dropped out. My adopted father ran away with another woman, and my adopted mother eventually married a hardened unbeliever, whom she would later divorce.

My sense of abandonment was complete when my brother quit school and joined the Army. Soon I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. By age 15, I began internalizing a rage that caused me to get drunk and pick fights in bars. Yet, at the same time, I maintained a respectable side.

To escape my home life, I joined the Air Force in 1964. I thought I would go to Vietnam, emerge a war hero, and then everyone would love me. Instead, I was stationed mainly in the Philippines, still drinking and fighting by night. Discharged in 1968, I thought maybe I’d still be considered a war hero. Instead, America was in full social revolution, and screaming picketers greeted our plane, fueling my disillusionment.

Six months later I joined a motorcycle gang, zealously wreaking havoc. All my friends wound up in prison, stabbed or shot to death. Sometimes my mind would flash back to the wholesome life of my first five years and I could feel God calling me back. But I was mad at Him because my human father—who had said he was a Christian-abandoned me.

My spirit was so schizophrenic and in search of love that, after leaving the rough-and tumble motorcycle gang in 1972, I joined a hippie commune south of Buffalo, New York. We traveled the country living the life of "peace and free love," but I was still empty inside. That same year a bar owner asked me to manage her business for a while. I did. And I married her daughter, too.

From 1973 to 1980, I worked as a guard at Attica State Prison by day, and went to college by night, with drinking in between. I earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a master’s in counseling. Soon after, I accepted a position as a corrections counselor.

Through hard work and desperate ambition, my public life had all the ornaments of a successful, benevolent citizen. But my achievements were a smoke screen for the angry, hollow person living inside. I was still an alcoholic. Plus, I was never home to be a husband and father.

One night I returned home after a bar stop and saw a Billy Graham crusade on TV. Later I requested information from his ministry. I told myself it might be useful for my prison counseling. When the package arrived, my wife threw it in the garbage, but later felt prompted to open it. She picked out a little booklet containing the Gospel of John, read it all, and accepted Jesus as her Savior.

For five years she prayed for me until one night she told God she couldn’t take my lifestyle anymore. The next morning an insistent small voice forced me out of bed early, telling me to get my family to church or "you’re going to die." Drinkers tend to dismiss these voices, but after two hours this one would not leave.

In August 1986 we began attending the church of my boyhood. After three weeks of inviting people to come forward to accept Jesus, the pastor said: "There’s someone here God has been calling for years." I realized he was talking to me. I walked up that aisle, got down on my knees, and asked Jesus to forgive all my sins. Waves of peace rolled over me. I thought of my first father and all the others who threw me away. I went to my wife and kids and asked them to forgive me for all the years that I had not been there as a Christian husband and father. Then I literally washed their feet as a symbolic gesture of the servant I hoped to become.

I was instantaneously delivered from alcohol. I remember seeing some of my old drinking buddies soon after my conversion. "You don’t remember where you came from," they chided. "No," I replied, "I know exactly where I came from."

Now, the life I lived so fervently for the devil I live for God. In 1989 I ran for Judge in Corfu, New York, and have been re-elected twice. I witness to defendants and lawyers.

Once no one was there for me. Now, I have the Father who never deserts me. Once Jesus turned the water into wine. For me, He turned the wine into love for my family and my fellowman.

Reprinted by permission, Charisma, Strang Communications.