One80 Podcast Transcript Episode 50
Jonathan Hickory, Break Every Chain
This transcript may have errors that veer from the original podcast audio found here: https://one80podcast.com/listen/
Ryan Henry: Trauma and Jonathan Hickory knew each other well. Childhood emotional trauma along with adulthood on the job. Trauma as a police officer was a culprit that started Jonathan on the path of self-medication through alcohol. What happens when you try to numb your pain instead of facing it? The alcohol was actually chaining Jonathan to his problems, trapping him to them. He was enslaved, but Jesus came in and broke every chain. Welcome to Jonathan’s One80.
Jonathan, it is such an honor to have you here. How you doing today, man?
I’m doing so Great. Thanks so much Yeah, this is gonna be great. I’m so excited for this interview. Uh, we like to start our interviews, though with a random question.
So are you ready for it?
Jonathan Hickory: Yes, sir. Absolutely.
Ryan Henry: So, what is the most beautiful road you’ve ever
Jonathan Hickory: most beautiful road. uh, when my wife and I went to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
Ryan Henry: Oh,
Jonathan Hickory: uh, I just remember, driving out, on these roads. We had rented a Harley Davidson, and we were
riding down these, roads, in Kauai and it’d be rainbows and. beautiful views of the coastline and going up into, uh, the yea canyon, um, which is like a microcosm of the Grand Canyon. Um, just absolutely amazing views. I think that was one of my favorite, uh, roads to drive.
Ryan Henry: Well, thank you. I just found out my next, location to vacation, so I appreciate the tip.
Well, let’s jump into your story.
talk to us a little bit about your family life. You know, where did you grow up? What was that?
Jonathan Hickory: Um, so I grew up in a small town, Massachusetts, a small town called, uh, Rutland, new England. And I was, pretty normal kid. my father was a, um, elder in our church. And so I was raised in the church, I remember that, uh, you know, my mom and dad, they loved each other very much. They very rarely argued. I rode my bike everywhere. I used to love to go fishing and, you know, just hanging out with my friends. You know, you’re a pretty normal American kid, and then it all came crashing down.
Ryan Henry: yeah. What happened?
Jonathan Hickory: so when I was, 11 years old, we found out that my father, had, terminal cancer, after. 13 months of battling this cancer. he came home basically to die.
And it was just such a surreal experience. uh, he, he ended up passing away when I was
\12 in February of 92 three months after he passed away, our whole family moved away from, all of our support systems. Really. I mean, not that this was my mom’s intention, she was trying to provide, it made for a very difficult time for us.
Ryan Henry: oh yeah. How, how did that, um, how did your dad’s passing affect your faith? Yeah.
Jonathan Hickory: Well, 12 years old, I think that, I had an idea of God and, and who he maybe was. but in my head he was this guy in the sky with a big white beard that was looking down at us. it was a very immature faith, And at 12 years old, I mean, I guess he would expect that, but, I prayed every night that God would, save my dad, and it didn’t happen.
And so I think there ton of anger inside of me after that.
Ryan Henry: Mm.
Jonathan Hickory: And it was anger at so many things. It wasn’t just anger at God for taking my dad, it was anger at the world. It was anger at myself for like not being a better son as my teenage years, came upon me.
it was rough. I mean, I had very poor self-esteem. I had, self-image issues. I mean, I was kind of a nerdy kid anyway. being a new kid in a new town, and having self-image issues, you tend to isolate.
I was isolating and, didn’t have a lot of friends and, computers became my friend and, things like that. had a lot of struggles with depression and, was bullied and, I was really, really struggling.
It was, really hard. Lot of anger,
Ryan Henry: Gosh, I can’t even imagine. I mean, that’s just so much, especially at that pivotal time in your life,
Jonathan Hickory: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, absolutely.
I like to equate it to, the original, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Willie Wonka story,
there’s a scene in that, that movie where the kids falls into the Chocolate River and I felt like I was Always drowning in life. No matter what I did, no matter what was going on in my life, I always felt like I was broken. My life was screwed up and I was drowning, and everyone else around me was thriving and I just felt like I was the different one. it really, it really affected me. and this just deep seated anger, it would start to come out when I got my driver’s.
road rage incidents were, a common thing for me, so it’s a miracle I became a police officer, later in life. but just the way I would lash out at people and, just always had a chip on my shoulder, I guess.
Ryan Henry: did the light, turn off between you and God, or was it kind of more of a, a slow.
Jonathan Hickory: when I moved to Virginia, we were fortunate enough to be able to go to a Christian school, and so I think that kept the light alive, but it was knowledge of God, it wasn’t a relationship with God. And as soon as I
graduat. there was no walk with God at all. I knew everything about God, but, I think there’s a big difference between believing in God and believing God
Ryan Henry: Oh, absolutely.
as you grew up, what, what happened?
Jonathan Hickory: after I finished high school, I job hopped a lot. As I tried to find myself, I just kind of stopped going to school, I fixed it later, but like I ended up, failing all my classes. My first semester depression was playing a huge part in that. and I just didn’t realize it at the time what it was.
But, just lots of self-esteem issues continued, lots of broken relationships with young women who needed. I’ll say fixing. I think it’s very
interesting how those of us who are broken ourselves try to fix the broken in others. And that’s what I was trying to do. I struggled through, college and Job popped like crazy. but I never had a substance abuse problem. then one day I met my wife, and she was so different.
My wife Stacy, she was, raised in the church. She had an amazing faith. and she was just a light in my darkness. we got married, I became a police officer.
I felt like finally, my life was starting to turn around. Finally, things were starting to look up. finally I had this amazing, beautiful wife, you know, a future with her, and then this amazing new career as a police officer.
Like I was on top of the world and there was just no stopping me.
Ryan Henry: made you, decide to become a police officer?
Jonathan Hickory: while that wasn’t, not in the cards originally. Um, I was into I had worked several jobs, but I finally found a job for, uh, tech company, and I was doing well and, then, when nine 11 terror attacks happened, the company that I worked for ended up going Chapter 11 bankrupt.
And at the same time, I felt a strong calling, to Serve my country, serve my community. And so that’s when I started getting interested in law enforcement. and got hired my second time that I applied back in, uh, 2003.
Ryan Henry: Wow, that’s amazing. So what was it like to be a police?
Jonathan Hickory: at first, you know, it’s just like being on the show cops. Everything that you do is just awesome. because you’re young and you’re full of energy and you’re full of the excitement for the new job, and you get to drive your car fast and you get to shoot guns and, you know, lock up the bad guys and you know, all that stuff.
So, Everything was great. you know, if you. That one day you’re gonna struggle. I was to be like, yeah, right. shortly after the academy, they gave me a book called Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, and I looked at it and I threw it in the garbage.
I’m like, I, I don’t need this. I’m doing great.
Ryan Henry: Right.
Jonathan Hickory: but then you start to realize that it’s not all the stuff you see on Cops.
Ryan Henry: tell us about a positive experience that you had, in your career?
Jonathan Hickory: there’s lots of great things about being a police officer being able to make a difference in your community and, help people. at one point in my career, I was a motor officer and That was a lot of fun because we got to do, escorts for, VIPs and do special events like,
the rodeo, what they call these, um, training seminars or,police, motorcycle rodeos. locally we do one every year and, I was able to ride in that a few times
It was a wonderful experience, You got to pick your favorite song, uh, and if you didn’t pick a song, they would play something that you would probably feel silly writing to. I was riding in this rodeo before I accepted Jesus into my life.
And uh, they asked me what song? And I put down, Hero by Skillet. cause it’s a cool song and you know, has to do with first responders and you know, they’re the heroes. And I was like, well that’s a cool song. It’s a great rock song and it’d be really cool to ride to cuz I’m the hero, right?
And, it was so interesting because, within probably. A month or two of this, rodeo, uh, I accepted Jesus into my heart and someone told me Skillet was a Christian rock band.
I’m like, what? What are you talking about? No, they’re not. And uh, started looking into them and
I started looking at the lyrics for that and oh my gosh, Jesus is the hero in the song hero.
Ryan Henry: It’s not, about us. and so for me it was just so amazing cuz it was like God was already speaking to me, through music at that time and I had no idea, you know, I thought I was the hero the whole time. Yeah. Yeah. That’s really cool. there is a very dark side as well to being a police officer. So, I mean, as much as you’re willing, to share just kind of what that is like, maybe the types of trauma Just to help us kind of understand what it was
Jonathan Hickory: you start to see as a police officer all the things. That people like to turn a blind eye to cuz they don’t want to deal with it.
the brokenness of man, fallen humanity. it’s sexual abuse of children of, women, of, others. it’s drug addiction, it’s suicide, stuff you would never even dream of is the stuff we respond to.
And, it is not even so much The thing that’s so horrible, it’s, how their family has to live with it afterwards.
and then, homicide and, just all this horrible brokenness of man, we, see the worst of it firsthand now.
If you don’t have healthy ways to deal with that. And if you don’t have a relationship with God, that helps you understand the fallen world that we live in and how God can still work through that. then you’re left trying to figure it out on your own and you all you can see is hopelessness.
All you can see is darkness. And that’s where, where I started to go. I was really struggling. Seeing the images of the events over and over again, in my mind, all I could think about was these scenes, nightmares, recurring images, it just was starting to ruin my life.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. And how did you try to cope with
Jonathan Hickory: well, I have never. Had a substance abuse problem prior to law enforcement, but in law enforcement, uh, and, uh, other first responders, alcohol is very culturally accepted. that’s how we deal with things and, it’s okay. and so I started to, drink more and I started to, drink socially with other officers.
I deleted all my. Friends my only friends were other police officers. And so even hanging out with them outside of work, it was always talking about work, which is not a healthy thing. alcohol started to become something that I, really liked. The way it made me feel, it made me forget about my pain.
And so, started to abuse alcohol, it became more and more of a problem. I started to, be mean and irritable all the time and, very mean to my family.
And I really wanted to quit. I knew I was starting to have problem, but the years started to go by and, um, alcohol became something that I needed to have every day.
if I didn’t drink every day, uh, after work, I would start to suffer physical withdrawals where I felt like things were crawling on me. and just
became even more irritable if that was even possible. And at my worst, probably $300 a month, on alcohol, Now I never drank and drove and I never would have alcohol in my system at work. so basically a functioning alcoholic, and it just really controlled me. When my daughter was born, I’m like, oh, I’m gonna be a dad and I’m gonna be the best dad, so I’m gonna kick this drinking thing. tried to kick it and I started running five Ks and doing other things to try to cope.
And as soon as something bad happened, I went straight back to it. It ruled my life for years and years and years it wasn’t until God started sending storms my way that, that I finally started to wake up.
Ryan Henry: in your book you said, um, that you had to feed the addiction. Can you help our listeners understand what does that mean?
Jonathan Hickory: You become a slave to it. Your main purpose in life becomes to. Feed the monster to feed your alcohol addiction your body becomes chemically dependent on a foreign substance.
I mean, nothing else in my life gave me any joy. and all I cared about was the next time I was gonna get to drink. it got even worse after we lost our son. so in 2013, my wife and I were pregnant with our second child and I was already in a very dark place, full blown, functioning alcoholic and, very bitter.
And, just saw the world as a hopeless, dark place.
Ryan Henry: did she know that you were there at that point?
Jonathan Hickory: No. So she knew I had changed and that I was a jerk and no fun to be around. And, she just thought it was a job, changed me. But she didn’t know about the alcohol too. she would see a few beers.
I was very good at hiding it. When we became pregnant with our second child, at first, I really didn’t want to bring another kid into this world, you know, it was just like, this world is so horrible and there’s nothing good that happens here, and it’s hopelessness.
But I started getting used to the idea, you know, we, I had, uh, felt the baby kick and pressed my, ear to my wife’s belly and felt the baby, and, built the crib and done all the things that you’re supposed to do, getting ready for the baby. and about five months into the pregnancy, Stacy started having some complications and. she was placed on mandatory bed dress, and I just started to deny that there was a problem, like, and I tried to drink it away. you know, just drank and hoped that nothing bad would happen and just couldn’t deal with reality. but, uh, on October 20th, 2013, our firstborn son was born deceased and I just,
Ryan Henry: hear that.
Jonathan Hickory: Thank you so much, but I can talk about it now, uh, Ryan, but like when it happened, it just wrecked me. I remember that a sheriff’s deputy, from the county I live in came and responded to the scene and there was nothing anyone could do, you know? and I couldn’t face my wife. I couldn’t face the scene. I was such a coward. I went outside in our garage and the, deputy was out there with me, and he knew me. because we’re both officers. And he actually embraced me as he’s embracing me and he’s telling me, you’re tough. You’re gonna get through this. You’re the toughest guy. I know you’re tough. And I’m like, sobbing. And I’m like, I’m so done being tough, I’m so done pretending that
I’m okay. There was the straw that broke the camel’s back. so you would think that at that point that I would, go get some help But I refused to get help. I refused to talk to anyone about my wife and I, started to become very distant and As
As I tried to process it on my own without help, that started to associate the death of my son with my wife, which is so unfair to her. But I couldn’t look her in the eye. I could barely speak to her. I was just so broken.
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Jonathan Hickory: this is what the post-traumatic stress screwed up brain will do if you don’t get help. So our relationship was already on the rocks, but it really started to, crumble and
Jonathan Hickory: It was a nightmare. but instead of like getting help and dealing with it in a healthy way, I tried to deal with it on my own.
Over the next 18 months, I called it myself, destruct, period. I started drinking, uh, more heavily if that was even possible. I tried to cope with it in any way that I could. Long motorcycle ride. Insane furious workouts at the gym. Nothing made me feel better. Just this new heavy darkness had come into my life and it was like the greatest burden I’ve ever felt.
Ryan Henry: was your view of God at this time?
Jonathan Hickory: that was the scariest part, I’m like, well, if there is a God, he kind of sucks because he took my dad and now he’s taking my firstborn son. I started to question the existence of God.
As I said before, I believed in God. But there’s a big difference between believing
in God and believing God. it’s a very empty feeling to start to think that we live in a world without God, because for the first time you feel like, what’s the I’m just gonna do
whatever I want. And so I, that’s what I did. I started to, um, do anything I. to feel better. And I started to do things that were reckless in nature. any knife or gun call, at work I would go back up or not.
You know, I was always first to go and even if I was off duty and riding around in my police car, you know, I, would respond even if I didn’t have a vest on. and. There were affairs infidelity, I didn’t care who I hurt, I didn’t care what happened to me. I didn’t care if I lived or died.
I was so, broken Just the darkest place in my life I’ve ever known.
Ryan Henry: so you’re you’re, you’re lashing out at people in anger. how did that, anger just start to manifest? know, who do you think it impacted the most?
Jonathan Hickory: Uh, my family. here’s an example of who I was at this time my wife, uh, worked very hard and saved up for a, trip to Disney.
For our family, my wife had no idea about, the infidelity that was going on and, all the deceit and, horrible things that I was doing. She wanted to, uh, take our family down to Disney World, my daughter was five and she was in full princess mode. And so great time to take her.
My wife had planned it all out. I had taken the time off from work and you know, we were coming down to the time to go and. said to my wife, you know, I don’t think I can go. I’ve got a lot to do at work, you know, lies, the truth was that I didn’t want to go because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to drink in Disney World and support my habit.
It’s a glimpse of who I was.
So, I fixed the problem and uh, it came up with a solution and I loaded my suitcases with alcohol bottles I would drink in the hotel room and I remember my, my daughter, you know, asking me like, daddy, what are you, what are you drinking?
It smells funny. And I’m like, you know, I’m ashamed. but the anger. affected my family, the bitterness, the darkness. it was just a horrible time for us.
while we were in Disney World one morning, We were trying to plan our day. We’re sitting at breakfast and I’m being a jerk as usual. And she says something and I
I lash at her, you know, I say something nasty and she’s finally had enough. And she says, to me, I hate you. And I’m like, what? And she said it again louder. And she’d never told me that before.
She said, you are so mean to us. We are your family and you treat us so poorly. And she’s got tears streaming down. And I just felt like, the biggest piece of trash.
It was kind of like the beginning of a wake up call for me. It was like a, slap in the face that I really needed.
Ryan Henry: So at any time when this is going on, I mean, did anybody try to reach out?
Jonathan Hickory: I think probably people did, but I don’t remember it at all because I wasn’t gonna have any of that. I remember that Stacy pleaded with me to go to church with her. she had started going to church right after we lost our son, we named him Christian, she had a dream, it’s very interesting because before we knew the sex of the baby,
God told her it was a boy and to name him Christian. that was all before we even knew, if it was a boy or a girl.
So, uh, this was, all God working and we didn’t realize it at the time. but Stacy had started going to church and she would plead with me to go. and I refused, adamantly refused. someone placed a church invite to the church. I would later get saved at in my mailbox at work, I think it was an Easter invite because it had like starburst candy and like all these brightly Easter colored candies attached to it.
And so that’s what drew me to it. I’m like, oh, candy, you know.
I grabbed that candy and then I saw the attached church invite, and it made me angry and I tore it up and balled it up and threw it in the trash.
People did try to reach out to me, but I was not reachable.
I mean, that’s the thing when you’re in such a dark place sometimes you have to, reach the end of yourself. And I, I wasn’t there yet.
Ryan Henry: Hmm. So how did things progress? Obviously you’re not the same man anymore. when did things start to turn around? You said that your wife, when she said, I hate you, and she said it again, was that a point where you started to make
Jonathan Hickory: that’s what made me start to think who am I? You know, what have I become?
it started to, it was, like I said, it was a slap in the face, a little bit of a reality check. and then as soon as we
got back from Disney World, uh, while I’m sort of processing what happened there,
I was pulled into the internal affairs office and this was the first time I had ever been in internal affairs in my entire career. at this point, I had been a police officer for probably 12 plus years. And,
They put a
uh, a voice recorder down, And they say, you know, you’re being investigated for conduct on becoming of an officer. and you know, you need to turn in your laptop and your your department cell phone and give us the passwords and the lock codes. And I was escorted back to my vehicle to get those items. Escorted back to the office again, and I was told I was not allowed to talk about the
investigation with anyone. And, that was it. and I knew what it
was about. I knew it was about in Fidelity.
I was allowed to go home early. and I got home and there’s no one home, daughter’s in I think kindergarten. And my wife’s at work and the whole house is just so quiet.
And I went to the bedroom and I can remember this voice in my head. You know, you’re gonna lose it all. you know, you’re gonna lose your. I had looked up the discipline for conduct unbecoming of an officer went all the way to termination.
I’m thinking you’re gonna lose your wife. She’s gonna find out, you’re gonna lose her. She’s gonna take your daughter and you’re gonna lose your daughter, and you have nothing left. and so there’s no coming back from this. And there was a voice in my
head saying, just end your life.
just end it and the gun’s right there. it was the darkest, I felt like there was a demonn in the room. I felt this dark presence. and as I’m sitting there like contemplating ending my life for the first time
ever, I’d never had these thoughts before. As I’m, as I’m having these suicidal thoughts, I see a vision of fire I didn’t understand what it was. now I think maybe it was a sneak preview of the gates of hell. but it scared me. Like it gave me like goosebumps and it just, whatever it was, it snapped me out of that moment. And I was like, if you do this,
there is no coming back. There is no second chance if you do this.
And others are gonna suffer. Like, what’s wrong with you? Why? So that was the moment when I, said to God, like, okay God. Like
if you’re real,I, I felt like you kind of suck. but I have screwed up my life so bad that I just don’t know what to do anymore.
And so I’m gonna give it over. Like, I, I haven’t done, I surrender it’s yours now, so, Good luck. God. Here you go.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. here you go. here’s some trash
Jonathan Hickory: you know, when my wife came home, I wasn’t gonna tell her what was going on, but I suddenly said, I wanna go to church with you.
And she’s looking at. Who are you and what have you done with my husband? Right. And so, uh, we started to go to church together and in the first church service it was of course, like the sermon was completely crafted for me, of course. uh, we always feel like that, I think.
But That was when, you know, I said, asked Jesus, into my heart and I went down and asked for prayer. That was the beginning of my, uh, relationship. With Jesus. And that was also when my life got a more difficult.
You know, it’s like spiritual warfare was, through the roof.
Ryan Henry: that day, what, did the pastor say that was so profound to you?
Jonathan Hickory: that day specifically, he was speaking, um, he was teaching out of, first Peter. And, uh, I actually have my book right here.
Ryan Henry: hmm.
Jonathan Hickory: I can read, let me read this passage. what spoke to me specifically was that he said, the pastor said in his message, God has the final word on your pain.
that really spoke to me because. pain was something that I just felt like my whole life was filled with, and I just had no escape from pain.
It was all I knew. and so when he said that, it really spoke to me. And then he also read, The following verse
from first Peter and he, he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and to live to righteousness for by his wounds, you are healed. And that really like spoke to me because, I’m like, well, I need to be healed from all this pain and there’s nothing that I’ve been able to do all this drinking, all this, reckless behavior, all this foolishness, all these sins, you know, all these things that I’ve tried to do to try to heal this pain.
And here’s the answer right here in front of me. and so that was like the answer I. I could see the truth, I could see that he really believed what he was saying, and it really helped, me to, feel like I finally had found, the answer. But then he also said, for you were continually straying like
sheep, but now you’ve returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.And so I’m thinking I’ve strayed. that’s all I’ve done My whole life has been a, a sheep that’s strayed, from God. And like, no wonder I’m all in the tumble weeds and hanging off a cliff, because I, I’ve run from God my entire life. you know, maybe I, I didn’t mean to the whole time, but yeah, certainly lately I had.
Run from the truth that I knew. and so it was just incredibly powerful and it, it really made me want to just open my heart to Jesus,
Ryan Henry: so Jonathan, that day at church, you know, you hear this powerful message and it’s bearing witness in your, in your heart What happened? What, what was your response?
Jonathan Hickory: Well, I knew I wanted to be healed and, I needed Jesus.
Ryan Henry: he had led us in a prayer, to accept Christ if we wanted to. And so I prayed that prayer and asked Jesus into my heart. Mm. Amen.
Jonathan Hickory: yeah, it was, redeeming. I want to say that at that moment, I knew that it wasn’t gonna be finger snap and everything’s fine, but I did feel like a burden had been lifted.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. now in your book, you, you say something, you talk about, renaming yourself to Jonathan. Can you talk to us about
Jonathan Hickory: yeah, absolutely. So my whole life I had been known as John and, even though my name is Jonathan, and Jonathan, as you know, is, great warrior in the Bible and, beloved friend, of king David, and, uh, was killed in battle. so he’s got a cool story, , so, at the moment that I accepted Christ, And I, I went down to pray with someone and asked for prayer.
Cause my life was such a train wreck. Uh, and I needed help. so they had these folks down at the stage that would pray with you if you had a prayer request. So I was going down and. I found one that looked like he was seasoned.
you know, I wanted one that knew what he was doing, you know, I didn’t want any amateur prayers. and he said, Hey, uh, I’m rich. And I said, I’m Jonathan, And for the first time I introduced myself as my full name. I’d always said, I’m John.
Ryan Henry: Wow,
Jonathan Hickory: maybe he didn’t know what was going on in that moment, but I’m like, I wanna be someone different. You know? I don’t want to be the old me.
I don’t want to be that dark, evil person anymore. I want to take on a new identity. And it makes me think of, Saul, when he started to, minister for Christ, and, and. God said your name will be Paul.
For me it was just, I, I wanted to rebirth. I wanted something that, identified me differently. And so, uh, now I always introduce myself as Jonathan.
Ryan Henry: That’s really cool. So did you feel like, uh, you were immediately, delivered from your sin?
Jonathan Hickory: Well, so I wanted to do all the things that a good new Christian does and, you know, I wanted to read my Bible and I wanted to, go through the little book they gave me called First Steps, which, is kind of like a, a guidebook for new Christians. I joined a men’s group, and, checked all those boxes that I, felt like I, I was supposed to check.
I tried to better myself, but at the same time, I was still struggling with the addiction of alcohol. And I tried to cut down on my drinking but I just couldn’t just walk away from it.
Uh, I remember going to men’s group for the first time. and feeling so ashamed That I was sitting there with, with withdrawal symptoms. I’m sitting with all these other brothers, you know who, to me they have it all so together and they’re brothers in Christ and they love each other and they’re so.
Amazing. And they’re healed Christians. And I felt like such a scumbag because I’m sitting in there having withdrawal symptoms, needing a drink, waiting to leave so I can go home and drink, that was something I continued to battle with. I feel like when a new Christian, accepts Christ, it’s a very dangerous and vulnerable time.
Satan says there’s a defector. You know, there’s, there’s, there’s Jonathan. You know, he, he was marching in, in my ranks just yesterday, just last week, you know, well, who does he think he is coming against us, so, uh, take him out or, and get him to fall back in. and so spiritual warfare was rampant. And I would not surrender the alcohol. and there was something that happened that finally made me give it over to God, and it was really a miracle when I actually did surrender.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. What? What happened?
Jonathan Hickory: So, I found out that, the investigation after two months, was finally over. and instead of losing my job like I was convinced was gonna happen.
I prayed that God would help me and not to lose my job, but, I still hadn’t told my wife anything about the investigation. there was some discipline. It was heavy. Heavy discipline, but I, I didn’t lose my job and I was sent to, um, night shift and some other things, but I’m going home in a different.
Cruiser, I had a nice unmarked brand new car and they took it away and gave me an old Crown Vic with a dead battery and a flat tire. like they, everything they could do to hit me where it hurts and I deserved it,
So, I, I pull into the driveway and this old Crown Vic squeaking with its old, suspension.
And she’s like, What’s up with that car? , you know, is that like a spare or something? And, um, I’m like, hey, I’m, tomorrow night I’m going a midnight shift. I’d been Monday through Friday, doing a traffic reconstruction on this cake schedule for seven years. And she’s like, what? and I’m like, uh, uh, and I’m like, you just need to tell her. You need to tell her.
But I’m so. Ashamed to tell her because I’m so paralyzed with fear that God can’t handle this, that she’s gonna leave me. And she knew I had changed, accepted Christ. And she knew I was trying to walk the right way, but she couldn’t handle this.
God could not handle my wife. And so that was what I thought. So, uh, I lied to her. I said I’d gotten in trouble at work over something else, which was true. I’d gotten in trouble over that too, but it wasn’t the full truth, you know? And so that’s why I was going a midnight shift and all this, and she was just like totally confused, did not understand why this was happening.
so then ve over the next two months, I’m on midnight shift and, and I’m living in uncertainty. I’m basically, She’s gonna find out. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I can’t tell her, but I know she’s gonna find out I don’t know what to do. God, what do I do? Like I can’t tell her. And, so God kept telling me to tell her and I didn’t.
And so he finally told her, Revealed it to her, uh, what had happened, what truly had happened about the infidelity and everything. And our marriage went into absolute crisis because once again, I wasn’t willing to trust God. I was gonna handle it myself. and in the meantime, I’d started justifying drinking again.
You know, I was on midnight shifts, so I needed it, needed alcohol to sleep during the day. and so when our marriage hit crisis, the day that, she found. about everything I confessed and I told her everything. And, I just remember that night, she told me, that I could sleep on the couch, that I wasn’t kicked outta the house.
Cause we had a five year old daughter at the time and she didn’t want her asking questions, but she said, um, You’re on the couch, like, until forever. I remember sitting on the couch that night, I had a beer in my hand, kind of like the symbol of my chains, a long neck bottle.
And I’m looking down at the beer and kind of sipping it. And I hear my wife across the house just weeping. I can hear the weeping, and In that moment, I just feel like the biggest piece of garbage, the biggest piece of trash the world has ever known. And I’m looking down at this bottle and
I just prayed a prayer and I said, God, like I can’t do this alone. Take this from me. Cause in that moment I had heard God speak to me and this, you know, a lot of people say, oh, I heard God speak to me. I, it was so weird because I didn’t hear a voice out loud, but I heard a voice, and it’s not like somebody was sitting next to me, but I heard a voice say, stop drinking and change your ways, or I will take everything from you, and this is the moment where I don’t know if I’m gonna lose my wife.
I don’t know if our marriage is gonna survive. I don’t know if she’ll ever forgive me for what I’ve done to her and. I’m like, God, I can’t do this alone. Take this from me. Take this drinking from me, like I can’t do it alone. And so I put the bottle down, didn’t touch it again that night. and the next morning, I didn’t sleep well that night because of like the nightmare come true, that it happened that day, but I didn’t have withdrawals.
And the next morning, I told my wife about my secret alcoholism that I’d been hiding from her for like eight to 10 years at that point. And instead of saying, well, I’m done with you, she became my accountability partner.
She helped me to get rid of all the alcohol in the house. She didn’t bring any more bottles of wine home. She went behind the scenes and told others not to drink around me, like family members, not to drink beer and stuff like that around me. W while I was trying to walk away from it in my fledgling state.
And while she was super mad at me,
Ryan Henry: What a woman
Jonathan Hickory: she is, she is the hero. there are two heroes in this story. One is Jesus and one is Stacy. all I did was document it, you know,
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Jonathan Hickory: so she’s amazing. And, I never went back to it.
Ryan Henry: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Jonathan Hickory: It’s all about surrender. It’s all about not me, but you Lord.
one of the ways I, I talked about it in the book is, it’s like I was a great sail sailboat
And God was blowing his wind into my sails, but I still had myself chained to the dock. And when I finally was able to. surrender it. the dock lines were cut and God was able to blow his wind into my sails and set me on my
Ryan Henry: Wow. That’s so powerful. Talk to us about the chains that were being broken, because you know, it’s the name of your book and the movie, what was it like to have those things severed?
Jonathan Hickory: it’s surreal. it’s like you’re a whole new person. It’s like you’re seeing. The world through a brand new pair of eyes for the first time. it’s just a mind blowing brand new, amazing.
Glorifying experience and to be able to live free from alcohol, from anger, from depression, all these things didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not like the Jesus switch just makes it magically happen. I did many years with a men’s group. my wife and I did five months with a faith.
Marriage counselor. And I thought that was gonna be all about the marriage, but it was mostly about me and how screwed up I was you know, all the way back to the death of my father and how I was still carrying that so heavily. and then I also did, several months with a police psychologist.
so God used so many different ways to, break these chains to help me to live free. And I think the hardest part, Ryan, forgiving myself, not that we have a right to do that. God’s really the only one who can forgive, but actually believing that you’re forgiven, and being able to move on from it.
Ryan Henry: Yeah, that’s such a good point.
if there’s a listener out there who, um, is, trauma stuffing with, you know, alcohol and, and any other ways of, kind of soothing that pain, what would you say to them?
Jonathan Hickory: I would. That you’re not alone. um, I didn’t really understand the purpose behind it, and I really believed that I was the only one, somehow, the only one that ever felt this way. Somehow I was so different from everybody else.
And if, you feel like you’re the only one who’s ever been addicted to something, or the only one that’s struggling mentally, or the only one that’s having, trouble with processing.
trauma in your life. I would just say that you are, you’re so wrong. You’re so not alone. There are so many of us that are, and we’re all broken. We’re all messed up in some way. And, There is great strength in coming together and sharing stories, but getting help is the most courageous thing you can do.
It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. but it is also, the most freeing thing. And I would encourage you to, if you’re struggling today, go talk to somebody, go talk to a counselor, go talk to a pastor, go to an, um, a celebrate recovery meeting.
Go to a, group or a, AA meeting or something and start those first steps because, you have to start your journey somewhere. And it’s amazing if you trust God with the path where he can.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so good. That’s so good. And, and you know what I always think, I think about this a lot is like whenever there’s something that’s out of line or wrong, that first step is sometimes the hardest step.
Jonathan Hickory: without God, I wouldn’t even be here. I really wouldn’t. and uh, there’s, there’s so many, people that choose to end their lives, when they’re really struggling. instead of getting help and it’s just so sad,
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Well, I gotta go to the last question.
Jonathan, could you take us to the Jonathan at age 13 when your dad passed away, and he’s really, really angry at God. What would you say to him in that moment, knowing what you know now as another loving father figure in his life?
Jonathan Hickory: Mm. That’s a hard question because it’s interesting, I feel like if I had, uh, not fallen completely apart and not had such a hard, uh, life that. I wouldn’t be who I am now.
But I guess if I wanted to try to give some encouragement to my former self as a young boy, I would say, there’s hope. and God loves you and you may not feel that way now, but one day you. One day. You’ll understand.
Ryan Henry: That’s that’s powerful.
Jonathan Hickory: God has restored my, my life. And my marriage and, and so now, we have three beautiful children.
You know, I’ve been sober for seven and a half years, and I’m never, never going back.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. That’s awesome.
Jonathan Hickory: And I’m still a police officer too.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. That’s
amazing. well folks, we’ll link all these resources, um, that, uh, Jonathan has mentioned, in our show notes. And please, if you haven’t seen the Break Every Chain movie that features, uh, Jonathan’s story, we’ll link that as well.
It’s easiest to find these show notes, um, if you actually follow 180 and select it from your library. So make sure you hit that check mark.
So, Jonathan, thank you so much, for your time today and please. Thank your wife for me, because she is a rockstar man. Praise God for her.
Jonathan Hickory: Yeah, Stacy is definitely, um, uh, truly, truly an amazing woman
Ryan Henry: Amen. Man. It’s been good talking to you.
Jonathan Hickory: You too, brother. Thank you.
Margaret Ereneta: Thanks for listening to 180 Today. Has someone or God nudged you to share your story but you don’t know how? Check us firstname.lastname@example.org and we can show you how. Hit that. Share your Story button. Our sendoff today features Wheaton College student, Liv LeDuc.
She wrote a poem in honor of Jonathan Hickory’s story. Please enjoy.
Ryan Henry: They start out light. They’re barely noticeable. I can carry them. You tell yourself, and for a while you do. They’re cumbersome, but manageable. What’s the big deal? You think this is harmless. Over time, you begin to notice a heaviness. Every time you sin, another appears. Still, you deny their weight. The phrase I am strong enough to carry them on my own is continually running through your head, weighed down by the sin you once confidently held.
Liv LeDuc: You become surrounded by darkness. The light which was once plentiful is no longer there. These weights are the chains of your sins. Every step away from the light is tying you down in guilt and shame. You no longer have the strength to continue on your own. Just when you thought all hope was lost, a great light appears the only one who can save.
Has seen your needs. He knows your heart. Despite the sin and darkness within the Lord is mighty to save, mighty to break the chains of guilt and shame. He calls you home. You are his child even in the moments of sin, and it is his delight and joy to lavish you in his mercy and grace.