Profiles in Recovery

Howard Hoekstra

A beloved church pastor, Howard Hoekstra knew he had a problem with alcohol. He had the genes for the disease, and had tried for years to quit drinking on his own. The turning point came during an intervention by his concerned congregation at Calvary Church in Orland Park, Illinois, where he was senior pastor for 28 years.

Hoekstra entered a rehab program for clergy and other professionals, and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. The church welcomed him back after treatment, and Hoekstra continued his ministry there for several decades until retiring. His recovery was a catalyst for others to seek help, and launched a recovery ministry serving up to 100 people each week.

Current Ministry:
Came out of retirement to lead Downers Grove Community Church (IL)

What I lost to addiction:
I lost valuable time and connection with my young children.  As Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), they continue their own personal struggles and journeys.

My rock bottom moment:
When the leadership of my church did the intervention and insisted I go to Treatment Facility for an evaluation.  I wondered if I would ever be able to resurrect my career in the church.

What worked for me:
Admitting I had a problem and not living in denial.  Attending AA meetings for support and encouragement.  Keeping my relationship with God strong.

Proudest moment:
When my church accepted me back into the leadership position.

Favorite recovery quote:
“Always living in the awareness that “Alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous

When cravings come:
How foolish I would be to lose this gift of sobriety God has given me.

What I value most in recovery:
Not being under the control of something that absolutely controlled my every waking moment.

Stigma I faced:
As a pastor I “was not to have problems with alcohol.”  Some dear people “could not follow an alcoholic pastor.”

Thoughts on relapse:
Never forget that alcohol is lurking around the corner ready to grab me again if I give it the chance.  Continuing to admit that I am powerless over alcohol.

Rules I live by:
God is the source of my strength, and I remember it is always “one day at a time,” even with 25 years of God’s grace behind me.

Best advice for newbies:
At one of my first meetings an “old timer” celebrated 35 years.  I thought – “Crap!  I’ve got 3 days!”  Then he said something that encouraged me and has stuck with me:  “I have seen so many people relapse after many years, so I never forget that my sobriety is one day at a time.”

I get inspired by:
Continuing to walk alongside people in recovery and see them “get it.”  No matter how many times people may stumble, you can always come back again and seek help.

Shed the Stigma:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].