Andrew Carlisle’s Second Chance
When Andrew Carlisle enlisted in the United States Army, his aim was to serve his country on the front lines as an infantryman. During basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, the self-described on-fire Christian led prayer and small Bible studies.
But before long, alcohol became his daily escape from the stress of military life and his ongoing battle with depression.
“I picked up the bottle and put down my Bible,” Carlisle concedes.
He began drinking beer; then he discovered whiskey. In 2017, halfway through his leadership training to be a sergeant in Fort Lewis, Washington, he and a friend took turns at a restaurant pub buying each other whiskey shots. After downing 11 drinks, he tried to drive home, but a police officer saw him blow past a stop sign.
His blood alcohol level was .118, far above the legal limit, Carlisle says. The officer arrested him and charged him with driving under the influence.
Because of his participation in leadership training, the military “chaptered” him for the subsequent DUI conviction. “That means thrown out,” he says.
Depression set in deeper. He continued drinking. With his driver’s license suspended, his sister, Tiffany, flew out to drive him and his truck back to their home state, Texas.
“She could tell I wasn't the same person,” Carlisle says. “I remember seeing the fear in her eyes watching me pour the poison down my throat.”
An uncontrollable angry outburst confirmed his fears that his alcohol use had grown unto an uncontrollable addiction.
“At that moment, I fell on my knees and said God, I need Your help,” Carlisle recollects. He recommitted his life to Christ. “I had to quit drinking. I couldn't serve God and alcohol.” Suddenly, peace flooded his heart.
Still faced with what to do with the rest of his life, he remembered his dream of becoming a historian. Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas, popped into his head. He had attended three Campus Days events while in high school. SAGU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in history. He thought, What if I sent in the application?
But an application question stopped him cold: In the past two weeks, have you smoked, drunk alcohol, or viewed pornography? At 8 a.m. that day, he already had a beer in his hand.
There’s no way they're going to accept me with all my problems, Carlisle remembers thinking. I’m not good enough.
Still, he sensed the Holy Spirit telling him to submit the application. So on the form he confessed his ongoing battle with alcohol. “Just as God has showed me grace, I ask SAGU show me grace,” he wrote.
Days later, a SAGU admissions counselor called to congratulate him on his acceptance to the university. On May 11, 2018, after two months of wrestling with God about giving up alcohol, Carlisle poured out his remaining two bottles of whiskey.
His reception by SAGU staff and fellow students has been overwhelmingly supportive, including that of President Kermit Bridges.
“I was expecting to be judged left and right,” Carlisle says. “I told President Bridges I quit drinking, that it’s a struggle. He threw his arms around me and started praying over me. I thought, Maybe this won't be as hard as I thought.”
SAGU faculty includes veterans. Among them is History Department Chair Loyd Uglow, who served in the U.S. Navy. Carlisle regards him as a mentor.
“I'm really glad of the opportunity to be able to help him,” Uglow says of Carlisle. “He's a good young man, very diligent in his academic work, and has a giving heart.”
Carlisle has launched a SAGU student veterans group that unites the growing number of SAGU students who are veterans. Over 50 men and women who have served in the military are enrolled in classes on the Waxahachie campus or online. Monthly meetings include prayer, devotionals, and discussion of difficult subjects veterans face, including struggles with anxiety, depression, and addiction.
“SAGU is a veteran-friendly school,” he says. “Pretty much all these veterans played a part of helping me out. I called one and said I was struggling. That's one of the small things veterans do for each other.”
On New Year's Day 2020, Carlisle observed a milestone. He celebrated 600 days without consuming alcohol.
Photo: SAGU professor Loyd Uglow (left) has been one of Andrew Carlisle's mentors.