Scott Weeman (17) pushed his beach cruiser against the unforgiving sand in Mission Bay, the water shimmering in the sun like a thousand silver coins. When he arrived near the shore, he leaned the cruiser against the sand and sprawled out on the ground, the weight of everything — his life, failed relationships, utter helplessness — pressing down on him. Then, in a moment that will forever transcend explanation, he reached for his phone.
“I pulled the heavy phone out from my pocket to do something I had known I needed to do for a long time,” Weeman shares. “I made phone calls, first to a few close friends back in Wisconsin, then my mom and dad, and shared with them how bad things had gotten — that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I told them I would seek recovery the next day and that I would call them each day to tell them whether or not I had remained sober. I didn’t want to feel the way that I was feeling anymore.”
That day was October 9, 2011.
The afternoon prior, Weeman’s recent ex-girlfriend had stopped by to pick up a paper that she had written for a graduate course. Weeman had offered to read it and provide feedback. However, she decided to swing by earlier than planned. Weeman had been smoking marijuana, his studio reeking of the stuff as, according to him, it did pretty much every day, when his girlfriend arrived. It was her look of disgust that would forever remain embedded in his psyche.
“She walked inside, took a sniff, and looked me in the eyes and said something along the lines of, ‘Scott, you’re absolutely hopeless.’”
At that time, his ex-girlfriend had been one of the few good things remaining in his life, Weeman tells me. He has a winsome and pleasant way about him, and the equanimity of his voice and mannerisms hide even a hint of past addiction, pain, and loss. Weeman shares that he and his girlfriend at the time had left their small town in Wisconsin to start a new life in California. Weeman hoped the change of scenery — a new life nestled within the beautiful and clement beach cities of San Diego — might do the trick of remedying the problems that had been plaguing their relationship. Of course, Weeman now admits of the inherently flawed logic of such a notion: “It was like changing seats in the Titanic in order not to drown,” he tells me.
But it was that singular look of unravelling disappointment in his apartment — and Weeman’s belief that he really, truly was hopeless — that led to his final descent into near-despair. It was from that place of darkness that he sauntered onto the sand that day in Mission Bay empty, alone, and lost.
A FULLY CHARMED LIFE
Weeman grew up in the quaint rural town of Hortonville, Wis., the state known as “America’s Dairyland” because of its renowned cheese production. He was baptized Catholic and grew up in a relatively happy and normal home until his parents divorced when he was around 10 years old. Although the divorce definitely marked a painful fracture in his life, he continued to enjoy a felicitous childhood.
“I thrived in high school and had a really strong group of friends that are still active in my life today,” Weeman shares with subtle nostalgia. “I had always done well academically and athletically. I was the number one overall player picked for Little League when I was in second grade. I was also voted most likely to become president and most likely to succeed by my peers my senior year of high school.”
Weeman was also an accomplished member of his high school debate team, earning a scholarship to continue debate at Pace University in New York City. From an outside perspective, Weeman had what could be called a fully charmed life: smart, popular, good-looking, athletic, talented, and poised for unlimited success and influence.
Yet, an insidious habit would start to build right around the time of his junior year. It was then when he tasted his first drop of alcohol.
“The first time I took a drink was toward the end of my junior year of high school,” Weeman recalls. “I was with a friend, heading to a party. As we were walking along the railroad track of the rural community that I grew up in, he pulled out a beer from his cargo shorts and handed it to me. Then he said to me, ‘Don’t think so much about what it’s going to taste like; think instead about how good it’s going to make you feel.’”
Though this was still during high school, and he would continue to do well his senior year, it was when he arrived in New York City — a place vastly different than his small provincial hometown — that things started to fall apart. Eager to be liked by an unfamiliar group of peers — people completely in the dark about his stellar hometown reputation — he began drinking and using drugs regularly in order to fit in and feel good about himself. He eventually even started to deal drugs from his dorm room, and the excessive partying and drinking caused his grades to plummet. By his sophomore year, due to an abysmal GPA, he lost his scholarship and was forced to leave school and head back to Wisconsin.
“‘Don’t think so much about what it’s going to taste like; think instead about how good it’s going to make you feel.’”
“At that time in my life, and for years after, I felt that I wasn’t worth anything,” Weeman says. “I felt like I had been lost, like I had been off the radar. I didn’t know who I was; I wasn’t sure if I could trust the things that I could previously, which included God, or that God could actually impact my life.”
It was this state of pseudo-existence that would sum up the first half of his twenties. Weeman continued to drink and do drugs almost daily, whether in the company of others or alone. Believing he would never operate at “a hundred percent” due to being constantly under the influence or hung over, he accepted that the rest of his life would consist of managing his addictions while laboring to lie and hide his pain and suffering. This inevitably resulted in romantic relationships built on lies and unfaithfulness; a widening division from his family, whose help he refused; jobs that failed to animate his potential; and an utter lack of self confidence. Weeman was caught within a perpetual spiral into an abyss.
A SMALL WINDOW OF GRACE
And so it was in October 2011, after years of slogging through addiction, lying, and selfish behavior grounded in the hiding of his addiction and misery that he reached the end of the line. Based on the promise he had given to his friends and family over the phone, the next day he attended a 12-step meeting, not sure what to expect.
“I showed up to the meeting early in the morning,” Weeman shares with a reminiscent smile. “I don’t honestly remember much about it. Before then I had always placed an emphasis on looking good, looking better than I’m actually doing, but I remember during that meeting feeling that the people in that room could see through it. They could see that I was suffering.”
After the meeting concluded, a man named Michael came up to him, looked him straight in the eyes, and said something Weeman would never forget.
“He said, ‘I know exactly how you feel. You don’t have to ever drink again.’ And for some reason I believed him enough to start frequenting coffee shops with him after meetings, spending two or three hours together. Definitely longer than I wanted to spend discussing what was wrong with my life,” Weeman says, laughing.
This man would become Weeman’s sponsor, a role that is indispensable to members of the 12-step program seeking recovery. Michael was patient and shared
with him many of the principles of addiction recovery and how addiction manifests spiritually, biologically, and emotionally. He was also a serious man of God, looking constantly to Scripture to glean insights and wisdom that could be applied to the recovery process.
“Michael had this thick Bible, and I had never seen anything like it before,” Weeman shares. “It was incredibly worn with verses throughout highlighted and tons of notes in the margins. I remember being shocked at the time by the idea of someone actually reading the entire Bible.”
Michael took on the role of an oracular sage for Weeman, since despite his vibrant faith, he was strange and could be somewhat off-putting. Michael had a dogged intensity about doing the work of recovery in order to avoid what he referred to as the “stagnant pond” of pseudo-recovery. Still, he introduced Weeman to the power of Scripture.
“I can recall certain verses that he shared that really influenced me, such as Romans 3:10 and 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ And Michael would regularly repeat to me, John 15:16, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you…’ Michael painted a vision of recovery for me that I had thought was in some ways mystical.”
Michael also had a slew of aphorisms steeped in wisdom, such as “principles before personalities,” “in the outside world, we lead with our strength, but here, we lead with our weakness,” and “we can be more addicted to playing the victim than we ever were to alcohol,” among countless others.
“Michael had this thick Bible, and I had never seen anything like it before. It was incredibly worn with verses throughout highlighted and tons of notes in the margins. I remember being shocked at the time by the idea of someone actually reading the entire Bible.”
It was also during this time when Weeman became involved at St. Brigid’s Young Adult Ministry. He had previously attended Bible studies there only because his girlfriend at the time had insisted they go. But once everything fell apart — including his relationship with her — he decided to attend on his own. Weeman is humble enough to clarify that much of the reason he initially started attending, and trying to find recovery at all, was to win his ex-girlfriend back. But, as tends to happen when God is given just a small window of opportunity, Weeman’s small act of attending Bible study would transform his life. Thanks to the warm and hospitable concern of another man in the St. Brigid community named Brock, Weeman eventually formed a friendship with him as well as a handful of other men committed to knowing and loving Jesus.
“Brock opened up to me, and I met a group of great friends through him,” Weeman says. “I began growing closer to Jesus through Brock and others. It was at this same time that I was working through the 12 steps of recovery that I began embracing a Christian sacramental life and learning about the Gospel.”
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Weeman continued to learn about Jesus through his relationship with his church community, meditating on Scripture, and faithfulness to prayer combined with an active and disciplined commitment to the 12-step program.
“Things like prayer, fellowship, honesty, humility, the willingness to do spiritual work, and really surrender my life to Jesus — those were consistent things I was hearing about both from the church and my recovery group,” Weeman says.
Weeman is careful to point out that though his journey has been abundantly infused with grace, it has required hard work. The working through the 12 steps — something that is a lifelong process — remains a priority.
“There are three ingredients that are important to working through the 12 steps, which include willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness,” Weeman explains. “For example, we have to do things like take personal responsibility for the resentments that we hold and take an inventory of our fears and how our fears largely drive our behavior and attitudes. We have to be willing to ask God to remove our defects of character that are associated with our addictions as well as take the necessary action to mend relationships that have resulted in self-seeking and self-centered behavior.”
This manifests itself through active involvement in his faith community and serving others. Shortly after Weeman joined St. Brigid he began taking leadership roles — leading Bible studies, organizing retreats, sharing his witness publicly, and meeting regularly with others to mentor and encourage them. He has developed a host of meaningful friendships, eventually meeting his wife, Jacqueline, whom he married almost two years ago, through his vibrant Christian community. He also continued to take an active role in his recovery community, becoming a sponsor or mentor for other men struggling with addictions of all kinds: alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, eating, and so on. It was at this time that all of those gifts Weeman had wielded throughout his younger years came back to the fore, but this time in service to God’s purposes.
NO GREATER LOVE
It will be seven years since Weeman has had a drink or used a drug this October. From that moment of alienation and loss
at Mission Bay, Weeman has found grace and healing in countless ways. His continued devotion to helping others in their own addictions led him to form Catholic in Recovery, a nonprofit ministry that supports those recovering from substance abuse and other addictions through various programs, speaking events, written materials, and more. In November of last year, he had his first book published, The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments.
After the many years since dropping out of college in New York and completing community college courses here and there, he received his Bachelor of Arts in organizational management through PLNU’s adult degree completion program and is currently earning his master’s in PLNU’s clinical counseling program.
“It’s been a great joy to walk with people in recovery, while at the same time being able to draw on my understanding of psychology principles from my classes at PLNU,” Weeman says. “Getting to learn more from an academic point of view about the human condition and what shapes us and inspires us has been rewarding. I’m looking forward to developing my skills in this counseling program and being able to journey with people as a therapist by offering emotional and cognitive healing from addiction or unhealthy attachments.”
“It was at this same time that I was working through the 12 steps of recovery that I began embracing a Christian sacramental life and learning about the Gospel.”
Weeman remains incredibly grateful for the way God has worked in his life, and though it has caused much suffering, it’s through this suffering that he has discerned God’s call to serve others in addiction as a therapist and nonprofit ministry leader. As one who has seen his life go from good to awful to great, he remains committed to Jesus and the love God has for him. For him, this remains his ultimate joy and purpose.
“I go back to John 15:13 to remind myself of God’s relationship with me. ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’” Weeman shares, his eyes starting to gleam. “We get to receive the life that Jesus has given us, yet we’re also then given the chance to give our own lives for our friends. And that’s a great gift. Having the opportunity to share the blessings of my life with others — my marriage to my beautiful and loving wife, graduating from college at PLNU and getting accepted into a master’s program in counseling, publishing a book — all these things are beautiful because I get to share them with others, too.”
As he looks to his future, a life that continues to get busier and busier but also more joyful and fruitful, he remembers with gratitude how important it is to humbly lean on God for everything.
“I had to learn that I’m not God, but now I know who God is,” Weeman says with an unwavering gaze of joy. “And I know now what God asks of me and that He will always be with me.”