"I'll Stand By You" - Mark's Journey from Crippling Alcoholism to Faith in God - Hope 103.2

“I’ll Stand By You” – Mark’s Journey from Crippling Alcoholism to Faith in God

Only God could rescue Mark from a destructive alcoholic spiral and bring him back to life. He shares how a song on the radio started to turn things around.

By Clare BruceMonday 12 Nov 2018FaithReading Time: 4 minutes

Listen: Mark Filipovic shares his story of transformation.

If you’re looking for proof that God can transform the most broken soul, look no further than Mark Filipovic.

For years, the father of three from south west Sydney was slowly destroying his body, his closest relationships and his very life, with alcohol. Only a relationship with God could rescue him from such a dark place, and put him on a path to living again.

We first came across Mark when he phoned Hope 103.2 to share how God spoke to him through a song on the radio station. It was one of the turning points in a journey that has saved his life. Recently, we went and met Mark in person to hear more about his story.

“I was just living for the next drink. And once I had that first drink, I can’t stop. It almost took my life.”

“I was brought up in the Catholic church, where I believe I got to know who Jesus was, but I drifted from that foundation and decided to build life on my terms,” Mark explained.

“I latched onto alcohol rather than a relationship with God.

“It [started with] a few drinks with friends…and progressively, to alcoholism. It led me to drinking by myself in a garage at 3 o’clock in the morning. I was just living for the next drink. And once I had that first drink, I can’t stop. It almost took my life. I almost had cirrhosis of the liver, I was 210 kilos, drinking [up to] two bottles of bourbon at a time.”

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On paper, he was a father and husband, but in reality, Mark had abandoned his family due to his abuse of alcohol.

“I was married, but I was alone,” he said. “I had no relationship with my children.”

A Terrifying Wake-Up Call

Like so many people sliding down a destructive path, it was a terrifying wake-up call that triggered a process of change. Mark went under the knife for a major gastric sleeve operation to try and get control of his weight, but foolishly he ignored the doctor’s warning about drinking after the surgery—a decision that can be lethal.

“The operation entails them cutting 80 percent of your stomach away, and sewing it back up,” Mark explained. “The doctor told me before the operation, ‘Mark, no alcohol’ – but in my stubborn alcoholic brain, I said…’I think I’ll be alright. I’ll give it a week and I’ll do what I want’.

“God was reaching out to me, saying, ‘Mate I’m on your side’.”

“I drank after that, and knocked over a couple of bottles of bourbon—and I blacked out. And when I woke up, I realised ‘there’s something not alright here’.

“I was in a really dark place. My marriage was breaking up, and I was asked to leave by my wife. And I realised I was powerless over my life, over alcohol, over everything. I broke down. I virtually just said, ‘God can you do something for me here?’”

Soon after, Mark got in his car to drive to work early one rainy morning, and turned on Hope 103.2. The song I’ll Stand By You by was playing, and in Mark’s words, “God was absolutely speaking to me”.

“Something started happening in [my heart]… I started crying in the car,” he said. “I believe there was a seed planted… of Him trying to communicate to me, reaching out to me, saying, ‘Mate I’m on your side; no matter what happens I’m in control.’ It’s funny, once I admitted my powerlessness over it, a power greater than the alcohol stepped right in, and I believe that’s God.”

When God Becomes a Friend

Mark surrendered his life to Jesus. He started going to church, got baptised, and found the power to walk away from alcohol, replacing it with a desire to follow God. His parents, staunch Catholics all their life, saw such a dramatic change in Mark that they got baptised in his Pentecostal church themselves, experiencing new depths in their own relationships with God.

The change in his family is something that brings Mark to tears.

“For the first time in my life my whole family is in the same church,” he said. “God, Jesus Christ, he doesn’t look at as Catholic or Orthodox or Pentecostal… he only sees us as His children. And for me and my parents to go into the same church together and praise His almighty name together—praise be to God.”

Mark’s relationship with God is no longer based on fear, but on friendship.

“I’m coming to understand that He actually wants to have a relationship where He just wants me to come to him as I am, talk to him like a friend like a father,” he said.

“One thing I know, the hope the world gives comes up empty every single time. I’m the proof of that. It almost killed me. The hope that the Lord gives is a hope that will sustain, push you forward and fuel you. It’s a fuel that gets me up in the morning. I’m holding onto that hope, because everything else comes up empty.”