Growing up I was a scrawny guy. I was very tall and very skinny. I spent most of high school being bullied and after three years of misery, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I hated being the thin pushover. I wanted to fight back. I started working out but wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I stepped in to my first bout with drugs: steroids. It worked. I went from being a lanky 6’4’’ 130 pounds to gaining 120 pounds of muscle.
I nearly doubled in size and loved the result of what it felt like to take my life into my own hands.
My new size and strength gave me the confidence to confront my bully after all of these years. I fought him and brutally repaid him for all of the torment he put me through. I got my revenge, but the celebration was short lived. After the fight, I was expelled from school and was left feeling totally unsatisfied.
Everything I Thought I Wanted
After being expelled from high school I started working for a car shop. I loved working on cars and the job made me a ton of money. Since I had a good job, I could afford the life I thought I wanted. I bought a house and a few cars but it never felt like enough. I was still using steroids and I didn't plan on getting addicted, but there came a point where I couldn't sleep so I started taking more pills. Before I knew it I was easily taking a handful of pills throughout the day. Steroids, pain pills, sleeping pills, Xanax, and few others.
I reached a point where on a normal day I was taking up to 10 pills recreationally in addition to about 6 shots of steroids every week. I still really didn’t know what to do with all of my money, so I began partying a lot more. I would take $10,000 trips to Vegas and used as much and often as I wanted. This was my life.
During this time I met a really cool girl, Rebekah. I thought maybe she was what I was missing. We started dating and our relationship was toxic from the beginning. We argued a lot. I’d cuss her out, she’d threaten to leave, and then we’d make up. This was the pattern. But that pattern was interrupted when Rebekah found out she was pregnant. This time we really tried to make it work and decided to get married.
Our marital bliss lasted as long as the plane ride from our honeymoon in Hawaii back to California.
Perfect from the Outside
As soon as we were married our relationship got worse. Rebekah began to demand more from me and all I had to give were the whatever remnants were left by the drugs. My using didn’t help, of course, but it had become my release. I thought I needed to use in order to deal with everything.
On the outside, everyone thought that we had this perfect life. We had money, a great house and vacations whenever we wanted - the total American Dream, but I felt completely unfulfilled.
My idea of a good life was working hard, earning money and being able to purchase the things I wanted. I had that, so I really didn't see God as part of the equation. My wife on the other hand was raised in a Christian home and desired for us to go to church. The pressures of this two-sided life continued to take their toll on us so we decided to go to counseling. It was important that we went to someone who was a Christian because we both wanted the life that we believed all Christians lived.
Thankfully, our marriage counselor was amazing. She wanted to see our marriage survive. She was a Godly woman and she pointed out that the missing component in our relationship was Jesus. I respected that. She also helped me identify the effects drugs were having on our marriage.
The only problem was that I wasn’t ready to change.
Trying to Follow Jesus
Over and over again I lied in our counseling sessions about not using and pretended that I really had changed. This stretched my marriage to its breaking point. My wife wanted a divorce. Our counselor encouraged us to get involved in church and to seek God. We did for a while. At one church they gave an invitation to follow Jesus, we both wanted Jesus in our lives so we walked down the aisle and said that we wanted to follow him. A minister handed us Bibles and said that all of our problems, including my addiction, would go away. It didn’t. When we got home that evening after church I cussed out my wife again and we were right back to our old habits.
We attempted to get involved in church too. We attended church on the weekends and I even started a drug recovery program. But once the church’s leadership realized that I was a drug addict, they wanted nothing to do with me and I was left to fight this battle alone.
I had always been told that Christianity was about a relationship, but it was in the church that I felt the loneliest.
We tried a second church and it was the same thing all over again. I tried to get help but was met with judgment and a cold shoulder. I started another recovery program but when I slipped up they wanted nothing to do with me. My problems seemed too big for them.
If my addiction was too big for church to handle, how could I handle it on my own?
My wife and I felt absolutely hopeless so we decided to give up. We stopped going to counseling, I started using hardcore and my wife left me.
It seemed like there was nothing that I could do to be happy. I had all of the stuff that I could ever want but I was still lacking. I didn’t know what to do. I thought that the church was my last hope and I was let down. I thought that all of my options had run out. So one night I opened a full bottle of Xanax and I took them all. I hoped that this time I would finally get the satisfaction that I’d always longed for.
In my last moments of consciousness, I dialed my counselor.
After laying in my house for an hour and a half someone found me. The paramedics pronounced me non-responsive and had to shock me back to life. I spent a week in a psychiatric ward and was told repeatedly by every one of my doctors that I should have been dead. This wasn’t just a close call, it was a miracle.
I came back from the hospital knowing my entire neighborhood knew what I did. I was completely embarrassed. I packed my things and moved into another house.
But at this point I also knew that I was alive for a reason. I went back to my counselor and told her the truth. My wife and I decided to give our relationship another try, so she moved back in. I got into a program and wanted to truly seek God. I knew that it was only God who spared my life. But I still felt alone and kept going back to my old ways. My counselor knew this and she challenged me. She told me that the problem was that I was not truly engaging in relationships with other Christians. She attended Sandals Church and told me if I was truly prepared to be real that I should try going there as well.
I wasn’t ready to be disappointed by another church, so my wife went without me.
Rebekah started going to Sandals Church and got involved. She joined a women’s group and started meeting with one of the ministers. It was crazy the change that I began to see in her. She would start her day by praying and reading the Bible.
I would still come home and cuss her out but this time her response was patient and sympathetic. I had no clue what to do with that.
I found myself becoming jealous of the joy and peace that she had and I couldn’t understand how she and my daughter could be so happy without me.
It wasn’t until my daughter asked me why I didn’t go to church with them that I decided to give Sandals Church a try. Once I started going to church again I enjoyed the preaching and services but assumed it would be short lived. I knew that once this church found out that I was still abusing prescription pills that they’d turn me away just like the others.
A Real Community
My wife and I decided to seek some additional marriage counseling within the church and that’s when I knew I’d be told that my problems were too big for them. Rebekah and I walked hand in hand into a pastor’s office, sat down, and I told him point blank, “I’m addicted to prescription pills.” I waited for him to tell me to leave, or to say that he couldn’t help me, or to send me off to some facility. Instead, he said, “Ok. I want to help you quit. I want to walk with you into sobriety. Let’s do it.”
That moment was when I knew that I was where I was supposed to be.
He showed me what a real Christian brother looked like. He texted or called me every single night after our meeting. That day I joined another drug recovery program and he invited my wife and I to join his small group. In our group, people didn’t judge me but wanted me to succeed.
Rebekah and I began volunteering at a homeless shelter while I was detoxing and it brought us closer together. It was ironic because as I served the needy, I thought that I was blessing them, but really they were the ones blessing me. I learned that true satisfaction only came from a relationship with Jesus. I don’t think I really understood this until I experienced what it is like to be supported unconditionally by other people at Sandals Church.
All this time I had looked to pills, money, things and even people to satisfy me. It wasn’t until I got real with God and experienced real relationships with other people that I was truly satisfied.
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