Six years ago, as I graduated from college, I was partying in a world of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. I had been a Christian since I was eight years old, but my life was not reflecting my belief. I would talk to God occasionally, but for the most part, I was comfortable living my own life for the next high. Yet God never left my side. As I slipped further and further into the world of drugs, God held my hand tightly, never allowing me to stray too far, preparing me for a future that He had planned for me.
Despite knowing this in my heart, I didn’t stop. I went through valleys and mountains, staying barely sober for a week or two, or three, here and there, only to dive right back into that world of highs once again. It was almost as if I didn’t know how to stop. God kept on giving me chances to escape, and I kept on turning away. But God never stopped pursuing me.
One day, my adventure with drugs took a turn for the worse as I dipped into the world of psychedelics with my very first hallucinogenic trip on shrooms. As the trip started to hit, my world began to turn upside down. Psychedelics mess with your brain’s perception of reality, so right became left and up became down as I twirled around in a circle and noticed the faces of my friends appear out of order. I was struck with a deep fear as I felt myself floating away. The trip was roaring up on me like a gigantic, terrifying wave. My friends and I trooped into the house and downstairs into the basement. I still knew who I was and where I was, but that was quickly slipping away as the claws of the drug dug into my brain. Not knowing what else to do, I sat down in a chair and let my friend’s cat crawl into my lap. I started to pet the cat but that did little to calm me down.
I could still feel the edges of the drug pulling at my psyche, so in a last ditch effort to escape, I cried out to God in my head to save me, be with me, because I knew I needed Him. Instantly, something broke through the chaos. A peaceful, soothing hand took mine and I knew God was with me. The fear ebbed away and I was renewed with a sense of safety and love. Even though I was in the midst of sin, when I cried out, God answered.
I had never quite felt like I did that night, probably because I had never quite cried out for God’s guidance like that. In those moments I had a brand new sense of how loving and kind God was, not because of the drugs, but because of how He answered my heart’s cry with no eye on my sin, but only on protecting His child. Something in me changed, as God planted a seed that would sprout months later.
I shudder to think where I could have gone in the drug game if it weren’t for God’s hand protecting me. With how easily I became addicted, searching for any kind of high, it’s a miracle I didn’t turn to harder drugs, like cocaine, meth, or heroin. Though I prayed every day both out loud and in in my head, the drugs still swept me along in their current, until God yanked me out one day by granting a long time heart prayer of mine: to be able to confess to my parents what I had been doing with all my time and money for years.
For weeks, my drug habit had become so compulsive that I even kept it a secret from some of my closest friends. I was ashamed to be so enslaved to it, yet too worried and self-righteous to ask for help. I didn’t know who I was; I only knew I wanted to get high. I was split in two – drawn to God and communion with the family of believers He had for me, while at the same time tempted by the convoluted perceptions of the drug world. I had numerous friends on both sides of the fence, but not a single one of them was able to talk to me. I couldn’t talk to my drug dealer, and I couldn’t talk to my pastor. I was caught somewhere in a horrible middle.
That morning, my parents’ voices ripped a hole through the fog in which I was encased. A few short weeks after that phone call, I flew over to Africa to spend some time overseas with them and their missionary work. It was a self-appointed rehab, a miraculous gift to get away from it all, because even knowing what the drugs were doing to me, I knew I wouldn’t stop if I still had access to them.
Seven months later, I came back to the Tri-Cities, and quickly fell back into the same old game. It never got as bad as before, but within a month or two of returning I was back to partying every chance I could get. Instead of weed and psychedelics, my drug of choice was alcohol. I surrounded myself with the same community of friends who had been unable to help me before. Instead of getting high, I got drunk. This came with its own set of consequences – I got a DUI not even seven months after I got back into the country.
And yet, even though I fell back into similar patterns, something was different. Less than two weeks after I got back from Africa, I met Jacob, and told him my entire drug story. Instead of reacting with disgust or judgment, he told me that God had told him to tell the stories, and he was excited to tell stories about how God worked in people’s lives. It was like a punch in the face, in a good way. “Tell your story” had been something that I had felt God telling me for months, even in the midst of the whole drug fog, and now here was my new pastor telling me the same thing. I don’t hesitate to call that a miracle.
I’ve been back from Africa for almost two years now, and only recently been able to get free from that partying community. When nobody around you wants to get out, it’s practically impossible to be free, but I had a community of believers, flawed people who had a fire under their feet for Jesus, waiting for me, praying for me. It’s only because of this community that I was able to finally get serious about my faith. To stop living for the pleasure of the moment. To plan for a family, and a future. To live for Jesus, and to tell the story He has given me.
For years, it was just about me and my drugs. The community I was part of encouraged that mindset. Now God is using a loving community of believers, calling me to something better, to live not just for me, but for Him, and to tell my story…to do what I was literally created to do.