When my mother and father decided that they were no longer going to be together I was only eight years old. I was far too young to understand the implications of such a decision upon not only their lives but also upon my sister and me as well. Two years later my dad fell in love with a woman who lived in Massachusetts and decided to leave my sister and I behind to be with her. I was ten now, and I didn’t realize it at the time but I had changed quite a lot during those two years, because I was now more aware of my surroundings. Unlike when I was eight, I immediately understood the implications of a decision like that, or so I thought. Why didn’t my father love me? If he did, wouldn’t he stay here with my sister and I regardless of where this woman lived? Since his love for her and himself was greater, he left. When my father walked out on my sister and I, he was no longer my father in my heart, I couldn’t love someone who didn’t love me…
That same year I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real and I began to question basically everything; meaning of life, my purpose, etc. I had been in a Catholic school for several years at this point and took religion class every day. I had religion homework, tests, and exams. I knew the bible better than most Catholics I had met and I was only ten, although, I was forced to learn these things, it was not my choice. I will never forget the moment, ironically while sitting in religion class, I thought “what if none of this is real?” That single thought forever changed my life and little did I know that it would also destroy me. So my father on earth walked out on me, and therefore, my father in heaven left my heart too. I was better off without both of them.
It’s crazy to think that a mere child at the age of ten years old would have thoughts like mine, but this unfortunately was my reality. I always knew I was different from my friends and peers in school, I just felt as if my life was harder and so I retracted into myself, I put up walls no one could penetrate, because the pain was too hard. I also wanted to make sure that the war going on inside of me was kept from others, because I knew the harm it was causing me and I didn’t want it to affect anyone else around me. So the walls worked both ways, nothing in, nothing out.
I started having suicidal thoughts I think around the time I started high school so 13 or 14. They would pop up every now and again, but I didn’t pay too much attention. As time went on and I started to smoke weed and drink they came around more often, so I got high and drunk to suppress them. I was so so angry. Ironically, my anger rarely surfaced, at least I don’t think it did, but inside all hell was breaking loose. I kept ignoring my feelings and emotions, and I kept doing whatever the hell I wanted to and I didn’t care what my mom or anyone else said. This was my life, God was dead, and I would soon be too.
I just didn’t care about anything anymore, I didn’t value my own life… I did however value music though. That always brought me to a place where I felt safe and secure, so I played guitar as much as I could. Hours and hours on end, when I should have been studying and doing homework I played records, listened to music, and played guitar until my fingers were too blistered and cramped and I couldn’t do it anymore.
My drug use got worse but at this point I was still just smoking weed and drinking, but I was smoking every single day now. Before school I would get high, and immediately after school I would be high until I went to bed. I don’t remember most days while in high school, I was somewhere else, which is exactly how I wanted it. When my mom decided to kick me out of the house at age 17 because she caught me smoking weed, reality set in real fast. I had to figure out where I was going to live, because I knew my mom was serious. I called my dad, the man I hated, the man who was dead to me. I left all my friends, bands, and everything I had ever known to live in a studio apartment on a blow up mattress next to the man I hated more than anyone or anything in the world. It was the worse 5 months of my life. I worked 6 days a week to get away from him and to save up as much money as I could so I could go back home to Florida. I got introduced to pills while living with him, from a friend at work, and I enjoyed those more than smoking weed. Pills were stronger, especially when I smoked and took pills, that is when I would literally forget everything, so naturally I began doing a lot of both.
After I saved up enough money I moved in with one of my best friends. I lived with him and his mom on the couch. I was there for 10 months. When I moved back to Florida, I was introduced to a drug dealer who I became close friends with and now anything I ever wanted was just a phone call or text away. I took full advantage of that opportunity as much as I could afford to do so. Things quickly spiraled out of control. I remember going to work snorting cocaine in the bathroom, then going right back to work. It was literally insane. I don’t know how I still functioned or how no one even noticed. Still to this day I find it so hard to believe I was so messed up on drugs, and neither my boss nor my co-workers ever noticed. I hid it well, I was a master at hiding, I had been a seasoned pro and well practiced for almost 10 years.
Things ultimately came to a head, and I had what I refer to as a complete mental and nervous breakdown. I became literally numb and indifferent to the world. I didn’t feel anger anymore, I didn’t feel joy or happiness either. I tried speaking to a shrink and psychiatrist about it, and they wanted to give me more drugs, but I knew drugs were the problem, and taking more seemed insane to me.
Those thoughts about suicide I had, yeah those were now daily, sometimes hourly occurrences. They got worse and worse. I came up with detailed plans of how I would do it, the note I would write etc. I seriously thought about it a lot, but I think what kept me from going forward with it, was I wasn’t willing to leave my mom like that. She worked so hard and loved me way too much to do something like that to her. I knew it would crush her spirit and she would never be the same, so those thoughts kept me from taking myself out. I was selling drugs at this point too in order pay for my habit and I had so many close calls where I overdosed and thought, I hoped, I wouldn’t wake up. I almost lost my vision one time from taking too much ecstasy, I couldn’t see after that for almost 2 weeks, and I thought I might not ever.
So one night I get a phone call from my best friend Trevor who was a struggling alcoholic and out of nowhere he just asks ‘dude have you ever though about stopping’? No, I had never even considered it, because drugs were my life, I was high from as soon as I got up until I went to bed, I was even high in my sleep because often times I had taken so much I woke up still messed up from the night before. Taking drugs were part of my daily routine the same way brushing my teeth and eating were, so no, I had not ever thought of it.
I was quite shocked by such a simple question, and he told me he was going to AA meetings and wanted to know if I wanted to go. I said sure. So there I was 19 years old surrounded by people old enough to be my parents who had been drinking longer than I had been alive, all sharing horror stories. One by one they went around the room sharing stories of complete devastation and how drinking completely ruined their lives, their families, their souls. Drinking was never an issue for me so I didn’t relate to them, drugs were my thing. Their stories shook me up enough that I decided I should probably check out an NA meeting because at least those people were more like me. So I did.
The meetings where the same, the stories were even more horrifying, but maybe that is because I could see myself in them, whereas I couldn’t before with the alcoholics. All of us smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank a lot of coffee at those meetings so smoke breaks were when I really got to speak one on one with people. I am 19 at this point and I have always looked young for my age, so I probably looked like a freshman in high school to these people. During one of these smoke breaks, some guy asked me “how old are you kid?” I told him my age, he says “I have been putting needles in my arm longer than you have been alive!” I froze, something clicked, something shifted in my mind. “What the hell am I doing here?” “I don’t belong here, I am not like these people!” Oh but I was, I was headed exactly down the same paths they had already travelled. That single phrase struck a chord with me and I was different because of it. Something began to crumble… those walls of mine started to crack…
So it’s a Sunday morning, and I am sitting in my apartment alone reading this NA book. Now to be clear I have a serious problem with one of their steps, the so called ‘higher power’ part. I was required to find a higher power, but yeah, that is not happening so I thought I would just skip that one… It’s around 11am, Sunday morning, I am about to begin reading the chapter for agnostics, and as I am turning the page to said chapter I hear a voice… “go to church.” I ignore it. I hear it again… “go to church.” Again I ignore, again I hear it, and so on it goes back and forth. I am thinking to myself well this is it I have finally hit the end. While in those meetings they told me I would end in either one of three places if I kept using drugs. I would end up dead, in jail, or in a mental institution. So I thought bring on the straight jacket because I am hearing a voice that is not mine telling me “go to church.” I had not been to church in over 10 years. I hated God, I didn’t believe in Him, and I hated Christians and Christianity. So this voice was not God, it was some crazy state of psychosis or so I thought at the time.
What’s even crazier is I actually listened to that voice. I decided I would go, I had nothing better to do. So I begin to drive to the closest church I knew of that was not Roman Catholic. As I am driving I am freaking out, cursing, wondering what in the hell am I doing!? It was as if I wasn’t even in control of my actions, something was pushing, something took over… it was terrifying and surreal to say the least.
I arrived at church and it’s around 1pm and I am thinking to myself, “no church has service at 1pm this is ridiculous, what am I even doing here?” I noticed two girls standing on the sidewalk holding pieces of paper, so I parked and walked up to see what was going on. They handed me a flyer and it said there was a piano recital going on. I thought well this is perfect. I love music and I can go inside and listen to it, rather than some preacher tell me how much Jesus loves me and all that garbage. I walked inside and the first 2 rows are filled with little kids and their parents the rest of the church is completely empty, so naturally, I sit in the back all by myself. I remember sitting there and looking around and for the first time the pictures of Christ and the cross… they didn’t bother me. Whereas before, they would have invoked feelings of rage and hatred. I had extremely visceral reactions to seeing religious objects and depictions, but this time I didn’t. Then all of a sudden something comes over my entire body, and I don’t know how to describe this in words, because well it’s impossible. I felt a sense of peace so inexplainable, so unimaginable, and I felt it inside and out. The war inside of me that had been going on for 10 years just paused, and I knew it wasn’t some pill or drug I took earlier ‘kicking in’ because I knew all too well what that felt like. This was pure, whereas the highs I used to get from substances always felt superficial and fake. This was genuine though, I felt loved…
So there I sat listening to little kids whose feet couldn’t even touch the ground when they sat at the piano, play some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I had been a musician for several years at this point and I couldn’t do what they could, it was absolutely remarkable. Towards the end the teacher got up and played my most favorite piece of music in the whole world, Beethoven’s 14th piano sonata the ‘moonlight sonata’ first movement. It was one of the most intense musical experiences of my life up until that point. “Could this all just be a coincidence I thought?” I shrugged it off, and when the piece was finished, I left.
As I opened up the doors of that church to leave, everything around me started glowing. I thought I was having a flash back and was hallucinating. I was staring at a parking lot, with some asphalt, parking curbs and a few small trees. Not exactly worthy of National Geographic or even a post card, but it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My experience is beyond words, language simply cannot do it justice, but it was as if I was blind and all of a sudden I could see. Like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens that door and all of those vibrant colors fill the screen in an otherwise black and white world… The world around me was literally glowing and vibrating.
I started to drive home and was getting ready to make a left out of the church parking lot when all of a sudden I noticed this large flock of white birds flying over my car and the words “thank you God” came out of my mouth. I lost it…
I did not say those words! I never would have ever thanked God for anything, but in that moment I knew who was causing all of this to happen. I knew this was Jesus and I had never experienced Him in my life ever before. In an instant I had immediate revelation about who was behind all of this, and so my soul uttered those words, not my brain or my ‘self’.
I went home and my best friend calls me, the drummer whom I lived with on his mom’s couch. He wants to come over with his girlfriend to get high, something we did all the time. He too was an atheist, and the first words out of his mouth when I opened my apartment door to let him in are “did you just come from church?” I said “What? Why would you ask me that?” He said “I don’t know man you look like you just came from church.” I was stunned and I told him “as a matter of fact I did.” I told him all that happened to me, he said “that’s crazy” and then we got high like it we always did.
That night however, I got on my knees before my bed and I kneeled there still not knowing what to say. I mean how do you talk to God? He obviously had gotten my attention for a reason, but I spent the last 10 years of my life cursing him, taking drugs and selling drugs. What could I possibly say to someone so holy. I didn’t know how to pray, how does one even begin this thing called prayer? I just talked out loud to Him as if He were in the room listening to me. The weird thing is somehow I believed He was, I knew it. I told Him I was a drug addict and a drug dealer and I had nothing to offer Him. I thought maybe he got me confused with someone else, because what would God want to do with scum like me? I was the least likely candidate. I did the exact opposite of everything I learned about in religion class I was the “prodigal son.” I told Him that night however, that if He really wanted me, He could have me. In some really awkward and confused way I surrendered my life to Him.
I woke up the next day and went to work and told my co-worker about what happened the day before. She was a Christian and she was blown away, I mean I was the guy who used to wave his middle fingers up towards the sky in front of her, and say things like “if God were real why doesn’t he just strike me with lighting and kill me right now?” Yeah I was that guy. What a crazy thing to say and do, but I was crazy back then. She gave me a bible and told me of a church to go to, so I read and I went. That night or maybe it was the following day I told my mom what happened to me. She said that on Sunday morning she had spoken to Grammy, my grandmother, and had asked her to say some prayers for me because my mom thought I was in trouble. A mother’s intuition is so powerful. I lived on my own, and my mom had no clue as to the extent of my drug use, or even that I was selling drugs. Somehow, a mom just knows when things are not right. So Grammy said she would, she even said prayers to her “little flower,” my aunt Theresa, whose life was tragically taken at such a young and tender age in a car accident. A few hours later all of these events took place. I believe to this day that Theresa is my guardian angle and she watches over me.
Oh and the drug use just stopped, at least the hard ones. I still smoked weed for a while, but all the pills, cocaine, ecstasy, and everything else I had lying underneath my bed ready to sell and consume at a moments notice, I had no desire to do them. It was really strange. My desire to use them was gone, in fact I was disgusted they were even there. I never went to rehab, nor did I ever experience withdrawals, God just took that all away. He performed a miracle! It was just one of many He would perform and He still continues to do so today.
As if that were not miraculous enough, my relationship with my dad has been completely restored. I can honestly say now that I truly love my dad, and I love him for who he is. God has shown me to love people as they are, not determined by whether or not they live up to my expectations. I have completely forgiven him and myself for everything. I didn’t happen over night, it took a few years, but I cannot tell you how incredible it feels to have my dad in my life again. The person whom at one point I hated, despised, and brought me so much pain… and all of that is completely made new and whole. Only God could do such a thing.