I was having a conversation with a friend recently about his faith. When we had talked previously I was ill-equipped to give him answers to his questions or dispute the points he was making.
I consulted fellow Christ-followers and a couple books to be more prepared the next time we spoke. He had no interest in reading the book I offered him and the answers I had found weren’t enough to convince him he should start following Christ. He, like I once did, considered himself agnostic. These things wouldn’t have worked on me, nor would they sway him. I needed a new approach.
My dad had a very simple solution to this problem. Tell people how God has changed your life. It seemed too easy, but it also made a lot of sense. What did some facts in a book or an explanation of a verse do to impact their lives? Nothing.
They want something relatable, help with their relationships, finances or other personal struggles. Seeing those changes in a friend or family member might help them take a leap of faith.
People will often turn to God when they want something. God, please do this for me and I will believe. Their unanswered prayers would lead to the justification of continued non-belief. I was no different and asked God to help with my drug addiction many times, usually when I was withdrawing because I couldn’t afford or find any.
I was introduced to poker by a friend I knew from bowling leagues. He invited me to an underground game he worked at and after that first visit, my life would be forever changed. It wasn’t long before I was playing several nights a week and even dealing at games. I was in my early twenties and now had access to thousands of dollars a week. It was amounts of money that people that age shouldn’t have access to, especially unearned. Poker also gave me another thing I never had access to before, drugs.
Just like my addiction to poker, my use of drugs escalated quickly. I was no longer occasionally smoking weed or taking a couple painkillers. I had graduated to buying hundreds of various types of pills at a time. It wouldn’t be long before I added large amounts of cocaine to the mix. Quickly degenerating into someone I no longer recognized, I began to shut out the people who cared about me.
I didn’t care. Like most young men my age, I thought I was smarter than everyone. With these drugs, I was practically invincible and on top of the world.
Over the next several years I would stop taking care of myself, steal from almost everyone I knew, total a couple cars, and get arrested many times. The last time I was arrested due to a bottle of painkillers found on me. This lead to me being on probation while I was going to court to defend the charges. The better part of a year I had to take mandatory drug tests weekly. Many would use this as a wakeup call and an opportunity to get clean. Not me. The courts let me schedule which day I appeared for my tests and I researched the time drugs would remain testable in my system. I needed to fall a bit farther.
The case would eventually get dismissed. Somehow I never tested positive and the one time I was sure I would I didn’t show up to be tested and there were no repercussions. Soon after I would move into my drug suppliers house as I had few places left to turn. That wouldn’t last long either as I was caught stealing his mother’s prescriptions. Then I found myself living in a dump with four other drug users and poker players with little signs of hope.
Ironically, the friend I started this story with is the one who saved me from the terrible living situation I was in. I barely knew this guy. We had only spoken a handful of times before this point, yet he invited me to come live with him in a small three-bedroom house that already had his four-person family in it.
I remember seeing him wearing what I thought was a rosary bracelet and thinking “oh man I hope he doesn’t push his beliefs on me.” Turns out it was more of a fashion statement for him.
I enjoyed about a year of sobriety before I started to fall off the wagon again and another friend I had previously wronged offered me an opportunity and a very nice place to live. This friend seemed to come out of nowhere. We hadn’t spoken much since I had basically stolen from his longtime friend and our roommate at the time. This would get me back on the wagon with narcotics. Once again at the perfect time a person appeared and bailed me out.
Over the next three years, I would make ends meet by playing online poker as the business opportunity my roommate had fizzled. This friend had always been an avid weed smoker and other than enjoying it myself I didn’t consider it a drug. Compared to what I had abused in the past marijuana seemed harmless. It also helped with my guilt which at this point was becoming a major force.
Hurting so many people in my life, my conscience was starting to catch up to me. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, lying there thinking about how I got to this point in my life and all that I wronged along the way. I would often fantasize about taking pills and would have definitely consumed any had I access. The temptation and desire never faded.
I started reading a lot as an escape, preferably sci-fi to get lost in the story. I was quickly running out of options and read everything I had access to that interested me and didn’t have the resources to buy more. While searching for another book one night a thought popped into my head to read the Bible. I laughed to myself then thought why not. It is very long and I considered it to be the biggest piece of fiction literature available. It also had the added bonus of being free on my phone.
I began reading in October of 2016 and finished the following February.
In that time, I began attending church, accepted Jesus, rebuilding relationships, stopped smoking, quit playing poker and most importantly lost all desire and temptation to do any drugs. I was baptized a few days after completing my first read-through of the Bible. When finished I knew there was much that was missed or that I didn’t understand. I started again with a NIV study Bible to be able to absorb more and haven’t skipped a day since starting in October.
Now living back at my parents’ house I was volunteering, jogging, sleeping great and beginning to forgive myself. It now feels as if doors are opening instead of the walls closing in.
I feel God was definitely starting to pull me towards him as I was getting deeper down the rabbit hole. The signs He gave me as well as the friends He placed in my life at just the right time are too much to be a coincidence to me.
I still read the Bible every day and in this blog will try to share my experiences and what I have learned hoping to help those who were once lost. Hopefully, as my knowledge grows I can also help non-believers as well as longtime followers of Christ.
Please join me on this journey.