For years, I had very few memories from my childhood, but today, I am remembering more and more. I remember that my mother fought depression and mental illness, a battle that she eventually lost to suicide. My father was respected and admired as the organist at the church that my family attended. But, at home, he was very distant and selfish, and he was also addicted to pornography. My sister, who was two years older than I, suffered from eating disorders and I was usually in trouble at school. When I was eight, a family friend from church took a special liking to me. He took me fishing, to baseball games, and he began molesting me. Following in my family’s pattern of secrets and shame, I never told anyone. I’m not sure what hurt me worse, being molested or knowing that my father was carrying on numerous affairs through his use of pornography while he was sleeping with my mother.
By the time I was nine I was exhibiting social and behavioral problems. I was flunking school, I got kicked out of cub scouts and I was considered to disruptive for most Sunday School teachers. The molestation was continuing and I was still keeping it secret. My destructive behavior continued to get worse until I was finally taken to a child psychologist who diagnosed me as mentally retarded. The Doctor prescribed tranquilizers to control my behavior and I was placed in a school for mentally disadvantaged children. My name became retard.
At church I was told that God loved all the little children. I thought He had forgotten about me and I believed that people just wanted me to go away. As I grew older, I became increasingly defensive and competitive. I was determined to prove to myself and to everyone else that I had value. Never succeeding, I prayed, pleading for God to remember me and to help me. It seemed as though He never did. I remember sitting on my bed, in my adolescent years, reading The Living Bible and praying that somehow, someway God would give me a life that was useful and worthwhile. I felt nothing in return. God was silent.
In my early 20’s, I continued to attend church but I had lost faith that I would ever find a life worth living. I began to drink. It started quite innocently; my first beer was with some friends from church as we shared a pizza. I loved the warm feeling, the self confidence and the perceived freedom that the alcohol provided. Within 2 weeks I was drinking heavily, everyday. Within a few years, I began to work weekends in a strip joint where I discovered crack cocaine, continuous promiscuity and, along with my girlfriend, I began to make appearances in print and video pornography. Drinking, smoking crack and sex became my full time job. Over the next five years, six of my friends were murdered and I saw numerous lives destroyed. I figured that my life would be short lived. I feared for my own survival. And, try as I might, I was unable to find the power capable of changing the way I felt about myself and about life.
In 1989, I moved to California vowing to start a new life. I started a business, made it successful and began to religiously attend church once again. I pretended that my life was great. But, inside I was utterly miserable. I tried my best to live a normal life but I never escaped thoughts of self-hatred and the feeling that everyone would be better off if I just went away. After a few years of abstaining from drugs and alcohol by sheer will power, I periodically began to drink again and soon the drugs followed. Where I was once a daily cocaine user, I then became a binge user, adding crystal meth and heroin to my list of favorite drugs. I rationalized that I wasn’t doing it every day. I convinced myself that as a single man I was entitled to have a little fun now and then.
In 1999, I went on what was to be my last drug binge. I had planned a little weekend getaway for myself but I ended up traveling around Southern CA for 24 days smoking $500.00 worth of crack everyday, never eating or sleeping. During this trip, I overdosed three times, and three times I was arrested on felony drug charges. After each arrest, I would get myself bailed out of jail and head back out on the road for some more of the same. I was determined that all cost I would never go back home. I was going to end my life and this is the way I knew how to do it. I thought of it as having fun.
Sitting in a $25.00 a night hotel, I called a friend that I knew from church to say goodbye. His name was Bob. Bob was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who attended Alcoholics Anonymous, and was very active at church. For the last few months I had been confiding to him about my drug use and my sense of hopelessness. I trusted him because it was apparent to me that he knew from his own experience the internal anguish that I had known all of my life. He was the only person that seemed to really like having me around. During our phone conversation, Bob convinced me to stop drinking and doping for that day. Late that night he drove two hours to pick me up and bring me home.
Once home, I was given some very bad news. The State of California wanted me to go to prison for my drug crimes. From where I stood at that time, it looked like I had finally succeeded in destroying my life. However, on my attorney’s recommendation I entered a no–nonsense treatment program, modeled on the Twelve Steps as outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous. There, I was confronted with the reality of my addictions and, at their core, the destructive self-obsession that ruled everything I thought and did. My drug life had been hell on earth, but this felt worse.
While in rehab, I was staying away from drugs and alcohol with the help of drug testing, 12 step meetings and personal counseling. There, in the rehab, I was being prepared for the greatest day of my life. That greatest day came when, in the morning, my attorney called to inform me that things were not going well for me in the legal issues and that I should begin to prepare myself for prison. The, that afternoon, my counselor at the treatment center asked me to tell him about my personal belief in God. By heart, I recited to him all that I had learned about God growing up in church and Sunday School. Listening for quite a while my counselor, with some exaggerated frustration, told me that he had heard enough. Being surprised and feeling angry, I asked him why and then he suggested that I needed to find a real God and find a real Jesus. Indignant, I asked why and he continued, “David, it seems to me that the God and the Jesus that you have now hasn’t done you much good. Has it?” Stunned, I sat there in silence realizing that whatever religious professions I had ever made had left me morally and spiritually bankrupt and void of the necessary power to live life successfully. I felt like the whole in a donut.
Later that evening I was to meet my friend Bob, he one who had brought me home. We were going to discuss what I needed to do before I went to prison. It was dark and it was cold as I stood in a large empty parking lot, alone and waiting. Looking up at the stars and considering the failure of my life, I began to pray. I was $100,000 in debt, my attorney wanted an additional $40,000 to represent me. My family would not speak to me, my friends would barely tolerate me, I had overdosed on several occasions, I’d almost been killed a few times, I was in a drug rehab and worst of all, at that very moment, all that I really wanted was more cocaine. With my heart pounding and my tears falling, I looked up at the stars and said, “Oh God! I am a drug addict and I don’t even know who you are. I’m willing to call you by any name that you want me to but if you don’t help me I am going to die.”
For the first time in my life, I’d found a little bit of personal honesty, a small degree of humility and I accepted myself for who and what I really was, a child in need. At that point, everything in life seemed unimportant except for one thing, God. Either He would help me or I was dead. God was no longer just a “religious” belief, God had become a life or death issue for me.
After a brief moment of standing alone in the silent cold, I heard an audible voice say to me. “Alright David, now I can go to work.” Startled, I looked all around trying to find who it was that this voice belonged to. I looked behind the bushes and I looked under the cars and I looked in the dumpster that was a few yards away. I ran all over that parking lot looking for the person who had spoken to me. There was no one there. Feeling like I had just been turned inside out, I sensed right then that something big had happened. Deep within, I felt that things were going to be different for me, that a new experience of life had begun. I knew that the battle for my life had been joined with power adequate to change what needed to be changed. Me! For the first time that I could remember I knew that I didn’t have to die and best of all, I really wanted to live. By admitting that I was the problem God gave me a solution. The solution was Him.
That night, in that instant, I became unconcerned about prison, unconcerned about what had happened to me in childhood; I was excited about life and became ready to do all I could to fully experience it.
Ultimately, the court system had mercy on me, giving me the opportunity of long term rehabilitation and probation for my drug crimes. Motivated by a spiritual power deep within me, I have come to know my Savior Jesus who continues to do the work he promised by changing me from the inside out, guiding me and teaching me to surrender my will to His. As a result of His power, I gain the privilege of obedience to do His will and in so doing I discover wonderful gifts such as mercy, courage, love for others and hope. These have enabled me to do things I had never dreamed of doing. I was baptized while attending my church’s men’s retreat, where I learned that for two years prior to my arrest a group of men from church had been praying for me. In God’s world I was loved even before I thought it was possible for me to be loved.
Today, I’m still receiving new and wonderful gifts. My favorite is gratitude for life, both past and present. With gratitude, my childhood tragedies and my addictions to alcohol, drugs and sex become an important, and sometimes still difficult, opportunity as part of what I believe to be a personally scripted plan for my life. The story and plan of my life has really very little to do with me. It has everything to do with God, and everything to do with you. For you see, it is my job to speak to you about God, the God who gives mercy and grace to addicted sinners like me. And if He gives mercy and grace to me then He most certainly will give mercy and grace to anyone who sincerely asks.
In 2003, I, along with a courageous group of men, founded Operation Integrity. Our purpose is to help men and women claim or reclaim integrity in the most intimate areas of their lives, helping them to overcome struggles, to solve problems and to recover from addictions. We seek to guide them into a spiritual program of action and personal transformation that is empowered by God through a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and other people. In 2005, When Lost Men Come Home was published and it is now available to you and to anyone who may find it useful.
It’s with great joy that I tell you that any tragedy that I have suffered, and all comfort that I have received, is for the purpose of sharing with those who suffer so that they may find comfort. I have more blessing than I can use. Having been touched personally and deeply, I live with a compelling desire to experience more grace and with more grace received, reflect grace to others so they can discover their own value to God and to experience His perfect plan for their lives.
One of my favorite verses is … 2 Corinthians 1:3
All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
Thank you for listening.