My journey to Teen Challenge was a very trying and intense time in my life. Growing up I had always excelled in athletics, whether it was baseball, football, or even basketball. At the age of 10 I got really involved in baseball and found my identity in that. Succeeding in sports seemed to please everyone around me, so if they were happy I was happy.
When I hit junior high school, I found football and found that was the sport for me. I was always a bigger kid so I found my place being able to do really well in this sport. So I put all my focus on this sport and year around I would train for this sport. By the time I hit high school all the coaches had been recruiting me and talking to me about where I would play. My sophomore year my first couple games I played on special teams and was second string on the offensive line. The third game of the season the guy in front of me got hurt so I started playing varsity for the rest of the season. I was on cloud 9 and loving life. Then junior year came around and in the semi-final game I got really sick and ended up being diagnosed with Leukemia a couple weeks after that. This took me out of football and I was absolutely crushed. I had colleges looking at me to go play for them, but because I got sick. I was a health risk to them, and my body was not up to playing college football.
During the cancer treatments I had about 10 surgeries in a year and was put on heavy duty pain killers throughout this time. I was hooked from the first one that I put in my mouth. At the time I didn’t think much of it because doctors were prescribing it. Fast forward about two years and I found myself in Bible College and gravitating towards the wrong crowd. I would get together with some friends and we would drink hard alcohol in the library, and I was just causing all sorts of trouble at this school. So with me causing trouble, I decided to move out of the dorms and into an apartment with a buddy who would drink with me. This was pretty much where everything went south. We would throw big parties. One night an old friend from high school brought some weed over and I just loved it. It triggered something in my head and it reminded me a little bit of the pain killers I once had. For about a year I would smoke weed, work, and pretty much keep things simple.
One night a friend came over to a house I would hang out at, and he brought some pain killers. I didn’t realize you could get them on the street. One thing leads to another, and suddenly I found myself smoking oxycontin. This led me to do things that I said I never would. I ended up going to rehab and moving into an Oxford House. I was clean for about 40 days, but was just missing something in my heart. I ended relapsing, but this time I was introduced to heroin. This drug was a whole other level.
I smoked heroin for about a year; then my friend introduced me to using a needle. I began selling drugs and doing “favors” for people for the drug. I was committing some pretty horrible crimes and doing some terrible things to people just to get a fix. Things went south with those people, and they ended up going to prison. so I didn’t have an income anymore. I thought it would be a good idea to take my little brother's Xbox and iPod, and I ran right to the pawn shop to get a fix. I had done some low things in my life, but this one hit me the hardest. The next morning I woke up and knew this was going to be it–if I didn’t figure something out I was going to jail for sure. So I told my mom I needed help again. My family said I needed to find it on my own; they were done paying for me to go screw up again. We looked all day and the only place that would take me was Teen Challenge in Spokane, so that night my dad drove me from Seattle to Spokane.
To start my Teen Challenge adventure, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The first few months I caused a lot of trouble there–smoking and finding ways to still use. About four and a half months into the program, I got a call from my mom telling me my dad had a sudden heart attack and he had passed away. I flew home and was there for the funeral. I knew where my dad had hid some of his pain killers so I grabbed a bunch and brought them back. Once I ran out I found ways to get more, and I ended up trying to buy some from an old graduate. A week later he called in and told on me and two other guys. This gave me my first restart in the program, so I was at a cross roads: “am I really going to do this program, or should I just go?” Well I decided that I would really start to dig in and see if I could get better. Another seven months went by, and I was doing really well until I went on a moving job and found an entire script of pain killers. I said, “okay, one more time won’t hurt anything.”
The next morning I woke up and had to take a drug test. This was the last straw for them, and they said I could leave for 30 days, or they would take me to the Tri-Cities Teen Challenge. If I thought my mom and brother were done with me before, this was it. My mom said she didn’t want to talk to me anymore and didn’t even know if I was a part of the family anymore.
I made the decision to go to the Tri-Cities. When I got there, I had a meeting with the director and he asked if I really wanted to stay. I said, “I really don’t know,” so he told me to give it a week and then we’ll see where things are at. Two days later we were at church and the director did an alter call and something was telling me to go up, so I did, and he prayed with me and told me before the prayer that God was going to break the chains of addiction for me right then and there that night. So we prayed and there was a point where I just felt this weight lift off my shoulders and off my chest, and I knew right then that I was never going to do drugs again.
I spent four months there and was doing really good. My mom was starting to talk to me again on the phone, and I could see God using me and working on me. Since things were getting better with my family, I asked to be transferred to the Seattle Teen Challenge with the hopes I could see my family more often.
When I got to Seattle I had started doing devotions on my own time ,and God was becoming more and more real to me every day. I really started digging in the bible, and I was fascinated with the things I was learning in it. And at this time my mom was visiting me on every visitation day, and we were laughing and talking again. Next thing I know my brother is coming with her, and we were able to start working through things. They could really see that God had been working on me and changing me. By the time my first pass came around my family said I could go to their house and stay there for a little bit. God was showing me during this time that if I put my faith and trust in him things will get right.
I had about three months left in the program, and I heard a little voice in my heart telling me to do an internship and give back to the program that had helped me get my feet back under me. So I approached the staff here in Seattle and basically asked if I could do an internship through the Ministry Institute, and they thought it would be a great idea. I graduated and fully committed to staying on another year as an intern, and it was a great decision!
I have learned more in the past year than anything else I have done in my whole life. This internship has taught me responsibility; it has taught me how to love myself again so I can love others which in turn helps me become a leader in Christ. I have learned how to deal with people that are hard to get along with and deal with people that I would not choose to put in my life, but we are pretty much forced to deal with. I have learned how important the little things are in life and that each day a gift from God is. I have learned how to be a servant even when I don’t feel like being one, and I have learned how to keep a positive attitude in the hardest of situations.
God has never been more real in my life than he is today, and I am so thankful for the crazy adventure that he has brought me through on this Teen Challenge roller coaster. I am so thankful for Teen Challenge and the second and third chances they have given me. I am thankful for the endless chances God has given me, and I am so excited for the life that he has ahead of me and all the other adventures He has in store. Thank you Teen Challenge for teaching me how to live life again, and thank you God for bringing up out of the muck and mire and using me in your ministry.