I Can Stand Tall
My story of addiction begins in my adolescence. In high school, I became an incredibly angry young man. I had been abandoned by my mother at a young age, so I lived with my father and stepmother who had difficulties of their own.
As a young child, I knew I was on my own. I thought I was okay with it; but there were many times I felt the pain of loss and the lack of proper guidance. The first time I ever used drugs was when I was 13 years old. Drugs were quite prevalent in my neighborhood. I don't remember where or how I got the drug, but I definitely remember the feeling. I was numb. I didn't feel. I didn't think. All the pain was gone. It was the feeling I had searched for all my life. I didn't think of my childhood, my parents, or my faults. These were feelings I wanted to hide, so I frequently sought out drugs and alcohol to do so.
After I graduated from high school, the structure in my life faded. I became exposed to harder street drugs that left me craving more. I ran out of money rapidly, so I turned to crime to obtain the funds I needed. Fraud, theft, begging, and many cold nights on street corners became commonplace. Eventually I was arrested. I thought back to my senior prom, where I was voted “most likely to end up in jail.” And there I was. I needed only $200 bail to be released from prison. My lawyer returned with the list of names I had given him, only to tell me that nobody would help. Nobody. I was convicted of my crimes and sent to prison. My addictions cost me all I cared for.
When I was released, I continued my downward spiral, more alone than ever. I ultimately landed in a rehabilitation center, away from my home and all of its distractions. I lived there almost a year to deal with all the deep feelings hidden under my addictions. I learned love, discipline, acceptance, and forgiveness. I started to pray quietly to God, asking him specific questions about my journey. Why? Where are you? Why would you give me life only to suffer such pain? When I left the center, I decided that being spiritually fed was what I needed most.
I tried going back to the church I attended as a very young boy, but I didn't feel very welcome. Then, four months after leaving the center, the knock came—the one door I would open that would change my life forever. Two sister missionaries arrived at my home. The Lord had prepared me, and I was ready. I learned of the importance of repentance and baptism.
“Really?” I asked them. “Are you sure that I qualify for that?” I couldn't grasp that I could be forgiven. I desperately wanted to be baptized and start over, but my fear was overwhelming. One of the sisters then told it to me simply. She said that upon baptism, God gives you a new book to start over with and make into a new life.
That evening I dropped to my knees and opened my heart up to the Lord. I told him everything—my faults, my crimes, my fears, and my hopes. And then, I just cried. A new heart was placed in me that day. I knew that I had been forgiven of my wrongdoings. Now I wanted my new life. Ten days later, I was baptized.
This year, I will celebrate 15 years being clean and sober. This is the greatest personal gift I have given myself. I believe there is good in all men, but sometimes you just have to dig a little. All men deserve an opportunity to seek forgiveness and be forgiven; His grace is sufficient. If I follow Him and have faith, I can overcome any obstacle. I know now that through all of the moments in my life I thought I was alone, I really wasn't. He was there, carrying me, holding me, and wiping away my tears. Through the atoning sacrifice of the Savior, I truly know that all men who cling to Him and His mercy can be saved and stand tall at the last day.