I believe my life can be divided into two parts: before and after I found God.
I was born in Colombia -a beautiful South American country- but it was very insecure back in the 80s when I was growing up. When I and my siblings were kids, my parents made the difficult decision of leaving our home country to go to the United States. Their goal was to protect us from the violence that was plaguing Colombia at the time. We ended up moving to Southern California and started our new lives there.
If there’s one thing you should know about Colombians, it’s that we’re big partiers. Therefore, there was always a celebration going on in my house. However, as much as my family enjoyed socializing, I was always the shy, awkward one. I remember being very curious about alcohol. I didn’t understand how everyone seemed happier and more cheerful after having a few shots of alcohol. I asked my mom for a sip once, but she gave me a lecture on how it wasn’t for kids, and she told me to never to ask her for alcohol again.
I was a very stubborn child, so my mom forbade me from trying alcohol. Unfortunately, my mother’s rules didn’t stop me. I waited for the best opportunity to steal a bottle from the kitchen. While everyone was dancing, I grabbed a bottle from the kitchen and took it up to my room. I was only 9 years old, but I still remember everything as if it were yesterday. Aguardiente was the very first liquor I ever tried. It’s a traditional Colombian drink which is anise-flavored and very strong. After studying the grown-ups’ behavior at parties, I knew I had to drink more than just a sip in order to start feeling the effects of the liquor.
The Beginning of The End
It only took three or four sips at most for little 9 years old me to get drunk. The alcohol made me feel as if I were invincible.I loved it, it made feel less awkward and less shy as well. One of my older cousins found out I was drunk that night. He covered for me in return for a promise, that I wouldn’t drink ever again. I promised I wouldn’t.
Thatnightwasthebeginning of a downwardspiral. I liked being drunk so much that from that moment on I kept drinking every chance I got. I managed toavoidgettingcaughtbecause I was a reallygood liar. As a teenager, I startedusingmarijuana. After a fewyears, Marijuanajustwasn’tenoughfor me anymore, so I startedexperimentingwith more hardcoredrugs. When my family realized I was addicted to drugs and alcohol they wanted to help me, but I just pushed them away. I used to think I was just having fun and they were making a big deal out of it.
When I was 23 years old, I was sentenced to two years in jail for drug-related charges.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes can become our biggest blessings.
While I was in prison, I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous just so I would have an excuse to get out of my cell. At first, I sat at the back and didn’t participate. Sometimes, I didn’t even pay attention to what was going on. One day, something inside of me made me pay attention to the inmates’ testimonies, and some of them really moved me. A lot of the other inmates would talk about how they lost their friends, their homes, and even their families because of substance abuse. These stories really cut me deep. From then on, I started enjoying going to those meetings. It was the first time in a long time that I could empathize with other people, and it really helped me begin to heal.
During one of the meetings, a middle-aged man took the floor and started telling his story. He was a doctor, and at some point, he started using Ritalin to help him study. His substance use quickly evolved after he began using Ritalin more often. The doctor began experimenting with other substances that were very easy for him to get. He hadeasyaccess to prescription medicine likemorphine and percocets. His body quickly built up a tolerance and he began abusing alcohol and other illegal substances as well. With tears in his eyes, he told us the story about how he was driving with his wife in the passenger seat and his 3-year-old daughter in the back. He and his wife started fighting about his drinking problem and they started screaming at each other. At some point during the fight, he lost control of the car and ended up crashing it against a wall. He and his daughter were okay, but his wife broke three bones. She filed for divorce, and he ultimately lost custody of his daughter. He lost the people he loved most in the world because of his addiction.
This testimony touched my soul. I didn’t sleep at all that night while I imagined myself in the same situation. I felt completely identified. I had pushed my family away to the point where they were no longer on speaking terms with me. That was when I realized I had to turn my life around. I didn’t want to lose my family forever, and the only way to avoid it was by getting sober.
If I hadn’t got caught and gone to prison, maybe I never would’ve got this epiphany. This experience was my very first step towards recovery.
When I was let out of jail, I checked into a rehabilitation facility. I knew getting clean would be difficult, but it was much harder than I thought. At some point -especially when I finished my treatment and had to deal with sobriety on my own- I felt like I wouldn’t be able to make it. It took a lot of hard work to get through rehab, but the real challenge was facing the world again, a world full of temptations.
Rehab helped me heal both physically and emotionally. I was able to reconnect with my family and close friends. I started doing things for my health like exercising and eating healthy. However, the ghost of addiction was still haunting me, all the time. When I got out of rehab I got a job selling perfume. I got really good at it very quickly. I started working a lot as a way of distracting my mind from the latent temptation of using again. However, it was counterproductive. I was stressed and tired, which triggered my anxiety and depression. I was on the edge of relapse.
When I told my AA sponsor how I was feeling, this is what he said:
“Offer your suffering to God, put it all in His hands, and he will heal you.”
He then asked me to pray with him. I didn’t even know how to pray, and I was certain it would make a difference, but we did it anyway.
From then on, everytime we met we prayed and read a passage from the Bible together. Just like it happened with the AA and NA meetings, I didn’t really pay attention at first, I wasn’t interested. But when I started listening, I was completely in awe. Every passage we read felt as if it were addressed to me. I could feel God talking to me.
I started praying on my own, talking to Him during the day, telling Him with complete honesty what I felt, what I was grateful for, what my dreams and hopes were. When I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, I turned to Him, and only in Him could I find peace and strength to go on. I realized I had tried to fill a void in my soul with drugs and alcohol for most of my life. All it took was His love to make me whole. Finding God helped me start making better choices for myself. I realized I was His creation, and I was meant to love myself as much as He loves me. I had this new sense of purpose, I was more compassionate, less selfish and I became the best version of myself.
9 Years Later
Addiction isn’t a disease that simply gets cured, you have to live with it for the rest of your life. It takes a lot of willpower and hard work to stay sober, but it is definitely worth it. I have been sober for 9 years now, I own a website development company with my brother, I’m healthy, happy and successful.
God has put obstacles in my way throughout my entire life. I’ve finally come to terms with these obstacles. It’s a fundamental part of life and it has made me stronger. HE makes me stronger everyday. It was only through Him and through hard work that I could change my life, and now I have the privilege of sharing my story with you. I hope it gives you a sense of how powerful prayer can be, and maybe even the motivation to try it.
If you’ve had a similar experience and want to share it, please leave a comment below, we would love to read it.