Growing up on a farm near Woodstock, I started driving a tractor at age 6 or 7. And I could never cut a straight line through a field. My dad asked me, “Are you looking forward or looking behind?”
I said, “I’m trying to look at both. I want to see if it’s straight behind me, but I want to know where I’m going, too.”
Dad told me, when you cut a line through a field, you mark out a point in the field and look ahead. “You can check behind you once in a while,” he said. “But the more you look behind you, the more crooked your line is going to be.”
God has brought me to a point where I can look forward with confidence. But, I’m going to give you a quick glimpse of the long, crooked path behind me. I went from star athlete and straight-A student at a Christian high school to being a person nearly destroyed by my appetite for alcohol and drugs. I’ve been in eight different rehabs. I’ve been homeless and desperate.
People say I have an addictive personality. When I’m on fire for God, I’m on fire for God. When I was on fire for drugs, I was on fire for drugs. I’m a very all-or-nothing person. I fall really hard and really fast. And every time I went back to drugs, it got worse … even though I often was able to hide it. One morning after an all-night binge, I told my mom I needed help again.
She knew about Rockford Rescue Mission. She and my dad were donors and, once a month, their group from Woodstock Bible Church went there and served dinner. She called, and we scheduled an interview and soon I was admitted to the program.
It wasn’t even so much about quitting the drugs and alcohol. I missed that relationship with God. My first time at the Rescue Mission, my creativity came back. I was doing worship music, writing poetry. But after six months I washed out, and went back to drugs – this time, crack cocaine and heroin. I lived on the streets of Rockford and sometimes at the women’s shelter across the street from the Mission.
At the end of 2005, I did a bad batch of heroin in the bathroom at the shelter. A resident found me, blue, on the stall floor. The next thing I remember is gasping back to consciousness in the ambulance. My parents came and got me, and knew I needed to get out of Rockford. We tried several rehabs in the northwest suburbs before my mom spoke with Michael Dye, founder of the Genesis Process. By this time, Mom was a Genesis counselor at the Mission (imagine doing that and having a daughter who was an addict). Michael suggested a program called Bethel House in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The program was wonderful, but my desire to keep doing drugs got me ousted after six months. That was the darkest of times. I slept under boats, in parks or under a bridge that was the center for drugs and prostitution in Santa Barbara. I started working the streets, staying up for six or seven days in a row, working for drug dealers, prostituting. It was the most spiritually bankrupt I’ve ever been. I was so numb that the sexual abuse didn’t even phase me. That was where my addiction took me. I didn’t care.
My parents decided to give it one more shot. They told me they would be at a certain park at a certain day and time. They said: “If you want to come home with us, you can. If not, we know that the next time is going to be in a casket.”
I did come home with them, and my mom found out that the Mission had a bed available. I’d started the Genesis Process in California but hadn’t gotten very far. I told them, “I need to give this another shot.” And I did. I finished the nine-month program, including Genesis, in 2008. With Genesis, instead of my focus being on alcohol and drugs, I got to the roots – what caused me to want to use them every single day for 13 years: the pain, the loneliness, the feelings of negative self-worth.
After I finished, my parents let me come home, and I started working again for my dad on the farm where I grew up. That’s where I’m passionate. I think a lot about seeds. Once everything’s planted, we have no control over how fast it grows or how well it does this year until harvest comes. That’s all God.
I have all this dirty stuff behind me, and yes I do need to check back sometimes – to remind me, and to use it to help others. But it’s keeping that focal point, that focus ahead of you instead of always looking behind. Because the line’s just going to get more crooked.
People have prophesied about me, that I’m going to be a missionary and reach a lot of people. “You are going to be a warrior,” they’ve said. And that’s what I’ve realized. This really is a war we are in. Everyone struggles with different things. The enemy found out that drugs and alcohol were the way he could get me. When you recognize as a believer that God has a specific purpose for you, and when you embrace that, the enemy’s temper flares up. That’s when you need true friends, and prayer, and the ability to keep your focus on that goal at the other end of the field.
-- as told to Jim Killam