I came to Christ in a Publix parking lot –and realized God had been watching all along

I looked at the Valley Rescue Mission program member sitting beside me in a van in a grocery store parking lot in astonishment. He had just completed telling me his life story of childhood abandonment, homelessness, and drug abuse – yet his life was one of joy and contentment. “How could this be?” I asked him, and he explained that having Christ in his life had made all the difference. I knew I desperately needed what he had, and right then and there I gave my life over to Christ as well.

     My name is Pat, and here’s my story of how I ended up in that van on that day 10 months ago. I was raised in Columbus, born into a wonderful family with great, hard-working parents who attended church faithfully and were very involved. I did not want to disappoint them, and never even tried drugs until I smoked a joint at age 17, quite casually. I graduated from Columbus State, got a good job, was working on a master’s degree, and became very involved in distance running. It was at this point that obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression first reared their ugly heads. In addition to this, I had some health problems and was prescribed pain medicine. I liked the feelings I felt while on this medicine and started dabbling in drugs – which just led to more depression.

I married around this time and we were doing fine – 2 cars, a nice house, a good job. We became parents of a baby boy. As a newborn, he contracted a rare disease and his life was touch-and-go for some months while he was hospitalized. This put a huge strain on the marriage, which eventually ended in divorce. I was laid off from my good job but found another, where I met up with the wrong people. Whatever drugs they had, I would have – mostly pills like Vicodin® and Percocet®, but whatever I could find. All the while I continued to function in life and at a successful job. I was a loner with drugs and hid my using well. No one knew how out of control my addiction had become.

It all came to a crisis point in late 2011. My mother was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Watching her deterioration (which led to her death) and my elderly father dealing with it all was extremely difficult for me. I took all I could get of morphine, Zanax®, etc. In addition to all this, I realized I was being phased out of my job, which pushed me over the edge. I took my final paycheck and used it to finance a 6 week drug binge.

               Looking back, I see now how God was watching over me. My ex-wife and sister realized what was going on. They knew of Valley Rescue Mission’s substance abuse program through the success they’d seen in the life of a former graduate and convinced me to join the program. I remember swallowing my last 2 Oxycodons® while talking with my sister, thinking, “Well, that’s it. Those are the last 2 pills I will ever take.” She and my father brought me down to the Mission.

               I was miserable for the first few weeks on a couple of levels. I was miserable physically as my body withdrew from all the pills I had been swallowing. I was also miserable emotionally as I thought back on all the regrets I had over my life. I started driving for the Mission, picking up donated food, which led to my meeting Jesus Christ in a parking lot.

               My outlook on life began to change, and I developed hope for the first time in many years. I am now a recent graduate of the program, spending time with my family and getting back on my feet. I have been clean for 11 months, the longest stretch of time since I was 17. I’m concentrating on being a good father to my teenage son and a good son to my elderly father. My plans are to stay in the Word, get involved in a good church, and develop a strong support system. I know that whatever happens, I will continue to get better each day and know for certain that God’s got my back.