I was a tyrant and a terrible person –
but as a Messianic Jew I have learned how to love
It’s not easy being the second son in an Orthodox Jewish family. My name is Richard, and as the second son I received an education, but knew I would have to take care of myself since everything would go to the first son. I held a lot of resentment toward my father because of this and grew up to be very rebellious. Raised in an upper-middle class home, I developed a marijuana habit at age 14 and a cocaine habit in college (which I never finished). This led to my 45-year long substance addiction.
I started a career in the automotive industry and was arrested in 1974 for chop shop activity and cocaine. The four years I spend in the prison system for this brought total shame upon my family, but thanks to their connections I was quickly able to get back to my career upon my release. I had lots of management experience; I wrote drug policies for my companies and sent employees for drug counseling, all while totally addicted to alcohol and drugs myself. I was a tyrant; I used whoever I needed to get to where I wanted to be and although married four times, never truly understood the meaning of love. I was loyal to no one except myself. Cocaine and alcohol were just embedded in me and part of who I was.
Everything caught up with me after I retired in 2009, moved to South Carolina, and was spending lots of money on alcohol and drugs. I was picked up on an old warrant and returned to Columbus where I was convicted of three counts each of forgery and embezzlement. I served 108 days in jail then received probation. After leaving jail, I called everyone I knew to pick me up but for the first time in my life could reach no friends or family members. I had $30 in my pocket, which was unheard of for me in my past life. A chaplain at the jail advised me to spend the night at Valley Rescue Mission, then resume trying to reach people the next day. I was scared to death when I came into the transient dorm because I had never before been in a place like that. The staff took one look at me and said, “You’re not the type of person to come in here”, but I ended up staying for a few days. I was encouraged to sign up for the men’s addiction recovery program and knew I had to do something – I knew I was taking in entirely too much drugs and scotch. So I agreed to try the program but announced I didn’t want to hear anything about Jesus, as I am Jewish.
I was very resistant and cynical at first. My perspective started to change when I was presented with a complete Jewish Bible translated by a Messianic Jew from the original documents. I read it, and four days later during a beautiful time of praise and worship music, I opened my heart to Jesus. Becoming a Christian means that I am now dead to my family members, but I am at peace with this and believe it will work itself out in time. Looking back, I believe there was no real reason other than God’s love that I ended up at a Christian rehab facility, as there are Jewish-run programs I could have joined. I believe that God puts people at Valley Rescue Mission – they don’t just come here. The only reason He sent me here is that God loves me, didn’t want me to live in addiction any more, and has a purpose for me.
If you know someone with an addiction, I encourage you to stay in intercessory prayer for them and refer them to a Christ-based recovery program: not a faith-based program, because there is a difference. The only difference between someone with an addiction problem and someone without is a split second of time.
‘Sh’ma Yisra’el, Adonai, Eloheinu, Adonai echad. (Hear, O Isra’el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.)