Changed Through Christ
I grew up believing that you were only cool if you partied hard. At the age of 10, I started stealing alcohol and cigarettes from my parents. By the time I entered seventh grade I smoked marijuana daily and drank alcohol whenever I could get it. My life quickly went downhill before I even realized it.
In ninth grade I received my first drug charge for smoking marijuana at school. I was sentenced to six months of drug testing. I had to cut back on marijuana use, so I started drinking every weekend instead. That same year, I attended a New Year’s Eve party, got drunk, and ended up hitting someone. After the fight, a couple friends and I grabbed several bottles of beer and ran out the front door just as a cop drove past. We were all charged for underage drinking.
When I was 16 years old, I dropped out of school and moved in to a friend's house. I started drinking every day to the point that I would black out. I started using ecstasy and prescription pills as well.
One night, my drinking and drug use got out of control. I snuck into a stranger’s house, stole some clothes, and fell asleep in one of the bedrooms. After I woke up, I realized I needed to change. I moved back home and stopped using pills and drugs, but it was difficult for me to give up alcohol.
About a month later, I started hanging out with a girl I knew from school. This girl was different from most girls I hung out with. She didn't need drugs to have fun, and I was instantly drawn to her. The more I spent time with her, the less I drank. I eventually got to the point that I was clear minded enough to get back to school. I worked hard my last year of high school, and I graduated on time with high honors.
I still drank occasionally, but not as much as I had in the past. When I was 19, the girl I had started hanging out with invited me to church with her. To be honest, going to church didn't make me feel how I thought I would feel. For a couple of months, I felt very out of place. I felt that church was for people who had been attending their entire lives and who had never made big mistakes like I had.
I had been baptized by the missionaries as a kid but quit attending church only a month after my baptism. Because I fell away and turned toward drugs and other things, I felt as though I had turned away from God and that I didn't deserve a second chance. I wanted to feel the peace that others said they felt at church. For the first time in my life, I decided to say a true and meaningful prayer and ask God if I belonged at church. After I prayed, I opened the scriptures and read 2 Nephi 28:32. When I read the line “I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long,” I knew that God still loved me and was reaching out for me.
I also knew that I needed to meet with the bishop. Even though I knew what I needed to do, fear held me back. When I was 20 years old, I worked up the courage to meet with the bishop. When I walked into his office, I instantly felt his love as well as the love of my Savior. I realized that the bishop wasn't there to tell me how bad I was or to judge me for my mistakes—he was there to help me accept the gift of forgiveness that Christ has given to each of us. From that moment on, I loved being at church. I was able to forgive myself and overcome my addiction.
Focusing on bringing others to Christ has helped keep me sober. I am doing that right now as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes thoughts of my old life come back, and I feel tempted to turn back. But as I engage in meaningful prayer and scripture study, I’m able to overcome those thoughts and temptations. My life has been truly changed through Christ.
*Name has been changed.