It was the summer of 1968, and I was 14 years old looking ahead to my freshman year in high school, well almost looking ahead. I remember being a little anxious about it and wanting very much to fit in. One big plus was that my sister was going to be a senior that same year and she had a lot of friends who were also going to be upper classmen.
It was that summer when some of my friends offered me the first opportunity to smoke pot. I can almost remember exactly what was said.
“Hey, man, c’mon Dave it’s really cool, everybody’s smokin’ dope now.” I will never forget taking a big drag off of that long American flag joint. I knew how because I had already been smoking cigarettes for a while. Well, as the months went by, I can remember smoking hash, then some black tar opium, and every weekend I would scrape up enough money for a nickel bag or whatever was available. Sometime around my sophomore year, I had gotten a part time job at a small neighborhood drugstore, and that’s how I was able to afford my dope, not to mention what I began to steal from the job. I can remember going to the library, which by the way, was conveniently located just across the street. I would start checking out the books on pharmaceuticals. Well, I never really would physically check them out because I didn’t of course want anyone to wonder why I had an interest in these books.
I began to recognize the different kinds of drugs on the shelf just by site. So, I just took a few here and there, not even considering what some of the real side effects would or could be. Let’s see, there were the uppers, speed—Dexedrine, benzedrine, Desoxin, methamphetamine sulfate, and then there were the downers, barbs—Tuinal, Seconal, Desbutal, Phenobarbital, Belladonna and so on. I can remember being so down at one party, and out-of-it, as we would say, that I literally sat on the floor with my eyes closed and I found myself viewing the whole scene from above while I was in some sort of semi-conscience state. I’m telling you that I was out of my own body looking down from above, and all the time overhearing the conversations in the room.
As I continued to experiment with other types of street drugs like mescaline, peyote, and LSD, there were times when it could get a little scary, as if there was evil lurking in the shadows, and of course there were the paranoid emotions you had to deal with from time-to-time. It seemed as if each new high started to become a new low, and just about the time you would receive a real scare on one of your highs, and you’d begin to think that just maybe you shouldn’t get high anymore, someone would come by and say, “Oh! c’mon, Dave let’s go get a buzz ” and you would go and forget about everything. All this time we would drink too and that sometimes really got out of control.
A few years went by, and I was still controlling, I thought, my drug habits. Then I overdosed on what was called “angel dust,” what a deceptive name. You see, I really lost it on this trip and was hearing things and dealing with what I thought was the absence of my friends when all along they were right there walking with me through this concert. A fear came over me like a blanket of cold emptiness. I can remember calling out the name of the Lord. It was that name of the Lord who I had heard about as a young boy brought up in the Catholic religion. God delivered me that day in a miraculous way, but I will tell you about that some other time. All I can say for right now is that suddenly I became sober-minded and felt safe.
It seemed for the next few months I heard of and met more people who knew Jesus, as if He was a real person, than at any other time during my whole life up to that point. There was one man who owned a bike shop where I had just purchased my very first ten-speed bicycle. I was about nineteen then and wanted to buy a bike to ride on nice days when I got high. This man spoke to me about the Lord Jesus Christ, and gave me a Christian tract, which was called “The Four Spiritual Laws”. I can only remember a few things about what it had to say but I can definitely remember what I felt like after reading it. It was like a real sorrow and conviction inside my heart that showed me that I was trapped in a deception.
I can remember thinking how someday I wished I could just keep my mind straight and my head right and not have to get high just to feel secure and belonging to something. This tract talked about a new beginning for whomever asked Jesus to become the Lord in their life and allowed Him to sit on the throne of their life. I can remember thinking that I didn’t know how God could forgive me because I could never remember just how much sin I had been involved in, therefore, I couldn’t be expected to confess all my sins to have them forgiven. This thought troubled me from my youth as a Catholic having to confess all my sins to a priest, and it had been years since that happened. I guess it was about six to eight months when things really began to heat up. First, because of an acquaintance of mine, I began to have a real interest in reading the Bible. I sensed real comfort in doing this and that’s why I kept it up. My friends were calling me “Holy Joe” and a few other things, but something else was really wrong. I called out to God one day and asked him to change things…you know, like my whole life. I was so tired of the rut I found myself in. I was holding down two jobs and partying as hardy as ever, but it just wasn’t like it used to be.
I had gone in and out of a couple of relationships and because I was just too high most of the time I screwed those up and kept finding myself alone. Until, one weekend I was introduced to Carol, the lady who became my wife. One really big thing we had in common was the fact that we were both playing the game of life but not enjoying it much. Again, I know the Lord began to work in our lives because of the time I prayed and asked Him for a change.
Some months later, we found ourselves and about seven or eight of our friends at a church service one Sunday. It was held in the auditorium of an elementary school. There was so much love in that place you could feel it. There we were, shoulder-length hair, bellbottom jeans, sandals, the whole thing. People came up to us and welcomed us like they knew who we were. One last and the most memorable thing that was said was the invitation from Bob for us to come forward to ask Jesus into our hearts. He led us in a prayer denouncing our past life and asking Jesus to wash away our sins. The next emotion I felt was one of having liquid peace poured over my head; it dripped down all over me and covered me like a thick blanket. There we stood, Carol and me—“Born Again.” PRAISE THE LORD! You see the moral of this story is that Jesus is alive and is very real to those who believe and call upon His name. Our life has never been the same since that day, and we know that over the last 20 years God has remained faithful to the cry of our hearts—to be changed.
Psalms 34:8 Amplified–“O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed—happy, fortunate [to be envied] — is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him.”
Jesus did it!!!