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Passing the Drug Test!

The day I overdosed on heroin I thought I was going to die. I cried out to God, “Please don't let me die!” I promised God I'd live for Him—I'd stop the drugs and alcohol! I did stop—but many years passed before I kept my promise.

A Young Airman

The Vietnam War was in full force the year I graduated from high school. My dad worked on aircraft, and that was what I wanted to do. So I joined the Air Force and was on my way to the future. It was September, 1966. That year, I was introduced to alcohol. By 1967, it was marijuana. After basic training and technical school, I was sent to Japan.

Four years later, I met and married my wife, Cathy. She did not drink or do drugs. My attempts at getting her to try them were to no avail. She always refused. Most of our civilian friends drank and did drugs too, so Cathy was accustomed to this lifestyle even before we were married.

In 1972, I was sent to Thailand to serve my country. This was not the place for a weak-willed person to go. I had already been playing around with acid, speed, cocaine, and other drugs whose names I can't remember or spell. In Thailand, I was introduced to drug use—big time. And in Thailand—I overdosed!

Doing Things My Way

Returning to the States in 1973, I got stationed in Louisiana. Among the new friends I searched for were people with interests like mine—people I could trust to get me marijuana. By now we had a son—and within two years, another son. I was happy being a father and a husband; my only problem was that I didn't want anything to interfere with my wants and desires.

Beer was kept in our house most of the time, and dope was there whenever there was “extra” money. The “extra” was through my eyes, not Cathy's. She began to express her desire for me to slow down on drinking, but to me it didn't seem to be a problem. And I was never belligerent on dope, although there was always the possibility—and cost—of getting caught. Alcohol just helped me speak my mind. It was a normal way of life in the military. Whenever there was a squadron party, the beer trucks were parked in the hangar for easy access. At softball and other sports events, beer was always available. Wives and children were at these events, and drinking was accepted.

When I got out of the Air Force in 1977, we moved to my old home in Virginia. With a really good job and a decent salary, it was easier now to buy a bag of dope and keep beer around. I began to play a lot of softball, and people would come to watch and drink alcohol and smoke dope. I would often leave the park around 10 p.m. in a drunken stupor. Cathy would be upset, but it did not change my desire to do what I wanted. As years went by, I often needed to call in sick to work because of a hangover from the night before.

My job in Virginia closed in 1995, and I had an opportunity to work in Florida. One of the requirements to qualify for the job was to pass a drug test. I stopped using drugs immediately. By this time our sons were becoming men, and our oldest had already gotten in trouble drinking and driving. I knew it was time for me to listen to what my heart had been telling me.

Searching for the Right Path

As a young boy, I had accepted Jesus and was baptized. While growing up, I attended church most Sundays. But as a young man, there were things I wanted to experience. I reasoned there was plenty of time to think about God later. I always tried to live a good life; I just didn't allow God to be in control. I didn't see anything wrong with drinking or doing dope. After all, this was MY life! I was not an addict or an alcoholic, and my life was centered around friends who did the same things I did.

However, as life ran on, I found myself making excuses for the habits I had. More often than not, my friends and I would do drugs in a car where we would not be seen. I began to struggle with whether the way I was living was right or wrong. I know now that God was speaking to me, but I tried to ignore Him.

One day, Cathy and I were driving back from South Carolina and came upon a car wreck. As I gazed on the person stretched out under the blanket, things started going through my mind. I knew I was not ready to die. How could I face God when I had not been faithful to Him? I needed to change, and I needed help! I knew I couldn't do it on my own. I searched the radio for a Christian station—anything to get me started on the right path.

Baby Steps to Change

Cathy and I decided to find a church—to be faithful to that church and to submit to God. At this point, I faced a test: I still had some dope left in a baggie. Should I smoke it or give it away? If I was going to change, I couldn't smoke it. If I gave it away, I would be saying it was okay for someone else. I decided to have a sacrificial burning in the front yard. The decision made me feel good. Cathy—who had never joined me in my alcohol and drug use, but who was directly affected by it and whose life could have been ruined by it—joined me in this act of submission and worship.

My wife is a wonderful person and a real Godsend to me. In spite of the pain my life caused her, she served the Lord in ways she could. In contrast, though I provided well for my family, I was not a spiritual leader in our home. I had given no guidance as to what was right and wrong. When I began to read the Bible, I understood that a man's position is to lead his family by example. What an example I had been! After much thought and prayer, I wrote letters to our children. I asked them to forgive me for the way I had lived. I asked them to forgive me for leading them in the wrong direction for much of my life. I told them it was my responsibility as their earthly father to tell them about Jesus and His love. I praise the Lord that today both of our sons are Christians, attend church, and are growing in their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

It Could Have Been Me

Looking back over my life (as you tend to do when you get older), I realize that I wasted precious years trying to satisfy my own desires. I was selfish, greedy, and prideful. I wanted to do things my own way—to be in charge of my life. And something important was missing—I had left God and the church family out of my life. I'm so glad I finally listened to what my heart was trying to tell me. I'm so very thankful that no matter how far I got away from God, He never left my side. When I finally decided I wanted to change, when I wanted the desire for alcohol and drugs to be removed, when I wanted a new heart—God changed me! I'm so thankful, and I want to serve Him and the church family for the rest of my life. I want to tell others Christ's story and how I fit into that story.

A few years ago, I visited an old buddy of mine. While there, we decided to visit another of our friends. The three of us had a history: we used to party hard—doing drugs and drinking until we didn't know where or who we were. At that time we were young and thought we could handle anything. Some years back, Mike was drunk on dope when he wrecked his car. He is now in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair. He only has the use of his left arm, and he talks through a hole in his throat. We talked for a while, but I could barely understand his words. No one comes to see Mike very much. His son never calls or visits, nor do either of his ex-wives. I pray God’s mercy on him and for his salvation. I thank God—unworthy as I am—for seeing me through those wilderness years of my life.

A Perfect Sacrifice

Today I don't drink, smoke, or use drugs anymore. That person is dead, and God doesn't remember him. I still have problems, and I still do things wrong. I still battle anger, selfishness, and pride. But I realize these are sin—and for these, Jesus died. He paid the price for my sin with His perfect sacrifice on the cross. His death defeated death by His resurrection. It took me a long time to surrender my life to God, but He graciously gave me a chance to change my ways and live for Him. Romans 6:4-7 (NKJV) have become my life verses: Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

(Bill Butler is a deacon at Lake Asbury Baptist Church, a caring, Bible-teaching church. He sings with the church choir, the Florida Worship Choir and Orchestra, and with a small group at local nursing homes. He is also the senior men's Sunday school teacher. For much of his life, Bill tried to be master of his own life, but it didn't work. Only as he allowed Jesus to be Lord was his life truly changed.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20160302
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jul-Sep 2016. CCMUSA.