I’m absolutely convinced that the Lord is in the business of changing lives and bringing hope to the hopeless. I’m Exhibit A. My life is an example of Christ’s life-transforming power. It’s a story of how he rescued a heroin addict from a public housing project in the Bronx and gave him a new life. Mine is a story of grace.
How did I become a drug addict? It wasn’t like one day I woke up and said, “I think I’ll ruin my life!” Like all kids I wanted to be liked but I felt like an outsider. As far back as I can remember I had this feeling of inferiority and would do just about anything to be accepted.
I remember the first time I tried smoking pot. I didn’t know how to do it right so I pretended to be high. That’s how badly I wanted to fit in. My need to be accepted was so strong that I couldn’t say no, even to things I knew were going to go bad and hurt me. So there was more and more drugs and eventually heroin and the whole mess that goes along with it. Drug habit troubles, family troubles, school troubles, money troubles, cop troubles, drug dealer troubles…
I remember one day sitting on the street curb with a guy I used to hustle with and asking him, “What’s the matter with us? He replied matter-of-factly, “This is who we are. Some people were born for this and for that. We were born to be dope fiends. It’s our religion, our fate, our destiny”.
It certainly seemed that way. We all knew there was no cure. Nothing ever worked. Nobody ever beat heroin, at least not anybody we knew. Like they said, “Once an addict, always an addict.” Oh sure, you might clean-up for a short while but eventually everybody went back to the cooker; right back to shooting dope.
I loved getting high because it eased my pain – that gnawing sense of worthlessness and inferiority – for a while at least. But take away my fix and then what? I always said that I’d stop using heroin if I found something that worked better. Nothing did.
I finally bottomed-out in December ’69. I got my throat slit in a fight with a drug dealer I owed money. I remember standing in a puddle of my blood saying Hail Mary’s and thinking, “So this is how it all ends. This is what it’s like to die.”
I was rushed-off to the hospital in the nick of time but that was the beginning of the end of my run on the street. God had other plans. By the end of that summer my life would change forever…
My cousin who was home that summer working at a nursing home evidently told the chaplain there about me. His name was Louie Correa. He just so happen to know a lot about my kind of trouble so a meeting was arranged. As we drove up to what looked like a hospital in Long Island, a guy all dressed in white came out to the car. I thought, “Oh no, it’s a trap! Their having me committed. Here comes the nurse to get me!” But Louie introduced himself and began telling me his story right there in the parking lot.
Turned out he had been a dope fiend for twenty years and Jesus changed his life! Of course I didn’t believe him so he rolled up his sleeve. I saw something I had never seen before, old, dried-up needle tracks. The scars backed up his story. He was telling the truth. I had never seen an ex-addict before. Somehow this guy had beat heroin! I was stunned!
He told me that he had met Jesus in some drug program in Brooklyn called Teen Challenge and that he could get me in. I wasn’t interested in religion but he certainly had my attention…