A Struggling Addict Finds Renewal Through ‘God Will Provide’ – Part I

ight days ago, I met with a charming couple who had a remarkable story to tell; another example among many, I’m   sure,  as to why I believe that with God, all things are possible.  I couldn’t have been more excited when Andy accepted my request to meet, especially on such short notice.  He was scheduled to leave the country just a few short days   later.  I was honored to sit down and listen to him and his devoted wife bravely share in detail about his life-changing story.  I am even more humbled and very grateful that they entrusted me with their fragile and touching testimony.

You see, Andy is no stranger to me.  In fact, I sat  in the same fourth grade class as his eldest sister after my family had moved to Oregon in the early summer of 1992.  To keep the long story short, I recognized Andy’s sister in Sunday school one morning many years ago and our worlds collided.  I went to their house before and after school for the rest of that school year.  Some of our greatest memories were during our preteen and teenage years when we each played an instrument in the church orchestra.  I have remained friends of the family ever since.

This particular Sunday night, we arranged to meet in the café at Barnes & Noble.  As I nervously scanned the area looking for an appropriate area for our conversation, I noticed the striking couple heading in my direction.  At least a couple of years have passed since I last saw Andy and I was genuinely happy to see him.  I greeted Andy and Nadja with hugs and afterward, we found a remote table to sit down at.  Once we were settled, we shared a few brief recollections of our childhood mixed with spouts of laughter.  Thinking back to that Sunday night, it was just what we needed before we submerged into the personal darkness that led Andy into his vicious drug addiction.

andyfourwheeling

Andy being himself (Photo courtesy of Andy)

For as long as I can remember, I found Andy to be a very energetic and adventurous individual.  A risk-taker.  Loud and proud.  He loved to perform stunts on 4-wheelers and I have seen a picture or two of him jumping off a dangerous cliff into a rapid current of water.  He liked and even preferred being the center of attention.  In Andy’s words, “Pride was [my biggest problem].  [Pride is] what got me in from the beginning.  I realized that if I became the person that never backed down to any dare, people [trusted] me…  This led me into the party scene.”  Within this scene, he was introduced to opiates.  Believing they were harmless, Andy consumed them occasionally.

One fateful October evening, Andy’s pride turned against him, implicating him into a “serious fight.”  As a result of his actions, Andy explained he “was supposed to [serve] fifteen years in prison.  The judge gave me a chance to [redeem] myself… and he […] put me on probation.  Five years.  I was just going to stay out of trouble.”

The aftermath of Andy’s actions took place just after Andy had proposed for Nadja’s hand in marriage.

In a complicated sequence of events surrounding Andy and Nadja’s official engagement ceremony and wedding, Andy served approximately forty-five days in jail in addition to paying a generous amount of money in restitution – money Andy had collected in savings.

Andy’s mistake that late autumn night regrettably cost him a clean record making it extremely difficult for him to find a job.  In Andy’s despair, his occasional encounters with opiates increasingly became habitual.

Photo courtesy of 4tonphotography

Photo courtesy of 4tonphotography

Andy and Nadja were married in the summer of 2009.  They moved about sixty miles southwest of their hometown, leaving behind their family and friends so that Nadja could pursue a nursing career.  Finances were tight.  Andy managed to get a siding job but was unhappy with his wages as it was the least paid job he ever held.  To support his expensive habit, he worked extra hours and would reserve some of his earnings.  A newlywed and a full-time student, Nadja was unaware of Andy’s addiction with narcotics.  Nadja explains, “[Our] first year of marriage, [we were] still getting used to each other.  Everything was fine-”

Andy interrupts.  “I wasn’t that out of control.  I was keeping it under control as much as I could,” he adds.  Andy elaborates.

“Addicts are like master manipulators.  They’re smooth with their words.  They’re very careful to be very sneaky…  I didn’t want to be [an addict].  I really didn’t…  I would feel so guilty.  I would literally be up most of the night…crying by myself, sitting on the couch and crying, ‘What am I doing?  I can’t stop now.  I can’t stop.’  [I reasoned that] if I [didn’t] do this, [she would] know something [was] wrong because I [would] be sick.  I felt that I [was] bettering our relationship by continuing to do [drugs] because [I felt I was] still normal.  So at this point, I [wasn’t] doing it to get high.  I [was] doing it to maintain.  I couldn’t function… I [couldn’t] sleep without it. I [couldn’t] wake up without it. I [couldn’t] work without it.  I [couldn’t] eat without it…  It took control of my life.  I was always so against it. I was shocked [with] myself. I thought I was the strongest willed person in the world.  I didn’t think anybody was like me in the world.  But somehow I got pulled into it too.”

Two years into their marriage, Nadja learned in part what Andy had been secretly involved in.

“I noticed [Andy] was acting differently and I kept asking him what was going on…”

“…I was just fed up and I had to tell [Nadja…]:  ‘I have a problem.  Sometimes I do [drugs] and I can’t stop.’  I didn’t want to tell her I was fully addicted because I wanted to get clean and then tell her…”  Andy didn’t want to worry his bride.

Nadja struggled to comprehend her husband’s addiction.  “After he told me he had a problem, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t stop if he knew it hurt me.  And it was hard to believe that a person [I] loved and trusted had been lying to [me]…  I didn’t know where to turn.  I felt helpless and I prayed every night for him; sometimes, just [cried] alone asking God to change him, help him – and us.  It was the hardest time of my life.”

Nadja “realized that when an addiction consumes [someone], [they] can’t stop for anyone – not [their] parents, brother, or wife.  Andy [needed] to do it for himself and only with God’s help.”

Andy planned to change and he was determined to do it on his own.

“…he literally stayed up all night long,” remembers Nadja.  “I sat there on the bed with him and he went through the withdrawals… [it was] the worst thing in the world and-”

“-you feel like dying when you come off this stuff.  It’s not only physical.  It’s mental. It’s everything.  You feel like you want to commit suicide…” remarks Andy.

Nadja was desperate for help and with little money to spare, she didn’t know where to begin.  “I didn’t know what to do, where to go.  Everything […] was expensive.  I called everywhere […] ‘cause I wanted to be by his side.  I wanted him to get help…  If he [was] willing to get help, then I [was] going to be there with him.  […] I called everywhere and everything was booked up…  It was so hard to […] find a place for help.  And so I found, finally, this place…”

Andy was intermittently using narcotics for about five years before checking himself into a non-religious detox center for the first time.  He was there for about five days.  Because he was still having trouble with sleepless nights and wanted to improve his chances of recovery, Andy and Nadja reached out to NA (Narcotics Anonymous).  According to Andy, the support group constantly discussed “using,” reminding him of the sensations he felt when he was using drugs, causing him to crave it.

He appeared to be doing better for a short time, but the withdrawals were too overwhelming for Andy to bear any longer.  Nadja didn’t know it at the time, but Andy returned to his addictive habits in search of relief, even if it was only temporary.

“So I had this crazy idea […]:  I’ll just do just a little bit so I can sleep and that’s it.  Then I woke up and I was still kind of sick.  [I figured] I’ll do just a little bit [more]…”  As it turns out, an acquaintance convinced him to try this method, assuring Andy he could wean himself off the drugs a little at a time.  “I got back into it ’cause I had to take it to go to sleep; I had to take it to wake up.  I had to take it ’cause it wore off halfway through the day and before I knew it, I was doing it four, five, or six times a day again.”  Sadly, he ended up right back where he started.

Throughout this process, Andy was associated with a mischievous group of individuals that eventually led to a warrant for his arrest.  The consequences of choosing poor company and making poor decisions were rapidly escalating.

Andy found himself sitting in jail for the second time, confused at the events leading up to his latest incarceration, and struggled with the reality of serving fifteen years in prison for a supposed violation of his probation.  Nadja received word that Andy was in jail.  “I was shocked that he got into trouble again.  I didn’t know the whole story.  I didn’t know what was happening.”

While awaiting his scheduled trial, Andy was placed in a very large room, similar to a dormitory, with over seventy other inmates considered “high risk” (i.e. robbers, attempted murderers, and even murderers) – individuals facing at least ten years in penitentiary.  Andy recollects thinking to himself, “I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong here!  Why am I here?”

One day, Andy was sitting in his bunk reading a Bible.  “I [was] praying to God…to help me get out of my addiction.  [I prayed], ‘…God, I can’t do this on my own.  If You do exist, I want You to help me… ‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.  I tried – I tried everything!’”

Later, he called his mother who reminded him of God Will Provide, a non-profit Christian rehabilitation center, that she had informed him about in the past.  Believing he could do it on his own, Andy refused the opportunity to check himself in.  After learning of Andy’s situation, two counselors from the God Will Provide center planned to attend the hearing and support Andy.

The day of the hearing, Andy’s wife, family and friends, and the two mentors from God Will Provide were in the courtroom awaiting Andy’s sentencing from his first arrest.  The judge encouraged Andy to tell him the truth, etching the phrase, “Only the truth can set you free,” into Andy’s memory.  In shackles at the legs and arms, embarrassed, Andy confessed to the judge that he became involved with narcotics.  He expected to receive the full penalty of fifteen years of confinement.  At some point during Andy’s dialogue with the judge, a gentleman asked for permission to speak.  Surprised, the magistrate curiously approved his request.

The man introduced himself as a counselor at the God Will Provide International Mission and described the program to the judge.  Andy retells the advisor’s proposition to the judge:

“Your Honour, just give us a chance to clean him up before you send him away…because he’s going to go to prison, he’s going to get institutionalized, {and he will] come out even worse.  Let him change his life… and then send him away.”

The judge gave Andy a chance to speak in response to the counselor’s suggestion.  Andy remembers asking the judge to give him a chance.  “…It’s a Christian-based program…  I know God can change me.  And He’s the only One that can because I was born and raised – I was blessed in a church.  That’s the only reason why I know this will work.  And nothing else will.”

Andy and Nadja pictured together at a church baptism some time prior to Andy going to the men's center. (Photo courtesy of Nadja).

Andy and Nadja pictured together at a church baptism some time prior to Andy going to the Men’s Center. (Photo courtesy of Nadja).

Andy had forty days until his next hearing and the judge miraculously answered many prayers by agreeing to release Andy, under very strict regulations, to the God Will Provide rehabilitation center.

After gathering his belongings from his jail cell, Andy was transported to the Men’s Center.  The first month, he was not allowed contact with anyone outside of the center including his wife.  From a distance, Nadja was able to see Andy during gatherings at The Fountain of Life church, the founding church of the God Will Provide International Mission.

The God Will Provide Men's Center (Photo courtesy of Nadja)

The God Will Provide Men’s Center (Photo courtesy of Nadja).

“It was hard [not being able to speak with Andy], but… I would rather have him go through this than not see him [potentially] for years,” replies Nadja.  She was nearing the end of her nursing education and had about six months of clinical experience to complete.  After the first thirty days, Andy was allowed to make calls home three times a week in fifteen minute increments and they were finally able to sit together in church meetings.  These freedoms might seem insignificant to others, but to Andy and Nadja, they were important milestones.

Andy improved in many areas while in rehab including gaining a staggering fifty pounds in just over one month.  After forty days, he faced the magistrate assigned to his case once more.  Shocked by Andy’s progress, the judge released Andy back to the center to continue his treatment with orders to return for another follow-up.

New Year's Day - 2012.  Andy was at the Men's Center at this time.  (Photo courtesy of Nadja).

New Year’s Day – 2012. Andy was at the Men’s Center at this time. (Photo courtesy of Nadja).

As Andy continued to progress, he was “considered an elder to the students” while still a student himself, encouraging his peers in their process of recovery.  He cooked meals for over thirty males three times a day with some help from an assistant and a dishwasher, absorbing humility and learning patience.  He also served as a mechanic for the men’s center, making repairs on vehicles donated to the facility.

At Andy’s final hearing for sentencing, the judge wanted to listen to Andy speak.  Stunned and unprepared, Andy meekly revealed his transformed heart:

“Who am I to say anything?  I’ve proven many times that I can fail.  I [made] many mistakes… First, I want to thank you…for giving me the opportunity to [go to God Will Provide].  I learned a lot.  This is the first Thanksgiving… when I couldn’t stop saying what I was thankful for.  I actually have feelings now.  I have emotions.  I can talk to my parents.  I have a good relationship with my wife.  This is because of you.  God used you to bring me to [God Will Provide]…  If you [will] send me to jail, I [am] ready knowing that one day I will be out and one day, I will be used again and I am [valuable].  I’m not that person that I used to be.  I learned to associate with the right people…”

After listening to Andy’s testimony, the judge debated with the District Attorney.  Though the DA’s job is to convict offenders, she acknowledged that Andy’s statement moved her, causing her to believe he didn’t deserve another day in jail.

Once again, the judge miraculously agreed and freed Andy to return to rehab to complete his recovery program.  He was no longer obligated to serve fifteen years in prison and the remainder of his five-year probation would conclude the final sentencing.

Andy lived on site at the Men’s Center for about six months.  “It seemed liked the longest six months of my life [as I] waited for him to complete the program, but in the end, I knew it was worth the wait,” explains Nadja.  After four months of therapy at God Will Provide, Andy was able to return home on the weekends with supervision.  Later, he became a counselor at the God Will Provide Men’s Center and thereafter, he collaborated with a fellow advisor to organize and build an inviting outdoor space at the rehab center.  It was through this project that Andy discovered his calling to co-lead a mission in Kenya.

[…to be continued…]

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  1. #1 by ummmm on January 14, 2014 - 8:59 pm

    um……. sorry but, no need to embellish the story……. .

    • #2 by Jenny Cantu on January 14, 2014 - 10:35 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Not sure what embellishments you could be referring to… It’s my first time doing something like this so I am learning as I go along. All that aside, I still hope you were able to take something positive from the story and will tune in for the second part when it’s complete.

  2. #3 by Elle on January 15, 2014 - 1:11 am

    Beautifully written, Jenny. I love hearing Andy and other men from God Will Provide share there testimonies at various church events. It is so encouraging to hear stories of redemption and freedom from the bondage of drugs. God is using — and will continue to use — Andy and these other men for His work because they’ve been to the bottom and know the despair and pain, but now they also know the utmost joy and peace of salvation and grace. This gives them a voice and a purpose!

    • #4 by Jenny Cantu on January 20, 2014 - 2:12 pm

      Thank you for your response, Elena! 🙂 I was very impressed by Andy knowing where he’s been and how far he’s come. His words were filled with purpose, like you said, while we talked together and his zeal for Kenya. He is very excited about life and the work he is doing. Very incredible transformation. I missed this month’s special service at Fountain of Life but am interested in attending next month… Maybe I will see you there? 🙂

  1. A Struggling Addict Finds Renewal Through ‘God Will Provide’ – Part I | ENCOURAGE by cornelilioi
  2. A Struggling Addict Finds Renewal Through ‘God Will Provide’ – Part II | The Human Moxie

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