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Fighting a Battle Between Drugs and God

“I thought that as a Christian, I could not have fun. I saw Christians as the stuffy, like stuck-up people.” Geoff recalls his hard view of Christians,  “I decided that the Christian lifestyle was this boring life. And I didn’t want that. I didn’t want that at all.” Geoff Banks was raised in the church and was even baptized as a boy. But as a he got older, he chose another direction. “In Durham where I grew up at that time was very much saturated with drugs and partying and that was like the cool thing to do. And I surrounded myself with people who did that.” He recalls,  “And I got so much of my value and so much of my identity from the people that were around me, I was such a follower.”

In middle school Geoff started smoking marijuana. He said, “I remember like loving it and thinking man, like if –if this can make me feel like this good and this great, like I wonder what all these other drugs can make me feel like. And that started my obsession with –with just drugs in general.” When a friend’s mom died of cancer Geoff convinced the friend to give him her leftover medication. He recalls, “I ended up having all these pain medications. And I remember taking them for the first time and just like loving the way it made me feel. I blew through those pretty quickly. I started to try to find them on the streets and find them wherever I could. You know, I was, what 14 years old, 15 years old, I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t afford stuff. So the natural next step was to start selling stuff and stealing stuff.”
Geoff recalls, “My parents didn’t know for a little bit. They caught on after awhile. They got me in counseling and tried to get me to go to different groups and get help in different manners. But I really didn’t care. I really thought that they didn’t get it.” After getting kicked out of several high schools, Geoff finished school online. He went on to college but had no interest in studying. He said, “I look at college as kind of a turning point where it stopped being fun, ha-ha, doing drugs and partying, and started to become really dark. It wasn’t really like getting high anymore, it was just I have to do this to feel normal. And if I don’t do it, then I feel horrible.” Geoff dropped out of college but graduated to heroin. He recalls, “I used a needle for the first time and remember thinking like wow that was incredible. And from then on I needed it. Like I really did need it. I was no longer like this happy-go-lucky party guy. I was a dope fiend essentially, I was a heroin addict and that was all I cared about.”

Over the next 5 years he was arrested several times.  Geoff made numerous attempts at rehab but always relapsed. He never thought how is actions were affecting others, especially his parents. He recalls, “I was so selfish at that point in time that I didn’t really care what they felt. I know that they were constantly praying. They weren’t sure what call they were going to get, whether it was going to be a call from the hospital, whether it was going to be a call from jail or a call from the morgue. Like they really—they didn’t know. All I was worried about was myself.”  He still believed in God, but drugs had a stronger hold on him. He thought, “I couldn’t imagine a life for myself where I would be happy sober. I never tried a Christian rehab at this point. I didn't really want too much to do with God. If God was real, which I was pretty sure that He was, I didn’t think that He was going to step into my life and help me stop doing drugs. He was still this far-off, distant God.”

One of his relapses came after nine months of sobriety. Geoff borrowed his girlfriend’s car one morning to score some heroin.  On his way back home he pulled off the road to shoot up. He said, “I just wanted to get high, didn’t want to feel sick anymore. So I, you know, fixed up my shot and a spoon and I put the needle in my arm and did it and I pulled off kind of as it was hitting me and I sped up to about 50-60 mph and I had done too much and I passed out behind the wheel overdosed.” Geoff’s next memory was waking up in the hospital. He learned the car hit a light pole, and the police had found him with the needle still in his arm. Finally he realized the gravity of his addiction. He recalls, “I just hurt everyone that I loved. And I remember, again, feeling like man, what am I doing?”

The court ordered Geoff to another rehab program. His girlfriend left him, so with nowhere else to turn, Geoff called his parents for help. He said, “Regardless of how many times I messed up, they still loved me. But this time they were like we’ve tried your ways and we’ve tried it like 11 times and it’s not working. So if we’re going to help you again, you’re going to do it our way and we don’t care what you think about it.” That meant going to a Christian rehab program.  It didn’t turn out like Geoff expected. He recalls, “I was either expecting like really uptight, like tuck in your shirt and make your bed and that sort of thing. And a bunch of people who didn’t get it. But instead they loved me. And it was like the most eye-opening experience ever.”

Through the program, reading the Bible and praying Geoff discovered a new identity in Jesus. He says, “ I always really struggled with calling myself an addict or calling myself an alcoholic. But they started to point me to verses like, you know, the old creation has gone; the new has come, you know, and things like that, that I started to realize that I wasn’t the person I was before. I didn’t have to live in the identity of being an addict or a crack head or a dope fiend anymore, like that wasn’t me.” Geoff found the key to overcoming his addictions by surrendering his life to Jesus. He says, “I surrendered, you know, this part of my life and then this part and then this part. And really what it was is, it was a growth of faith. Because it was like, okay, if I can trust you with this God, then I can trust You with this. If I can trust you that you’re going to give me freedom from drugs, then I can trust that you want what’s best when it comes to my relationships. God definitely became personal to me in that time period. He stopped being this far-off, stoic God. But I’d seen Him step into the mess that was my life and fix it.”

Today Geoff is a youth pastor and loves to encourage kids that Jesus is the only solution to deal with the problems they will face. He says, “But everyone has something in their life that they struggle with. Everyone has something in their life that’s difficult, that they have to walk through. And the biggest thing that I hope people hear from my story is that—is that there’s hope and there’s hope in Christ. God has a plan for you. And that Christ came to set you free and give you a new identity. And He knows what’s best for you because He made you. So the biggest thing that I hope people get is hope.”

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