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Angry Addict Finally Faces God

Robert Hull - 700 Club Producer

“My ribs are showing. My whole bottom jaw is sucked in. I don’t even want to use the bathroom and ever look in the mirror. The mirror tells the tale. No one looks in the mirror. No one.” Joel says his addiction took him to the depths of despair, living in a crack house. His painful journey began as a child when his parents divorced.

“It was more peace in the woods with my dogs than anything I’m going to find in that house. And so I learned to get comfortable with being alone. And not trying to put a whole lot of reliability on other people’s affection, love and care. Because I just learned to stop trusting it.”

Joel stayed with his mother, who suffered from mental illness. Because she was a Christian, he blamed God for her inability to love and care for him.  He says, “For days she would sit around the kitchen table and not move. You know, not eating, not taking care of her hygiene. Complete catatonia. My attempts to be heard or to feel and receive love from my mother, she was incapable of giving it.”

He covered his emotional turmoil by smoking pot, a habit he started when he was just eight years old. “And what it immediately did is took all that angst and sadness, it went boop! And I went, ‘Wow!’ There is a reason to live.’ And so I loved it. I was smoking marijuana three times a day before, during and after school. And next thing you know, it was just a lifestyle. It’s just what I did to not really have to feel. I don’t want to get back to feeling, If I go back to feeling, what am I going to do with all that?”

When Joel was in his twenties, marijuana became the gateway to harder drugs.  He says, “All it took was one time. I had roommates that did crack cocaine. I said I’ll try it and that’s when the whirlwind started. Once the crack came, it was almost overnight that this is now what is going to start running the show.”

He says his new addiction consumed every part of his life, and soul. “Going to that horrible cycle of hustling, copping, getting high and trying to avoid the consequences. Hustling, copping, getting –all day long. The only time you’re going to go to sleep is when you are completely devastated in all your own resources, you can’t get anymore. The dealer is out and there’s no dealers available. Or you’ve ripped off everything from anybody you can steal from that day. You don’t believe for good things. You don’t believe that hope is on the horizon. Emotional bankruptcy. My love tank was empty. There was no one filling it every relationship I was in was for what I could get out of it. I’m not going to deliver you my heart and have you be a bad steward of my heat again. No one’s evidenced their a good steward.”

Joel worked off and on to support his habit, but after Twenty years of addiction, he moved into a crack house and started running drugs. “A crack house culture is me trying to help you find your wallet and it’s in my back pocket. That’s how it works in a crack house. I was always convinced the police were coming, looking out the window, I’d be quiet, I’d freeze, not make any movement. Total devastation, total, isolation. I’m sitting there saying to myself I know I’m not supposed to be—why am I here? Am I here to die? You’re looking up at nothing because you believe in nothing. You know, I don’t have any source. I don’t believe in anything. And so I don’t even know where I’m looking. And I’m asking these questions into this like, you know, ethereal place where there’s not going to be any answers. And so realizing I think I’m here to die. Death’s a relief. We’d talk about overdosing and having a heart attack smoking crack. And I would think to myself, that’s the resolve.”

In desperation, his family made one last attempt to pull him out. “Man, they just kept calling. And then finally my sister did a rescue mission. And she rounded up friends of mine and said, ‘We’re coming to get you,’” says Joel.

They took him to Teen Challenge, a Christian recovery program for drug addicts. A few weeks into the program, Joel poured out his anger at God. “I said I don't know who You are and You’re—and I cursed Him out. I won’t go into the expletives. And shook a fist at Him with all the where-were-Yous. And there was a weird part of me that felt like Somebody was listening. I had never heard anybody listening. And the first thing I heard God saying, I was there always with you, in all of it. I was right by your side. Matter of fact, I sustained you for a day such as this. By the end of it I was on the floor in a pool of tears, bodysurfing on those tears all the way to the feet of Jesus. And I’ve never turned back.”

Joel surrendered his life to Christ and completed rehabilitation. Sober for Thirteen years, he is now married and completing a doctorate in addiction counseling. He works with teen challenge helping others find wholeness and restoration through Jesus Christ. But most of all, he is grateful for a healed heart that has learned to trust God.  He says, “It was an exchange of identities and it was nothing short of miraculous. There’s a knowing about who I am as a human being I’ve never had. I could be vulnerable with God. He’s in the room wherever I go, and I never had that. I never had a knowing of something caring for me. Every relationship we’ve ever been in takes a certain level of risk. But entering into the risk with Jesus and finding out there was none, is the reward. There’s never a risk. He promises to never leave me or forsake me.”

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