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Exiting the Easy Street of Addiction

“To me there was no God,” says Paul. “If you're real why – why you let these things happen to us?’  You know, ‘Why do we live the way we live?’”  

Paul grew up desperately poor in Odessa, Texas. His father disowned him when Paul was a child, and his mother resorted to prostitution to make ends meet. Paul turned to the streets and was smoking marijuana by the time he was nine years old. He says, “The streets was my life. You know, that's-that's what I turn to.  You know, me and my friends, you know, we – that's – that was our lives, you know?  Our parents were at the bars, clubbing, doing their thing and-and we were in the streets just, you know, maintaining.”

There was rarely food in their home. One Saturday when he was nine years old Paul decided to burglarize a friend’s house. He says, “I was tired of my family being hungry; I was tired of my family being hungry. I went in through the window and I went straight to that drawer and that Crown Royal bag was in there. It was probably about $37 if I recall right.  And uh I took that money.  I took his money.  I went to – there was a grocery store a couple of blocks down, I went to the grocery store and I grabbed me a basket and I started throwing food in that basket. But that was like my actual first burglary I ever did.”

In his teens drug use, crime and violence were a regular part of his life. Paul idolized the old gangsters who ran the streets. “And I started looking up to them guys and I would always tell them, I said, "Well, you know, I want to be like him one day.  You know, I'm going to be like him.  I’m going to be respected and I'm going to be like that guy one day.”

At seventeen he was convicted of burglary and spent 18 months in prison, while behind bars his mother died. Paul says his heart grew cold as he contemplated suicide. He says, “I sat there and thought about it, I said, ‘You know, I’m not going to take my life.’ I said, ‘You know what?  I'd rather take somebody else's life.’ That was the first thing that came to my head.”  

He joined a prison gang and was quick to rush into violent brawls. When he was eventually released from prison his life further unraveled.  “My heart was just cold.” He says, “I just like gave up on life.  You know, I started using harder drugs.  I mean, I started smoking heroin and like I used to smoke crack cocaine.  You know, there was days I'd go without bathing and – just to stay high.”

He got his girlfriend pregnant and had they had a daughter. For the first time in his life Paul found something to give his life meaning. “When I seen my daughter that was like ‘God’ I was like ‘the best gift ever.’  You know?  Like I'll never forget it, I cried, you know? I actually had something to live for. I had my daughter now.

He got married and tried to settle down, but he was powerless to give up his old ways. Before his daughter was a year old Paul was back in prison on a DWI and parole violation. Once back on the outside his drug use escalated. Eventually his wife left, and took their daughter with her. Paul remembers, “I walk into an empty house.  I'm talking about like completely cleaned out and I go into our bedroom and my, the only thing in the closet was my clothes and she-she left me a mattress.  On top of that mattress she left me a Bible.”

Soon after power and water were cut off to the apartment and Paul was desperate for hope. “I grabbed that Bible I'd put on the bookshelf, I just opened it. I didn't know nothing about it.  I opened it up and it was the book of Psalms.  And I started reading it- Then I broke down and started crying and said, ‘I'm tired of this life.’ I said, ‘I'm tired of it.’  I said, ‘I'm going to try to live it this way, that way,’ I said, ‘And I'm getting nowhere.’ … I just reach – got on my knees and reached out like that.  I couldn't stop crying.  And I didn't know what it was, and I’m like, ‘Man, I ain't weak.  I ain't – I'm not weak.’  And like I say, man, I didn't know – I say, ‘Is this you, God?’  And then I would get the chills like – just like all through my body like-like the Holy Spirit just like being manifested in me and I was like ‘Man, if this is you’ I said, ‘I'm done, Lord.’ I said, ‘I'm done. But whatever, if you hear me right now,’ I said, ‘Don't let it go away.’  Said, ‘Don't let it go away.  I'm done.’

Paul surrendered his life to Jesus and was immediately set free from drugs and alcohol.  He says, “That one day I said ‘I'm done.’  I was done.  I didn't need no rehab, I didn't need nothing.  Already he was my Lord and Savior, accept him in my life and I have not touched a drug since then, Had no alcohol since then. And I’m letting him take over in my life I just ride passenger and I’m letting him steer the wheel now.”

He gained custody of his daughter and raised her by himself for the last ten years. Paul now reaches out to his friends on the streets and in prison with the message of hope in Jesus. He says, “The only thing you have to do when you get out of here is keep accepting him as your Lord and Savior." I say, "He-he's going to guide you. Just continue worshiping the Lord.”

Paul says he can now see the loving hand of God was always with him. “Ah man, he's a merciful, loving God, man. Whenever we did have the little food that we did have, that was God. You know, for us surviving and living through all that, that was cause of God.   I know he loves me.  He loves my family, all my family, and we all love him and we praise him every single day.”

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