Early in my life, I began to notice a feeling of emptiness. It felt like something was missing. I found momentary escape in things like rock climbing and music. And as a teenager, I found relief using mind-altering substances. My troubles didn’t seem to exist while under their influence. As with many other things, my use of these substances began slowly as they worked their way deeper and deeper into my life. I spent countless nights free of inhibitions, traveling all over the world and searching for relief.
In an inebriated flash, 15 years went by, and my addictions completely took over my life. I felt empty inside, stripped of any passion. I couldn’t physically get enough substances into my body at one time to satisfy my cravings, and that momentary relief found within the numbness was long gone.
One day I remember thinking, “How long have I lived like this?” I sought happiness in relationships, fame, achievements, and substances that could give me a bigger rush.
There was a night where I drunkenly sneaked my way to the top of a skyscraper and rappelled downward to paint graffiti on the side of the building. Grandiose and desperate acts like this were completely normal to me in seeking fulfillment. And every time I felt on top of the world, deeper despair would inevitably follow. I was digging myself further and further down. Eventually I completely checked out on life. I no longer cared what happened to me.
Then everything changed.
The whole world transformed overnight.
I’d reached the lowest point in my life. Nothing but a profound spiritual experience could change me. I knew deep down that I was meant to be doing more in life. And I’d finally become so desperate that I was open to the truth that perhaps God did live. I didn’t know anything about Him, but I started seeking His guidance. I searched desperately for a sign of His hand in my life. Then, suddenly, He answered, and I was catapulted into a world I’d never known.
My world came together in such an orchestrated fashion and guided me to exactly where I needed to be. Strangers, family, friends—everyone and everything—seemed to be sending me messages of love, concern, and support all at once. I started to notice a sensation in my chest: a wonderful burning feeling. And along with that feeling, I was witnessing a love that was completely new to me.
The love of God.
I really didn’t know what the feeling was or where it had come from at first. I just knew it didn’t come from me and that it was better than anything I had felt. It wasn’t until later while talking with my family that I really understood that I was experiencing a connection with Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Ghost.
My reality suddenly changed from a dull gray to full color. And it was difficult to adjust. I knew God was real. But what did this mean? For at least a month, I would break down sobbing throughout each day. The new beauty of life I was seeing was forcing me to face the unbelievably ugly way I’d lived for years. I’d been so engulfed by hatred, and now I was witnessing the deepest love I’d ever seen. A love that struck me to my core. Life had become more beautiful than I’d ever imagined it could be. I knew God was calling me. He wanted me to seek a better life. And I was finally ready to answer Him.
It was hard changing so much of my life. I had to walk away from everything. I didn’t want to let go of it all, but I knew I couldn’t reach where I was trying to go while holding on to the past. Most of my friends were happy that I wasn’t on the path of destruction I’d been on, but some didn’t understand my sudden transition. At times I was unsure about all the changes I was making. But focusing on what I’d felt and the knowledge that God was leading me gave me the courage to move forward.
I quit using drugs cold turkey. None of the things that should have driven me to quit in the past had had any effect. What did help me quit was realizing that the good feeling I was becoming familiar with would disappear any time I used any substance. And I didn’t want it to go away.
Soon I moved back in with my family, away from the life I’d known. I needed a complete fresh start. I also got involved with a recovery program for addiction. I was in meetings almost every day and began to identify the underlying causes of my addictions.
One day I was describing my experiences and new ideas about God to one of my uncles, who suggested I talk with some missionaries. Part of my family had been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for my whole life, and I’d never thought about joining before, but now I was ready to meet with the missionaries.
I’d always admired my family who were members of the Church. They were always helping others and seemed to have a happiness I didn’t understand. I was finally humbled enough to be open to the idea of me not having all the answers and to think that I could maybe learn something from the missionaries.
They asked me to read the Book of Mormon and pray to find out if it was true. I was taken aback by this. I didn’t expect them to tell me to find out for myself. But I began reading and praying. As I did, I noticed the strangest feeling. In some strange way, I recognized what I was reading, as if I were remembering truths I’d once known. I now know that feeling was the Holy Ghost testifying of truth to me—it was the same burning feeling I’d experienced before. I continued the discussions with the missionaries, and shortly after, I was baptized.
Now that I’ve received the gift of the Holy Ghost, that feeling of comfort and guidance is no longer fleeting as I live my life righteously. My past has been washed clean, and I feel I am becoming “a new creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). I can now look the world in the eyes and not be overcome by fear. All areas of my life have improved dramatically, and I’ve realized that I can help those around me and that I have a true purpose in life.
All this change has not been easy to say the least, but it’s been worth it. I couldn’t have done it without the Savior’s and Heavenly Father’s help. I still experience temptations trying to lure me back into my old life sometimes. The adversary can be very subtle, and to combat him, I try to be very observant about what the driving forces in my life are. I often have to ask myself if I am driven by love and kindness or by fear and anger. I try not to be motivated by selfishness but by selflessness.
I’ve noticed I can feel the difference when the peace the Spirit brings isn’t with me. When that happens, I immediately ask our Father in Heaven to help me move past temptation and negative feelings so I can be of more use to Him and to my brothers and sisters. I pray, study the scriptures, and listen to hymns every day to help me overcome difficult feelings or weaknesses and to remind me to rely on the Lord and not on myself.
I cannot describe the depth of the despair that had taken over me for so many years. I do know now, however, that the love that has entered into my heart and soul is infinitely greater than anything else in this world. The gospel was the piece I was missing for so long. The purpose it has given me was the solution to the emptiness I always felt. I am no longer lost. I’ve changed, and I’m still changing because I found myself in the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know I can become a more resilient, faithful, and Christlike person with Them.