Joni: U-Turn to God

I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was raised in a Christian, church-going family. My paternal grandfather was a Southern Primitive Baptist preacher. My family attended every Sunday and Wednesday church service. My mother taught Sunday school; my father was a deacon, and my sister and I were involved in all of the children and youth ministries. I was baptized for the first time at the age of 7 years.

I was always the overweight, chunky kid with self-esteem issues. I was called fat so much that I came to believe it and proved it to be true. I was an excellent student. But, I was also somewhat mischevious.

I started drinking and experimenting with drugs at the age of 15. By the age of 18, I was drinking to intoxication every weekend. At the time, I didn’t think this was a problem, as everyone I hung around with was drinking. I finally fit in, or so I thought. Everyone liked me and invited me to their parties because I was the life of the party, and I was obviously extremely entertaining.

I began getting into trouble at school because of my behavior. I was dismissed from the basketball team and suspended from school during my sophomore year because of drinking on the bus on the way home from a basketball game. During my senior year, I quit school and moved to live with my aunt and uncle in order to complete high school. I have been in many different colleges, many different times, but have yet to earn a degree.

I experimented with many drugs over the years, trying anything that was put in front of me, but the only thing that ensnared me was alcohol. At the age of 19, I obtained an entry-level position with a large financial institution; and over the next 20 years, I had a very successful and lucrative career.

I continued partying and drinking excessively and was charged with my first DUI at the age of 25. This was my life for many years; working all week, partying all weekend, having fair-weather friends, disposable boyfriends, and relationships of no substance. I covered my loneliness and pain with alcohol and food.

In 2000, at the age of 30, I decided that it was time to get married, so I married the first man who was willing. Sadly, we did not take the time to get to know one another. He was an abusive man, and I was drinking in excess. The marriage lasted for 6 months and we divorced. Within the next year, I met and married my second husband.

In 2004, I was diagnosed as possibly being bipolar and was sent to a psychiatrist. This doctor questioned my drinking habits, and his diagnosis rendered me an alcoholic. The next day, I began a 16-week outpatient recovery program and remained sober for almost 5 years.

During this time, I was eating excessively, and my weight was spiraling out of control. In 2007, I had surgery to correct my weight problem. However, the surgery did not fix the unresolved issues on the inside of me.

Our marital problems intensified, so we separated and eventually divorced. I was lonely and misguided, and I relapsed. I moved to New Jersey by myself, which began a tumultuous, three-year suicidal binge. During all of this, I never once sought God.

In August 2009, I came to South Florida for 21 days to a secular rehab program. My sobriety lasted for 5 days. My plans obviously were not working out as I had hoped in the Northeast, so I made the decision to move back to North Carolina. I thought that living in North Carolina, being close to my family and friends, attending church and being re-baptized would help me to overcome alcohol. This was not an accurate assessment.

In November of that year in New Jersey, I drove head-on into a utility pole and was charged with my second DUI. In North Carolina in May 2010, I was charged with another DUI. Fortunately for me, circumstances were such that this DUI was dismissed. By the grace of God, I did not hurt or kill anyone or myself.

In spite of all of this, I continued drinking. In August 2010, I came back to South Florida to re-enter the same rehab center. This time, I stayed for the complete program. They told me that I had to make a life change; so I packed my belongings, quit my job, and moved to Delray Beach. My sobriety was short-lived. In July 0f 2011, I relapsed and found myself on a horrific spiral into hell. I was so broken and empty inside that all I wanted to do was to die. Alcohol was once again consuming my life.

At this point, it seemed that everyone around me began speaking Faith Farm into my life. In August 2012, I was terminated from my job for calling in sick too often. This caused me to pick up the phone and all Faith Farm. I was accepted into the program and arrived on August 30, 2012.

When I came to Faith Farm, I was completely broken and hopeless. I felt utterly worthless and lost. I cried all day, every day, for several weeks. All I could think was that I had been given so much. How did my life end up like this? I now know that I was seeking all the wrong things. Money, men, and material possessions could not fill the void in my soul.

Having lived in my iniquities for more than 25 ears, I proclaim that I have been delivered from my past lifestyle choices, including smoking and my dependence on antidepressants. Today, I am on no medication other than the Word of God.

I now believe that when you commit your life to the Lord and walk in obedience to Him, He will restore you from the inside out. I no longer believe Satan’s lies.

Mikhail: U-Turn to God

I was born and raised in Russia. I got involved with organized crime at the age of 14. I had everything I wanted – money, cars, women, and drugs. I thought I was happy. By the age of 18, I’d been stabbed, shot at twice and I was facing a long prison sentence. I wanted to get away from everything. My mom lived in Florida, so I decided to come to the United States.

In 2001, I moved to Florida to get a fresh start. I got a job and started to live a normal life. After a while, I gave up, on the whole having a job idea and started selling drugs. I had everything, but I was miserable. During these years, I’ve totaled a few cars, got two DUIs and other numerous arrests. I finally got arrested for trafficking cocaine. By having a good lawyer, my charges were lessened to a possession charged. I was sentenced to the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Drug Farm, followed by a halfway house and a few years of probation.

While on probation, I went to the doctor and got roxys, xanax, and somas. I was using and my probation could not violate me. I quit my job because I was making more money selling drugs. My last girlfriend left me because she was scared for her life. She didn’t know was going to come through the door – cops, feds, or someone to rob or kill us. My life was out of control. I was living in hotels. I was depressed and tired of life. I was trying to kill myself by shooting large amounts of pills, crack, and powder cocaine. I could not stand the person I’d become.

I was desperate. I came to Faith Farm because I wanted to change. Since being here, I found out who God is and developed a relationship with Him. I started to read the Bible and realized that I broke all of God’s commandments. I now know that I was addicted to sin. I got baptized and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now I live in peace with myself.

Raj: U-Turn to God

Addiction doesn’t discriminate who you are, where you come from, how smart you are or how much money you’ve got. My story is not any different than any other addicts. It’s not important how I became an addict and how I lost everything, but what’s important is how God saved me. After I lost everything, I had to move in with my brother, who is a doctor. Every night, I came home

Every night, I came home high and got into an argument with my family. Every night, I promised them and myself that I was going to stop; and by morning, I was doing it all over again. I had a death wish. My family couldn’t take it anymore.

I came to Faith Farm on September 10, 1989. Since I am from India and born in a Hindu family, I didn’t know anything about Christianity or church. Because of that, people at Faith Farm thought I was not going to last more than a week. I felt people of Faith Farm needed more help than I did. I just wanted to be here long enough to manipulate my family so I can go back and do what I was doing before. To survive spiritual giants at Faith Farm, I learned a couple of words like “Hallelujah” and “Praise God.” My plan was to go on my first 8-hour pass after 30 days never to return.

My brother came to pick me up and told me he needed to stop by the hospital. When we got there, I realized my father was in the hospital. A wound on his leg was not healing; and because he was a diabetic, they were talking about amputating his leg.  My mom passed away when I was four years old, and my father raised me. He was my father and my mother.

I was sad and powerless. I wanted to help my dad but didn’t know how. As I sat at the edge of my bed in the dorm, the guy who slept next to my bunk came and asked me about my pass. I told him what was going on and he said, “Why don’t you pray?” I told him the truth, that I didn’t know how. He smiled and said he would pray with me. He told me to ask the pastor to pray for my father on Sunday.

On Wednesday, my brother came to see me. He told me that my father didn’t have to go through surgery and was recovering well. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew deep within my heart that God healed my father.

This was the day my life changed. I wanted to know God. This is the God I wanted to serve forever. I ended up staying at Faith Farm for another four years until God opened up a door for me at Abiding Hearths. I ran that ministry for 16 years. I am now back again at Faith Farm for the last 5 years as a teacher to give back to the ministry that has saved my life.

I have been sober for 25 years, thanks to the grace of God and Faith Farm Ministries.

*Raj is an intern who handles training for the Servant Leadership Service (SLS) students, which is an extended program after the basic 9-month program. Raj also handles the IT Department at the Boynton Beach campus.

Drew: U-Turn to God

Came to the Lord in a mission in Fort Lauderdale in 1983. Went from the mission to the Boynton Beach site and spent the next year-and-a-half there, going through the program and an additional program they called Alpha at that time. I’m not someone who grew up in the church, actually grew up in a totally different faith. I still remember the Director of the program back then was Joe Cook, the Assistant Director was Jerry Peterman, and my Staff Member was Ron Meier. My life was forever changed by my time at “The Farm”, and to this day 33 years later I’m still walking with the Lord. I will be forever thankful for how the Lord used Faith Farm to both save and to change my life…

William: U-Turn to God

I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to even be here, because in my eyes, I should be dead.  I shouldn’t even be allowed to live after the way I’ve acted for forty-eight years.  I was being a mean person.  I was a selfish person.

On the bus ride down to Florida from Tennessee, I realized that I was hurt and broken, exhausted and completely at the “end of my rope.” I was totally ready for a change and that change was to get to know God personally and to begin a relationship with Him. God was not a new concept for me. As a child, I was raised in the church. Although I knew about God, I didn’t know Him personally. The only time I turned to God was when I was in trouble and looking for a way out. I figured I was hell-bound anyway.

After being at Faith Farm a few days, I started praying and reading my Bible. Eventually, I got this calmness about me that I’d never had. I had a different attitude about things and my outlook on life started changing. Soon, everyday became a good day, because it gave me an opportunity to do better than I did the day before. I thought it was all me back in the days, but it’s not. It’s about Him and doing His will. There’s one thing that I have learned since I’ve been here; that’s trust in Him.  He has gotten me to where I am today.

Michael: U-Turn to God

In the summer of my fifth-grade year, we moved away from Manhattan Beach to a new, strange neighborhood, the Midwood section of Brooklyn.  I went from a happy kid to a not so happy kid.  I became a junior “yahoo,” not fitting my personality.  I did it to just fit in.

I was 12 years old not knowing what my futures was.  My home life was scaring me because of the fighting between my folks.  I was not doing well in school and getting into trouble.  Life was hard for me.  I made it to high school, made new friends, forgot about Manhattan Beach, and mom and dad were still fighting.

In 1967, drugs surfaced in my life.  I started with pills, pot, and pharmaceutical drugs.  It was wild and free times in New York City.  I was just passing in my grades.  I moved to the senior class.

It was 1969, the summer of Woodstock.  I grew my hair long and just wanted to be left alone to “do my thing,” which was really nothing constructive at all.  I was just wasting my time thinking I was having fun!  Everything I did was based on getting high.  As I was coming to the end of high school in the year 1969, my life was a mess; mixed up and drugged up, but I had a great girlfriend.

I was very troubled.  I was sent to a psychiatrist to find out why I was such a confused young man.  Why did I just want to get stoned and not go to a good college and learn how to be a proper young man?  I hated when my parents argued, and the only relief I had was to get intoxicated.  The new drug in town was cocaine and quaaludes.  The parties became wild.  I stole, I lied and I did what I had to do to get money to buy drugs.  I was an outlaw in my folks’ eyes.

I went to college in Delaware, filled with men and women like me a – party school.  We would drive to New York City every Friday night and return with drugs for the week to come.  It was a waste of dad’s money, and I learned nothing.  Things were still wild and free.  I lasted at this school one year and was asked to leave.

One winter day, I asked one of the street fellows if he could get me a bag of heroin.  He looked at me kind of funny and said, “Sure thing.”  I gave him $20, and he returned with 2 bags.  I took the bags up to my office and sniffed one of them.  A couple of hours later, I did the other one.  I never felt so good.  All my pain went away.  I was on top of the world.  I gave up cocaine, pot, pills, and just wanted heroin.  It all happened so fast.  I became addicted to this white powder.

My world became a complete disaster.  The family found out that I gave some to my wife, and she became addicted to this white powder.  It was a horrible time.  She broke down, went to her brother and “spilled the beans.”  Her mother and brother went into action, hired a lawyer and got her into treatment.  I was fired.  I was sent to my first treatment center.

Kicking a heroin habit is probably the hardest task I ever did in my life.  I can’t tell you what that pain was like.  I could not do it.  I left the treatment center and moved into a car in a gas station right across the street from the closed business.  I had nothing left, and I did not care anymore.  I called friends, borrowed money and used heroin.  I was now a “street junkie.”  I walked the streets begging for money.  Finally, with the help of my dad, I got on Social Security Income, free government money.  The country house was sold.  I was given a small amount of money and the rest went to my ex-wife and children.  I used all my money on drugs, sleeping in the car or being in a drug treatment place.

I had entered 34 different treatment centers in 11 years.  I was homeless and a junkie.  I lied to all my friends.  I took their money.  I was a terrible person.  I lied to the drug rehabs wanting to help me.  I lied to the doctors.  All I wanted was another fix.  My arms were black and blue from the needles.  I did not eat.  I was a scary person.  All I wanted was another bag of dope.

My trip to hell went on for 11 years.  One day, I could not find any dope, so I decided to end my life.  I took a needle and shot 30cc of bug spray and passed out.  Someone saw me and called 911.  When I woke up in the emergency room, I told them why I shot bug spray.  I was sent to Bellevue Hospital in New York City for 2 weeks.  They released me, and I went back to Fulton Street and started all over again.  On and on it went.  I could not stop.  The pain from not having was so bad.  I was a broken man.  All I wanted was to get a shot or die.

My dad cried, and my mom cried when I called and asked for money.  Being loving parents, they sent money to me through Western Union.  My sister cried, and so did my friends.  they all wanted to see me get well.  I did not care any longer.  I wanted to die.

The last drug program I went to in upper Manhattan in 2000 sent me to Boca Raton.  I finally broke the heroin habit after six hard months of pain and therapy.  I was at the Boca House, a halfway house, working and doing well.  But, I was not happy.  I missed my wife and children.  She would not talk to me and would not let the kids talk to me.  I missed the drugs.  So, I went back to the pills after a year and partied in Boca, going to pill doctors and using the needle again until the bottom dropped out, and I lost everything again.  I was homeless in South Florida.  I lost a great job, and again, I was lost, hurt and scared.

My friend told me about Faith Farm in Fort Lauderdale.  In August of 2001, he dropped me off and drove away.  I have been at Faith Farm ever since.

After being at Faith Farm for 6 months, I dropped “dead” one day in front of the church.  I was taken to Broward General and was in the ICU for two weeks before I came back to life.  I was taken in for a major open-heart surgery with two valve replacements and a pacemaker put in my chest.  I have Hepatitis C and have been testing for the possibility of having blood cancer.

I am now an employee of Faith Farm for the last 8 years.  I have been drug-free for more than 12 years.  I have paid off $26,000 in past due child support.  Mariel, my oldest daughter, has made me a grandfather.  Although life has been a challenge, I now have Christ in my life.  I have finally found some peace.

I know God loves me for He has kept me alive.  He has a plan for me to help other men like myself to never use drugs again.  I would like to thank everyone in my life for all your help, even when I was a lying person.  I thank everyone here at Faith Farm for all you support.

Phyllis: U-Turn to God

My first bad choice was made at 16 years old when I started smoked weed.  Cocaine came shortly after, and I thought, “I’ll never be free of this.”  Anger and self-hatred followed and continued to grow.  I found out I was pregnant with my daughter when I was 25 years old.  It was only by the grace of God that I was able to leave cocaine alone.

When I first came to Faith Farm, I believed that I had fallen so far from grace that God would not forgive me this time.  I have since learned that is a lie.  I also carried a lot of guilt and shame upon arriving at Faith Farm.  I am a mother who was raised by a strong and beautiful Christian woman.  I should have known better.  I should have made better choices.

I attended church with my mom, and things seemed to be going well for a while.  Then I made the fatal mistake of thinking I could do this all on my own.  That was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life.

Trying to fill a tremendous void in my life, I smoked weed.  When that didn’t work, I tried to numb the pain with xanax.  Still feeling the pain, I moved up to pain pills and thought, “I’ll never be free of this.”  All the while, the anger and the self-hatred still grew inside of me.

About 5 years ago, I discovered oxycontin.  I maintained what I thought was an okay amount for a while; still thinking, “I’ll never be free of this.”  About 2.5 years ago, my brother committed suicide, and that is when my life really took a turn for the worse.  By this time, I was up to almost 20 pills per day, and I knew I would never be free of this…or so I thought at the time.

I committed felony larceny and when the police came to my house, I was arrested in front of my daughter.  I went to jail and was there over a month.  Within five months, I had violated probation twice.  Still, that was not enough to get or keep me clean.  At this point, I was convinced that I would never be free from drugs, hate, anger, and rage.  Every time I thought of the look on my daughter’s face as I was taken away by the police, the self-hatred grew.

I came to Faith Farm thinking I would learn how to not get high when things got rough.  But, praise be to God, I have learned so much more.  I have learned who I am in Christ.  I’ve learned to hold my head up high, be a Godly woman, a better mother, respect authority and honor my mother.  By the grace of God, my mother and my children will never have to suffer at my hands again.