Monday, July 26, 2010

The Calm That Conquered the Storm

By Paul Ray

Not I; I won’t conform to what I see in you.
Not I; I won’t surrender what I am.
Not I; and even if it was a part of me.
Not I; I’ll never be that way again.

-Ryan Clark


I’ve never written anything lengthy before. I haven’t even taken any classes on writing. The only writing I know how to do is from what I see from what I read, and trust me, I do a lot of reading. The grammar may not be the best and the wording may be a little elementary so please bear with me. This is not an autobiography. I will present to the reader the most accurate portrait of God’s overabundant mercy possible as I know and felt it. This is a testimony of the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ, a sign of His mercy and love, and a real story about a real person. That person is me. No bells, no whistles, just a prayer that this might one day do someone some good.

The mystery of God is just that, a mystery. As Christians most of us find it difficult to determine or discern what God is doing or going to do in our lives. It’s the question on all of our minds. It determines where we are and where we are headed. It’s the pathway we’re all called to walk; we just need to find the pathway and then follow Jesus’ footsteps. This is my experience on how I found this road. I wasn’t necessarily searching for it, nor was I even thinking of it really. It found me and brought me to itself.

I won’t go into great detail about all the experiences that came with my alcohol addiction and will leave that to your imagination. I’ll just stick with the vitals.


I was born in Warren, Michigan on October 26, 1977. At that time my parents had their hands full already with two little girls. I was told that my mother’s pregnancy wasn’t planned. Regardless, my father was brought up in the old Catholic Church my grandmother made him attend as a child. He recalls the Holy Mass being said in Latin and not being able to determine what the priest was saying.

My mother was brought up in the Lutheran church in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the majority of “Yoopers” are Lutheran because of their Scandinavian ancestry. I gathered that my parents weren’t serious about their faith up to the time of my birth. They went to church on Sunday, but the parties and drinking just about every week told a different story. I did what I was told and went to church with my mother. My parents decided that my mom should take us kids to the Lutheran church. From what I’ve gathered my mom took her faith more seriously than my dad, and to this day I do believe she knew God since her childhood. My father, on the other hand, went to church simply out of obligation. Apparently he never took the time to look into it further and still to this day cannot even explain why he does the things he does as a Catholic.

We went to the Lutheran church every week from infancy (we were all baptized as infants as well), and attended Sunday school and catechism. During these times I did learn a lot about Jesus, God and the Bible. However, it didn’t really take a hold of me. It was still like going to school. I had to do it because my mom insisted, yet I didn’t protest it until later on. My memories of church, Sunday school and catechism are limited. I can recall different aspects and different things we did but never a real encounter with God in the sense that I left with a feeling of complete truthfulness. I made my First Communion when I was in the 6th grade. After that there were times of joy but it was never complete. After I turned 18 my mom gave me the choice of whether or not I wanted to continue to go to church. I decided not to go every week, just every so often.

During this time I really “broadened my horizons,” so to speak. I didn’t take my faith seriously and didn’t really think of it at all except on certain occasions. I wasn’t against it but kind of had the notion of “If it works for you then more power to you, it’s just not my thing.” I went through middle school and then high school and drew even further away from church and God. By this time it was just a memory of something I “graduated” from, and no longer had its weight to hold me down. I began to explore the REAL world.

I started to work at a small local grocery store and became very close to my co-workers, most of whom were already my friends. We started hanging out and going to parties. I’ll never forget the first time I drank alcohol and got drunk. My friend and I planned on stealing a 40oz. bottle of beer from the grocery store where we worked and planned on getting together later that night to share it. We decided to meet at midnight or 1a.m., a time when we both knew the rest of our families were going to be asleep. Well, I snuck out of the house and went to his; he lived only a few houses down from me so I wasn’t driving. Upon arrival I found out that he fell asleep! So I took the bottle back home and drank it in my basement alone. I’ll never forget the euphoria it gave me. That first sensation of being drunk was unlike any other feeling I’d had before. I knew I was going to like this!

As time went on we began stealing more and more alcohol and found different spots to consume it. Week after week we’d find a party and just party the night away. This was the life for a 17 year old guy. I never chased after women or got into fights while drinking; I would more or less socialize, relax, and have a good time. I found myself liking alcohol more than my friends. Within a year or so I began drinking just about every day. I was still under 21 so I had to either steal alcohol from work or another grocery store, or drive down to the ghetto in Detroit to buy it where they didn’t ask for I.D. The latter seemed safer so that’s what I did. From the age of about 18 until the age of 21 I drove down to one of the worse parts of Detroit to buy three 40oz. of (oddly enough) St. Ides Malt Liquor. I became good friends with the guys who worked down there; even some of the locals recognized me and would stop to talk. It must have been by God’s sheer grace that after going down there hundreds of times I never once ran into trouble.

I was living it up! I had my drinks and everything I wanted including a car and a job. What made matters even better was I had the opportunity to move out of my parent’s house. Before long I began hanging out with friends who were over 21. This made getting alcohol a little easier. I simply gave them the money, told them what I wanted, and they would buy it for me. This happened on a daily basis. By this time I was working at a car wash, where we would have a lot of slow days. So to fill in the gaps my buddies and I would buy alcohol before (and sometimes during) work and consume it while working. We got our job done and were pretty much good with drinking and working. No one got absolutely loaded to the point where they would literally stumble. Well, only once or twice, but we quickly learned our lesson.

What should have been a real eye opener for me occurred when I was a junior in high school. A friend of mine had a fake ID. As it turned out, he looked identical to his 23 year old brother. At any rate, he and I would spend many days drinking. The problem was we never had anywhere “safe” where we could drink. We couldn’t go to our own houses because our parents would be home, and we couldn’t go to the bar. So we decided one day to just stay in the car and finish off our twelve-pack. Did I mention that we were in a school parking lot? Needless to say, despite the fact that the parking lot was empty, someone told on us and the police came. My friend got his car impounded and we both got a ticket for being minors consuming alcohol on school property.

You would think that an event like this would sober you up, but not me. A couple of years later a bunch of us went over to the house of a friend from work for a party which lasted into the early hours of the morning. I still had to get home. It was about a 20 minute drive back to my house, and I agreed to follow my friend home to see to it that he got home safe. He was more drunk then I was. We were just about home when I saw a police car coming from the other direction. Without thinking I panicked and decided to make a sharp turn down a side street to avoid any contact with him. Bad move. He ended up doing a u-turn and followed me about halfway down the side street before he pulled me over. To make a long story short, at age 18, I was arrested for drunk driving. I had to spend some time in jail and was completely humiliated. My parents had to pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs.

The time came when I was going to turn 21 years old. I was relieved in a way, but another part of me felt like it wasn’t such a big ordeal. Yes, I could now buy alcohol from the corner store instead of having to drive to Detroit or have someone else buy for me. I spent my 21st birthday alone in my basement. I bought my first bottle of liquor legally, a fifth of Jim Beam Whiskey, which soon became my drink of choice. From my 21st birthday on I consumed mostly hard liquor, every day. Before work I would stop at the corner store and buy a pint of J.B., pour it into my Coke bottle, and sip on it throughout the day. After work I would stop at the liquor store again and buy a liter of J.B. I’d finish most of it before nights-end, save the rest for the next day, and then repeat the process. This went on every single day for about three years.


As my consumption of alcohol increased I began to feel its effects, not only in my relationship with the people around me and at my job but also health wise. I noticed how drinking decreased my hunger pangs and influenced my habit. It then goes without saying that by not eating, I didn’t receive all of the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to stay healthy. My body began to slowly shut itself down. I would experience increasing numbness in my limbs and sharp pains in my side. I simply ignored them and continued to drink. After all, drinking created a perception of false reality, in more ways than one.

It got to the point where everyday chores were difficult. A simple thing such as walking up a flight of stairs became very tiresome and trivial. I always had shortness of breath. I was weak and had to move slowly because anything more required far too much effort then I had to give. I couldn’t stop drinking. At this point I quickly learned that if I even tried to quit cold turkey, withdrawal alone would have killed me. Every morning I woke up shaking and wanting more. Alcohol was my medicine; ironically, it’s what kept me kicking. I recall times when I knew that I had to drink before I could do anything else in the morning, and it was the first sip of the morning that was hardest to swallow. The mere smell made me gag let alone the taste, but it was something I knew I had to do if I wanted to function. I would oftentimes cough up what I just swallowed along with a small pool of blood mixed in. My throat was on fire and my side was aching. I had to have that first drink or else I was a nervous wreck, or worse, I’d die.

At this point I was still working. Every day before work I stopped at a party store to buy a pint of whiskey and a liter of Coke. I would mix it and sip it throughout the day. Even though I knew my condition was worsening, it didn't stop my daily routine before work. In fact, the reality that it was worsening created a tightening on the chain that held me in bondage. I was walking in to work as usual one afternoon after mixing my alcoholic concoction when I lost my balance and fell face first on to the ground in front of all my co-workers and the customers. After that, the owner of the company (who viewed this debacle as well) called me into his office and sat me down. He then proceeded to explain to me that he was aware of my condition and advised me to take the day off. Since I didn’t have a car at the time I had to call a friend and have him pick me up. Needless to say I was humiliated. That was the bottom of the barrel so to speak for me. After that I did not return to work.

Without a job and with no source of income and an addiction to alcohol, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. My cousin had gotten into some trouble of his own with drugs, and I had to move back home with my parents. Luckily I had a roof over my head. But other than that I was alone. I’ll spare you the details on how I provided for my addiction. My health was deteriorating fast. On one occasion I had a mini stroke. I had just stepped out of the shower when I began to shake uncontrollably. My right arm went numb and my vision blurred. As my heart raced I quickly got dressed and made it to my bedroom, threw open the window, and laid down hoping that it would pass. Mind you it was winter at the time and the air was freezing, but I was burning. Within the hour I poured my first drink. On another occasion, I had to go to the Secretary of State office in order to renew my driver’s license and while there had a panic attack. It was awful. Sure enough, once I made it back home I made my first drink and felt alright. These are just two examples of what living with a dependency is like. The withdrawals were horrifying. Any moment without the substance in me would drive my body into severe shock. To actually be sober at a time like this was really like being drunk!

As time went on it became harder and harder to drink, especially the very first drink of the day. As I mentioned before, I usually ended up vomiting the first drink but continued to drink until my body finally accepted the alcohol. There was simply no way around it. Life was overwhelming. The darkness was overpowering. The entrapment I was in held me and would not let go no matter how hard I tried. The constant struggle of finding a way to get drunk every single day wears you out. It was all that I did on a day to day basis and I was paying for it greatly. I wasn’t eating, I could hardly walk, and I always hurt physically. I looked dead. My skin was gray and the whites of my eyes were as yellow as apple juice (sign of a bad liver), and I was weak. All of this was coupled with the constant jeers of those who lived with me, always stating the obvious, “You know you’re killing yourself.” I knew full well that I was dying.

At this point even though I knew I was dying I didn’t want to. I knew that if I had died I would end up in even worse shape in hell. I was scared out of my wits. I couldn’t stop drinking and knew it was going to kill me yet I didn’t want to die. If you will, try and put yourself in those shoes. It’s like saying you’re going to slit your throat but you didn’t want to die and there was no way you could get out of doing it. Just recently I found an old three ring binder of mine buried in our basement. I looked inside of it and was astonished at what I had written in it. Apparently I had written some things down in it during this exact time in my life but I hardly remember doing it. In what looks like cryptic lettering due to my “death-rattle shakes” I wrote things like, “I am a sinner” and “I have sinned.” I don’t remember what my motive was while writing these but apparently I was being weighted down by my own predicament in some spiritual way.


I knew I needed help and fast, but I was absolutely scared to death to seek any because I didn’t want to give up drinking. I just wanted it to be like the days when I first started to drink. Things were fun and I always recovered, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. My mom, in obvious distress, forced me to see a doctor because of my physical ailments. I didn’t want to but had no choice. So the day came and I went to see the family physician. He was rather brief with me. He took some blood samples, and told me that I had an enlarged liver without even examining me! A few days later the results of the blood samples came in and the only thing that he told me was a resounding, “You MUST stop drinking!” No help, no advice, just an impossible command. He also referred me to a gastrointestinal doctor. Upon visiting with him I had to have some tests done in the hospital because of the pains in my side. When I went back to get the results from the gastrointestinal doctor he sat both my mother and I down and said this:

“Paul, you have one foot in the gutter and one foot in the grave. I refuse to help you until you get some help with your drinking. At the rate that you’re drinking you probably have only six months to one year left to live.” This news could probably have been predicted. However, hearing it from a third party just brought it to fruition. It was real. Never before in our family has anything of this magnitude reared its ugly head. Needless to say the drive home was silent.

The days following my doctor visits are a blur. Looking back I cannot remember anything but despair. This was me at my worst. No money and a habit that I couldn’t shake for the life of me…literally. I was desperate. I knew I couldn’t stop drinking. Everyone knew it. What do you say to someone in this condition? I can only imagine my family’s thoughts at that time.

At around that time I remember going through the radio stations late one night, and came across a radio show that featured a minister who did nothing else but take calls for prayer requests and then prayed for those people on the air. I got bold and called in. I explained to him that my sister was getting married in a couple of weeks and I knew that I would be face to face with the reality that I myself created. I was terrified at the thought of not only facing my family but not being able to drink. I knew that my extended family would be in attendance and there was no way of hiding my condition. The physical damage was evident and one could figure out that something was seriously wrong with me just by looking at me. So he prayed for me. That was the first time I can recall reaching out to God. Before that I felt as if God had given up on me. I felt all hope was gone. To this day I am extremely thankful for that step, as I truly believe it paved the way for me to arrive to where I am today.

My sister was getting married. The day came and things weren’t all that bad at first. The wedding took place on Mackinac Island. Not having been there in a long while brought with it a somewhat serene atmosphere. The day before the wedding we had dinner at a fancy restaurant on the island, and my aunt sparked a conversation with me. My aunt is the mother of the cousin I had spent some time living with. He had the same addiction that I did and sought help about a year or so before. He was awaiting his release from rehab soon, a week or so after the wedding. My aunt asked me if I would visit him. I agreed to. She reminded me of God’s mercy and loving kindness. She was the first person to actually witness to me in my weakened state. I am forever grateful for her example.

The day of the wedding arrived. I actually felt pretty good despite trying to mask the withdrawals I was having. The reception was typical: an open bar and everyone was having a good time. Everyone knew about my condition and no one said anything. So I made my way to the bar and got a drink. Of course one led to another and I was beginning to feel “normal.” It was then that my other sister took notice and mentioned that if I was going to drink, I had better see if the bride (my sister) minded. So I asked her, thinking she would be alright with it because a wedding was a once in a lifetime event. Well, she did mind and told me that she would rather I not drink. At this point, out of respect for my sister, I stopped drinking. I left the reception and thought that my whole world had just collapsed all around me. Everyone was happy, enjoying the festivities, and I couldn’t. After all, it was my own fault for getting into this predicament. It was at that point when thoughts of suicide actually crept in. I felt hopeless and abandoned. I thought, Why would anyone take something away from me that made me happy? My motive was completely selfish but at the time it was all I had. I wept bitterly and took a long walk by myself.


A week or so after my sister’s wedding, my aunt followed through on having me visit my now rehabilitated cousin. I had nothing to lose. I knew I was dying and I didn’t care. No one seemed to understand what I was going through, so I thought a visit to my cousin might help me shed a little light. Little did I know what was in store!

I must relate this brief story about something that happened while driving out to my aunt’s home some 30-40 minutes away. At the time I was a nervous wreck, no alcohol and withdrawal symptoms notwithstanding. I didn’t know what to expect but I was open for almost anything. I figured this was an attempt for my family to try and convince me to go into rehab, which was something I knew that I did not want to do. The mere thought of it was humiliating and horrific. Regardless, as we were driving a song came on that I never heard before. At this time I did not know Christian music to be anything other than hymns and choirs. This song was different and it sparked something within me that I never knew I had: a heart. The song was called, “I Can Only Imagine.” As the song played I felt myself “melting” inside. I couldn’t hold back the tears even though I had no idea what was happening. At that point I had a mere moment’s flashback at what I had gotten myself into in life and somehow knew that there was hope. But I couldn’t put all the pieces together just yet. I didn’t know what this meant.

It was good to see my cousin. He was on fire for Christ and looked good. He told story after story of how Christ had changed him, all of which just went past me because I was still concerned about alcohol. I was supposed to leave that same day but was asked if I would be interested in going with them to church the next day. I agreed to go. I hadn’t been to church in a while and I had nothing against it, so I said yes. The night before my cousin, his friend and I were talking about different things and they were really excited for me to meet their pastor and also people in the congregation. My cousin stated something like “Something great is going to happen tomorrow.” I wasn’t that excited to go because I was embarrassed by my condition, but felt I really had no choice.

I hardly slept that night. I actually prayed for the first time in a long time. I recall asking God, if He didn’t hate me already, to grant me strength to follow through. Morning came and we left. I had never been to that church before but I noticed how different it was compared to what I was used to. I specifically felt something (if I could be so bold as to call it that) inside of me telling, yelling rather, at me to leave. I did not want to be there. I literally felt that something’s BIG was about to happen, and it scared me greatly.

I was introduced and welcomed by many of the members and the pastor, and sat by myself. I had no idea what to do because I had never been to a church service like that one before. It was all new to me. The church had a band and they began playing different songs that I had never heard before. People began to sing and some even danced. At this point I got that “melting” feeling again that I had experienced on the drive there. I couldn’t help but weep bitterly again, only this time it lasted for what felt like an eternity. While everyone was singing and dancing I sat down and covered my face. I was embarrassed, yet at the same time I didn’t care. Then I had a vision.

In order to describe it I need to relate a few things about me first. I’m a huge pet lover! I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a big heart for animals. In my vision I saw a big shaggy dog curled up and shaking. My heart immediately went out to him. I began petting him and assuring him that everything would be alright and that I would take care of him. Suddenly, the big shaggy dog turned into a person in the fetal position, shaking and scared. It was me, but can you guess who was comforting me? Jesus Christ! I knew immediately that Jesus was real and that He loved me beyond my imagination. I just knew it; I can’t explain it to you but I knew that despite my failures and addictions He embraced me like the prodigal son. He didn’t come in wrath and anger, disappointment, or judgment. He met me where I was with open arms and pure love! The mere thought of how can someone still love me despite all that I have done? confused me. Yet, it was the most real thing that had happened to me.

Almost immediately after that the singing ended. Before the pastor began his sermon he looked directly at me and asked, “Are you Paul? Paul Ray?” I was confused as to how he knew my whole name so I looked around and said, “Yes, I am.” He asked if I would come up front so that he could pray for me. I agreed.

Then he told me this: “I was just talking to one of our elders and she described to me a dream that she had. In her dream she said she was at a funeral. She walked up to the casket and looked in. She then began to pray fervently. The body inside the casket then sat up, got out of the casket and walked out of the church. She then told me that when you first walked into the church today she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the person in the casket was you!”

He proceeded to ask if it was alright for them to pray for me. I agreed. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought, well, I’m already in this far I might as well take it further. The pastor somehow knew about my addiction without anyone telling him about it. He asked if I believed that Jesus Christ could heal me. I said,”Yes!” He started to pray. . . and pray. . . and pray, as did the entire congregation. I felt as if I was going to have a heart attack. From my neck to my waist I was on fire. A burning sensation coursed through me. Something was happening to me.

During this prayer I recall the arm of Jesus angrily breaking bottles of alcohol in another brief vision that lasted about a second or two, destroying the devil’s tools of bondage such as alcohol and the like. It was almost as if I was caught in a whirlwind and just went wherever it took me. I remember having my eyes closed as the tears continued to flow. What came next was the most beautiful thing that anyone could experience.

As the praying concluded the pastor said that the Lord required just one more thing of me. At that point I had no idea what had just occurred but I was game for anything. I was desperate. Pastor said that Jesus wanted me to literally SHOUT the name Jesus three times as loud as I could. Can you picture that? There I was, a shy person to begin with, being asked to shout at the top of my voice in front of a congregation of people I didn’t even know. I did not care, because I knew that something great was happening, so I shouted the first JESUS! and then the second.

On the third shout the most indescribable thing happened. The millisecond after I shouted the third and final JESUS I felt something leave me. It was as if I was literally a new creation. I felt like I just stepped out of a long hot shower that cleansed both the inside and out. I felt like I was floating. Best of all I was absolutely flooded with an overpowering feeling of pure, unadulterated love. It engulfed my entire being. I felt as if I actually meant something to someone. I felt as if I had been placed on a pedestal before the very angels of heaven and was being marveled at. The combination of these two “sensations” brought empowerment, strength, courage, boldness, humility and most importantly love. Never before had I experienced anything such as this to such a degree.

After the service, the entire congregation surrounded me and everyone was hugging me and singing praises to the Lord our God. I can recall the word, “Glory” repeating itself over and over in my head. The best thing, which really didn’t hit me until a little later that day, was the realization that I didn’t feel like drinking! My desire to drink was completely taken away! I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms or shakes. I didn’t even worry about how or where I could get my next drink. Keep in mind that I hadn’t felt this way for nearly five years.

The pastor sat in the front of the church and just wept. He had never before seen or been through such a dramatic display of God’s power at work. He later said that what really got him was when he noticed the yellow in the whites of my eyes disappear as he was looking at them. When your liver goes bad the whites of your eyes turn yellow. Since God had healed my liver completely, my eyes returned to normal.

Throughout that day I was told by a few people that it looked as if I was “glowing.” I couldn’t tell but I can say that I felt like I was given a second chance.


The days and weeks that followed were a honeymoon of sorts. I was still new to this “God” thing but knew I desired to know Him better. I knew that my life would not be the same. God took away my desire to drink alcohol and replaced it with a desire to know Him. If you recall the amount of time I had in search of and actually drinking alcohol it amounted to. . . well… all of my time. I am not exaggerating when I say I now spend all my time and effort in search of and knowing Who God is. I constantly read and devour book after book. I must have read the Bible a couple of times over, just not from cover to cover.

My experiences with my family and friends changed forever, too. At first they were very suspicious and cautious. I felt that most of them thought that this is just a “phase” and the real proof of my quitting drinking would only be proven in time. My mom, who I knew loved the Lord but had been fallen away from the faith, was glad but nevertheless believed that the proof would be revealed in time. My sisters and brothers-in-law, who weren’t Christians to begin with, were skeptical as well despite the evidence that I was no longer drinking and could actually function. Once again only time would tell.

By this time I had lost a lot of my friends because of my drinking. The friends I had left still drank and although they were happy for me, they couldn’t understand the drastic change they saw in me. I did my best to try and describe to them what had happened but since they never grew up knowing God it was hard for them to understand. Their response was basically, “If it worked for you then I’m happy.” However, I stopped hanging out with them from that time on since we now had different interests. I wouldn’t go bar hopping any more. I still talk with a few of those friends now and then, and they have come a long way as well. I’ll always continue to pray for them to open their hearts fully to the Lord and Giver of Life.

I got a new job several months after, and then got a second job which required that I get a physical before I started. I was eager for the results because I wanted to see for myself how God actually DID heal me. Needless to say, I got a clean bill of health and the doctor determined that there was nothing at all wrong with me. Just a few months earlier I had been told that I was on the verge of death!


The day this happened was Sunday, June 9, 2002. Since then I have never touched alcohol, not even once, nor have I even desired to drink it. I have been to weddings, parties, and events where alcohol was served and people were drunk but I nevertheless remain steadfast. I do, however, oftentimes have very vivid dreams where I’m in search of alcohol and still feel the fear I once had. Upon waking I am relieved and realize that it was just a dream. A great deal of sorrow fills my soul whenever I see someone drunk. I think to myself, “There’s a better way, if you only knew.”

I cannot express the deep sympathy in my heart for those who suffer from any sort of addiction and the violent cycle of regret and shame brought about by a mere moment’s pleasure, and being held captive by the very chains of evil itself. Many people ask me if I’m against alcohol and drinking. I tell them no. Drinking alcohol is fine. It’s drunkenness that I’m against. The very place where Jesus resides in full Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the species of wine (and bread). Like almost all good things God has given us Satan uses, abuses, and fools us into using and abusing. We need to remain conscious of where to draw the line.

I did not write this for my sake but for the sake of others. I did nothing on my own and owe everything to the mercy and grace of the Blessed Trinity. Alcohol is destructive. I have witnessed first-hand how it has destroyed families, killed innocent people, ruined lives and still it’s thought of as being the social norm in today’s society. Several people in my own family have had an addiction to alcohol and several of them died because of it. When I began drinking I believed that I would be immune to it. I thought that it would never catch up to me and that I would always control it. However, in time I realized that it began to control me and I couldn’t get out.

If you’re reading this and are struggling with alcohol addiction and/or you know someone who is, please at least let them know that there is hope. I know it sounds cliché but it’s so true, and I am a living example of this. Do not be judgmental and condemn them. Love them. They do not know what they are doing. Always pray for them. Be Christ’s light to them by your actions. Do not argue with them. Just show them that you love them even if means doing something you know they will hate you for. For example, they might say that if you really did love them you would buy them alcohol, but you would not because you want the best for them. THAT’S what real love is: desiring the absolute best for the beloved despite the hurt it might bring. What’s the ultimate best for someone? HEAVEN! And the only way to heaven is to cooperate with Jesus Christ who told us not to be drunkards! Always remain faithful to Him and He will guide your every step. Accept His will in all circumstances, whether in times of adversity or in times of prosperity, and you will find the reward of a happy life now and in the one to come.

The following is for today’s youth. I have read studies where students as young as in 7th grade are drinking alcohol. The reason why I drank was because I was a shy person and alcohol made me outgoing. I used the wrong means to overcome my insecurities and it almost killed me. I feel that many youth today feel the same way and achieve this false security by drinking alcohol or using drugs. Teens today idolize whatever makes them happy. They are yearning for something to hold onto that won’t fade away. They long for something real and lasting but end up seeking it in almost anything except God. This is due in part to the lack of Christians truly living in imitation of Christ in today’s society. That is why I made the decision to live for and by God’s Holy commands to love Him with all my heart, mind and strength and to love my neighbor.

Whenever I see people, no matter who they are, I aim to make them feel special about themselves. I want to put a smile on their faces and let them know that they are worth something. Often it can be rather difficult because we all know someone who has betrayed us or hurt us and we don’t want anything to do with them. We must, as faithful Christians who love Jesus Christ, never return evil with evil but return evil with good. We must learn to forgive one another. If it’s hard to forgive then pray that God may soften your heart so you would want to forgive. We need to unite our wills with that of God’s will. THIS is the gateway to perfection and lasting happiness. One thing that really stands out more now than ever before is the hope I now have, as well as the realization that this world isn’t what it’s all about. Like St. James said, “Our lives are but a vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes” (James 4:14).

These past years have been for me a crash course in theology. I soaked up all that I could learn about God and sought nothing but the absolute truth by intense prayer and study. My journey has brought me a long way and I have met the most wonderful people. I’ve learned that experience is everything and love truly conquers evil. Having experienced the very depths of hopelessness and despair and then coming to the fullness of Jesus Christ has been the most terrific challenge and experience anyone could go through. By all means the journey isn’t over. By the grace of God I still have work to do, only now my work isn’t of this world!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end! AMEN

Coming soon: Paul's journey to the Catholic Church.

-Paul Ray:

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your story. God is at work in you!