This all got started when I went forward after a typical service because I wanted prayer for God to use me more.
I attend Faith Center (Eureka Foursquare Church) in Eureka, Calif., led by Pastors Matt and Heidi Messner. I told Heidi how I was starting my life over with God, and all the stuff He had done. Then she asked, “Hey, would you be willing to be part of a video on people’s testimonies?”
At the time, I didn’t feel comfortable telling my story because it’s a small town, and I didn’t want people to know I’d become a drug addict, and that my addiction had made me homeless. Fears rushed at me: People you know are going to look at you differently. Then I felt like the Holy Spirit said, “You need to take this step of faith.”
I was thinking, Oh, man … But this is how God has made me comfortable with my story, and anytime I get nervous, He reminds me that it’s not about me. It’s about Him and how He works.
To give you a little background, my family and I are really close. Growing up, we didn’t have much—just God and family, and that’s pretty much all I need in my life. Mom would always pray with me about anything, so I’ve always understood the power of prayer.
I was about 17 when I started using, and that really hurt my family because they know how it can destroy your life. My mom was constantly praying for me while I was staying away from home, especially around dinnertime because, like I said, we’re normally together.
One night, my mom prayed: “God, I need you to help me. He’s my son—I can’t lose him.” Then she felt the Holy Spirit respond, “He’s my son, too.”
From that point on, she knew God was going to bring me back. A few months later, I decided to quit, and my parents let me come back home. If you don’t know what heroin withdraws are like, they’re some of the worst out there—pure agony—and I knew it because I’d tried to quit a few times.
This last time, I was in a world of pain, and I finally dropped to my knees and told God, “I can’t do this without You.” Instantly, I felt relief, then the next day I had almost no symptoms at all.
I knew I needed to turn my life over to God again. Mom told me about Celebrate Recovery at Faith Center, so I went there with her that first weekend after I got clean. At the end of the meeting, they asked if anyone wanted to turn their life over to God, and I did. Ever since then, I’ve felt God’s presence with me.
Shortly after that, though, I started feeling really sick. I went to the hospital and found out that my liver was on the verge of failing; they had to keep me overnight. The next day, a doctor told me I had Hepatitis C. So, my family and I went into prayer. It’s hard to be at peace when you get news like that, but I felt the Holy Spirit tell me everything would be OK.
Anthony with his nephews
About four months later, the doctor called with my blood work. “This is going to sound crazy, but you have no Hepatitis C cells in your body anymore. It’s gone.”
While God was repairing my body, He was also healing my soul, and a big way He did that was through community. In Narcotics Anonymous, we can only say that we have a “higher power”; but in Faith Center’s Celebrate Recovery meetings, we thank God for the changes He’s made in our lives.
Especially when trying to recover from addiction in church, there’s this anxiety that not everyone can relate to what you’re going through, and sometimes that scares you away. At Celebrate Recovery at my church, though, people completely understand because they’re going through the same things.
The folks at Faith Center are really friendly. They’re easy to talk to and feel like regular people—just way cooler. Since sharing my testimony in church, anytime people see me they give me a hug and say they’re proud of me.
Pastor Matt came to a Celebrate Recovery meeting and worshiped with us. I think I actually got my nine months clean chip while he was there, and I was stoked that he got to see that.
With anybody at Faith Center you build a relationship with, you can tell them you need prayer for something, and they’ll put a hand on you and pray for you right there, and the prayer team will always pray for you, too. Prayer is really open here. I’ve never felt so close to a church before, and now I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Because of my experience, I think I want to try to become a police officer. On the street, any user dislikes cops, and I did once, too. But God has changed my heart, and I feel like I can reach out to others who are struggling with addiction, sharing how I was in their place and what God has done.