I was born to two wonderful parents on December 13 1975 in Knoxville TN. I grew up and went to school in Oak Ridge which is about 5 minutes from Knoxville. I had a great childhood and was loved greatly by my family.
My early life was filled with sports. Basketball, baseball and football dominated my time and I loved it. So many great memories were made. But as many teenagers do to some extent, when I was around 14 years old I began wanting to live life my way. I desired to start making my own decisions. I wanted to live life by doing what was right in my own eyes, not the eyes of my parents or anyone else for that matter.
Life My Way
I began to rebel against the rules and desires my parents had for me. I wanted to decide on my own who my friends would be and where and when I’d spend my time. Like many teenagers I felt that I knew what was best for me I wanted to be in control of my life. I did not want my parents to tell me how I should live. Of course this attitude began to cause great stress to my parents. I see now that all they wanted was to help and guide me through life. But again feeling I knew what was best I lived life my way.
My High School Years
As I began high school the same attitude of rebellion I had towards my parents now began to carry over to my teachers and school administrators. Just as I didn’t want to follow my parents rules now I felt that same way towards them. I didnt want to follow their rules. I wanted to live and act the way I wanted to. I felt that I was above the rules.
As you can imagine just as my thoughts and actions caused problems with my parents I now began to have problems at school. Because of my rebellion and my belief that I was above the rules of the school my high school years were filled with failing grades, multiple suspensions and clashes with the high school principle and the school administration. Ultimately leading to having to meet with the School Superintendent and staff regarding possible expulsion from the City of Oak Ridge school system.
My life outside of high school was lived in much of the same way with the same attitude. My feeling of being above the rules of my parents and of the school now manifested itself to the feeling of being above the law. The use of drugs and also selling them became common place along with the use of alcohol. Even an arrest for DUI as a minor did not phase me or cause me to second guess my lifestyle or the direction I was headed.
Over those high school years I had multiple teachers, counselors and those in authority tell me I was heading down a dangerous path. But my pride wanted no part in what they had to say. I didn’t want to listen to anyone’s opinion regarding how they thought I should live. I wanted to do what was right in my own eyes. I was set on living my life my way. Gradually over the next 4-5 years that desire to live life my way almost led to my total downfall and destruction.
Beginning Life After High School
Somehow I graduated from High School. (I think more than anything they just wanted me out of there) After graduation I got a job at a local hospital in late 1994 and got an apartment of my own. Over the next 4 years a number of things happened that as I look back now should have caused me to see the errors of my way of life and its consequences. A friend I grew up playing sports with and was friends with all throughout high school was murdered in 1996. It was a shock to many. I believe because of the shock and the circumstances around his death it caused many of us to pause and take a good look at our life and where we were headed. I know it did for me. Sadly that feeling and the introspection of my life slowly began to fade with time. Soon I was back to thinking and doing all the same destructive things.
I enjoyed my job at the hospital and it kept me busy. But when I was not working most of my time and my activities revolved around alcohol and drugs. It all seemed so fun. But throughout my late teens and early 20’s that way of life began to be anything but fun. It began to take a toll on me.
Alcohol and drugs did nothing but fuel problems in a number areas of my life. It caused problems in my relationships with family and others, problems with my physical and mental health and also legal problems. Around the middle of 1997 as I began to approach my 22nd birthday in December I found myself more miserable than I’ve ever been. I thought living life my way was supposed to be enjoyable. Because of my choices life was anything but enjoyable. It felt almost unbareable.
I turned 22 years old in December of 1997. And even at such a young age I felt life was confusing, empty and at times pointless. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round and that nothing ever really changed. I would try and dig out of what seemed like an emotional deep hole only to find myself in a deeper and darker place. Without a doubt the middle of 1997 until May of 1998 was the darkest period of my life.
How My Life Was Changed in 1998
In January of 1998 a kind older lady I worked with invited me to visit her church. I grew up with her son so we had known each other for quite a while. Through working with me and also by previously knowing me outside of work she knew the type of life I lived. I can remember telling her when she asked me to visit that I would sometime soon. But in my heart and mind I knew that would probably never happen.
I had always been skeptical of any kind of “religion”. I looked at it as a bunch of rules and belief in a book and a “god” that was made up. Even though I found myself in this darkest time of my life I didn’t see how “religion” or “going to church” could help me.
Five months had now passed by and the season began to change from winter to spring. My life though was still the same. I began to feel like things would never get better. On a Saturday night in May I went to a club in Knoxville did all the things I always did on the weekends. I woke up very early on Sunday Morning May 10 and for the first time I thought about that invitation to visit my friend church.