I was raised in a Christian home, believing that all I needed to do was be baptized; and at age 12 I did just that. I was involved in everything going on at church. Church had become a ritual, a habit. All of these activities were right, but something was not right in my heart. I had not surrendered my whole life and will to the Lord.
In the ninth grade I was dating a girl. Having a girlfriend seemed to give me the confidence that I craved. Her ex-boyfriend found me an easy target and started calling me gay nearly every day. The words went deep into my heart and mind. I daily struggled with strong attractions to guys, but I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t know how to stop the name calling without a confrontation. My mom told me to turn the other cheek. This was the most difficult thing for me, and I could never shrug it off. By then, my struggle with homosexuality became a reality. My mind became a battlefield. I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to be hurt so deeply. Nothing I did helped.
I never could get along with guys or feel a part of their circle. I always felt different. Instead, I always hung out with girls.
While in twelfth grade, I strayed from the Lord. I was tired of fighting the battle, and I gave in. I decided to be gay and embrace the lifestyle. I started to see a secular psychologist, which only helped fuel my confusion. One day he explained sexuality to me and talked about people “riding the fence.” I felt pushed to make a commitment as to where I was going to be with my sexual orientation.
One day, while working at a gay-friendly job I had taken, a man who seemed interested in me approached me. I helped him and before I knew it, the cashier was bringing me his phone number. I remember looking at the number and seeing it as my ticket into homosexuality. I was hesitant to call, but I did. I met him that night at a hotel. I was terrified. Afterwards, I felt dirty. I felt as if I had gone too far. I thought that I was now officially gay and there was no turning back.
When I turned eighteen, I went to a gay bar for the first time. There was something about it that made me feel wanted. I craved the attention. From there I went into a series of relationships. Each one ended in some type of frustration or fight. One of the men ended up calling my parents and telling them I was gay. My world was turned upside down. I told my parents it was a lie, and they settled down. But, I kept meeting men while hoping that my parents wouldn’t find out.
I decided to attend Charleston Southern University (in the Fall of 2003), wanting to go to a more liberal part of the state. College became a life of drugs, parties, going to gay bars, and meeting guys on the Internet. I got heavily involved with internet pornography and became consumed with masturbation. Out of fear, having not practiced “safe-sex”, I was constantly getting tested for HIV. My college life was being thrown away through risky sexual behavior, alcohol, drugs, parties, bars, cigarettes, and HIV scares. I was making A’s and seemed happy, but I wasn’t at all.
I surrounded myself with people that would accept me. Hatred, rage, and anger were building in my heart, and I didn’t even know it. My heart was becoming harder and darker, and my thinking was becoming less clear.
In my second semester (Spring of 2004) at Charleston Southern University, I was hospitalized on several occasions for four to five days at a time. I was trying to accept my lifestyle, but I was in complete misery. After this, I dropped out of school and came home.
In the Fall of 2004, I enrolled at Spartanburg Technical College and started working. I knew I was getting into trouble when I applied for the job. My manager was gay, and very quickly that relationship became sexual.
The battle inside me was dark and raging. Once, I picked up a lighter and held the flame to my skin, burning myself badly. I can’t tell you why I did this, but it felt good. It was euphoric, and as if I wasn’t doing it.
After pursuing the relationship with my manager (in 2004), I was in the hospital again, this time for depression, suicidal thoughts, and abusing prescription drugs. I was addicted to sex and everything else I was involved in. I was gratifying myself, stuck in self-pity and self-hatred, and wanted others to constantly build me up. I got deeper into drugs, now using cocaine. I started getting piercings, ending up with 26 in all, as well as 14 tattoos. The pain was an escape for me.
After the summer of ‘05, I started back to Spartanburg Tech. I got through the semester and at the end I decided to apply to Clemson University, to get away from home. I knew I wasn’t ready for such a big school. I was moving into a room with three guys and I was terrified. One day I heard them laughing and thought they were making fun of me. I was upset and left Clemson early that morning. That same day my dad helped me move everything out, and I came home.
For two weeks, I just hung around the house trying to figure out what to do. My dad mentioned the University of South Carolina Upstate (Spring 2006). I didn’t want to go because I would have to live at home, but registered anyway. I wondered when I would have the chance to escape from home. I attended my first semester and made no friends. I was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. I got involved with a counselor at Upstate. She introduced me to some new books and to the Unitarian Church, where I attended a few times. I was involved in a number of relationships. I ended up meeting a guy I really cared for named “Michael.” I became more serious about him than any of the others. We were inseparable. We fought a lot, got drunk a lot, and used drugs together. All of my heart was for him.
We bought rings and got tattoos to show our love for each other. We planned on getting engaged, but ended up in a big fight and took off our rings. We soon got back together. I was very indecisive about committing to our relationship. In the back of my mind, I knew homosexuality was wrong.
One day I got a call saying that “Michael” was in the hospital in very bad condition. I thought he would be okay, get out, and we would get back together. Two friends went with me to the hospital where we found out that he had died. I fell apart. I left the room and cried. I remember standing in line to go back to see him and having no idea what to think. I gave him a kiss on his forehead and looked at the tattoo that we had gotten together. I wanted to die. I dropped out of school the next day. I sank into a deep depression and was completely lost without him. Alcohol abuse and depression landed me in the hospital again for five days. Soon afterwards, I started drinking again.
I got deeper into pornography, and wasn’t improving at all. I was lost in life and stayed drunk all summer. After “Michael’s” death, I lived with two friends before moving back home with my parents thinking, “What now?” I had no idea what to do with my life or with myself.
I went to my mom in late September of ‘07 and told her I needed help. She had been praying for me every day. She told me about Truth Ministry (now Hope for Wholeness) and Bill Creech. He had been helping my parents through counsel, prayer, and Truth’s family support group. Bill and I started meeting regularly and continued for seven months. I was also meeting with Scott Wolfe and Dr. Cox in order to get all the godly counsel I could.
One day, my mom told me about a place called Pure Life Ministries that Dr. Cox had told her about. I looked it up and decided to apply. Two weeks later I headed to Kentucky. Before I left, I felt led to read Jeremiah 29:11. God was assuring me of His direction for my life.
I got on campus and went to the service that morning. After the service I smoked my last cigarette. I was so anxious. I had no clue what to expect from the Live-In Program at Pure Life; and I had to live in a dorm room with men I didn’t even know. I was scared and uncomfortable around the men. The first few days I sat around the dorm, did homework, and didn’t talk to anyone.
Spiritual experiences became more real to me at Pure Life. I struggled with thoughts of my past, “Michael’s” death, and missing my friends. The spiritual battles never slacked off; they got worse the closer I got to God. My counselor initiated people praying for me. It helped a lot, but no matter what, I was always in a battle.
When I went to Pure Life, I thought I would be there until December and graduate. However, the spiritual warfare got so bad that I was placed in a local hospital. I called my dad, and they were on the way to pick me up. I ended up leaving early in September (2008). We got home that night, but I was still under spiritual attack. I was upset because I hadn’t finished the program. I started getting better, but encountered another spiritual attack in November. I never gave up on God, but I did wonder why he was letting me go through all of this. It was like the devil wanted to see if I would give up or deny Jesus.
After all of this took place, I began to finish Pure Life over the phone. I started in January of 09’ and finished in April. At the same time I went through another program entitled, Cleansing Streams.
I gave my testimony at Cleansing Streams and told them it could be one sentence, “I am free.” Jesus is now my best friend. He’s my Deliverer, Redeemer, Healer, Purifier, and much more. He’s absolutely all I need in this world.
I thank God today that he didn’t let me die. His grace and mercy followed me throughout the darkness and the pits I put myself into. I am continuing to grow each day, but my story will never change.