My name is Ryan Caldwell, and this is my life story. I grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. I was the youngest in a family of four. I was raised in a home filled with love and without the presence of alcohol or drugs. At the age of 7 or so I began to visit my friends down the street to play. Some were my age, with the exception of some young adults around the age of 20 or so.
Little did I know that I would very quickly be exposed to the things that have nearly destroyed my life. As I would leave, my parents were sure that I was in a harmless environment. Within a short time, I had seen it all.
I sat on the couch as I viewed sexually explicit videos. I really wanted to try this “weed” they were smoking, but they said, “Your lungs aren’t through growing yet.” But what about the beer and liquor, I’d sure like to drink that. “Oh no, not now” they said. As a young kid I saw these older guys as my best friends and role models. They were older than me and I could hang out with them, and man they were cool, so I wanted to do exactly what they did.
Five years later when I was 12, I began smoking cigarettes. Before long, my Mother had caught me many times, but I didn’t care. I began to rebel even more and did exactly what I was told not to do. Within a short time, I had a collection of pornographic material, and a stash of alcohol.
When I was 14, I finally got my chance to smoke pot, and loved it. I worked as a cook, and always supported my habit. A habit indeed I soon had. I was smoking all day every day. My parents found it over and over, and I’d turn right around and get more. Grounded or not, I’d get it.
The loving family atmosphere soon diminished as my words and actions destroyed it. Now that I couldn’t do as I pleased, I lashed out in anger by breaking windows, arguing, and being very destructive. This continued thru high school.
During my senior year cocaine had come across my path one day. I sniffed it and it was the best feeling I ever had. I bought a bag, then another, and another after that. Within three days it had taken control of my life. The next morning my Mother brought me to school and I ran away. I had to get away from everything around me, especially cocaine. The next day they located me outside town, and I entered a drug rehab facility where I finished my senior year of high school.
I returned and I stayed clean for a week. Drugs came across my path again and I gave in. I was 17, and I was grounded for the next two months till I turned 18. Within the next six months I lost everything. I wrecked my truck, lost my job, and began to live from here to there wherever the party was. I became a heavy drug user of various types of drugs. Whatever came my way I had to have, and as much of it as I could get.
Drugs were all I lived for every day. One fix after another. I became very thin, and I had 3 overdoses in a month. One night a friend and I was very intoxicated and broke into a store. I was told there was $3,500 in the store. There was $20. If there would’ve been that much money in there, I’m sure I would’ve killed myself with the drugs I was going to buy.
A week later I was arrested and locked up in Virginia for six months. During this time, I turned 19 behind bars. It had changed me in a way that I could gain some self-control. But I got with the wrong crowd again, and a week later I was arrested for marijuana, and drinking underage. My father bailed me out, and a week later I got a drinking and driving ticket.
My Father bailed me out again. Now I stayed away from everyone and got a job and began to attend a local college. Everyone thought I had stopped using drugs, but I hadn’t. I had to take drug tests once a month for 4 years. I would carry in someone’s urine every time, because I would test positive. As I would pass each test, it showed that I was staying clean.
After class I would get high, and after work I would get high. Smoking marijuana everyday was the norm, but I always loved to have some cocaine, crystal meth, pills, or anything else to go with it. Within the next three years I became heavily addicted to cocaine, and crystal meth. Three times I had help from others to aid in my recovery, but I always went back.
I soon moved in with some college friends and rented a house. We partied all the time and began using a lot of drugs. Then we started selling them, and that brought even more around.
I was now 22, and still on drugs with no direction. There were many of us that hung together, and we’d all get high. From Oct-Dec. of 2005 five of my friends died from drug overdoses. I saw them yesterday, and they were dead today.
My close friend Stacy was 20 years old. I told her she was taking too much and to slow down because I was there at one time, and it wasn’t worth it. A week or so later Stacy didn’t wake up. This was it for me; I couldn’t do it anymore because my time was coming if I didn’t stop.
So, I did, and my friend Angela came over that day and talked to me about Stacy because I was quite upset. She said,
“I know I’m ok, and when I die, I’m going to heaven.”
She looked at me and I couldn’t say anything, but just look at her. I became real scared and uncomfortable. And she talked to me a little bit about Jesus, but I was bit reluctant about it, so she eased off, so I left quickly! I thought to myself, why? Why am I running, it’s real. Eternity is real, and forever.
So, I thought about it, and I couldn’t comprehend it. Once I thought about God and heaven, I felt his presence immediately. I felt it right outside my chest. I felt like God was right there saying, “Ryan, just let me in.” For 3 days I was in a war. I was crying, and listening to the devil on my shoulder, saying oh come on, you can come to God later, let’s have fun, and then God was calling me.
So, I moved home Dec. 17th 2005. My Father and I talked till 3 A.M. in the morning. I told him how I felt about God, and that I needed him to help me. My Father shared with me the gospel of Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and if I believe that he was the son of God, and that he died on the cross for my sins, and rose from the third day, that I would be saved.
So, I believed in him with all my heart and asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Lord and savior, and to take control and show me the way. With many tears being shed I came off my knees, and I felt like a new person, and I knew I had been saved. That following Sunday on Christmas I was baptized and professed the Lord as my savior.
Now let me share with you how God has changed my life. Since that night I’ve had no desire to use drugs, or alcohol. He’s given me a life to live with hope, and the strength to say no. I now live a clean life as I patiently seek what God has in store for me.
He’s blessed me with a great job, a vehicle, and things I need in life. Before I had nothing, and now I have Jesus and he is the reason I live today. Because of his mercy I’m still alive, and by his grace I have a savior, and when I see Jesus, it will be worth it all.
Trial to Triumph
By: Ryan Caldwell
Lost and alone; salvation unknown.
Drugs and strongholds made the evil-one known.
Strength overtaken, near death three times.
Addictions and afflictions, many of each kind.
Freedom vanished, locked behind barred doors.
Six months of insomnia, pacing concrete floors.
Freedom returned gaining untruthful respect.
Addictions again, dying to inject.
Loved ones and reality gained semi-control.
Deep inside the dark one had hold.
Just as life met the end of it’s rope.
A witness from the Lord spoke a glimmer of hope.
A chance to change for better.
And a life that lasts forever.
Down on my knees I met Christ.
Filled with love and empty of strife.
Blinded no more and chained no longer,
The Lord my Shepard hath made me stronger.
Living to know him and to make him known.
The lost and dying need to be shown.
The love of Christ thru the light of our lamp.
Not to grade sin or put on a stamp.
No time for that, work to be done.
Sharing the gospel and souls to be won.
Eternal motivation and promises I keep.
Guided by light patiently I seek.
I never thought someone would love me for me.
Until Christ entered my life and he made me see.
On my knees each day thanking God above,
Because of you I see the meaning of no greater love.