I Just Couldn't Say No

They kept offering me drugs, and I kept turning them down.
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"They won't move!" Danielle cried, referring to two guys lying on the floor motionless, staring into space.

I kneeled down and studied their hollow, lifeless eyes.

"What are they on?" I asked a guy who'd been partying with them.

"Ecstasy," he said. "They must've gotten a bad batch."

Shivers shot through my spine. I was also high on Ecstasy.

Will I end up in a coma, too? Or worse? I panicked. I've beaten the odds before, but how many times can I dance with death before it claims me?

I knew then that things needed to change. If I survive this, I promised myself, I'm gonna stop.

I left the party and crashed at a junkie's trashed apartment. I sat down in the kitchen and cradled my head in my hands. Haunted by the vision of the two guys from the party, I thought, That could've been me! My life is so messed up! Wallowing in self-pity, I asked, Why has this happened to me?

Then I realized this hadn't happened to me. I did it to myself. It suddenly made perfect sense. I'm at this dead end because I've cut God out of my life. It was the most profound, yet simple, revelation I'd ever had.

I fell to my knees sobbing, "Please forgive me, Lord! I've been sinning, and I'm so sorry. Help me!" I pleaded. For hours, I continued pouring out my heart to him. Then, drawing from his strength, I picked up the phone, called my parents, and asked for help.

Road to Freedom

Mom had a friend who told her about a Bible-based organization called Teen Challenge. Through a yearlong residential program, they help adolescents deal with life-controlling problems and focus on total rehabilitation—including emotional, social, educational and spiritual growth. When Mom told me about it and explained it was in Athens, West Virginia, I hesitated.

I'll be cut off from drugs, my friends, from everything I know. How will I survive? But despite my fear, I was determined to get straight.

As my parents drove me to West Virginia, I stared out the car window and watched the scenery whiz by. That's what my life had felt like lately—fast, blurry, disoriented. I prayed my time at Teen Challenge would bring me peace and stability.

When we arrived at the center, I felt rattled. What've I done? Dozens of worried thoughts went through my head. But then Jim, the director of the program, put me at ease.

"Don't be nervous," he said. "I'm not here to judge you. I'm here to help."

I looked closely at his friendly, sincere eyes and felt safe. I knew the road ahead would be hard, but his warm reassurance told me I wouldn't walk it alone.

Living Through Christ

During group sessions, we confessed our sins and discussed our addictions. When I saw the frustration and hurt in their eyes, I knew exactly how they felt. Over the next few months, as we shared our stories and prayed together, their support helped me move toward freedom.

One day at group, Jim asked me, "How have you changed since you stopped doing drugs?"

"When I was using, my heart was empty and bitter," I explained. "But now I'm filled with Christ's love."

"What's that like?" Jim asked.

I closed my eyes and thought. "It's like for 15 months, I stopped breathing," I said. "But when I turned to Jesus, he brought me back to life."

After finishing his 12-month program, Jason worked for five years as a Teen Challenge counselor. He is currently a student at Florida State University. For more on Teen Challenge, check out their Web site at teenchallenge.com.

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