Rescued: From Debauchery to Redemption

It is hard for me to believe that I lived a double life for 15 years. The dreadful and dangerous places I used to frequent, and the shameful activities that I habitually engaged in, are images of my former life that I find difficult to acknowledge. But, part of my conversion has been the call to face my own ugliness and realize His miraculous healing.
Growing up in a conservative Protestant family in the South, and attending a Christian school from kindergarten through college, I was surrounded by and lived with people who were committed to Christ and to their understanding of Christianity. However, there was a personal darkness.
During 6th grade, my friend Zack told me a high school boy showed him “how guys have sex” and said he wanted to show me what he had learned. He was persistent, and my own curiosity was running strong. So, I finally relented. As I listened to one side of a favorite album, my innocence was lost. And, whenever Zack would come to my house, and whenever I would go to his, we would repeat this behavior.
Toward the end of my sixth grade year, my family changed doctors. When I first visited him, he told me that I needed to have a “special exam”: He fondled me while pressing against me and breathing heavily. I realized he was doing the same thing Zack did in the beginning. This abuse continued until I was in 9th grade. Regardless of the reason for my going to the doctor, which happened often since I had health issues, the doctor always performed the “special exam”.
Later, I began to be interested in the occult and read several books on spells, witchcraft, and demonology. One book on witchcraft was a favorite because it included photos of nude witches. I looked at these images lustfully, and that combination of occult imagery and sexual arousal would prove to be dangerous to my spiritual health. In my senior year, I even dated and became intimate with a girl who was a witch and a member of a coven who did not tell me until after we had dated for several months.
While in college, I became more involved in church activities and began to seek Christ more earnestly than before. I met a wonderful young woman who was a committed Christian and we eventually married. I did not think of my past abuse and sexual involvement, and assumed that those events were behind me. And, I did not tell my wife about my past.
However, after we had been married for about a year, I began to look at pornography. Later, I went to strip clubs. Then, I ended up having sex with prostitutes. This was something I did dozens and dozens of times. I also began to have sex with men in the video booths of X-rated bookstores, in public bathrooms, and in local parks. Later on, I began to go to “gay” bars and have anonymous sex with men when I had little or no money, and picked up prostitutes or went to “spas” to have sex with women when I did have money. My sexual addiction grew over the years and I reached a point where I told God that I was going to do what I wanted to do, and I did NOT want His interference and would not follow His commandments. Saying this out loud in my car one night, as I drove to a brothel, I angrily shook my fist at God and told Him to get out of my life.
I acknowledge my history of sexual abuse and the fact that I was victimized at a young age. And, I understand that these early experiences had a profoundly negative impact on my emotional development and subsequent view of sexuality. And, yes, this undoubtedly contributed to my beginning to have sexual experiences outside of marriage. However, I also must acknowledge that I made these decisions with full understanding of the serious nature of my sins. I knew that I was offending God with my behavior, but I made the conscious choice to engage in these behaviors. In short, I was willfully rebelling against the Lord that I embraced in college.
After 15 years of wallowing in debauchery, God began to send hardships to me and my family. We almost filed for bankruptcy, our marital relationship hit rock bottom and we considered divorce, and I began to have strange health issues (none involved STDs), a cancer scare, and several surgeries. My son almost died and spent a total of 2 months in the hospital and had 2 major surgeries. And, my wife experienced a severe spiritual trauma of her own. Both of us realized that we could not get out of the mess we were in by ourselves, and I finally asked God to forgive me of all the horrible things I had done. And, I asked Him to help us.
Relying on God’s help, I completely stopped all sexual activity outside of our marriage. For the next couple of years, our marriage improved dramatically, our son’s health was restored, and our spiritual life was better than it had been since we were in college. I felt that God had truly brought us back to life, and I was very content as an evangelical Protestant who was now sincere about my faith.
One night while sitting in my car in a congested mall parking lot, I had what can only be described as a mystical vision…and at that time I believed such things were impossible! I believed that all such things stopped happening after the death of the last Apostle (John) because that was what I was taught. But, I could not deny the power and clarity of that experience. It was mentally and emotionally overwhelming. When I got home I wrote down what happened, thus beginning a spiritual journal. When I woke up the next morning I was stunned to find it written there, since I awakened thinking it had been a dream. My wife said she remembered my coming home the night before and furiously writing in the notebook.
For the next several months, God allowed me to experience a series of completely inexplicable events, some of which were witnessed by others. All along the way, I kept asking God, “Are you sure You want me to become Catholic?” And, each time He answered through events that could not be explained in natural terms: Two women prayed loudly at my feet in a public place and no one walking by noticed. The parking brake in my car suddenly worked even though the cable was severed and had not been repaired. I had an encounter with a woman dressed in a brilliant white dress in a Catholic church who claimed to live inside the church sanctuary…a woman no one else present in the church saw. Strangers came up to me while I prayed silently and told me things that were directly related to what I had just prayed. And, I was drawn to the Tabernacle even when I knew so little about Catholicism that I thought it was an urn containing someone’s ashes.
After falling in love with a Catholic faith that I knew practically nothing about, I began to read whatever I could find on Catholicism. After going through RCIA, I entered the Catholic Church during a glorious Easter Vigil service.
Because of the continued grace of God, it has now been almost 12 years since I last committed adultery. And, that is a miracle! Oh, I still struggle with all kinds of sins and I am still tempted by lustful thoughts. Satan knows full well how weak I am by nature and how easily I would fall back into sin were I to turn my back on God and stop relying on His strength. But, our Lord continues to give me what I need each day to continue to fight the good fight, demonstrating how absolutely no one is beyond His redemptive reach.