Great is Thy Faithfulness
I would like to share how God delivered me from 15 years of addiction to drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity.
I am Tony de la Paz. I am the youngest among 5 siblings and I grew up in a normal family set-up. My mother is a devoted homemaker. My father was a colonel in the army. He was a good provider, had no vices, and was very religious. I looked up to and admired my father. He was a well-respected man. He was feared and people knew him to be a brave war veteran. I told myself that I wanted to be like him. But then, as a child I was makulit.
I remember getting into a lot of mischief. When I was 5 years old I busted my head and had to be stitched up. I remember then that while the doctor was stitching me up , I tried hard not to cry and when my mom saw me, she told my dad how brave I was and that made me feel good. Since then, I stood up to that image of being brave just like my dad, even if I was afraid at times. That's why in school, I often figured in fistfights but I never buckled down even when my foes were bigger than I, and even when I was well beaten up.
Fraternities were the in-thing during my high school days. I was so proud that together with some senior students, we organized a fraternity in high school. I wanted to be popular. Being one of the founders of our frat, I enjoyed the power I had over my frat mates and told myself: 'I'm brave, I'm cool, I will lead and will always be first and never be last.' I was leader alright but only as far as trouble was concerned.
With regard to vices, I also wanted to be always ahead. I started drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana at the age of 12. At age 13, I had my first sexual experience and that started my sexual promiscuity. I graduated from high school when I was 15. When I got into college, I joined the frat of my eldest brother and I was the youngest member at 15 years old. Once again, I was popular. It was also at this age that I became so addicted to marijuana and downers. I started to push and sell marijuana since I had many contacts and sources of drugs. Whatever drug was 'in', I was into it. I had only one thing in mind and that was to be high and drunk all the time.
Eventually, our family business went bankrupt. My father had retired. And because of the financial difficulties we were experiencing, I was forced to stop going to school. In the meantime, my father suffered from depression and also got sick physically. That left him bed ridden for 7 years. Things turned for the worst. My highs with drugs turned to lows and the good trips became bad trips. I had to find ways just to support my vices. Our financial problems grew and to top it all, my mother also got sick. My life was a mess. I was confused. I didn't know what life was all about, where I was going' I had nothing to look forward to. I was hopeless, helpless and depressed.
One late night in 1987, after coming home from a drinking spree, I was all alone at home because both my father and mother were hospitalized separately and my siblings were looking after each one. I opened the TV. There was only one station on air and they were showing The 700 Club. I heard the testimony of a drug addict and I realized that what he went through was what I was going through. The pastor shared that God loves me and Jesus Christ died for me, that I can be forgiven and go to heaven. This was altogether different from what I believed, which was that 'if I am a good boy, I would go to heaven and if I am a bad boy, I would go to hell.' I knew deep in my heart that I was on my way to hell. What I heard was good news indeed! And so that night I prayed to receive Jesus. That night I cried like a baby and when I woke up in the morning, the heavy feeling inside of me was gone. Immediately I shared with my friends the experience I had and told them that Jesus was real. That was all I knew because I didn't know anything about the Bible and didn't know anybody who was a Christian. Things changed and I remember praying for a job. God answered my prayer and for the first time in about 5 years of bumming around, I got a job.
My new job was a blessing. I was sober for quite some time already but then a former fratmate who was also a co-employee shared a sachet of shabu. I reasoned that there would be no harm in trying it and that it might cause me to become more productive. As expected I was hooked again. One night, coming home after a session with friends, I felt a very strong longing to be reconciled with my father. We were not in good terms for years because I blamed him for the hardships we encountered in our family. That night, I went to his room and asked for his forgiveness. We embraced and cried and it felt so good.
The following morning my father passed away. I was so insensitive not to realize that it was God who gave me that longing to be reconciled to my dad, to have the closure I needed .God was so faithful despite my unfaithfulness. Instead of repenting, I went deeper into drugs. As expected, I lost my job again. I continued taking drugs and doing all sorts of things, manipulating people, even stealing, if only to support my vice.
My life was turning into a nightmare. I became paranoid. My paranoia reached the point where I was talking to myself and hearing voices inside my mind.
I was so full of guilt and frustration. My friends and relatives didn't want to have anything to do with me. I attempted to commit suicide. My rationale in wanting to kill myself was that God gave me a chance to be saved and have a new life but I blew it and I thought that I will be doing my family good if I'm done with. With me dead, all their troubles with me will finally end. I hadn't slept for three days and inside my room I was preparing to put a cord around my neck and jump from a chair. Suddenly, my nephew knocked and told me that my brother was there to see me. I was mad at my brother because I knew that they were conspiring to put me in a rehab facility in Bicutan. I told myself that before they could do that to me, I'd rather kill myself, but before I kill myself, I'll kill my brother first. I went out of the room and fought with my brother, but by God's grace, he overpowered me. An uncle who was an officer of the NARCOM ordered his men who were also fratmates of mine to pick me up and bring me to Camp Crame for safe keeping. Inside Crame, I got hold of a Bible and I read it. In about three months, I was released.
Soon after, I got a job that I held for a month but was terminated because of my drug use. Another job came but I lost it as well after two weeks because of my drug use also. By this time, I really wanted to stop taking drugs but I just couldn't stop. In my desperation, I cried out to God asking Him to help me, to be set free from my addiction to drugs. God answered my prayer and took away the desire for drugs and replaced it with a desire to know Him. I recommitted my life to the Lord. This time, I started to pray and read His word regularly. I also watched The 700 Club and listened to Christian programs over the radio everyday. It was at this point that I understood the love of God and I fell in love with Him. All I wanted was Jesus, to know more of Him, to read His word, and do His will.
It all went on for a year until I was convicted to join a church. In one of the radio programs I was listening to, a pastor preached on the importance of being part of a church. I was worshiping God by myself and I didn't know of any church where I could go. So I prayed about it and God lead me to Christ's Commission Fellowship in 1991 thru the invitation of my friend who is now my wife.
My walk with the lord was strengthened. Again, I prayed to God to give me a job. In a few months, I was employed and held that job for 14 years. During that time I was also struggling with a desire for a partner and God reunited me with my long lost girlfriend who now was a Christian. Everything went well until we fell to sexual immorality. This led us to be married ahead of God's time, my wife being six months pregnant when we tied the knot. My new status in life was a cause of tension. I went back to drinking, but praises to God! In His faithfulness, He disciplined me just to bring me back. My wife asked me to join a cell group that was led by her brother-in-law. Reluctantly, I joined but only to find myself encouraged and challenged in my spiritual walk. I stopped attending my Friday drinking club and started attending our Friday cell group meetings. The cell group was a great help in saving our troubled marriage. By God's grace, He even allowed me, together with my wife, to serve in a cell group that is now a D-group. He has also opened an opportunity for me to serve in the Precious Hope Ministry where I am actively ministering to drug dependents.
Looking back, I now realize that what made me do the things I did was my distorted image of God and myself and my ignorance of what life was all about. I anchored my self worth on people's perception and acceptance of me. But in God's faithfulness, after He called me, He showed me my true identity and position in Christ thru the study of His word. And He is helping me day by day thru the power of His Holy Spirit to live a life consistent with who I really am in Christ. I had been unfaithful so many times yet God remains faithful. Yes, I am a work in progress and He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of our Lord . I will forever be grateful to my faithful Savior and Master JESUS CHRIST.
"Great is thy faithfulness!" All honor and glory to my faithful and loving Heavenly Father!
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