Mario, 20, Ohio, USA
I began using drugs in middle school, but the addiction began the summer before high school, when I started taking painkillers for a knee injury. I had suffered from anxiety for a while and the pills had a calming, quieting effect. I quickly fell in love. When my knee healed and the prescriptions dried up, I found a way to get more. Eventually, my experimentation expanded from painkillers and Xanax to cocaine, acid, and Vyvanse. The last of these had the strongest hold on me. It got to the point where I was snorting on a daily basis. Soon after, I started dealing.
The drugs really tore at my heart. At this point, I believed in “God,” but I had no idea who Jesus was. I was angry at God for many reasons, so I wanted nothing to do with His commands. I chased sinful pleasure, daily, and I felt no conviction or guilt of any sort. I didn’t owe anyone anything. I often came home high out of mind and got in screaming matches with my mom. “I don’t even see Mario anymore,” she’d say, “I see the devil in your eyes.” And she was right.
At age 18, I overdosed. It was one in the morning on a school night. I was on Vyvanse and had just finished smoking weed with my buddy. Little did I know, mixing the two can be fatal. We were having a post-smoke chat in my car when I suddenly lost the ability to speak. I then felt a sharp pain in my side — my liver — and began struggling to breathe. Then, my heart picked up speed. The beats were so many per minute that I lost count.
I put my car into gear and began speeding to the hospital. On the drive, for the first time in years, I talked to God. I pled with Him: “Please, please, don’t let this be it. Please give me another chance.” As I pulled up to the hospital, I felt this immense peace wash over me. I was taken into the emergency room and hooked up to a bunch of machines. My heart rate was at 190-200 beats per minute. They told me that if I hadn’t been admitted that night, I very well could’ve died.
When I woke up, conviction and remorse were with me. Whereas I’d previously felt no guilt, the sorrow was now overwhelming. This led to a lot of introspection and what I found wasn’t pretty: I was incredibly, intensely angry. This wasn’t just a normal, occasional anger; it was a burning resentment towards others and its root was my own self-hatred. Frankly, it was evil.
Around this same time, the Word of God entered my life. The more I learned about Jesus, the clearer my own wretched nature became. I was nothing like Christ, but I wanted to be. And God promised that He could wash me clean: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). I wanted to walk in the light, so I repented of the dark. I surrendered to Christ and He faithfully enabled me to turn from the drugs, the anger, and my many other sins.
During this season, I had a number of supernatural encounters with the Lord. For instance, I was praying outside one night when something — the Holy Spirit — overtook me. The Spirit manifested in tongues and I felt myself shout, “Glory to you, Jesus, glory to you!” I kid you not, as I spoke those words, a shooting star flew across the exact spot in the sky where I was looking.
I immediately began doubting what I saw. Again, I yelled, “Glory to you, Jesus!” and, I promise you, another shooting star shot by in the exact same spot. I was then overwhelmed with this burning, internal presence; it was “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I am so grateful for experiences such as this. God knew the hardness and stubbornness of my heart, so He knew exactly how to reach me. I would never have found this faith on my own; He gifted it to me.
For the past three years, I’ve been living such a happy life with Jesus. Surrendering to Christ has cost me, as Scripture warns that it will; I’ve lost friends, respect, and more. But, my worth is not measured by titles or money or likes or any of the things of this physical world. It’s measured by who I am in Christ: a beloved child of God! And, in Christ, even my worst sins weren’t in vain. God has turned my sin and suffering — the things the enemy thought would destroy me — into tools to be used for His good. For one, I have this testimony! For anyone who is in a similar struggle, know this: Jesus has redeemed me and He can redeem you, too. Jesus saves.
Mario is a Cincinnati-based singer-songwriter. Watch his latest music video here.