Spotlight Testimony of the Month
My name is Nate Ely. Despite being homeschooled through fifth grade, going to a Christian church each Sunday, participating in Awana clubs throughout my childhood, attending several private Christian schools and having parents who loved me and cared for me, I became a homeless drug addict.
But I am grateful to God that He brought me to the Rescue Mission, where He changed my life.
For most of my early years, I grew up in Salt Lake. I was homeschooled until the fifth grade, when I started attending a small private Christian school. But right before eighth grade, my family moved to Northern California so my father could take over my grandfather’s water heating business.
My Introduction to Drugs
In California, I started attending a large public high school. It had over 3,000 students. It was a total culture shock entering public school in the eighth grade. I made the wrong kinds of friends and began drinking alcohol and smoking pot.
My parents realized I was struggling and we made the decision to move back to Utah, in part, to try to help me. I once again enrolled in a small private Christian school. My first year back in Utah, I excelled. I was on the baseball and basketball teams and was no longer using drugs. Then, during my senior year, I started spending time with kids who were bad influences and began drinking and smoking pot again. I was expelled from school, but since I had already turned 18, my mom helped me enroll in and get through an adult high school.
With my diploma in hand, I started classes at the University of Utah in the fall of 2008. In college, my substance abuse problem went from bad to worse. I would spend all day in my dorm drinking and smoking pot. I barely went to class and would party and go to raves (all night dance and drug parties). During my first semester at the U of U, I failed all my classes except one, where I managed to get a D.
The next semester, I actually failed all my classes, was kicked out of the dorms and was arrested on campus for being drunk in public. My life was a mess. I quit college and moved back in with my parents. I loved to work out and went to the gym every day, but I would smoke pot before and after every workout. In fact, my life had become an everyday routine of smoking pot and working out.
Out on My Own
When I turned 21, I got a job at a local burger restaurant in Draper and my parents gave me $800 for my first month’s rent and a deposit on an apartment. I got a roommate and started renting an apartment that was just a few hundred yards from the burger joint where I worked. I would often go to work high or drunk.
One night, I came home from work so drunk and high that I started throwing chairs off our third-story apartment balcony. I was evicted from my apartment building and started couch surfing from friend’s house to friend’s house. I had been able to keep my job, until one day I came into work so drunk that they fired me.
I moved in with some friends of mine who also did drugs and basically lived off of them while making a little money selling drugs. We lived like hippies, using drugs constantly, walking around barefoot and listening to music.
One day we met a new drug dealer. To me, he was the coolest guy I had ever met. He walked around with duffle bags full of marijuana. He had access to so many drugs I couldn’t believe it. He was the man! When he asked me to move in with him, I thought I was cool as well. After I moved in, I realized he smoked meth. Since I looked up to him and respected him, I started using meth too. I had been prescribed Adderall in college due to my lack of attention in class – my doctor thought I had an attention problem, when, in reality, I had a marijuana and alcohol problem. Methamphetamine delivers similar effects to Adderall, so I immediately recognized the feeling and liked it.
Deep into Meth
Over the next year, my drug-dealer roommate and I grew deeper and deeper into meth addiction. Our bodies were emaciated and weak. We would go weeks without eating and would spend any money we had on meth. In November of 2012, we lost our place and I had nowhere to go. I walked back to my parents’ house and asked if they could help me.
To my surprise, they told me no. My dad said, “We can’t give you the help you need, but we know of a place that can help you.” I told my dad I would try anything. We got in his car and I was shocked when he drove me downtown and walked me though the front door of the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake. I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back. I couldn’t believe my father was dropping me off at a homeless shelter. I was better than this, I thought. I wasn’t a homeless person.
Finding a New Life
My first day at the Rescue Mission, when I joined the New Life Program, was one of the worst days of my life. But when I woke up the next morning, I started making friends. I realized that I was exactly like everyone else in the Program and that my struggles were their struggles.
While I felt like I had always believed in God, I realized through the Rescue Mission’s Bible studies, counseling sessions and group recovery meetings that I was like Jonah. I was someone who believed in God, but didn’t want to follow God’s direction for my life. Because I wasn’t willing to follow God’s plan for my life, my life had gotten as bad as someone being slowly digested in the belly of a whale.
I realized that my dad dropping me off at the Rescue Mission was like God causing that whale to eat Jonah and then spit him back onto the shore. I had a second chance to follow God and enjoy life again.
I am happy to say that today I have been sober for over one year. I have a renewed relationship with my parents, sisters and even my sister’s one-year-old nephew. One of my good friends from the New Life Program, Blake, along with my dad and the community mentor the Rescue Mission assigned to me, have weekly Bible studies at my parents’ house.
Besides restoring my relationship with my family, God has changed my life in many other ways. I have a great job now working for a government contractor that helps people learn about their new insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. I make pretty good money and am working with a financial advisor who is helping me pay off my student loans and other debts. He is even helping me save money. I have never saved money before. I had always just spent everything I had.
One thing I am really excited about is that I am also tithing a significant portion of my money back to God. In my old life, I loved money (and drugs) so much that I would have never thought about giving money back to God, but now He has given me the desire and ability to do it.
At the first of the year, I plan on moving into the Terri Timmerman Freedom House, the Rescue Mission’s transitional housing unit, where I will stay for six months before I transition into an apartment of my own.
I really can’t believe how much God has changed my life since my dad dropped me off at the Rescue Mission 13 months ago. I know I need to continue to stay plugged into my church, keep attending my recovery meetings and stay connected to friends who will keep me accountable for staying sober. Please pray for me as I make the move to Freedom House. I am only 24 years old and a lot of the people at the Rescue Mission are in their 40s and 50s. While I love the Rescue Mission, I never want to come back due to a relapse. I don’t want to still be struggling with drug abuse when I am 40 or 50. Please pray that I would have a relationship with God that lasts!
To learn what else is going on at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake this month, check out our December newsletter: