Addiction and the Healing Power of the Gospel
Bradley Hyde, or BJ as we call him here at PBC, is quite a character. Witty, passionate, and often surrounded by laughter, BJ loves God with all his heart. BJ’s testimony is nothing short of a miracle and a true testament to God’s power and sovereignty. Check out Part 1 of 2 in this interview with BJ about his experience with addiction and how God healed him of it’s grip.
1. As someone who has struggled with drug addiction, what do you think causes people to take that first step? What advice would you give to young people falling into those patterns?
BJ: It’s difficult to assess a single cause for addiction to drugs. For me, it was the belief that I was better on drugs than off. The competitive edge it afforded me in the initial phases of the addiction in school, music and art were undeniable. The thing about drugs is that they are very effective for a period of time. It’s important to acknowledge this fact rather than discount the entire experience, which is the tendency of most non-addicts when dealing with an addicted loved one.
My advice to anyone in any stage of addiction is to ask Jesus to help to believe that he can meet your need more fully and with sustainability. Our beliefs about ourselves are functional in shaping the way we behave. Once we begin to see our identity in Christ, things will change. It’s not easy to believe, but that’s why it’s important for someone struggling with these kinds of issues to ask God for help. He is the one who is able to do the hard work. We can approach God like the helpless father in Mark 9 who says to Jesus “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
2. You’ve often talked about seeing God during your last drug overdose, and how that became a turning point in your faith and in your life. What was that like?
BJ: God was clearly directing the narrative of the entire final year of my addiction. Prayers were often answered within moments of praying them, strangers would approach me and pray for me with unexplainable insight, and there were often moments of inexplicable peace while passing in and out of consciousness from drugs or exhaustion completely transcending logic. There’s no accounting for faith and many people would think that my experience was a combination of delusion, emotional trauma, and coincidence. It’s my belief that a loving God intervened in my life and captured my attention. It’s also my belief that he saved me from hellfire and eternal separation from him.
While I was overdosed, convinced I would soon be dead, many things became clear. One was that I had caused an exorberant amount of pain to people whom I truly loved and who had truly loved me. I had known this my whole life, but as a dying man, all I wanted was to hug every member of my family and weep at their feet. Thinking in those moments about my life in retrospect, the veil seemed to be lifted. God was there the entire time, but for me it took nearly losing my life to see it. I’m not sure how to explain why this particular overdose was more significant than others. All I know was that it was God who saved me. He did all the hard work on the cross. He pursued me, not the other way around. His grace was proactive, forceful and irresistible while I was dead in my sin. AMAZING GRACE.
3. How have your experiences with substance abuse shaped your life, marriage, and walk with Christ?
BJ: I definitely battle depression and anxiety more since quitting drugs. I don’t think of it as punishment for doing drugs but a struggle that will one that will be eternally redeemed for the glory of God! As far as marriage goes, it’s made me more committed than I may have been without the experiences of homelessness and destitution. There’s no imagining a better life on the other side of the fence for me. I know what’s out there and I’m certain the Devil prowls about like a lion seeking whom to devour. I’m not saying I would have been disloyal aside from my experiences with addiction, just that I now see sin as sin and am convinced that it all leads to heartache and dissatisfaction.
The odd thing about my addiction was that, seeing my desperate need for God caused me to be able to recognize my acute need for grace, which in turn helps me be more graceful to others dealing with sin of all kinds. I see the porn addict, the gambler, the greedy, as being JUST LIKE ME. I don’t distinguish between sin now and see myself in many types of destructive behavior. It’s ironic that the same drug addiction that completely disconnected me from other people, has now caused me to be able to relate to people so thoroughly. God took that which was meant for evil and redeemed it for his glory and my good! Hallelujah!
4. You are now a worship leader at Phoenix Bible Church. How did it feel to return to the church? How has your life changed since accepting a leadership position there?
BJ: The road back to church was a long arduous one. In my early twenties I would have told you that church ruined my life, made me resentful, disillusioned and angry. Church can certainly have this effect on kids growing up seeing the bureaucratic side of ministry. Sometimes it’s not just politics causing the disenchantment but full-blown sin. I saw both and became entirely disenfranchised. Anger at church didn’t cause my addiction, but it definitely inflamed it. Eventually I came to despise the whole of Christianity. Although these feelings raged within me, the flame of Christ’s calling lingered despite my repeated attempts to throw that baby out with the bathwater. That’s the funny thing about Jesus. Even the staunchest opposition to Christ always focus on the behavior of Christians, the history of the church or just the idea of organized religion; never Jesus himself.. He’s the baby that refuses to be thrown out with the bathwater! The evidence of his divinity and his intentions to save me overwhelmed every inkling of lingering opposition to serving him in whatever capacity he directed me to.
I’m not saying it was easy. Church is messy and can be annoying. The key for me was finding a congregation I love! The church I’m in now is family. The love that connects our community is unique and handcrafted by the God of the universe. It’s not always easy. Personalities and egos (usually mine) interfere sometimes. It’s so easy to begin to serve people, acceptance and success (even in ministry) instead of Jesus. Since becoming a worship leader, God has repeatedly brought my idols to light and forced me to deal with them. It’s been hard and wonderful all at once.
Bradley (BJ) currently serves as the Worship Director for PBC. He is married to his wife, Alisha, who also serves at PBC. Thank you to Callie Hyde of Sincerely Callie for allowing us to use this interview.