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My Testimony

Hi, I’m Nathan Wheeler. I’m a believer that struggles with drugs, alcohol, pornography, and loneliness; a little bit of everything really.

All I really remember in general  from my early childhood is my dad being an alcoholic, and my parents fighting a lot. I thought this was fairly normal,  as dad had quite a few buddies that joined his drunken revelry quite frequently. By the time I reached 8, I was paying more attention and all in church, and church we attended was... a little different. I was raised in a “independent holiness” church, where everyone was required to follow a very rigorous dress code and code of conduct. The code of conduct changed quite rapidly though depending on what preacher or evangelist was in the area, or what the pastor's kids had started doing, or which way the wind was blowing. Until I was 7 or 8 years old I thought I went to a Catholic church.

We got internet access because mom needed email for some work she was doing. This was frowned upon as a gateway to sin, as though having a phone line plugged into your computer would immediately send you to hell, but in our case it was acceptable since it was for “just for work purposes”. I was 10 or 11 years old when I visited my first porn site. As it turned out for me, it really was a gateway to sin.

By the time I was 12, I had also started smoking whenever I could steal or borrow cigarettes from people I knew who smoked, and I was firmly hooked on porn. I had gone to private schools until fifth grade, but in fifth and sixth grade I went to public school, and my parents started getting calls about my extremely bad language at school.

My mom and dad were always fighting, and I was just starting to notice that other kids' parents got along quite a bit better than mine did, and my grandma and grandpa never fought (at least on my mom's side of the family). My mom and dad had been fighting since I could remember and I had simply never realized how out of control it was until I started getting into my teen years. Dad stayed drunk nearly every evening, and mom sequestered herself away from everyone, playing games on the computer, and paying as little attention as she could to the family.

Dad was scary when he was drunk, and, although I never saw him hit anybody, often when he was drunk, new knuckle prints would appear in walls, holes would appear in doors, furniture would get broken, and stuff like that. Over the next couple of years, the fighting continued, and mom and dad finally started marriage counseling at mom’s insistence. Mom convinced the counselor that my dad needed to start taking some medicine for his “mood problems”. The medicine pretty much turned him into a vegetable, and made him suicidal. I remember him sitting at the end of the counter one Saturday afternoon for about 2 hours sharpening a knife, then leaving with it, never saying a word, and not returning until sometime late the next morning.

During this whole time, I never spoke to anyone about the problems at the house. I still thought this was all fairly normal. After all, other kids parents drank, dad's friends drank, and mom took us to church every week, so we were “Christians" and we all knew that Christians didn't have problems. I knew that my church preached against all forms of alcohol use, and so dad didn’t go and wasn’t a “Christian”, because “Christians” don’t do things like drinking or smoking or chewing tobacco.

Finally, dad and mom split up when I was 14. Despite all the problems in the family, I was always close to my dad, but since dad didn’t have a house, my sister and I had to stay with mom. From very young I had followed dad around doing guy stuff with him every chance I got. I helped him with the fighting roosters he raised, helped him work on the cars when they needed maintenance, helped him with the farm, and that sort of thing.

When he left, my world came crashing down. I’d always been told stories of broken families and how the kids never got to see one of their parents, or fighting and all that stuff. I believed it. I believed everything the people I went to church with told me. During the divorce, mom constantly ran dad down. She always started it with, “Now, I don’t mean to say anything bad about your dad, but I think you kids should know what’s going on…” I learned to pretend that nothing ever got under my skin or bothered me emotionally, and I still thought that my family was pretty normal.

By the time I turned 16, I still had nobody I felt I could talk to about how I really felt about my life. I had begun to believe that God was just an evil kid in the sky with an ant farm and a magnifying glass, torching the helpless ants with a focused beam of light as they poked their heads above the surface for food. I had started playing the bass in church, simply because I enjoyed playing the bass. Typically, before being allowed on the platform for any reason in our churches, one had to make a proclamation of their faith and prove that they were “living holy”, but since I had been in regular attendance there my whole life, it was taken for granted that everything in my life was fine, and nobody ever asked any questions.

I had come to the realization that all the “Christians” that I knew were a huge bunch of rejects and losers, blindly stumbling and following their elected leaders at any price. They were miserable, unhappy people living by an outdated book of laws and rules that they twisted and stretched to make themselves look good. They were a bunch of hypocrites. I could outwit any number of them… especially my teachers and principals, and this just got me into more trouble than my ADD and OCD already did in the “Christian” schools that I had attended my entire life.

Shortly after turning 16, I started attending a “Christian” school that only had school one or two days a week, and started working a full time job at McDonalds. I had enough friends able to buy alcohol, whether legally or illegally, and I turned to drinking to draw myself further away from the way I felt about my life. Essentially, I turned into my father, spending most of my time outside of work and school completely drunk. Regular church attendance started to slip.

I continued not talking about my problems, and everyone continued to think that everything was perfectly fine. I turned 18 and started working in a factory where most of the hardest workers were drug addicts and alcoholics, and I found a new friend in a pipe. I’d tried it once or twice before, but after 18, I spent any money that wasn’t required for household bills on drugs and alcohol. I eventually left the factory and started delivering pizza, but I still took all my old habits and my new ones with me. As I got older, my dad became one of my best friends, and I had learned a lot of the things that had caused problems in my parent’s relationship. My dad refused to ever speak poorly of my mom, no matter what the circumstances. My mom would still run my dad down every chance she got.

A little after turning 21, I found out that my mom was a lesbian, which (believe it or not...) had been one of the biggest contributing factors in my parents' fighting and failed marriage. Suddenly, a lot of the problems in my parent’s relationship hit the surface. It was a difficult time for me. After all, my entire life I had been taught that homosexuals were creepy, evil people who did weird stuff that God hated and he would kill them for their behavior because he didn’t love “people like that”. Even though I didn’t really think God, if He even really existed, loved anyone, I still had that root of being a Pharisee engrained into me. I didn’t really want anything to do with “people like that”. The law had to be followed. I wasn’t sure how to talk to my mom or deal with her.

A few months later, I met a woman who I thought was the most wonderful woman on earth. She had some issues, but I was sure I could fix them. She had grown up in an abusive environment, and although she was entirely against drugs, she didn’t have a problem with a person having a few drinks as long as they didn’t “get drunk”, so I gave up smoking pot and just continued to have “a few drinks” a few nights a week… just enough to get a small buzz. I always made sure it was nothing that she would notice was too much. Essentially, I traded the comfort of drugs and alcohol for sex.

Everything was under my control now. I was king of my castle. My girlfriend and I moved in together into her house a little before I turned 22. I kept my house during this time, and after being together nearly a year, she quit her job and moved into my house. I supported her and her two kids. We fought a lot, but that was what I had grown up with, and I still considered it at least mostly normal. My mom had moved off to Arizona, chasing after a woman.

I had found a new drug that I could take that wouldn’t get me fired over a failed drug test, and so I stayed high most of the time, although not so high when I was home that she would notice. I also continued to drink several nights a week, but of course not enough quantity to "get drunk" or be “an alcoholic”.

The longer we stayed together, the more we fought. Then she learned about one of my oldest addictions when I failed to clean up my history on the internet. My kingdom came crashing down around me. I was miserable as soon as I walked in the door. We fought until time to go to bed, then as soon as we got up until I went to work, and then started again when I got home. She would call me at work and try to start fights with me at work.

After having been together nearly 4 years, I asked her to marry me, and she accepted. I had hoped that this would end the fighting. I had hoped that she would understand that she was the one person that I wanted to be with, and the pictures and videos were just entertainment, and nothing more. I was horribly wrong. She was jealous of everyone: women I worked with, ugly women, fat women, skinny women, pretty women, old women, young women…

In complete misery at 25, I turned back to drinking all the time. I worked a salaried job, and there was no problem with me staying late at work, so I worked until 8 or 9 at night, then left and went somewhere I could get drunk. If I wasn’t out getting drunk, I was out getting high. I was somehow lucky enough to never get in trouble, even when I got pulled over on my motorcycle, completely drunk, on my way home.

Eventually, I asked her to leave, and I walked away, leaving her in my house until she could find another place for herself and the kids. She found a job and a place to live after about a month, and I moved back into a house that had been completely neglected for a month with cats in it. The house was too big for just one person, and I was too busy with work, getting drunk, and getting high to care that the place was disgusting. The area I actually lived in when I was home was mostly clean, and that was all I ever looked at.

After a few months of this, I moved. During the course of my relationship, I had unknowingly played part in God’s master plan. I had unknowingly introduced Sam to the man who would be God’s instrument in Sam’s conversion. Of course, I didn’t really think the guy was a “Christian” because he smoked and did other things that “Christians” don’t have problems with. I had visited their church a few times after Sam’s conversion, but I was completely close-minded to what they had to say.

Sam moved to the Springfield area before I did, and had found a church in Springfield thanks to a CraigsList ad for a drummer. After I moved to Nixa, I visited his church a few times over the next several months, and liked the people decently enough. I had no intention of joining a church or making any commitment to be there on a regular basis, but they needed a bass player and wanted me to come play. Because I enjoyed playing, I agreed to come play. I refused membership, I refused to commit to be there regularly, my attendance was irregular, depending largely on how high or drunk I might have gotten the Saturday night before.

My drug and alcohol abuse had massively improved, and I had resorted to only “celebratory” use, and typically only on the weekends. It was extremely rare for me to do anything during the work week, because I was, of course, totally in control of my life, and my career was the most important thing in my life. I really didn't want to be an "alcoholic", like my dad, either. If something good or cool happened though, that weekend I would get high, drunk, or both. So, everything became an excuse. Completing a raid in World of Warcraft became an excuse… or just starting a raid. A friend getting a promotion, getting a job, quitting a job they didn’t like, getting a new girlfriend or boyfriend… I could celebrate anything with a bottle of pills or a bottle of rum.

Sam and I often talked about church and religion, but I was still an extreme skeptic, I still had the same opinion of God that I had come to years before: God was just like a whimsical kid – blessing who He wanted to when He felt like, and beating the crap out of whoever He wanted to when it made Him happy instead.

My life was totally under my control again. I didn’t need God. I was making good money, even though I didn’t really like the place I worked too well, and I was getting to play music every week when I wanted to, even though I had to sit through preaching afterward. Finally, it all came to a head one night at my house… a night I’ve never until now written or spoken about other than telling people that I had gotten saved.

I don’t remember the date. I have no clue what time it was. I don’t even remember what day of the week it was. I do know that it was early in the work week. Even though I didn’t normally get high or drunk on work nights, I’d had a particularly rough day at work, and needed to unwind and have some fun. I went and bought two bottles of pills, took the entire first bottle at once, and then over the next hour or so continued to work on the second bottle. Normally, one bottle was plenty for a night of entertainment for me, but I wanted to get *REALLY* high that night. I wanted to push the limits of how high I had ever been.

Later, all I remember is that it was late in the evening and both bottles were gone, I was barely able to navigate the house, barely able to focus on anything. Everything was colorful, flashing, and I was rendered completely unable to function in any normal capacity. I had definitely pushed the limits of how high I had ever been, and I knew that I had gone too far. The rainbows of colors began to turn to blackness, and I was impressed with an unmistakable and undeniable need to pray. Literally, I felt compelled to pray in a way I had never felt before: Pray, or Die. I had been through altar calls with preachers after an emotional message and a story of someone failing to pray and dying and going to hell on the way home, but this was different. I knew very well that I would likely die anyway, whether or not I prayed, but I needed pray. I didn’t need to pray for my life, I needed to pray for my soul.

I recall my heart beating so hard my chest hurt. My head felt like it was about to explode. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t see… I somehow found my bed in the blackness, knelt down beside it, and began to pray. I prayed in a way that I’d never prayed before, and rather than talking to that invisible thing that we assume is in the sky, like I had in my childhood. Instead, I talked to someone I hated. I talked to someone I knew existed; someone I knew did not like me; and someone I equally despised.

I talked to someone who I felt had pushed me around, let me down, disappointed me, let me go through pain as a child, broke up my family, made my mom a lesbian, made my dad an alcoholic, and had left me with nobody to talk to about how I felt: broken, messed up, alone, and rejected. I don’t know how long I prayed, but at some point in my raving accusations of all the things that God had done to me, it dawned on me that God loved me. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and after having been raised in church, I was totally shocked to realize that God loved me.

I had heard about God’s love as a child and as a young adult, but it had always been paired with ifs, ands, and buts: God loves you if you follow all the rules; God loves you and you have to live a particular way to make Him happy; God loves you but if you don’t live right He’ll strike you down with vengeance and wrath! I finally realized that God loved me and that I had just simply never let Him have any part of me. I had tried to keep control, shape my destiny, and be my own master. In so doing, God had worked things so that my best friend would be converted by someone I introduced him to, who would in turn be one of the largest influences in my moving to Nixa, and getting to know some of the great people I met in the church in Springfield. God’s ways really are wonderful and mysterious.

After the startling revelation that God loved me, I began to ask Him to forgive me for all the things that I had done wrong in my life, all the things I had said to people, and I vowed to be the most Christian-y Christian ever if He would forgive me of my sins and come into my life. I was dead serious. I survived the night miraculously, and for the next several days of work and into the week I both felt and looked like I had been run over by a truck. My face was bruised, my eyes were black, my skin hurt, I suffered major depression, and toward the end of it I had even considered that if the way I felt didn’t improve that maybe I should just take care of the problem and end it myself. It was the first and only time I had ever seriously entertained thoughts of suicide, and it was very short lived.

After that night, I quit “getting drunk”, totally stopped taking drugs, and started going to church every Sunday. Soon, I completely swore off drinking, quit smoking, and even tried quitting my “adult entertainment” habits, and joined the church as an actual member. My background and knowledge of the Bible was quite immense, having gone to church and Christian schools almost my entire life, and when I learned that the church was looking for a Sunday School Superintendent, I submitted my application. I became a member of the board, and started teaching a Sunday School class. I initiated and helped get a Children’s Church program started with the support and help of several others in the church.

I still hadn’t dealt with my problems, and soon… I met another girl. I quickly got involved with her. She was not a Christian, and I felt guilty over our relationship. I was the Sunday School Superintendent. I was a board member. I couldn’t have these kinds of problems. The stress and guilt of my behavior with my new girlfriend and the problems I faced on the church board led to my return to smoking.

After 7 months on the on the church board, I was smoking regularly again, drinking an occasional drink so long as I didn’t get drunk, and back to not even really trying to deal with my sexual problems. I moved to Bolivar for a new job, and a couple months later, I felt compelled to leave the church in Springfield, resign my position and membership, and begin a new journey with the Christians at Bolivar. Over the next year, I visited nearly every Christian church in the area. God has worked in my life to realize that Christians are just as diverse and have just as many problems as any other group of human beings on the planet. Christians are just as in need of a Savior as the lost. I realized that I’m not any better than any of the rest of them.

I have just as many issues as any of them. Unfortunately, Christians are often the last ones to want to admit they have problems because they, like I once was and often still am over many areas of my life, are stressed and guilty about their secret hurts, habits, and hang-ups. However, through the help of God and a great support network, I haven't had a drink since November 2013, and I haven't looked at porn in a really long time (I'm not sure the date the last time I did).

God continues to bless me, and I married my beautiful wife August 20, 2016. She had three children when we got married, from a previous marriage, and now we have a fourth child, Harmony Grace, born August 21, 2017. I lost my job at the end of November, 2017, but God has provided for every need our family has had. We moved back into the house that I grew up in, and I have been working since losing my job to build up my new business, Grace Enterprise Solutions.