On a summer night in 2000 in a seedy hotel room in Jersey City, Winston raised the jagged edge of a bottle to his neck—prepared to end a life of struggle with substance abuse. As a Muslim, Winston had a rigid understanding of God, “I couldn’t turn to Allah…because I had messed up.”
Winston drank his first beer at age 8 and by 14 he was using drugs. “I spent time in places that humans shouldn’t even dwell, literally crawling out of holes,”he recalled. By age 39, he had been through eight treatment programs—each time he was sober a little longer, but as he describes, “something was still hanging around the edges.”
For a while, Winston’s life seemed to be on the right track. He got a college education, certified as an addictions counselor, became a Muslim, and purchased a home. But it was a charade, “I had a double life. One part of me was helping people (with substance abuse) by day and doing what I was helping them out of by night—it was tearing me apart,” Winston said.
Then his life came crashing down in the summer of 2000. “This time when I found myself using crack again…I went into instant depression even in the midst of a high.” In that hotel room prepared to end his life, Winston felt an overwhelming urge to call his friend, Natasha. At 3 am, he reached out to her. She picked him up the next morning and took him to NYCR’s Hope Center in Elizabeth, NJ. “The name Hope Center caught my attention—but I had no hope,” Winston recalled.
Some of The Hope Center staff prayed with Winston and worked to connect him with help and hope. That weekend, Winston came to church with them at Calvary Tabernacle of Cranford, NJ, a NYCR ministry partner. “I saw hope and peace on everyone’s face… During church, I dared God to change my life,” he recalls. A few days later, Winston entered Brooklyn Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program.
Teen Challenge helped Winston find a new direction. “For one year, God provided me with time set aside to learn and have a relationship with Him…That is what The Hope Center led me to at Teen Challenge.” Winston said. His wife, Vancy, also came to God after years of being a closet alcoholic. Their three children have been wonderfully impacted by the change in their lives.
Many were involved in Winston’s road to hope. “If it wasn’t for the intervention of these people, I would not have found God—I would have committed suicide… I traded the religion of Islam for the relationship and the grace of knowing my God’s redemptive plan for me.”
Written in 2001.