Nate’s Story: CPR for the Soul
Nate Hales is a 43-year-old agent for an insurance company in Utah. He became addicted to heroin and other drugs and began stealing from his father to support his habit. He grew up in a respected Mormon family, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and desperately wanted to live a cleaner life, but he felt powerless over the drugs. Then one day, he walked up a mountain behind his father’s house and experienced a transcendent, transforming, life-changing encounter with God that healed his addiction and helped him gain clarity for the first time in his life.
By the age of 23, I was an addict, such a mess. I was taking so many pills — “cousins” to heroin…whatever I could get my hands on. My father is a successful dentist, and I put myself on his payroll, although he didn’t notice. I was taking checks out of his mail and cashing them. I stole tens of thousands of dollars from him. His CPA is the one who realized the money was missing.
There is a beautiful movie called Pleasure Unwoven: An Explanation of the Brain Disease of Addiction. It’s a documentary DVD produced in 2010 that explains that addicts just can’t stop using, stealing and destroying themselves. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an addiction and anyone who is trying to help an addict. I used to walk to the store and steal things, crying because I couldn’t stop myself. That’s how bad it was. I lost my car, my job and everything else. I just wanted to die because I couldn’t stop this body from walking around to commit crimes just to get high again.
I have an identical twin brother, and we have a younger brother. One day, my younger brother called me on the phone and said, “Dad found out you’ve been stealing money from him. He’s on his way over to your house right now.”
I had been in jail a few times, and I said, “I am not going to prison. I’m going to Mexico.” So I packed a bag and was getting ready to leave. My dad pulled in the driveway and got out of the car. I began to cry, and I looked at him with dark, sorrowful pity. A horrid emptiness engulfed me. I felt like a damned soul. I didn’t even believe in God at that time. My dad was the only latch I had to my old life because my twin brother was using drugs, too. And there he was. I didn’t want to get close to him because I didn’t know if he was going to try to tackle me or keep me from leaving. I just didn’t want to go to prison.
I told my dad, “I cannot tell you how sorry I am. You’re looking at somebody who’s out of control. I am going to go to Mexico, and I will probably die.” In my mind, the only way out was to kill myself. In fact, I had already attempted suicide, but my brother stopped me.
Dad’s eyes started to fill with tears, and he told me, “No, no! Just calm down. We’ll take care of this. We’ll work it out. Don’t go anywhere; don’t do anything. Just come home. You’re going to come home. I’m going to get you out of this deep hell you’re in, but you’re going to live by my rules. And you’re going to go to church with me.”
What an amazing human he is. I had already failed at rehab several times and stolen maybe $35,000 from him, yet he took me back in, like the Prodigal Son.
I moved back home, and he wanted me to wake up each morning and read Scriptures with him, go to church with him on Sunday and sit in on the family prayers. I wanted to turn my life around, but I just couldn’t stop popping the pills. I started lying to my dad again.
One Tuesday evening, I got back to my dad’s house after work, and I wanted to go to a bar or a club. I borrowed his truck and drove to a nearby city to pick up a friend of mine, J.P.. He was a pothead. He loved smoking pot and studying Buddhism. He was into different things every week. J.P. loved going against society and the grain. He told me two missionaries were going to be at his house in a little while to talk to him.
I said, “Let’s just go!”
He said, “No, if you want me to go to the club with you, you’re going to sit here and wait until these guys are done. I’ve got an appointment with them.”
I protested. “Just leave them. These kids are twenty years old. Why are you going to meet with them? Do you just want to mess with them and tell them Santa Claus isn’t real? They’re not hurting anybody, and they’re not addicted to stuff, so leave them alone. You just want to smoke your pot, trip out on them, Bible-bash them and try to take away their faith.”
J.P. said, “No, I don’t. Just shut up. Get out of here if you don’t want to wait for me.”
He was the only person who would hang out with me, so I waited. The two missionaries showed up. This kid from Delaware sat down and started talking to J.P.. Then he turned to me and started lighting up — I can’t even explain it. He started telling me about Jesus Christ. I had heard it all before because my dad was religious.
“What Kind of Drug Is This?”
But this was incredible. It was powerful. The Spirit was speaking to me. The young missionary told me, “You are going to change. You’re going to influence thousands of people. You’re going to do great things — I can see it.”
He prophesied my life. The room seemed to glow. I wondered if I was tripping on LSD or something because it was so potent. I wondered, “What kind of drug is this? This light and this hope…” It’s like I had been in a dark cave, and somebody ripped the top of the cave, and all this light came pouring down on me. It was a beautiful feeling that went clear through me. I knew what he was saying was true.
The Spirit was burning through the room so strongly. The missionary said, “Can you feel that? That’s the Spirit!” Caught up in the overwhelming transformation taking place, he stood up and shouted, “I have never felt it this strong! Wahooooo!”
Something in me changed at that moment. I was still addicted to drugs, but my heart started beating again. The missionary told me, “I want you to go to church, even if you’re sedated.”
I told him, “I can’t do that. It’s rude to go to church while I’m high.”
He disagreed strongly. So I made a commitment that I would keep going to church with my dad on Sundays. There were times when I’d walk into church, even though I had just popped a bunch of pills. I was like, “I’m here. I’m barely here, but I’m here. I’m sorry I’m wasted. I’m sorry I’m high, but I’m here, and I’m going to continue on this pattern. I am going to turn my life around.”
My Mountaintop Salvation Experience
For the next six months, I tried to quit my addiction and be the man I knew I should be. One day, I got off the bus from work and saw an unfamiliar car in front of my dad’s house. I thought it was a parole officer. I wondered if maybe I had forgotten to pay a ticket.
I didn’t want to find out. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and I decided to go for a walk, up the mountain behind my dad’s house. I saw one of our neighbors, and he asked how I was doing. He said, “I see you at church. Listen, I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but all I know is that you’ve got to give it to the Savior.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
He said, “You’ve just got to ask Him to take it from you.”
We talked for about 15 minutes. Then I walked down the road about a mile. There were no houses out there. My dog, Scruffy, was with me. She saw the whole thing. I looked out across the valley. It was pure daylight, and I got on my knees. I had a conversation with God. I said, “I feel like there’s something on the other side. I feel these little pieces of gold that have come into my life over the past six months, like what the missionary said to me. But I can’t shake this addiction. I know I’m going to go use pills tonight. I know I’m going to go do whatever I can to just get loaded again. I know You can hear me. I can’t do it. You’ve got to take it from me because I can’t do it on my own.”
I really didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t want to disappoint my dad, who was trying to save my life. I figured I was hooked for life and would die an addict.
At that moment, I felt like someone placed hands on my head. I felt the presence of two people, whom I knew. It felt so familiar. As soon as they touched my head, I knew everything was going to be OK. They felt like brothers. I sensed that they had always been there, had always been in charge and were doing the work of God. Everything was clear. I knew Jesus Christ was the Savior. But the sensation I had wasn’t of realizing something; it was a sensation of remembering something, and how could I have forgotten that?
I didn’t actually see people standing there with me, but I sensed their overwhelming presence. It was the Spirit testifying. You can’t testify about truth and not feel its power. I realized a lot of things that day. When it all peeled back, I remembered that God is so involved in our lives as we’re doing our everyday things, and we can’t see it. But for a moment, I saw it.
For some reason, I had a pen and paper with me, and I wrote down 20 truths, or lessons, God gave me to strengthen me and overcome my addiction. They were things like, “Don’t dwell on anything but the truth of God.” The truth of God means that you should work hard to support your family. Another truth is that we should talk good about our neighbors instead of talking bad about them. Just doing good unto others. Everything that’s worthwhile, that’s where you dwell. That’s what you put your mind on.
During this mountaintop experience, I saw my addiction clearly — and it cured me. Addicts know what’s going on, but they’re so scatterbrained. This experience rebuilt my mind. I stopped taking drugs at that moment, and I never even had withdrawals — no shaking, no nothing. I looked out across the valley, and I saw the intricate involvement of heaven pouring through everything. I felt an inextinguishable love and felt how deeply we are all connected. We are certainly never alone.
A New Beginning
After this phenomenal experience, I walked down the mountain, back into my dad’s house. He was there, and I asked him who had visited. He said it was a friend of his. It wasn’t a cop, like I had feared. He looked at me. He could tell there was something different about me.
I said, “Dad, I’m going to be honest with you. I have continued to do drugs while I’ve lived here, but it’s gone now. I’m telling you, it’s all gone!”
I walked toward him and hugged him. I felt so carefree and happy again, like I did when I was 12 years old. Finally, my brain was in the right place. Everything had hope in it again. Life was beautiful. I went to my room and typed out the 20 truths that God had shared with me on the mountaintop — truths that He had custom-tailored just for me. Twenty years later, I still have that list of the 20 keys to my sobriety.
But even though my brain was fixed, I knew I needed to repay the money I owed my dad and begin serving myself and others as I would serve God Himself. I knew I had to take control of my life, or the devil would do so again.
I decided to go on a two-year mission trip to Atlanta for the Mormon church, the LDS church. I wanted to give back. I wasn’t married yet, and I didn’t have kids yet. The leaders in the church weren’t sure they wanted me to be a missionary. They didn’t want me relapsing out there, away from home, and setting a bad example for others.
But then one of the top leaders read my file and told me he wanted me to go. He said, “You’ve been through a lot.”
I said, “Yeah.”
And he said, “No, you’ve really been through a lot!” His eyes seemed to look right to the core of my soul. After only a moment, he proclaimed, “You are going to make a great missionary!” The Lord helped him see, without words, the purification of Christ’s atonement.
CPR for the Soul
One day, I was talking to my friend, Greg, a phenomenal guy. I stopped him and said, “Hey, Greg. You have some friends who have gone back to using, but you’ve always stayed good. Your friends kind of fell back into the pit. They’re like the pig that eats its own vomit. How can I avoid doing that?”
Greg told me, “You’ve got to do three things: you’ve got to show up once a week and meet with other people, talk about God — you’ve got to go to church. Second, you’ve got to pray every day. Show some respect — get down on your knees. You can’t be lying in bed. It takes maybe ten seconds or thirty seconds. And third, you’ve got to read just one verse of Scripture every day. It has to be a meaningful one, and a different one every day. You’ll never fall too far if you just do those three things and never miss. The Lord loves consistency!”
Then I realized that those three important activities form the acronym CPR: church (every Sunday), prayer (every day, on your knees) and reading Scriptures (at least one per day). I worked three jobs to go on the mission trip in Atlanta. I went out there and shared with people what I know: CPR for the soul — it’s the consistency that counts!
Life Is Grace, and Pain Is a Gift
Life is grace. God has put us on this Earth so we can learn. Every bit of pain we go through helps us understand the object and design of our existence, which is happiness. It is only by His grace that we get to be here.
The pain we feel in our lives is a gift. You cannot comprehend the beauty of daylight and sunshine until you’ve been in Alaska in the wintertime for three months straight, and you come back down to California and see the green grass and feel the warm sunshine.
To anybody in pain, I want to tell you that we are all in the middle of a process. How do we find truth? It’s not that hard, but it is a process. We have to build our spiritual “muscle.” If you want to do some pull-ups, you don’t just start doing a bunch of them right away if you’ve never done them before. If you try to skip that growth process and ask God to give you strength without going through the pain, then you have missed the whole point of life. Why would the Lord rob us of the process?
Here are just two of many Bible verses that Nate turns to when he needs to feel God’s strength:
My Take on Nate’s Story
Nate’s story is compelling because he shares the crushing pain and loss of control he felt as an addict, as well as the elation and joy he felt as the Holy Spirit moved him and changed his life. Also, because we live here on Earth and face everyday human challenges, sometimes we forget that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Nate’s beautiful story about his mountaintop experience reminds us that God is far bigger than any problem we face and that if we will just cry out to Him, he will fill us with grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. And sustaining our faith through “CPR for the Soul” is divinely inspired advice.
Time for Personal Reflection
Have you ever faced a personal crisis and tried to solve it yourself before calling on God? Can you see how much we can benefit if we simply turn our crises over to God from the beginning? If you know someone who is facing a crisis, encourage him or her to turn every problem, challenge and obstacle over to Him and pray for strength, wisdom and healing.