01/04/2013: Testimony of Jeff Stultz
June, 2009 (revised August 16th, 2012)
Hello, my name is Jeff, I am a believer in recovery from crack cocaine and I struggle with pride.
I’ll start by saying I come from a functional family filled with dysfunction. I’d like to say my family life growing up was great, and parts of it were, but actually my father was an alcoholic who’d fought in Korea and Vietnam and that presented problems of its own. However my parents gave us everything we needed and also taught us to be productive members of society. I have a brother and had two sisters, one passed away in 2001, and they are nothing like me. They all went to college and into the business world. I grew up as a heavy kid that was picked on and scared. In the summer of 1976, at 13 years old, I drank my first beer and smoked marijuana for the first time. At last I was accepted by some cool kids so I started getting high on a regular basis. I also got into weightlifting in high school and decided that I would never be picked on again. Fighting and other violent behavior became normal for me.
At nineteen I joined the Army and learned that drinking alcohol and fighting were all I wanted to do when I wasn’t working. I was shot in the leg in a bar fight and this took me off my feet for nine months. While recuperating in bed I again put on weight and ended up around 350 pounds.
I wasn’t accepted by many but I did ride a motorcycle and soon realized the bike gangs accepted anyone, especially violent drug and alcohol abusers. Unfortunately in the biker world the meanest, nastiest guy in the bunch ran the show. I worked at being that guy and within a year of joining the gang became the president. I soon went AWOL from the Army and ended up with a dishonorable discharge. I spent the next fifteen years riding with two different bike gangs. Drugs, alcohol, violence, women, and many other sin addictions consumed my life.
In 1993 I met my second wife. She had a six month old daughter. I fell in love with both of them and slowly became more and more responsible eventually adopting her. When my daughter was around four years old I decided that I needed to leave the motorcycle gang because I didn’t want to die in some stupid bar fight and cause her to grow up without a father. Unfortunately, I left the gang but did not leave the lifestyle. I continued to drink and use drugs on a regular basis. By the time she turned six her mother left me because of my alcoholism and adultery. At this point my drinking, drugging, and running around with women only got worse. The only thing that kept me from slipping off the deep end completely was a misplaced sense of responsibility to my daughter. I thought I was a good dad, spending every other weekend with her. I took her to the bars at night, where I was a bouncer, and at 7 years old she was forced to experience violent behavior that would have been disturbing to most adults. I used her to meet and pickup women. I even rode her around, on the interstate, on my motorcycle when I was drunk. I can remember thinking how cute she was carrying around an empty jim beam bottle and a cigarette, acting like daddy. I sat her in front of videos while I snuck in the backroom for sex and drugs. I bragged about being a good dad and how I spent so much time with my daughter. In reality I was completely unfit and should have been put in jail.
Finally, Christmas 2001, the first Christmas after my sister died. I tried crack cocaine and my life started spinning out of control.
This was undoubtedly the beginning of the end. At this time in my life I had a successful business , I owned a ceramic tile showroom and had 15 fulltime employees, a beachhouse, boats, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, everything this world tells us is important. As I started going through all the money in the bank I was able to convince my parents that my business was failing and that I needed financial help. Within one year I had lost it all including my daughter, her mother had understandably moved and taken her and would not let me or my family know where she was. It would be six years before I spoke to her again. Within another year I had put my parents in debt for literally hundreds of thousands of dollars and caused them to go into bankruptcy.
At this point I came back to Fayetteville, where they lived, and continued to lie, steal, cheat and do anything else I needed to do to get my dope. I robbed drug dealers quite often and when I started to get really scared my parents convinced me to enter a treatment facility. I did this solely to please them and was having crack delivered to me, in the rehab, on a regular basis. Before too long I was found out and kicked out.
Again, I convinced my parents it wasn’t dope that got me thrown out but that I broken some rules. And again they helped me get a place to live, a vehicle, and some tools so that I could work. I pawned the tools, sold my furniture and would even talk my dad into buying me groceries which I would return to the grocery store for the cash to spend on crack. Finally at Christmas I snuck into my parents house and stole the 100.00 dollar bills from my brother, sister, and nieces stockings. This was not discovered until Christmas morning when they all opened the empty envelopes. When my mother realized what I had done she wanted nothing more to do with me and told me that she would buy me a one way ticket anywhere in the country but she did not want me in Fayetteville any longer.
I dedided to go to Miami, I really thought that if I was going to be homeless at least I’d be warm. My mother gave me a card to carry in my pocket with her contact information so she would at least be notified when my body was found. My father took me to the train station and handed me his credit card just long enough for me to go to the counter and buy my ticket. While I had it I wrote down the numbers. Still wanting to help me, he also gave me 300.00 dollars so I could get a room when I got there. I got off the train, into a taxi and told the driver to take me to the worst motel in Miami. He did and I was able to find and purchase crack within an hour of arriving at the motel.
By the next morning I had spent the entire 300.00 dollars my father had given me so I figured out a way to use his credit card number to western union myself money. I’d do a couple of hundred dollars at a time thinking after that I wouldn’t do it again, but I did, and over the course of a month I had sent myself over 20,000.00 dollars. When my father found out he was broken hearted. At this point I started robbing drug dealers in Miami. As I realized I was going to be killed soon I called my parents again. They made a deal with me that if I would commit to a year and a half rehab program they would send me the money to come back to Fayetteville.
I entered the rehab again for all the wrong reasons however it was impossible to get drugs into this place so I soon resigned myself to the fact that I was going to quit using at least while I was there. This was a Christian rehab but I was not buying into any of that Jesus stuff, I was way too smart. About four months into my stay at this rehab my old girlfriend called me and told me she had inherited quite a bit of money and wanted me to come to Minnesota. I left the rehab more than a year early, never having taken my recovery seriously by working the steps or finding a sponsor.
I left the rehab and got on a train to Minnesota. Within 12 hours of leaving the rehab I was drunk. When I got to Minnesota we decided to buy a motor home and travel the country. We did this for about six months, drinking and smoking marijuana the entire time. Only by the grace of God was I not back on crack yet, and as I said…… yet! As we were traveling we stopped in Nashville, TN, and being the smart guy that I am, I came up with the idea of buying a bar. Now here is some good advice, never leave the rehab and buy a bar! Big mistake!
Everything that a bar has to offer is bad…..booze, dope, prostitutes, gambling, violence, and I owned the joint; I truly thought I had it all. As my life was consumed by darkness literally one ray of light shone through, Doc Ray. The one thing I never expected to find in the bar was a preacher. Isaiah 59:1 says: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.
Doc was an Englishman who through obedience to the Lord had bought a motorcycle and hung out at the biker bars ministering to bikers as they needed him. Doc was very careful not to try shoving religion at us, he just made sure we knew that he loved us and he was always there, loving us, in times of crisis offering prayer and true friendship. Doc became a good friend of mine although I was not buying into any of his Jesus talk either. However it was apparent that he really cared about me and so many others.
Within 6 months of buying the bar I was back to smoking crack. It was not long before I lost the bar and everything else and became a homeless, crack addict. I lost contact with Doc Ray and every other decent person in my life. For two and a half years I was homeless. I ate out of dumpsters, slept under bridges, in abandon cars, and even in the crawl spaces under houses. I was in and out of jail.
In fact in 2006 I was arrested over 30 times. I stole cars, robbed drug dealers, wrote worthless checks, shoplifted, and was always able to lie to my father and talk him into sending me money behind my mothers back.
In fact about six months before I got clean my mother told me that she hoped one of us died soon, her or I, she just couldn’t take it anymore.
Looking back, I remember several occasions when God was trying to get my attention. Sometime in the fall of 2006 I was getting high in the woods with a friend. We heard a train coming and then heard it stopping, right there in the middle of the woods a train stopped. Two men got off the train and came walking over to us. They first asked us if we were alright and then proceeded to ask us if we knew Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I have been asked if I was hallucinating, I wasn’t, but for all I know these two men could have been Angels.
This was only one occasion but there were several.
March of 2007 I had been on a binge for days. It was about 3:00 in the morning and I ran out of crack but I still had thirty dollars in my pocket. I could not stop with money in my pocket so at 3:00 in the morning in a ragged, falling apart, borrowed truck with expired tags, junk hanging and falling out of the bed, knowing there were warrants for my arrest, and driving with no license I headed into one of the worst drug areas in town to cop dope. Of course I was pulled over and arrested.
By the way, when I was arrested I weighed 108 pounds and was covered from head to toe with open sores due to staph infection.
Today I weigh 230. Going to jail that morning was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life.
I was arrested on a probation violation. Because of the nature of this charge my father could not bail me out this time, I was going to have to sit in jail for a month and a half waiting to see a judge. While I was in jail I was able to convince my father that I had learned my lesson, which was a lie. The first thing I planned on doing when I got out of jail was to get high. But when I did finally get out my father had come to Nashville to help me again. I had nothing except the clothes I was wearing. My father helped me get a vehicle, a place to live, clothes, and tools for work. At this point I was still waiting for him to leave so I could get high.
Then he did leave, but after he left it really hit me that what if next time he didn’t help me, what if next time I got out of jail and had nothing, and he wasn’t there. I had, what we call in recovery, a moment of clarity and I made a decision to get my life in order.
As I made this decision to quit using I tried to think of anyone I knew in Nashville, TN that didn’t use dope. The only person I could think of was that biker Preacher, Doc Ray. I looked up his number and called him. He was happy to hear from me and invited me to church. I accepted, now I was still way too smart to buy into any of that Jesus stuff but thinking that I might be able to meet more people that didn’t do dope.
I decided after the first visit that the people were really nice and I’d come back. On the third Sunday that I attended I didn’t know what was in store for me. I didn’t go forward for the altar call, I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart, I can’t really describe what happened but I can tell you, that day I had an experience with the risen Christ. April 22, 2007, Jesus Christ became the Lord of my life, and I was changed forever.
Psalm 40:2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Within three weeks of my salvation I attended a church dinner. I sat by a couple that I had never met, Jim and Deb, and we began to talk. I told them a little bit about my story and wanting to meet other Christians they told me about a program they went to on Friday Nights at another church called Celebrate Recovery. They invited me the following Friday. I remember telling them how Jesus delivered me from crack and I didn’t need recovery or a program. They convinced me that I would be able to make some Christian friends there and I finally agreed to go.
I will never forget how scared I was. Me, the guy that robbed the drug dealers at gunpoint was terrified to go into a recovery meeting. I would not go in until they got there. Once inside I was amazed at how nice these people were to me and how freeing it was to attend a share group and be able to listen to others like me and for me to be able to be honest about myself without shame or embarrassment. The love, acceptance, and freedom I felt were beyond comparison. I can remember leaving CR on Friday nights and thinking only about being back there the next Friday. Within two months of attending I began working the Christ centered twelve steps and found a sponsor.
I committed fully to the program. I realized the Lord had delivered me from the dope but there was much more than to stop using. The 12 steps taught me how to live sober, how to handle this sinful world, as it is, not as I would have it. I did what my sponsor told me to do, and began to live out the eight principles and twelve steps on a daily basis.
What a change in my life! I began passing out Bibles in drug neighborhoods, helping feed the homeless, volunteering at my Church, and so many other activities that helped me to get outside of myself. Finally, Christmas of 2007, I had been clean for eight months and my mother wanted to see me for the first time in four years. While I was visiting, my mother asked me to move back to Fayetteville to help care for my ill father. God’s timing is perfect and I am so grateful that with His help I was able to be there for my parents when they needed me the most.
Shortly after moving back to NC, with a year cleantime, the Lord opened up a door for me to feed the homeless and needy and to be able to share the Gospel with them! I formed Jeff Stultz Ministries and was able to secure chairs, canopies, coolers, and funding for food. I setup dinner and church in crack motel parking lots. I began attending Mount Carmel Church and shortly after I met the Senior Pastor, Wiley Hughes. During the summer of 2008 I spoke to Pastor Wiley about my life and the ministry work I had been doing and the possibility of a Celebrate Recovery Ministry at Mount Carmel. Pastor Wiley told me that the church had prayed for someone with just this experience and that he was open to any ministry ideas that I had. It was obvious that me coming to Mount Carmel was all part of God’s plan in my life. In fact when I told Pastor Wiley I felt God wanted me to attend the CR Summit in California he agreed and approved two of us to attend. I could not believe with a year and a half clean I was headed to the CR Summit in California and a week later we were starting a CR ministry and God was using me as the ministry Leader!!!!!
On the way to the Summit I experienced an incredible miracle that I have to tell you about. I’ll start by telling you that ten years earlier I had left my motorcycle gang on bad terms and the man who took over as the president would have liked to of had me killed.
I actually ran into him a couple of years later, at a party, and was lucky to escape with my life, literally. After moving back to NC I heard that he had become the president of the local chapter of the most violent motorcycle gang in the world. The clubhouse for the gang happened to be in the same neighborhood where I did homeless ministry work and I often wondered if I would run into him and if he would kill me when I did. Well, I did run into him on Tuesday morning, Aug. 12th, 2008 in an airport in Charlotte, NC. I was flying from Fayetteville to Santa Ana California with a layover in Charlotte. He was flying from SC to Los Angeles. (Our time in this terminal, occupied by thousands of people, only overlapped by ten minutes.) I came out of the bathroom and noticed a tattooed guy who was reading the Bible. I went to shake this mans hand and introduce myself and when I did I noticed a tattoo on the inside of his arm which read Last Chance. I could not believe it, that was my gangs tattoo, the guy looked up and said “Buddha”, which was my nickname. I could not believe it was my old friend. After talking I learned he had left the gang a couple of years earlier and was now living for Jesus. In fact he was on his way to the Celebrate Recovery Summit to help start a CR in his church. If it were not for the Word of God in his hands we would have never recognized each other. We now stay in close contact and help each other constantly. Brothers again, but now brothers in Christ.
Leading this ministry is truly one of the things that God has called me to do. The miracles that have come about as a result of my obedience to do this have been incredible. I came to know my wife at Celebrate Recovery. My daughter showed up at my wedding and I was able to hug her for the first time in six years. I have made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I have had people I’ve grown up with whom I had not seen in years find healing and recovery and now attend church with me. I have had seriously damaged relationships restored and repaired. I have seen changed lives. I’ve learned that it’s not about me, and the blessings which come from doing for others.
Remember all that “stuff” I lost, Glory to God, we serve a Lord of restoration. With just over five years clean the Lord has given me back my family, I pray with my mother regularly, my daughter , she has forgiven me and now even braggs about me being her daddy, I have a beautiful, christian wife with a wonderful new family that loves me, I own a home that’s paid for and everything that goes with it, I have real friends, I own a successful business, and yes, I have a Harley Davidson. I enjoy a worry free life, His yoke is light and His burden is easy. I have been able steer my family towards Jesus in some really tough situations over the last four years.
I was able to comfort my father daily during a long hospital stay which ended with his death in September 2009, I was also able to lead him to Christ before he died. I was able to pray with my brother, his wife, and my sister to receive Christ in October of the same year. I have become a moral center my family who now look to me for direction. In January of 2010 I came on board the CR Southeastern Team as the Central North Carolina State Rep for CR. April of 2010t,I was asked to join the staff of Destiny Now World Outreach and I am currently serving as the Pastoral Care Officer, a member of the executive staff. December 5th, 2011 I was part of the first graduating class of the Destiny Now School of Ministry and was Ordained as a Pastor. I have been blessed to attend the last 4 Celebrate Recovery Summits and to share my testimony at Celebrate Recovery Ministries in four states. I entered a casting call contest for a part in the Celebrate Recovery Movie, “Home Run”, being released in the Spring of next year and I won the contest. I was blessed to be flown to Tulsa, OK to film and enjoyed one of the most exciting days of my life. God has since begun to open many more doors in the movie industry. I have filmed four movies and two commercials since then and I have decided to continue along this path God has laid out before me. This is just another platform to witness to people about what God has done and continues to do in my life. Glory to God! The Lord has and is using me to touch lives and help hurting people through many different avenues, but Celebrate Recovery, the Twelve Steps, and Eight Principles are the greatest tools that I have. I am eternally grateful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for my salvation, to my wife Pamela for her tolerance, support, and encouragement and for Celebrate Recovery which daily helps me to grow closer to my full potential in Christ by applying the principles I’ve learned to my life everday. And finally, I’m grateful for each of you because that’s where I meet Jesus, in each and every one of you.
In closing I’d like to share my life verse with you. Psalms 3:3 you, Oh Lord, are a shield for me, you are my glory and the lifter of my head. Thanks for letting me share.