I am Tony de la Paz. I am the youngest among 5 siblings, and I grew up in a normal family set-up. My mother was a devoted homemaker, while my father was a colonel in the army. He was a good provider, had no vices, and was very religious.
I admired my father. He was well-respected, and people knew him to be a brave war veteran. I told myself that I wanted to be like him. But then, as a child, I was mischievous. I got into a lot of trouble.
When I was 5 years old, I busted my head. I remember that while the doctor was stitching my wound, I tried hard not to cry. My mom told my dad how brave I was and that made me feel good. Since then, I stood up to that image of being brave just like my dad, even when I felt afraid. As I grew up, I kept that mindset: I had to be tough and act brave. However, this mindset often got me into fistfights in school. I never buckled down even when my foes were bigger than me.
Trouble in my Teenage Years
Fraternities were common during my high school days. Together with some senior students, we organized one. I wanted to be popular. Being one of the founders of our frat, I enjoyed the power I had over my frat mates and told myself, “I’m brave. I’m cool. I will lead and will always be first and never be last.”
When it came to vices, I also wanted to be ahead of everyone. I started drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana at the age of 12. At age 13, I had my first sexual experience, which marked the beginning of my sexual promiscuity. When I entered college at 15, I joined the fraternity of my eldest brother, becoming the youngest member at that age. Once again, I was popular. But I also became addicted to marijuana and downers. I started to push and sell marijuana because I had many contacts and suppliers. Whatever drug was “in,” I was into it. I had only one goal in mind: to be high and drunk all the time.
Eventually, our family business went bankrupt, and my father retired from service. Given the financial difficulties we were experiencing, I was forced to stop going to college. Furthermore, my father suffered from depression and got sick. He was already suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Prostate cancer further worsened his health condition. He was bedridden for seven years, and things grew worse. My highs with drugs turned to lows, and the good trips became bad trips. All I wanted to do was to pursue my vices.
Our financial problems grew, and my mother also became sick with hyperthyroidism. My life was a mess. I was confused. I didn’t know what life was all about. I didn’t know where I was going, and I had nothing to look forward to. I was hopeless, helpless, and depressed.
My First Breakthrough
One late night in 1987, after coming home from a drinking spree, I was all alone at home. My parents were hospitalized due to their illnesses, and all of my siblings were taking care of them.
When I turned on the TV, only one station was airing; it was The 700 Club. I heard the testimony of a drug addict, and I realized that I was going through the same experience. The pastor on TV shared that God loves me and that Jesus Christ died for me. I could be forgiven and go to heaven!
I always thought that if I were a good boy, I’d earn my way into heaven. If I were bad, I’d go to hell. Deep in my heart, I knew I was on my way to hell. What I heard was good news indeed! That night, I prayed to receive Jesus. I cried like a baby! When I woke up in the morning, the heavy feeling inside me disappeared.
Immediately, I shared with my friends the experience I had. I told them that Jesus was real. That was all I knew! I didn’t know anything about the Bible, and I didn’t know anybody who was a Christian.
Things began to change. When I prayed for a job, God answered! After five years of bumming around unemployed, I landed a job!
My new job was a blessing. I was sober for a time already, but a former frat mate, who was also a co-employee, shared a sachet of shabu with me. I thought to myself, “Maybe there is no harm in trying it again. The drugs might help me become more productive.”
As expected, I was hooked again.
One night, after coming home from a session with my friends, I felt a very strong longing to be reconciled with my father. We were not on good terms for years because I blamed him for the hardships we encountered in our family. On that particular night, I went to his room where he was bedridden, and I asked for his forgiveness. We embraced and cried.
The following morning, my father passed away. I didn’t realize that it was God who gave me that longing to be reconciled with him and to have the closure I needed. God was so faithful despite my unfaithfulness.
Nevertheless, instead of repenting, I went deeper into drugs. As expected, I lost my job again. I continued taking drugs and did all sorts of things, manipulating people and even stealing to support my vice.
My life turned into a nightmare. I became paranoid! The vices were messing with my mind, and I reached the point where I was talking to myself and hearing voices in my head!
What happens next to Tony? How does he finally get rid of drugs? Find out soon in Part 2 of “God’s Great Faithfulness to a Drug Addict.”
Pastor Tony Dela Paz
Brother Tony de la Paz is a lay pastor and the Facility Director of Penuel Home, a drug rehabilitation and Christian recovery center. He is also the overseer of CCF Katipunan. He is married to Cynthia and has 3 kids — Patsy, Andi, and Matt.