Moving Past the Darkness of Addiction

02/24/2018 .
Steamer Lee and Myra Biernat Wells  .  Volunteer Storyteller

By age 30, the drug scene in Newport Beach had completely taken over Wayne’s life. Wayne used cocaine daily. On three occasions, he almost died from drug overdoses. “I felt like I wasn’t going to survive — I knew I would die if I stayed in Orange County,” Wayne said. That fear sparked his wake-up call.

“I’ve wrestled with addiction to marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol most of my life,” Wayne said, “beginning when I was just 14 years old.” Wayne thought a new setting would give him the chance at recovery that he desperately needed. He packed his things and headed to Mammoth Mountain, and turned to skiing as a distraction from his addiction. Three months later, he severely injured his knee, leaving him with plenty of free time to sink deeper into his addiction.

One evening during his physical recovery, Wayne hobbled across the street to a gas station on his one good knee, hoping to pick up some alcohol. Judy, the gas station attendant, was kind to Wayne, and she read the desperation on his face. “You’re looking bad,” she told him. “You need Jesus.”

Wayne’s first thought was, “I grew up in a religious home and turned my back on Jesus a long time ago. I’m dirt now, just trash — what’s Jesus going to do with me?” That night, Judy prayed with Wayne for God to come into his life. Wayne believed this prayer gave him a new compass to guide him, but he still felt enslaved to his addiction.

Wayne tried running again. He met a girl, fell in love, and a short while later, married her. The newlyweds hoped to resettle in Colorado. Wayne imagined this new life would help him stay clean. But even with a change of scenery, along with his new compass, old habits lingered. “We moved to Colorado, and continued to snort, drink, and smoke our way through the mountains,” Wayne said.

For the next nine years, despite his addiction, life seemed to get better. He ran a successful construction business and began building his family with two great children. But shortly after the birth of his second child, his marriage started to crumble.

What began as a successful start in Colorado eventually took Wayne to another low point in his life: divorce and a three-year custody battle. It was a long and exhausting fight, but a judge awarded Wayne custody. The divorce and custody battle caused Wayne to once again look up at God for help.

“I was watching a preacher on Sunday morning TV, and he was talking about life,” Wayne recalled. “I sat there with my Bible out, and I wrote down ‘LIFE’ in big letters on the side of the page. I kept looking at it, and all of a sudden it came to me — LIFE is ‘living in faith every day.’ That became my mantra. I have carried that message now for 17 years. I share it as often as I can.”

Wayne continued to live with his two children in Colorado, in a small, rural community of about 3,500 people. Now a successful business owner and contractor, Wayne was a big fish in a small pond. Everyone recognized his company’s logo and his signature long hair.

When the recession hit, Wayne lost everything. His mom’s health took a turn for the worse. Wayne was forced to return to Southern California.

“I spent the next couple of months selling of everything I owned,” Wayne said. “We went from a 5,000-sq.-ft. house on 10 acres to a 26-ft. U-Haul. The move back was a very humbling experience. I felt like I’d placed myself back in a situation that would only trigger my addictions. I was going to have to start all over again.”

Wayne began dating prior to the move. His girlfriend Ann — who would eventually become his wife — suggested that they attend Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. Wayne remembers that first weekend clearly. “We walked in to Lake Forest, and we were in absolute awe,” he said. “Everything was so welcoming and casual — including the pastor. I thought I would really relate to this guy.”

When Wayne found out about Celebrate Recovery®, he began attending every week. He also attended regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. “I thank God for Saddleback,” Wayne said. “That was the glue that held my life and marriage together as I fought to keep my addiction at bay.”

“I’ve been completely sober for six years, and now spend my time focused on God’s priorities instead of selfish priorities,” Wayne continued. “I serve at Celebrate Recovery, helping other people through their own battle with addiction. I hope that through my life, I can give other people hope on their road to recovery — especially parents and friends who have a loved one struggling with addiction.”

Learn more about Celebrate Recovery at

Related StoriesSee More

At 55 years of age, Cindy didn't expect to be in an assisted living facility. But through on-site Saddleback services, Cindy continues to grow in hope and faith.

Being in a small group is impacting us as a married couple and giving us a foundation to build our home on.

Amber wanted to learn more about leadership, but she needed a healthy environment to find healing from the past as well.

After a trauma-filled childhood, Cindy looked for a safe place to share her story and find healing.