Pete Collins, a 26-year-old 4th year Physical Education Major at UNH talks about his story.
Pete grew up in Danville, NH, a small town of about 4,000 people. He loved playing in the woods around his house as a kid and always had a love for fitness. Sunday mornings in Danville were spent in church with his parents who were both Christians. “My mom was a teacher and my dad was a self-employed contractor. So, I grew up going to church with them. It was Sunday school and youth group, when I was old enough, but that was pretty much it for me. There wasn’t a relationship with Jesus. I would go to church on Sunday then I would just go live the rest of my life. My biggest desires in high school were hanging out with friends, playing video games and seeing if I could get a girlfriend.”
After high school Pete joined the military and enlisted in the Army with the hopes of becoming a cook. After enlisting he enjoyed his summer as a high school graduate then a couple of short months later he was shipped off to basic training. “There is literally a way to do everything in the military. A way to walk, a way to talk, a way to sit, a way to eat, you name it. I learned, after basic, that they expect certain things of you and when you meet those expectations you can kind of do whatever you want on your free time.” This led to a life of partying and drinking when he was 18. “Part of it was everyone else was doing it, so I wanted to have something in common with them. It was just kind of what you did.”
Pete did well at his job in the Army. He showed up for work on time and worked hard. This gave him opportunities to compete in military competitions that others were not able to do because of their work ethic. But even doing well at his job, getting promotions, getting along with his peers and winning competitions were not enough for him. “Here I am at work doing really well, but outside of work I was kind of doing my own thing. Alcohol wasn’t enough for me so I started using drugs.” Eventually this led to an addiction to marijuana and pain pills. “At some point I stopped caring. I realized my life back home didn’t really exist anymore. I was struggling to find out who I was and my identity.” As he continued to do well at his job his addiction increased and his life in the military was coming to an end. “It had caught up with me. I remember I was smoking weed one night and the next day I had a drug test. I didn’t do anything to try and pass it. I just went and did it.” Soon after he competed in another competition, which he won, and after his return back he was told he did not pass his drug test. “I was just at this high point in my career to going all the way back down to the bottom.”
Pete continued living a double life with success in his job and an addiction to pain pills. He still worked hard at his job, but was unable to compete again because of his former failed drug test. This caused him to become even more consumed by pills. “It was all about getting high and feeding that addiction.”
At one point Pete began listening to Air1 Christian Radio and found a renewed hope in Jesus and thought he would be free from his addiction, but those around him discouraged him and he fell back into the same addiction. “I had this point of realizing where I was. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a car anymore. No friends were around. I didn’t really have food to eat. I was going through withdrawals and there weren’t any drugs. I had this point of realizing what I had become and what my life was. It was lonely. It was miserable.” He continued on in the military and during his time serving his addiction continually got worse.
After getting out of the military he felt like there was hope again. He thought that if he got a girlfriend and left North Carolina that would solve all of the problems that he had experienced while in the military. He thought his problems were not about him, but about his situation.
After moving back to New Hampshire Pete soon realized that the military wasn’t the problem. He got a job, got a girlfriend and started attending church again. But church still wasn’t about a relationship with Jesus. Sunday was about going to church, but the rest of the week he still did whatever he wanted to do. “I just lived for myself. I was still smoking marijuana and drinking a lot. I had an inappropriate relationship and…I didn’t really care. Then I discovered pain pills existed in New Hampshire and realized the problem wasn’t really North Carolina.” His addiction continued for the next several months and people started noticing. He couldn’t live the same lie he had been living before. Everyone knew and his addiction started to become real.
Once Pete realized the enormity of his addiction he started finding solutions to stop his addiction. He visited doctors to try and get help. He also tried hiding money so he would not be able to buy drugs, but nothing worked. “Eventually I hit this breaking point. I just wanted it to be over. I looked at my life and realized this wasn’t me.” He didn’t know what to do, so he reached out to a friend. He had called a few of his friends first, but none of them answered. He then called a friend of his, who had been trying to get in touch with him, and told him everything. He even admitted to using pain pills during their phone conversation. This friend helped him make a step that began to change the course of Pete’s story.
A few days later this friend invited Pete to Celebrate Recovery at DEC. “I walked in just kind of terrified.” He spent time in the share group and told everyone about his addiction. It was scary for him, but he knew he wanted to get better. He will never forget the moment when they were singing, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”. He saw a vision that still impacts him today. “I closed my eyes and I had this vision of me being on the ground and there were literal chains wrapped around my feet. Then it must have been Jesus, but he came down and grabbed my hand and pulled me and the chains broke.” That was the start of a drastic change in Pete’s life.
Pete returned home and began going through withdrawals, but he knew it was the step he needed to take. Later that week he felt like he should visit his brother. Pete visited him 3 times that week and his brother knew what needed to happen next. “He asked me if I wanted to move in. And I thought, ‘What?’ Then he said, ‘Well, Jesus says if your hand is going to cause you to sin cut it off!’ So, me cutting off the metaphorical hand was leaving behind where I was.” The idea scared him, but he knew it was what he needed to do. He knew it would mean leaving behind his home, his friends, his girlfriend and the life he once had to change his life for the better.
The night Pete moved in with his brother they went to a BBQ on the UNH campus that was held by Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), a campus ministry at UNH. There was something that struck him about people his age having fun and enjoying life without drugs or alcohol and he wanted what they had. From that moment on he began seeking out what it was that they had. He joined a couple of Bible studies, continued going to Celebrate Recovery and began regularly attending DEC. He also began living with Christian guys who were holding him accountable and helping him through his addiction.
A couple of short weeks later he knew he wanted what they all had. He wanted a relationship with Jesus Christ. “I was ready to have a relationship. So, I had some friends come out and pray with me under a tree on campus. That was it. A couple of days later I told everyone about it, that I had this change.” Pete knew that Jesus was his Savior and the only true God and understood the transformation that comes through a relationship with Jesus. He was ready to move on from his old life and move on to a life of change.
Now Pete is finishing his schooling at UNH and has developed a heart for youth. He volunteers with the Grapple, junior high ministry, every Friday and recently spent his summer working at Camp Spofford in Spofford, NH as a Camp Counselor. “Getting involved with some of the ministries here made me realize that there’s genuine faith and genuine people; imperfect, all-be-it ‘cause so am I. I think youth ministry was where I got my life from, apart from Jesus. Friday nights, I was sold. I love it.”
“I’m just amazed at the work God has done. I can look at my life now and say that he’s done a lot. I still have a lifetime of work ahead of me. The Bible says if you lose your life for my sake you will gain it. I’m kind of learning that losing my life isn’t as easy as I want it to be. There are times where I stumble and fall and there are times where I just have so much victory. But, I know my relationship with God is not determined by how well I’m doing and what I’m feeling emotionally. My emotions are kind of like this wave and God is the constant line through all of that.”