Editor’s note: Fr. Ron Stone was one of our most faithful volunteers in the 1990’s before entering the seminary and becoming a priest in 2001. He was a cocaine addict for eleven years until his remarkable conversion. He has given hope to many other drug addicts that “nothing is impossible with God.” The following is his story.
MF: Tell us about your background, your upbringing.
RS: I grew up in Germany. I spent the early years in different homes and in an orphanage. I came to the United States when I was about eleven years old. I couldn’t speak a word of English. I learned it very fast.
Germany was a very different environment, a very protected environment. After coming to America, I got into a lot of trouble. I was on probation for various juvenile things. My mother came and took me out of the orphanage and brought me to the United States, to the Northern Virginia area. She had gotten married, and I was adopted. It didn’t work out well.
MF: Had you gotten into trouble before this time, at the orphanage?
RS: I had not gotten into any trouble at the orphanage; it was a very wonderful time. But after coming to the Arlington area and learning English, I got into trouble quickly. I had friends who were juvenile delinquents. When I think back on it, I had come from a very protected environment. Satan makes these things very intriguing, and I remember how it was pleasant to be a part of these things – stealing, juvenile things.
I was on probation from age thirteen to about sixteen. I ended up in a foster home at age fifteen. The judge took me away from my mother for various reasons. During the next five years, I finished high school and went into the service. I remember being on aircraft carrier one clay. It was 1975 and the Vietnam War had just ended. I asked God, “Why have You abandoned me?” I convinced myself that God had left me. He had put me on an aircraft carrier, and I hated it. I was working with live ammunition. Killing was not a part of me. I was about twenty years old.
MF: When you look back on that period from being in the orphanage to being with your mother, were you taught about Our Lord?
RS: In the early years of my life it was my Catholic upbringing. Once I came from the orphanage to my mother, I did go to Catholic school for a year and a half, but I was kicked out. I was an altar boy also, but that ended by the time I was fourteen.
MF: Did you have a significant person in your life at that time, a male role model?
RS: My probation officer became a role model, and we became very good friends. We spent a lot of time together. I never had a real father figure.
MF: What happened to you from age twenty on?
RS: I joined the Navy, and I told myself that once the carrier got back to port I was going to go AWOL because I didn’t like this life. I went AWOL for six months. It was in the six-month period that I had my first run-in with drugs. While I was in high school, people did pot or we drank, but cocaine was not part of it. During this period when I was AWOL, I had myself totally convinced that I was invincible from drugs because I had a rough upbringing and had always been able to manage somehow.
I told myself I was stronger than drugs. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! Satan must have had me fooled to think I had that kind of strength. Without God, we have no strength. I met a girl who introduced me to cocaine. That’s how Satan got me trapped. By the third time I tried cocaine, I enjoyed it more than I did her. I was already in trouble. It took a hold of me, and the next eleven years were a ride that was unexplainable.
How in the world could I have been so stupid? I never intended to be a drug addict. I never wanted to be a drug addict. I don’t think anyone who was a drug addict ever said, “I’m going to go out and be a drug addict,” especially, if you have known people who have been addicts, known the pain they suffer, known what they would do to get the drugs. They would sell their souls, their lives, whatever it takes to get the drugs.
MF: What happened during those eleven years?
RS: It got to a point where I needed to make my living off drugs. I was using so much that I couldn’t afford it. I had a job, but the drugs started to take all my money. I started dealing drugs because I could make a lot of money that way. For five-and-a-half years I made my money strictly from drugs. I had Corvettes, I had Harley-Davidson’s, I had the most beautiful women, some of them were models. I only say this because Satan was snaring me with the allure of the cars, motorcycles, and women. When I opened the door to the addiction, I opened the door to all the vices. I discovered you don’t just have one evil–you have all the others, because eventually Satan brings them all to you. He brings the greed, the deception, everything that goes with his lifestyle. He brought all of that into my life.
All of a sudden life became worthless. I say that because you could give someone who was an addict a bag of cocaine worth fifty or one hundred dollars and ask them to kill someone for it, and they would. Where is the value of life when someone would take a gram or whatever of cocaine and go out and take human life for it?
The drug dealers I knew would kill anyone who cheated them. The amount of twenty-five dollars or fifty thousand dollars was not important. It was the principle. Your life was in their hands, and you were going to be an example to others of what this drug dealer would not tolerate. Your life was over. Plain and simple. I knew with my own addiction that this was a chance I was taking. I knew I was also taking the chance of being busted. I knew that at anytime I could overdose, and I could die. It became a very dangerous life.
MF: How many times did you attempt suicide?
RS: I attempted suicide three times that I can remember. Deep depres- sion from the drugs set in. I am not a naturally depressed person, but the drugs will bring you to a depression that is so heavy that the only thing that will help is another set of drugs. That is what it comes down to. You need the drug to keep yourself off the depression. It becomes a cycle.
I was a binger. I did not need the drug every day. I could go a week without it. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. I went through thousands of dollars in cocaine at a time. It is very hard to put into words the misery that it brings. When I was in the drug rehab program, some of the counselors had learned about drugs in college books. How could I tell them what it was really like? It is like being a cancer patient. How do you explain the pain to someone who doesn’t have it? You can’t. Someone who learned about addiction in a book can’t tell me how I am feeling. So even in my drug rehab program, it became a constant battle. We needed and eventually got people in the program that had been alcoholics or drug abusers themselves. I could relate to them and them to me.
MF: How long were you in the program? Do you feel they helped you?
RS: I was in a drug program for thirty days. I needed thirty days for my body to be clean. My third day out, I had my first relapse. I needed more help. I needed God.
MF: Let’s backtrack a little. Tell us what led you to the rehab program. Do you think that God was trying to reach you during that time?
RS: As my drug addiction worsened, I knew as most addicts do that there are only two ways out: death or stopping the drugs. There is no halfway, no in-between. I knew the time had come when I had to stop or it was going to take me to the grave. My addiction had become so painful. Satan had stripped away everything that I had believed, everything I had ever hoped for. The drugs became my everything, which was total empti- ness. I couldn’t fill the void. I became a needle junkie; I didn’t just snort cocaine. Using the needle is the hardest addiction to break. The high is so instantaneous.
At the very end of August about 13 years ago, I had a new batch of cocaine. I couldn’t stop using it. When we drug addicts get our drugs, we become like animals and we take our drugs and hide. We don’t want anyone to see us, we don’t want anyone to disturb us, we don’t want anyone to see the pitiful state that we have come into. It is too embarrassing.
This particular day was a very powerful one in my life. I had been in hiding for three days and nobody could find me. I hadn’t eaten in days. I hadn’t had anything to drink. I ingested only the drugs. My skin was purple; the blood I was drawing out of my veins was pink. My heart was pounding. My head, my bones, everything was hurting. My soul was hurting, too. I was thirty-three years old. I knew I had to stop, and I knew I didn’t have the strength.
I was on my knees, and I was crying for the first time in years. I had the needle in my hand, and I had overloaded it. I knew this would be my last shot. As I was contemplating this, the thought came to my mind to ask God to have mercy on me. I didn’t know any prayers, because I had been away from the church for twenty years. I did remember one thing from my early childhood: suicide was a sin, an unpardonable sin. I said, “Jesus, have mercy on me. Forgive my sins, and forgive this despi cable act I am about to commit. Hell couldn’t be as bad as this addiction. I would rather be in Hell now than go on with this addiction another day.”
All of a sudden, a wonderful peace descended into my soul. I can’t explain it. I heard a beautiful voice say, “My child, I am here, and I will help you.” I broke down in tears, and I felt an incredible love. Within thirty seconds, a friend banged on the door and demanded that I open it. I opened it. He told me he was taking me to the hospital immediately. I gave him my drugs and needles, and I went with him. That is how I ended up in a drug program.
At this time, I had a lot of cash, some in a safety deposit box, some in investments. Two weeks after I entered the drug rehab program, all my cash and all my investments were gone. I was flat broke. I had nothing. Our Lord, when He said he would help me, went all out. He took away all the illegal things in my life.
The thought came to me that when I got out of this program, the first thing I would do was return to church on Sundays. I felt I had to do that.
MF: You had the inspiration while you were in the drug program?
RS: Yes. I had forgotten everything about my Catholic faith except that one commandment to go to church on Sundays so that is what I did when I got out. From that moment forward, my journey began to return back to the church. My life started to change, even though I had relapses.
MF: After you got out of the program and started to go to church, what happened to you spiritually?
RS: I had relapses for the next two years. But they became less, and every time I had one I learned something from it. I learned that I had to stay away from the friends I had, the drug dealers. I had no job, no money, and no place to live. By the grace of God, I had a friend who took me in, but he was a drug dealer. So of course I had relapses. During the first year, all these offers for easy money came. Even then, I knew that I had to stop totally, not even taking drugs to anyone. It was a tough battle, but by God’s grace I was able to say no. When He said He was going to help me that is what He meant. He gave me the courage and the strength to overcome temptations.
I had to change my friends and my lifestyle. Our Lord helped me, showing me how one particular sin leads to another kind of sin.
MF: At what point did you learn about the Blessed Mother?
RS: For the first two years of coming back to the church, I was almost afraid to approach Jesus directly. I have talked to other people who have had the same experiences. I had no problem going to Mary.
I was just going to church on Sundays. I had no deep prayer life. But even so, I noticed something was happening to me. It was like being plugged into a battery charger. I was being charged up. I couldn’t wait until the next Sunday to receive this feeling that God was giving me at Mass. During the week, I would stop by and visit Jesus in the tabernacle. I didn’t know any complicated prayers, but I would spend some quiet time with Him. By the time I would leave, I had peace in my heart again. I could feel that love and that peace.
I remember sitting in my room in my house and thinking about this beautiful secret of Jesus in the tabernacle and how I could go to Him any time and be recharged. He would give me His love and make my road a whole lot easier. I want to mention some of the times in my life when I was a drug addict that I particularly remember God’s hand reaching out to me. They say that when you die and go for judgment that every person will see the times of their lives when Jesus reached out to them and knocked on the door of your heart and they didn’t respond.
I remember one in particular. I was working in a nightclub as a bouncer and my Corvette and Harley Davidson were sitting outside. I had four girlfriends. A friend came up to me and told me how I had it made. I felt an immediate darkness descend into my soul. I felt as if God was saying to me, “Where is your God? What have you made your God? Your money, your things, your sensual attractions are your gods. Feel their emptiness.” I felt this darkness, and I felt absolutely nothing for all these things that I had. Instead of doing something about it, I had a couple of drinks and continued on with my life.
Another time I remember is when a friend gave me a cross as a birthday or Christmas present. I couldn’t wear it. I couldn’t help but think, “How could I wear the symbol of Christ when I am living this kind of life?” I put it in my jewelry box for three years. It was the first thing I reached for when I came out of the drug program.
There came a time, even during my years of drug addiction, that whenever I was invited to a Catholic Church for a wedding or a funeral, I couldn’t step inside a Catholic Church because I was a Catholic, but I was not practicing my faith. Whenever I would have to pass a Catholic Church and I knew there was a cross present, I would turn my face or drive two blocks around the church so I wouldn’t have to look at the cross. It really happened in just that way, because I knew within my own heart that life I was leading. It was a sinful life.
I recall special moments when God was reaching out in a very special and powerful way, trying to help me, trying to show me how much He loves me and how much He wished for me to change my life. With the grace of God I have been able to change.
MF: You gradually got out of the drug rehab program and you started to make changes in your life. You found it easier to go to Mass more often and you found tremendous strength. What happened to your friends?
RS: Of all the friends I used to have, all my drug dealers, friends, girls, relationships, God was stripping them one by one. I noticed that He was taking them away. The next part I will share is how I got to know Our Lady in a beautiful way, in a more intimate way by the grace of God. It came from my heart because I could feel it.
I didn’t recognize it right away, but it kept coming and coming. The thought kept occurring to me to pray the Rosary. I kept thinking to myself, “What is the Rosary?” I knew it was some beads I had seen old people in church use to pray. Somewhere in my life, in the early years of my child- hood, I must have learned to pray the Rosary, because the thought kept coming to me, “Pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary.” It was so strong I couldn’t shake. I didn’t know how to pray the Rosary. I didn’t know anyone who knew how to pray the Rosary, so I found myself in a church where there was a book of instructions on how to pray the Rosary.
The next step was to get a Rosary. I didn’t know where to get one. I sent away for one through EWTN. Finally, I had the Rosary and the booklet on how to say the Rosary and at that point I had not learned the Our Father or Hail Mary. Imagine what it was like when you don’t know what it is and you don’t know how to do it, and someone says, “You’ve got to do one Our Father and ten Hail Marys.” That is what the booklet was telling me. I looked at the beads and figured out which were the Our Fathers and which were the Hail Marys. I said to myself, “I don’t know what the cross is for or the other beads, but I’ll figure that out later.”
I sat down and began on a Monday. I would sit down and say one Our Father and ten Hail Marys. I didn’t know when I would find time for it, hut I figured I would give it a try. One day after work, I came home and sat down in my room and said one decade. I did not say a particular mystery. I didn’t know I was supposed to concentrate on one particular mystery. I had no idea.
One morning I got up after doing this for one week. I remember walking outside of my house. It was a warm, sunny, beautiful day. I looked at the world, and something was very different. I didn’t know what it was, and I kept thinking about it. Just about then a Corvette drove by. I used to be fascinated by Corvettes, but I realized all of a sudden that the Corvette didn’t look so good, that it didn’t have the importance it once had. Throughout the day I began to notice that different things that had once been important, like girls, weren’t any more. For the first time in many years, I realized I no longer had a drug addiction. I couldn’t help but think, laughing to myself, “My goodness, one Our Father and ten Hail Marys did all this for me. If it can do that, I’m going to do three decades next week.”
That is how I was guided into the Rosary. Our Lady herself took me and taught me how to pray it. From that moment on, I no longer had any relapses. I no longer was a drug addict. I felt a different peace in my heart, a different approach to life. I had a different perspective. The money, the cars, the girls, the nice clothes–I didn’t need any of that any more. Things had changed that dramatically.
Our Lady from there took me to Our Lord in the Eucharist. I learned to love the Mass and the devotion to the Sacred Heart. She took me to Eucharistic Adoration and daily Mass. That is where I am today. I give thanks to God for this. I don’t know where He will take me next, but I am ready.
MF: You have had some wonderful experiences with Our Lord. Will you share some of them with us?
RS: I am a product of God’s mercy.
The rest of this article can be found in Signs and Wonders Spring 2017, Volume 27#1/2!