“At 24 years old, I hated the life I had, but I was also afraid of losing it… Rather than risk being labeled by what I had done, I was resigned to taking my secrets to the grave and living in hell forever.” – Todd Cartrite
“At 24 years old, I hated the life I had, but I was also afraid of losing it,” said Todd Cartrite. “I thought about pursuing God, but I was so weighed down by guilt and shame I wasn’t sure He could or would hear me. I thought church people had it all together and would look down on me. Rather than risk being labeled by what I had done, I was resigned to taking my secrets to the grave and living in hell forever.
“I started living by my own rules in high school after my mom’s affair with my high school baseball coach led to my parents’ divorce. Sports was the center of my life at the time, but then it felt tarnished and inflicted pain on my family. I decided I would no longer allow someone else determine the outcome for me, and I took advantage of anyone who tried to help me. If I wanted to go out all weekend and binge drink I would. Drugs? I did them.
“I was searching for a sense of family and found it in my girlfriend at the time and in college fraternity life. Lost and broken, I was trying to figure out what it meant to be a man and was deeply influenced by my peers. I started indulging in porn, drugs, and alcohol and I became very entitled because of the status my fraternity gave me. I pursued whatever I thought would give life or make me numb.
“Unfortunately, what seemed fun turned into years of alcohol and drug abuse. I loved the rush alcohol, drugs, and women gave me, but hated the guilt, physical ailments, and always looking over my shoulder. As I headed toward college graduation, I hated the person I’d become.
“The two people I always looked up to were my sister and brother-in-law, who deeply love the Lord. They moved to Lubbock, where I was living, to launch a campus for their church. I noticed the way my brother-in-law treated my sister was different than anything I had ever seen. The way they loved one another blew me away. I saw him as a cool, athletic guy who was full of joy, which was very uncommon to me. He was always intentional and made me feel loved at a time I felt worthless.
“Spending time with my sister and her husband helped me see that there was life apart from chasing women, drinking, and drugs. I wanted to see what God had to offer, but whenever I went to a church with them, I was terrified of rejection.
“At that point, I could no longer sleep and felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually dead. It seemed as though God’s hand was pressing down on me. I decided it was time to confess all the hurtful things I’d done, and I began with my girlfriend at the time. I was so afraid that once it was out that I was a druggie, womanizer, and alcoholic I’d be viewed as a second-rate human. Instead, confessing turned out to be one of the most freeing and rewarding things I’d ever done. I started to read God’s Word and desiring to move toward the Lord.
“Not long after that though, I moved to Fort Worth. Without other believers around me, I soon became isolated and drifted away from God. I saw that Watermark had moved in across the alley from my apartment complex, but I didn’t get involved. My identity was still wrapped up in alcohol, women, and drugs. I didn’t know how to talk about the hurt and pain I was carrying around, nor was I ready to admit I had a problem.
“But after a relationship ended in a broken engagement, I knew only God could help me with my brokenness. I needed godly men to show me what it looked like to be a man who follows Christ. When I finally joined a community group, I was uncomfortable and assumed that the other guys would never understand someone like me. But they welcomed me and shared the truth from God’s Word like I’d never heard before. The men that were in my community group played a big part in my decision to finally turn my life over to the Lord and commit my ways to Him. When I did, the layers of guilt and shame I had carried for years started falling off.
“There’s no way I’d be married to my wife, Erin, if it were not for the Lord. Because of God’s love, I can express myself in a loving way, and both ask for forgiveness and extend grace. I have found the family I always wanted with my wife and the believers in our lives. They know the real me, and love me anyway because Christ loves them. There’s joy in being around other people who are also in Christ – a depth of conversation that you don’t get anywhere else. That’s had a huge impact on my outlook.
“The abundant life in Christ is so much more than I imagined. Whatever temporary pleasure alcohol, drugs, or chasing after women gave me is nothing compared to the joy I have in Christ. The shame has been replaced with energy and purpose. My life is so much better now that God’s grace is in it.”