In October, the Weatherford Telegram, working with IFC Wellness Coalition, co-sponsored a contest where anyone could write an essay on how drugs affected their lives and what they thought could be done to eliminate the problem. The following is an edited version of the winning essay in the over 18 category.My name is Gary and I'm a recovering drug addict.My addiction to drugs started at age 12 in 1972 and my battle with drugs still rages inside me today.I wrote a letter while sitting in Parker County Jail called "The Letter to Heaven." It was written to my only son, Jesse Taylor, who was killed on June 21, 2007 in a drowning accident in Kingfisher, Okla.I wrote this letter about 4:30 a.m. while everyone else in my cell was asleep. At the time I was writing this letter, I had no idea why I was even writing it. But it was as if my pen had a mind of its own. I had been in jail nearly 10 months and was facing four felony charges that were fixing to send me to prison for a long time.These charges all stemmed from some things found in a girl's purse that had been left in the backseat of my truck. The girl was a good friend of mine and I was on my way to take the purse back to her in Fort Worth. I never even looked in the purse, so I didn't know she had drugs and some other contraband inside it.My past criminal record, and the fact that I had a package of new needles in my boot when the State Trooper pulled me over, makes me now able to understand why no one would believe that I didn't know what was in that purse. My court appointed attorney convinced the district attorney to give me a lie detector test, which I passed by simply telling the truth. All the felony charges in Parker County were then dismissed [but] I still had one felony charge in Denton County to answer to, and I was guilty as guilty can get on that one.To make a long story short, I received three years in prison but I also got credit for my time spent in county jails, which was about 15 months. That was another of many miracles that happened at this time in my life. My actual time spent in prison was only about three months, another miracle. I hated prison and jail but they make it that way on purpose to keep you from returning. My faith in God enabled me to help some other guys who were in a lot more trouble than I was."The Letter to Heaven" has inspired and helped a lot of people. [To read Taylor's letter in full, visit www.weatherfordtelegram.net].How to win the war against drug addictionThis is where my story might get kind of controversial and offend some people.If you are an atheist, well I've been there and done that too. I've only been a born-again Christian for a little more than 5 years. I claimed not to believe in God for most of my life, but as I stood on that bridge where my Jesse had dove to his death, I cursed the very God I said I didn't believe in for allowing my only child to be taken away from me.I now believe with all my heart that if God has chosen you to be one of His children then He will do or allow something in your life that will change your mind and make you become a true believer. And it might be something really extreme, like allowing the death of someone you love or maybe something worse than death.With that said, I can only give you my true and sincere thoughts and beliefs. But you will not sway or change my faith in God no matter what you do or say to me. And if you're a preacher or church member and you disagree with my beliefs, I love to learn everything I can about God and His word and I will listen with an open mind.At the same time, if you call or write to condemn, judge or just gripe at me, or you try and sway me from the truth that is being taught to me daily by my Bible and the Holy Spirit, you will be wasting your time and breath. I'm going to use the Holy Spirit who now resides within my own spirit to try my very best to never return to alcohol, drugs or that lifestyle again. But please remember that I am a weak and sinful recovering drug addict who will always make mistakes. I am also a born again child of God and I will do my best to never judge anyone because when I judge you, I am also judging myself and we're all guilty of judgment. And Christ will one day judge us all.Forty years is a long time to be a slave to something, or in simpler terms, to be addicted to drugs. Let me begin with a little bit of scripture. Romans 7:15 gives me an inner peace and comfort, because you see, the apostle Paul, who was taught by Jesus Christ himself, suffered from the same doubts, fears and inner conflicts that I suffer with daily in my battle with drug addiction. If a great man like Paul battled against these things, it makes me realize that I'm not alone, and all humans share a lot of these confusing emotions and feelings.Now that we know that we're not alone and that all human beings on this planet struggle with these same inner conflicts, fears and emotions, it's time to look truthfully at whom and what were really fighting against. Again, let us go to God's word - Ephesian 6:12 - which says: "Our fight is not against human beings, it is against the rulers, the authorties and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world."Yes, our fight is with that old devil himself. He uses a huge arsenal of weapons against us but, in my opinion, one of his greatest weapons is ourselves. Yes, our own bodies, minds and emotions are being used against us daily as we struggle with addiction. Let me try and explain this. Ever since I really got serious about beating my drug addiction, I've fought a losing battle with myself. All my willpower, actions, good intentions and best thoughts have eventually caused me to find myself with a needle, pipe or drink in my hand. I have found it totally impossible to beat my addiction with these human traits. Luke 18:27 says: "Things that are impossible with man are possible with God." So as long as we keep trying to fight these battles with our minds, bodies and emotions and all of our weak human traits, we will continue to eventually slip or relapse when the temptations and pressures of life start to build up on our shoulders.Even though it goes against everything we think is right, we have to finally give in and admit that as long as we keep fighting these things by ourselves, and trying to beat these demons alone, we are doomed to fail. Until we finally surrender and let God do what we can't do by ourselves, were going to find ourselves doing the same old stuff that we have always done. We will end up high and right back in the same hole where we started. When we are finally broken, and to the point where we can finally admit defeat, that's when God will do His powerful and miraculous healing, then our lives will begin to get better. God's best work is when we are defeated and at our worst.Everybody's point of brokenness is different. Some people hit bottom when they lose their possessions; for others it might be prison or jail. In my case it was the death of my only son that finally made me give in and let God start to change me from the inside where there was such a deep and dark void in me. I didn't even know this void existed inside me.But let me warn you, if you think all these wonderful changes are going to happen overnight then you will be disappointed many times and will hit bottom very hard over and over because sometimes it's a slow and painful process. Everybody likes to think that God will use Divine Intervention to instantly fix everything that's wrong with us, and I'm not saying that in certain cases He doesn't do exactly that.In my case, Devine Intervention came in the form of pain, anger, failure and many of those dreaded relapses. I am not one of those people who can be told how to do what is right and good for me then poof, like magic, I get it and never have to be told again. I'm a hardhead, who only learns sometimes by first doing things wrong and a lot of times I have to do them wrong over and over until it hurts so bad that I finally begin to understand and do things right.Sometimes God teaches His children, especially the bratty ones like me, that we have to fail many times before we will accept His love and grace so that dark void I spoke of earlier can be filled with His Holy Spirit. Romans 8:28 tells me there will always be things happening in my life that will seem tragic and horrible, like the death of my son, or any number of things that I can't begin to think of as good things. But God, in all His wisdom and power, takes these seemingly bad things and uses them for my own good.So sit back, take a deep breath, then the next time you mess up or relapse don't be so hard on yourself. We are all just sinful children who are being taught by a Father that loves us more than our simple human minds can ever figure out. And for many of us, it will be failure and heartache many times before we finally surrender and let God do for us what we can't do for ourselves.Another thing that has to be a top priority in this war against addiction is we have to lose all of those old drug buddies we once called friends. They are not your friends, and Satan will use those people to deceive and drag you back into the hole where they live. If you are seriously trying to stop the dope, most of these people will drop you like a hot rock when they see the new you that is slowly changing into a person who hates drugs and the lifestyle that goes with it. If any of them are really your true friends they will respect what you are doing to change your life, and leave you alone.Drug addiction is literally Hell on Earth, and I believe Hell does exist here on Earth. The Bible teaches that Hell is total separation from God and that when you are out there smoking, drinking or shooting dope with the devil and his demon,s you are totally separated from God. There is no middle ground, you are either serving God or you are serving Satan.I've talked to preachers and church members who claimed that they didn't have a drug problem because they or nobody they were associated with used drugs. But, in my opinion, anyone who drives a car or goes in a public place is subject to a drug problem. People need to open their eyes to what is really going on in the world today. Drugs and the people who use them are everywhere, and you and your children are exposed to those people every day. You never know when you will cross paths with some freaked out meth head who has been awake for 10 days. It's very possible that person will be carrying a pistol and might think you and everyone else is after him.You pass these people on the streets, and your children go to school with them, so therefore their drug problem can become your drug problem just because you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. So please never get the mindset that you are immune and drugs do not affect your life. We are in a war here. Satan is trying to run the show in our world today. He will lose big time when all is said and done, but until that day, you better watch your backside because our enemy loves it when people are naïve and blind to his sneaky attacks.For most of my life, I thought it was OK to smoke a little K2, weed, drink a few beers or even do an occasional shot of speed, as long as I controlled it. But today, the Holy Spirit is showing me how totally wrong that thinking was. Anything I use to alter my mind, no matter how innocent it may seem at the time, is the huge leap through that wide gate that leads us straight to Hell.Many people have helped me on my path to being drug free and I would love to talk to any individuals, groups, schools, churches or anyone who desires help with their problems concerning addiction, faith or loss of a loved one. I might not have the answers but I will help to you to find the people who will have the answers, and we all need help at times. For Gary Taylor's contact info, please e-mail IFC's Darren Donaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org.