It started innocently enough. A puff on a cigarette. Swallowing some pills.
Soon he needed money to feed his cravings, so he started selling marijuana. Then came several arrests, heavier drug usage, intense drinking, a party-all-the-time lifestyle.
He never intended to rebel or hurt his family; he was just seeking the next thrill. Little steps down a shady pathway eventually led to full-blown addiction and failed attempts at multiple recovery programs.
Jesus was the only answer to the darkness. But it took time and a lot of prayer.
Hope Lies Ahead: Encouragement for Parents of Prodigals from a Family That’s Been There
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Geoff Banks always had a big personality. His gregarious nature and charming smile were infectious, and he was well liked. He described his childhood as “storybook” and “awesome.” But his curiosity combined with a tendency to take risks led him from one bad decision to another.
His first poor choice was in middle school when he decided to have a smoke with some buddies right outside the church—where his dad was pastor.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” his mom, Cari, said. “The kids were still hanging out outside as they do when they’re in middle school and high school, and I went outside to tell them, ‘Hey, it’s time to come in,’ and there Geoffrey was smoking a cigarette.”
“Of course this was right outside the church,” his dad, James, said. “So in that regard it’s not just about him . . . it’s sort of, ‘What will people think?’”
Geoff shrugged it off and led his parents to believe it was a one-time thing. But it wasn’t. By the end of middle school, he was regularly smoking, drinking, and using pain killers.
He still maintained good grades and a positive attitude, so his habits were easy to hide. But, as Geoff described, “It was just a slow spiral downhill.”
From Bad to Worse
By the time he was a high school freshman, Geoff got caught smoking pot at school and was arrested—the first time. He was also selling pills. After he eventually got in too much trouble to remain in his school, he went to a secondary correctional facility.
When that didn’t work out and no other public school would take him, the only option was home school. He did classes online, graduated early, and ended up in college at 17 years old. He was young, impressionable, and attended a college known as a party school.
He continued his lifestyle of using and selling drugs, and got into some bad situations when he owed his dealers money and didn’t have it. He then progressed to selling and using heroin.
It took wrecking his girlfriend’s car after he passed out from a heroin overdose, a hospital visit, and more jail time for Geoff to realize he had to stop living this way.
“I got mixed up with these guys selling heroin,” Geoff said. “You get desensitized to it just being around it all the time and seeing this person do it and that person do it.”
Geoff eventually got caught with a gun he had stolen and was thrown in jail. He was coming off a high from the day before, and he said it was “literally one of the worst memories I have—being in there and throwing up all over myself. And I was hot, and I was cold, hot and cold. And I was shaking. It was horrible.”
Although it was a wake-up call, he still hadn’t bottomed out. It took wrecking his girlfriend’s car after he passed out from a heroin overdose, a hospital visit, and more jail time for Geoff to realize he had to stop living this way. So back to rehab he went.
The Pain of Parents
His parents struggled watching their son lead a destructive lifestyle.
Cari said, “I think the hardest thing is not knowing what to do. And not knowing . . .” James continued for her, “what is next. The hardest part for me was wondering, ‘Where is God in all of this? Why has it come to this?’ And you wonder where you went wrong. My book, Prayers for Prodigals, was written as we were going through all of this . . . this raw emotion and calling out to God.”
James said, “There’s something about putting our eyes on Him and recognizing who He is that lifts us above our circumstances and helps us to say, ‘That’s my Lord. He has overcome the world.’ Prayer brings us into that place of praise, and God meets us there. That’s a good place to be.”
“I didn’t have this ‘aha’ moment or crazy ‘burning bush come to Jesus moment.’ It was slow and arduous and hard.”
When Geoff got out of rehab and had no money, no friends, and no hope, he called his parents. They connected him with Christian Recovery House, which also led him to Port City Community Church.
“I knew that I wanted to stop doing drugs. I knew that I didn’t want to ruin my life anymore, and I didn’t want to die or go to jail or prison or whatever. But I didn’t want to be like this Christian either,” Geoff chuckles. “I felt like it was just a ton of rules, and I didn’t have a concept of a relationship with God.”
The people at the church loved him unconditionally. So did his parents. He said, “Those were the two biggest examples of Christlike love I’ve had in my life.”
“I didn’t have this ‘aha’ moment or crazy ‘burning bush come to Jesus moment.’ It was slow and arduous and hard,” Geoff said. But once he understood that he was a new creation in Christ, it was life-changing.
God’s Answer to Prayer
Today, Geoff shares the gospel message as a youth pastor in the same church where he came to fully trust in God.
“The change in Geoffrey’s life is a true work of God’s grace and answer to prayer,” James said. Cari added, “It’s a miracle. It’s amazing. I think of the verse that says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. And I never imagined that the answer to my prayers would look like this.”
“My parents and their love for me was one of the only constants in my life,” Geoff said. “I don’t think I’d be alive today if I didn’t have praying parents at home.”
This article was first published in an Our Daily Bread Ministries newsletter. James Banks is an Our Daily Bread writer and the author of several books from Our Daily Bread Publishing, including Hope Lies Ahead.