Sense of Life. Articles in English. “He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” (Ps. 40:2).
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Articles for translators and linguists - “He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” (Ps. 40:2)
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“He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” (Ps. 40:2)

I finally felt like I was facing the truth. There was a certain reality to this situation that was true and paradoxical: I felt a certain relief that I no longer had to pretend. Finally, everything was out in the open.

“He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” (Ps. 40:2)

My name is Michael. I’m thirty-seven years old and live in Wroclaw, Poland. I reached a turning point in my life fourteen years ago, when I had fallen to the very bottom. I realised then my sinfulness and slavery to the addiction to which I had ensnared myself for years.

As a child, I had felt a certain pressure to fulfil the expectations of my parents. I grew up in a traditional Catholic family. Every week, I went to mass; I also attended religious education. Yet that behaviour was only external, and it lacked a personal relationship with Jesus. I looked for answers to my wounds in psychology books, trying to “fix” myself by the strength of my own will, looking for “understandable” answers to my problems everywhere except in God.

Another symptom of my escapism was through computer games, that is, shooting games, in which I could look for a way to react to my negative self-image. The computer became my companion, replacing real friends. After a while, I discovered gambling sites. Once, I won something, and it started to tempt me to try to win more. I lost money in the subsequent games, and it reached the point that on one holiday trip I lost so much that I had to borrow from friends, or I wouldn’t even have had enough money to get home.

At that point, I came to my senses and quit gambling, but in place of one addiction others appeared – an eating disorder and pornography, which led me to the very bottom. A dozen years or so ago, the Internet was still not very well developed, so I deepened my addiction through pornographic magazines. I was buying them in sex shops, and it was the beginning of my sinking deeply into this addiction. My relations with girls were limited to friendships. I didn’t think I was worthy enough for deeper contact with them and for having anything to offer. I wasn’t thinking in terms of closeness and relationships.

But even during this time I was still practising; I was still going to church. Before I started university, I joined the church’s student group. I went to camps with a student group several times, during which I was struck by a completely different reality: the joy of being with people who lived their faith even outside the walls of the church. During my studies, I also attended programmes at the Dominican monastery in Wroclaw. The people on the programmes seemed better to me, but also somehow distant; I was still too deeply caught up in my own world, and stuck on pornography. What was lacking was a strong decision to struggle against pornography and to answer God’s invitation to change my life.

I was struck by a completely different reality: the joy of being with people who lived their faith even outside the walls of the church

The culminating moment in my life was the time when money was tight, but I was still feeling the compulsion to buy another porn magazine. But I thought of a new way to come up with money to buy pornography. I decided to find a store away from the centre of town and intimidate the salesperson with a loud gun. I was completely absorbed; I just had to have that next porn magazine. Robbing the store was going to be a one-off thing before I returned to “normal” life.

It was May 2000. The youth carnival season was approaching, and I was sitting at home looking at my pornography. I started to plan a robbery somewhere on the edge of town. At the moment when everything was starting, I suddenly felt like someone was directing me; like it wasn’t myself and I was on the set of a film. I felt a strong pressure to do it. The salesgirl was scared of the gun and gave me money from the cash register, and I quickly left the shop. But suddenly things took a turn that I hadn’t expected. Some guy walked into the shop, the salesgirl alerted him as to what was happening, and he ran out of the shop after me. I ran as fast as I could to escape the area, to reach the first available bus. I was terrified of the way everything had started to slip out of control. I got to the bus stop, but the guy who was after me shouted to the people who were waiting that he was chasing a thief. I was surrounded in a flash, and the police arrived in minutes. They took me to the station and put me in a cell. It was such a shock to me that I could hardly believe it. Suddenly it occurred to me that the world of freedom was beyond the bars of my cell.

My mother visited me in the jail and brought me two issues of a Catholic magazine with a small card on which she had written just three words: “Michael, trust God!” Up until that time, I was a “good”, “wholesome” student. I had created a nice-looking external world around myself. I gave the appearance that everything was okay. I had concealed my addiction perfectly; the pictures were on discs, and the magazines were in files. But all at once, everything had collapsed; the mask had slipped. I finally felt like I was facing the truth. There was a certain reality to this situation that was true and paradoxical: I felt a certain relief that I no longer had to pretend. Finally, everything was out in the open.

At the same time, I was very uncomfortable with an unpleasant reality: the idea that I could be locked up for up to eight years. But even at that moment, I felt hopeful, thanks to my mother’s words. At the hearing, it was decided that I would spend three months in a detention ward. The first thing I tried to do was to establish contact with the jail chaplain. I knew that the priest came around occasionally, but not often, because the prisoners generally didn’t express much need for a chaplain. I also felt a need to pray. I made a makeshift cross out of a few bits of cardboard. It was completely immaterial to me what the other prisoners would think of this. At that moment, I felt that God was truly my only hope. I waited about two weeks for the chaplain to come around. I met him, went to confession, and was the only one attending the mass that he celebrated. I unburdened myself of my whole load. It was the confession of a lifetime. Previously, I had confessed only superficially, but now I went down to the heart level – to my addictions, which ensnared me. I had a huge sense of God’s mercy and great joy for the forgiveness of all my sins.

I had a huge sense of God’s mercy and great joy for the forgiveness of all my sins

While in detention, I found out that the usual practice was to extend the temporary sentence to nine or even twelve months. So I had an unhappy prospect to look forward to. One day, a guard came to my cell and blurted out: “pack your things [my blanket, rug, mess kit, etc.], you’re leaving!” My parents had posted bail for me, putting up a large deposit. I had spent eight weeks in jail: I entered on 13 May, a Marian holiday, and left on 6 July.

When I left, it was still the summer holiday. The papers had printed a piece about my “stunt”, but fortunately gave only my initials, and not my full name. Despite this, my friends knew that it referred to me. I decided to take sick leave from my university studies. After the holiday season, I returned to the church’s student group, knowing that I would meet people who would be positive towards me there. The chaplain even wrote a positive recommendation to the judge for me. I helped create the web site for the student group and became an altar server. At the same time, I started extramural studies at the polytechnic. As far as the court case was concerned, the whole thing dragged on for a long time. As the final decision of the case, which took place several months after I had left the ward, I was sentenced to two years in prison, but that was suspended for three years. In effect, I was free. In the court room, I apologised to the salesgirl, and with help from my family I paid her damages.

With help from God and the people whom He placed on my path, I began to rebuild my life. I completed my studies and found work as a computer programmer. Of course, I wasn’t ideal, but the previous addictions and enslavement ceased to drive my life. I joined the Galilee community, where my telling the story of the difficult path I had been on in the past bore good fruit. From that time on, I experienced great joy by talking about how God had transformed and healed my life. I am happy that my testimony has encouraged other people to open themselves up to Jesus. This strengthens my faith and also builds up the faith of my audiences and produces good fruit in evangelisation.

However, this is just the beginning, since a testimony – albeit a powerful event – does not suffice to build a close relationship with Jesus. Conversion is a perpetual process, and for many years the community has been the place where I experience the love of God and continue my conversion. The Eucharist, prayer, the experience of friendship in the community, retreats and evangelical events – all of this helps me grow closer to the Lord, and through Him I want to further build my life.


(testimony recorded and written down by Bartłomiej Grysa)


The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in September 2020.

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