CLTIVATE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ministry, dedicated to cultivating faith and sobriety. Click here to donate!

Dear Zack

To say life has completely changed since 2014 would be a vast understatement. I was a 26 year-old coke head, an alcoholic, a thief, a liar, severely depressed, selfish, suicidal, and I had burned every bridge. I had been fired from 17 different jobs and spent most afternoons in bed - just waiting for the hangover to ease up a little, so I could go party again.

I had a great childhood, went to church, knew the Bible, went to a Christian university, joined a fraternity, and always walked around with a smile. My nickname was "Party." Hurting people was never my intention...I just wanted to have fun. People would always jokingly ask if I ever went a day without cocaine or alcohol...it really didn't seem like a problem to me. 

Time passed, and people began to notice my shaky hands. I couldn't even hold a glass of water without spilling it. I had to get drunk just to feel normal. Then I had to drink more to find my smile. I wrecked every relationship with every girl I tried to date, I started stealing things to help pay for my cocaine habit, cops and detectives were starting to visit my house, and it seemed like every friend had disappeared. It never once occurred to me that perhaps I had a problem. Everything just went dark in my soul, and I didn't know why.

On September 29, 2014, I began writing suicide letters. Everything felt numb. The hangover was unbearable that day, and I began to weep uncontrollable tears. I had been contemplating suicide for several months, but kept finding reasons to keep going. My every hope and aspiration had completely vanished, and I knew this would be my last day. After writing personal letters to my family members and a few close friends, I wrote a letter to myself…just in case.

Here’s that letter:

September 29th, 2014
Dear Zack,
If by some miracle you are reading this…it means a miracle has really occurred. You were really going to do it. You had said your goodbyes, and it was time. But something happened. Something changed in your heart. Maybe it was someone. Maybe it was God. Whatever it was, I am so glad you have another chance to smile, another chance to spread the good news, another chance to hug your dog, another chance to be crazy, another chance to make someone laugh, another chance to sing, another chance to feel everything around you, another chance to love and be loved! What a great joy that must be.
Now, there’s a chance that someone else is reading this. Whoever you are, it is my hope that you keep this letter forever. Use it to remind yourself that in times of great despair, to confide in God, your family, and your friends. I chose to hold everything in. It was a choice that became habit over the course of time. This was my choice.
Life is not a game, love is not a game, friendships are forever, forgiveness is forever, love is unconditional, and happiness is unconditional. These things I know to be true. Hold on to these truths. You will waiver, you will stumble, and sometimes you will fall. Enjoy the fall. Seriously. Soak it all in. I was in a free fall for the last 7 years. I knew I was falling, but it became so normal that I started smiling again, I could feel the wind in my hair, the rush of adrenaline, the excitement of the uncertainty, and I eventually forgot that one day, I’d hit the ground. Well…here we are. The impact wasn’t at all like you’d imagine. Some people think that when you fall from such great heights, the impact will kill you instantly. Nothing happens instantly. While I’m speaking somewhat metaphorically, I literally hit the ground about a month ago. I am 26 years old. Seems like nothing to the average person, but it was long enough to hurt. It was long enough to conclude that I’m not getting up again. It was long enough to hope that someone would come along and rescue me. It feels like being stuck in the snow on a mountain with no food, water, or protection from the elements. You can hear the search party calling for you, but you can’t cry for help because you don’t have the energy. You know any moment could be your last, so you try not to close your eyes.
This was a great ride. I regret jumping. I wish I had never jumped. I don’t even remember jumping. Maybe I was pushed. Maybe I lost my balance. We will never know when the free fall began, but it was a long time ago. I’ve just now hit the bottom & taken my last breath of air. God gave me more than I wanted, more than I needed, and I am eternally grateful.
May the love of God be ever present in your life. My hope is that you find appreciation for everything, an acceptance for that which you do not understand, and I want you to learn to ask for help when you need it.

If you just read that letter (and you’re not totally crying your face off like I am), you can see that I had completely decided to kill myself. It was just over. BUT, you can also see that I was clinging to something – otherwise, I wouldn’t have written any of that. Looking back, it’s very clear that God was in the middle of that storm. He picked me up on that day, and He still holds me today.

I remember the weight of those cold tears streaming down my face as I struggled to breathe. I rolled out of bed and fell to my knees. Deep down, I still knew God existed. My soul knew there would be an eternal price to pay if I killed myself that day. So I cried out a final prayer, in total desperation. It was more of an internal prayer...my throat was too heavy to say audible words. In my heart, I asked for a miracle.

Immediately, a peaceful presence entered the darkness of my bedroom. I felt compelled to grab my Bible, and it fell open to Matthew 11:28.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

I knew Jesus was with me. He was right there kneeling beside me, picking up the broken pieces of my life. In that very moment, I surrendered everything to Him. My entire body was consumed with chills, and I just knew. There are no words for the peace and hope that surrounded my heart that day - I still carry it today. It's a quiet confidence that Jesus is with me. That He loves me. That everything will be ok. That life is worth it - even though it doesn't always make sense. That I can give every worry and burden to Him, because He cares for me.

I've been clean and sober since that day. September 29, 2014.

It hasn't been easy. I went to AA meetings every single night for a year. I still go sometimes. Jesus is the cornerstone of my life. He's my hope, and He's my joy. He gave me a new identity, and today, I walk in total freedom from addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. My past is forgiven, and I'm walking into eternity.

God is in the middle of everything, whether I choose to see it or not. The craziest part is that I’m truly grateful for all of it – especially the rough stuff. I now have a passion and a purpose in life, and I will continue fighting every day, because I love this life of freedom.

If you’re struggling with a similar darkness in your life, it’s honestly ok. But don’t you dare give up. My sobriety means everything to me, and I would not trade it for anything. If you'd like help, reach out anytime.

Thank you so much for your love and support. I gave up everything to run this non-profit and share this hope with the world.

Please click here if you'd like to support this mission.

Jesus is the real deal, and He's transforming lives every single day. To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!

-Zack Gudzan


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10 comments

  • You can see the brightness of the Lord in your eyes and in your smile! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

    • Elle
  • Hey Zack, Wow I don’t even know where to start! I love what you are doing and really want to be part of it somehow getting your story, ministry and message to the east coast. I have been helping women with alcohol addictions for over a year now with a group based out of London. It is becoming somewhat of a fad over there to become a “Teetotaler” and they even have raves and festivals that are completely alcohol free which is unreal. I wish they had something like that over here in the States! I love your ministry, I wouldn’t have labeled myself an alcoholic either but more like you, just the party never stopped. I had that reputation of being the “fun” girl but I was so unhappy. Looked for love in all the wrong places and even though my faith was basically served to me on a silver platter, I decided I wanted to go out and do all the “bad” stuff first. So my 20’s was filled with 4 day camping music festivals, jam bands, and scenes were drugs were a plenty. I never had a drug addiction but I can see in my personality that that could have been possible. Anyways…. ALL that to say, that I am sick of being or trying to be this person. I am now devoted to helping others find their way too but never found a ministry that quite fit. Yours is the first I came across where you are so outward about your faith and God. I pray all the time and that relationship is why I am where I am today. Your story just resonates so much with me. It has been such a gift to help other women but I feel like God is calling me to help others within more of the faith/God based realm. I teach meditation and that is really cool and absolutely helpful but I feel like I want to share my faith and I can’t within the sober circles i am in now. Looking to totally get connected to awesome 20-30 year old peeps who have a relationship with God and are looking to live the clean life. Again, Thank you! thank you for sharing your story. Let me know if I can help somehow! Praying for your mission and this sober movement. You rock!

    • Elise Christine
  • Hello Zack,

    This is Colleen. I’m not sure if you remember me, but my fiancé Reece and I remember you from some time we all spent together in Myrtle Beach a few years back. I had no clue you were struggling with addiction and I am very sorry to hear about the pain you have gone through. I truly believe Reece came across this site at a time when I needed to hear your words – I am completely touched. I have a sister that is a few years sober and a brother that has been battling addiction for years. He has almost lost his life four times and our family has done and tried everything to help him. We are currently at another crossroads with him, hoping to get him back into treatment. Reading your note to yourself and seeing how you are doing now – it gives me so much hope. I am always looking for ways to bring awareness to addiction, this heinous powerful disease, and for ways to help others. I will look out for ways we can support cltivate! Thank you – you’ve already helped more people than you know! Sincerely, Colleen

    • Colleen
  • All I know is that God picks some pretty strange people to do his work. Abraham was old and without children but God formed his kingdom from his descendants. Moses couldn’t talk well, yet he negotiated his people out of Egypt.

    And then there is Zack. Stay tuned…….

    • David CLark
  • sometimes life’s most difficult challenges are a blessing in disguise. Those moments force us to find strength outside of ourselves and help us grow so that we can become stronger for the people we love. I am happy to know that in the depth of your pain you reached out to God and that He is working in your life. Always rooting for you and wishing you the best life has to offer!

    • Dianella