From LSD to Ph.D

It was the first week of September, 1971. I was sixteen years old and already I had earned the nicknames Drug Bear and Iron Man. I could do greater quantities of drugs than any of my friends – and live to brag about it! Yet this time I had gone too far. I had taken enough mescaline for thirty people but my “friends” put me on a bus, sending me home to fend for myself. They thought it was a big joke! Actually it was a matter of life and death.
I became delirious and got off the bus more than a mile from my family’s house on Long Island, New York. As I walked along slowly, I thought the journey would never end. I became disoriented and got lost just two blocks from home. As I slumped to the ground, in mental torment, I felt I had entered a maze from which I could never escape. I thought I had died and gone to hell.

Then, at about 1:30am, a friend of my parents came by, walking his dog. He looked at me with shock as I screamed, “I’m burning in hell!” I was shocked too. “Why is he walking his dog in hell?” I wondered. As soon as he went past, I made a decision: “I’m going to jump in front of the next car that comes by. I can’t take it any longer.” I was losing my mind.

Within minutes, a car came racing around the corner. I jumped into the road directly in front of it and threw my hands in the air. The car came to a screeching halt just inches from my body. It was my parents! The man with the dog had gone to my house and, deeply shaken, told them what he had seen. They had come looking for me and were ready to stop at that very corner. If it had been any other car I would have been killed.

But what was I doing there anyway, stoned out of my head? How did a nice Jewish boy like me get so messed up? And why was I thinking about hell? Let me tell you the story.

New York Times

I was born in New York City in 1955. My father was the senior lawyer in the New York Supreme Court, and he and my mother were as happily married as any couple that I have ever known. My upbringing was typical of many New York, Conservative Jewish children. We moved to Long Island, I played lots of sports, did well at school and basically stayed out of trouble. But something changed. It all began innocently enough . . .

When I was eight years old I started to play drums. My favourite music was rock and, after my Bar Mitzvah in 1968, I got interested in playing in a band. I wanted to be a rock drummer and all my role models were known for their heavy drug use, rebellion and flagrant immorality. I wanted to be like them! So when, at the age of fourteen, I was asked if I wanted to try smoking pot, I was only too happy to oblige. Soon I was taking harder drugs, uppers, downers, and LSD. “I’ll never do anything worse than that,” I thought, but I was deceived! Soon I started shooting speed. I loved it! I was fifteen years old. By the age of sixteen, my school grades had begun to slip, and drugs, rock music, and filthy living were my daily portion.

However, less than a year later, I was living for God and telling people about Jesus, the Messiah and Lord of both Gentile and Jew. Since then I have had the privilege of speaking on university campuses (including Harvard and Yale) and I have written books and articles that have been translated into more than a dozen languages. I have also debated and dialogued with rabbis on radio and TV, earned a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University, lectured as a visiting professor at leading theological institutes and served as president of two Bible colleges. The Creator of the universe is now my Father, Jesus the Messiah is my best and closest Friend and I live my life free of anxiety and fear as the peace and joy of God renew me every day.

“Well,” you might say, “you were just messed up. You were looking for something. You needed to change.”

Messed up Times

To be perfectly truthful, I was messed up, and I was looking for something – but it was not God! And I absolutely did not want to change. I had found my lifestyle, and I loved it! I enjoyed using drugs. I enjoyed my music. I enjoyed fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. What I was looking for was more sinful pleasure and more musical excellence, leading to more recognition as a rock drummer.

As for Jesus, he was no more important to me than Muhammad or any other foreign religious figure. After all, I was Jewish! And, I thought, if there really is a God he knows that, deep down, I have a good heart. If there is a heaven, he’ll surely accept me. In spite of my lying, my drugs, my drinking, my pride, my rebellion, my stealing, my immorality, my filthy mouth and mind, I thought that I was really a pretty good person! Human nature always tries to justify itself. Little did I know then what the Bible says, that though all a man’s ways seem innocent to him, the Lord weighs the heart.

During the spring of 1971, my two best friends (and members of my band) began attending a little gospel-preaching church. Why? Because they liked two girls who went there! Then, in August, I started attending the church too. Why? Because I wanted to pull my friends out! They were beginning to change, they weren’t partying the way they used to, and I didn’t like that. I had to stop them before it was too late. You can guess what happened. I lost the fight! The love of the people I met began to break down my stubborn pride and, totally unknown to me, their prayers began to have an impact. Something started to get under my skin! I actually began to feel guilty about the filthy things I was doing.

Amazingly enough, until that time I had never experienced the slightest remorse for stealing money from my own father, putting my parents through all kinds of grief because of my drug use, double-crossing my best friends, or viciously cutting down anyone I didn’t like with my cruel, sharp tongue. But now, something was beginning to happen. When I couldn’t sleep at night after pumping myself up with methedrine or swallowing several tabs of amphetamine-laced LSD, I started feeling uncomfortable with my lifestyle, seeing myself as more of a jerk than a cool teenager; I began to dread those long night hours alone with a feeling of being unclean, alone with my sin.

I made no connection between this sudden change in my attitude and the prayers of some sincere Christians. However, I made a decision: I wouldn’t use any drugs that kept me up at night! I also stayed away from church for the next three months.

Messianic Times

When I finally returned, in November, something completely unexpected happened to me. For the first time in my life I believed that Jesus had died in my place and had paid the penalty that I deserved. However, this did not strike me as especially good news!

My friends were “Christian” in name, so becoming a Christian in truth didn’t seem to me like such a big religious jump. But how could I, a Jew (albeit a non-religious one), believe in Jesus? At that time, I didn’t realize that Jesus’ Hebrew name was Yeshua, that his mother’s Hebrew name was Miriam, that “Christ” meant “Messiah,” that Jesus came into the world to save his Jewish people, or that he lived and died as a faithful Jew! For me, Jesus was only for the Gentiles.

But I faced a much bigger problem: following Jesus and getting into a right relationship with God meant I had to turn away from my sins and I took too much pleasure in them. Anyway, how could I be a famous rock drummer and a good, clean churchgoer at the same time? Plus, I was too proud to admit that I could be wrong. Some people would rather die than admit they are wrong and I was as stubborn as they come. How I loved to argue; after all, I was the son of an excellent lawyer! Yet somehow, God’s goodness and patience overcame my stubbornness, my pride, my sinful habits and my religious misunderstandings. By the end of 1971 I was a new man! The heavenly Father had intervened in my affairs, causing me to know that I was guilty in his sight, exposing the corruption of my heart and showing me a new and better way.

According to the Scriptures, the first and greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Instead, we find time for business, pleasure, family, friends, sports, entertainment, relaxation, hobbies, education, or whatever else is important to us. But God is not that important to us! He is certainly not the one around whom our lives revolve. If he were, we would find more time and energy for him. He is supposed to come first. And when he does, you will truly live – in this world and in the world to come. Serving God is worth it all!

Michael L Brown

Adapted from From LSD to Ph.D. – My Personal Testimony by Michael L. Brown. The full text can be accessed at

This article appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the Herald

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