“I just wanted to be cool,” says Samuel Karlson, a Building Repair technician at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Karlson says that he was raised in a Pentecostal church, but as he got older he last interest. At Paradise Valley High School, Karlson says that all the Christians were considered geeks, and he had a strong desire to be popular. He says he would do just about anything to fit in.
At the time, Karlson did not realize that it was the miserable state he found himself in after his acid trip, that would cause him to become the devoted Christian he is today.
“The first time I smoked pot was in seventh grade,” says Karlson. He doesn’t remember how, but one of his friends got some pot. Karlson and his buddy went to Look-Out Mountain Park by his house. He says he was scared to death about taking drugs, but he did it anyways. He was really uncomfortable with the way he felt being high.
“But it grows on you,” he says. “One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re caught up in a hole.”
Karlson says that he was not a drug addict. He says he never needed any specific drug. He and his friends just did whatever they had on hand whenever they felt like it, but never a specific drug.
What Karlson really liked was alcohol. The first time he got drunk was when he was a freshman in high school. It was at a party his older brother threw while his parents were out of town. He says he remembers getting so drunk that he can’t even remember what happened. His sister had to cone in and check on him periodically through out the night to make sure he wasn’t choking on his vomit.
Although Karlson’s first experience with drinking wasn’t the most pleasant, he did enjoy the way he felt drunk.
Karlson continued drinking, partying and having fun. But soon it wasn’t just at parties that he and his friends would get high or drunk. This soon became their lifestyle. Karlson says it didn’t matter what they were doing- going to school, hanging out, going to the mall, skateboarding or anything.
One day he got arrested and expelled from school for getting caught doing drugs off campus during lunch. But that didn’t stop him. He went back and forth between high schools, getting kicked out of one and going to another.
Then one night he and his buddies tried acid. Taking acid was the most miserable thing he had ever done. Karlson says it wasn’t like the typical high he had felt with other drugs. Everything around him was freaky. Any little movement would make him jump. Things started moving, and he had no control over them.
His friend had a poster hanging up on his bedroom wall of different marijuana leaves, and all the leaves started changing colors. Karlson went into his friend’s bathroom, and the butterflies on the toilet seat cover started flying. He was filled with fear, and he hated every moment of it.
The drug lasted all night, and he didn’t get home until 8 or 9 in the morning. When he got home Karlson said his dad, who is a very hard worker, told him he needed to paint the shed in their backyard. Karlson says he remembers trying to paint the shed, but instead he broke down crying.
He started thinking about how his life used to be, before he stopped going to church, before he started partying, drinking and doing drugs. He started thinking about the camping and hunting trips he used to go on with his pastor and friends from church.
“I remembered how happy I was and how peaceful life used to be,” says Karlson.
For three days following his acid trip, Karlson was too scared to leave his house. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, he says now that that trip was one of the biggest blessings God has ever given him. Even though he wasn’t ready yet to turn his life back to God, from that point on, nothing was fun anymore.
His life just kept getting more and more miserable. Karlson says from that point on, he quit doing drugs and turned completely to alcohol. But he was no longer drinking for the fun of getting drunk. Now he was drinking to escape the way he felt inside and to forget the horrible memory of his acid trip.
He says he was so depressed that if he didn’t have a fear of hell he knows he would have killed himself. “I didn’t even feel like a person anymore,” says Karlson. He did whatever he wanted, but nothing made him happy.
“To some degree I may have been pretty popular,” says Karlson, “but my buddies and I also had a lot of enemies.”
He says one time he got into an all-out brawl with one of his good buddies because the guy jokingly flicked the cigarette Karlson had in his mouth into the air. “It was the middle of the night, in the middle of the street, and we were slugging it out,” says Karlson.
Karlson says that although he was filled with so much hate and so much violence, still he continued on this way. Every day he would think, “Tonight I am just going to drink one more time with my buddies, and then I’ll tell them that I am going back to church.”
Then one night Karlson went out drinking with his buddies. He came home drunk and went to sleep. Two hours later he woke up scared to death. He could feel the same paranoia he felt the night he did acid.
“I was so scared I went to my mom’s room and woke her up,” says Karlson.
All he could think about was getting to wherever God was. He says he wanted to pray with his mom at the church because he figured that must be where God was.
“I didn’t realize that I could talk to God anywhere,” says Karlson. He says that he was so desperate he had his mom call up their pastor, David Abbott, to ask if they could go to the church to pray. Despite the time of night, his pastor told them to come over to his house and they would pray together.
When Karlson and his mother got there, Bro. Abbott began talking to him about repentance. Karlson doesn’t remember everything that happened, but he remembers that he prayed until he prayed back through to the Holy Ghost, until he felt God’s spirit come back inside of him.
“I felt like a person again,” says Karlson. He says that to this day one of his most vivid memories was the van ride back home from his pastor’s house. By this time it was about 3 a.m. but he felt such peace. He says it was like the calm after a storm.
When Karlson got home, he started cleaning out his room. He got rid of clothes, music, posters, anything that had to do with his old lifestyle. He says that he threw away his cigarettes and never again had a craving for them. Karlson says that he never went on a 12-step plan to help him with his addictions. He just surrendered his life completely to God and obeyed his word.
“My mom never gave up on me,” says Karlson. “It’s like she was just waiting for me to come to her that night. My mom is my angel.”
Today Karlson is aspiring to be in the ministry at Landmark Pentecostal Church in Scottsdale Arizona. He is involved in the ACTs program and teaches the Wednesday night boy’s bible class. He says that his career goal is to be a preacher.
“I don’t think that I would ever be happy doing anything else,” says Karlson.
In February of 2009, Karlson got married. Him and his wife are very involved in outreach and the children’s ministry. The week they got back from their honeymoon, the newley weds immediately began helping pick children up for church.
It amazes Karlson that God would still forgive him after all he did. He says he was raised going to church, in a good home, with good parents, but he threw it all away.
"and He made something, out of my messed up life.”