I AM SECOND Real Stories. Changing Lives.
By DOUG BENDER DAVE STERRETT
Copyright © 2012 e3 Partners Ministry
All right reserved.
Chapter One Rock Stars and Jesus
Brian "Head" Welch
With dozens of tattoos painted across his body, rock star Brian Welch, better known as "Head," sat in the silence of a dark room. Head wore black. He sat in a white chair, with dark eye shadow, long braided hair, white hair ties, and a tattoo of a cross with a tear near his eye. He looked up and told his story.
"Music is everything to me," he said. "Music is my gift.
"I remember after the release of Korn's first album, we were on tour with Ozzy Osborne. During the middle of the tour, our album went gold. Ozzy and his wife, Sharon, gave us champagne after we got offstage. We were surprised, because Ozzy never talked to us the whole tour except for then, but that night, Ozzy and Sharon congratulated us. That's when I first felt like a rock star. It was just surreal. I didn't even know what to say, but it felt good to be a rock star."
Reminiscence flashed across his face. Brian "Head" Welch achieved success. He became one of heavy metal's great lead guitarists. He toured the world with international rock sensation Korn. But he had regrets.
"I worshipped a lot of stuff," Head said. "Worship means love and I loved a lot of things. I loved partying. I loved music. I loved money. I worshipped money. I had been brought up where money was important. Where I came from, you needed money to be respected. If you set yourself up right, then you're all good. I had a mentality where I had to get a certain amount of money so I wouldn't have to worry. Money was my thing."
But money wasn't enough.
"There was a high when I went onstage and saw all these people loving my music and loving me. There were all these girls after me and people worshipping and going nuts for me. I was puffed up on the inside. I started thinking, I'm important. That's when the drugs crept in. Cocaine, methamphetamines crept in."
Brian's voice weakened, thinking of the mess his life became. His vision blurred and he looked away.
"At first it was only alcohol, getting drunk," he explained with a quiet pain in his voice. "All of us in Korn drank. We would wait until show time and drink a six-pack. Some of us would start drinking during the show. Some of us would finish thirty beers and we'd be proud of it."
The music blared. The guitar roared. The lights and the volume filled their senses. The crowd screamed for more. The show filled their veins with adrenaline. Head's long braided hair swayed with the thump of the drums and the cry of his guitar. But it wasn't enough. The show would end. And the void would stare at him.
"I couldn't let the night end. I couldn't bear the silence."
That's when the drugs came.
Head looked across the crowd as they worshipped him and his music and thought, If these people really knew me, they would not be worshipping me. If they got up close, they would see I am just like them.
"Maybe the drugs were an extension of that feeling of performance," Head admitted. "Onstage, I was on this high and I did not want to come down. Our music with Korn felt therapeutic, like a cult that the audience would enter just to feel what we felt. I would play and we would scream, and it was a wild, energetic experience. We connected with our fans."
Head thought back to the thousands swaying to his music, cheering at his rifts. His soul wailed through his guitar. The pain of his childhood and the mess of his life vibrated through the strings. His head rocked and his soul ached. But the crowd felt his pain, and knowing that somehow eased the soreness. They were connected.
"Our music was about getting wild and sharing that energy. Our lyrics dealt with abuse, not getting along with the parents, childhood issues, getting picked on. Our fans related. They felt our struggles and they felt synergy and wanted to fight back."
The drugs helped Head hold onto that feeling. They brought relief, but the feeling never lasted. The happiness never stayed. Then he had his daughter. Things were going to change.
"My daughter Jennea came into the world and it was such a euphoric feeling. Jennea was beautiful. I loved her. I thought my life could feel that way forever. The whole thing just felt spiritual. I thought I was going to be happy forever."
Head remembered seeing his daughter for the first time and the feeling of love overwhelming him. But he also loved the attention he got onstage. He loved the yells of the crowd. Soon the long tours and the heavy partying began wearing on his family and on his relationships.
"I was on the road with Metallica, Kid Rock, and System of Down when my wife called. She was freaking out."
"I can't do this," she said with tears in her voice. "When are you going to come home?"
"But I couldn't just fly home in the middle of a tour."
This continued for weeks. She would call, hysterical, begging him to come home. Then the calls stopped. Head tried calling home but nobody answered.
"I started freaking out. I couldn't talk to my daughter," Head said recalling the pain. "I called my home and started threatening the answering machine, until someone finally answered."
"Who is this?" Head shouted. The voice was unfamiliar.
The other end was silent. The stranger wouldn't answer. Panic set in. He had no idea who was at his house. He didn't know where his wife was, and he didn't know where his daughter was.
Days later, a friend who lived down the street called Head. He worked at a nearby pawn shop. "Head, these skinhead punk rock dudes keep coming here trying to pawn Korn equipment that I've seen at your house."
Head was filled with anger and confusion, unable even to go home and figure things out.
One day his wife called again.
"Brian, I'm leaving you," she said. "I don't want to have anything to do with you. I got a guy. He's just a friend, but he's going to protect me from you so you don't hurt me while I leave you."
"What are you talking about? Don't leave!" Head cried.
He felt his life spinning out of control. Memories flashed back of his childhood. His home life was not perfect, but his parents stayed married. Surely, he could make things work with his wife. He thought about his dad. His dad drank a bit. Sometimes he had anger issues with his dad. They fought on occasion, but they worked it out. Twenty years later, as he held the phone, he was shocked by what his wife was telling him and the coldness of her voice. He convinced himself that he could fix this.
"Don't leave me," he cried. "Look, my parents are still together and I think we can work this out too. I have a three-day break on the tour and I'm coming home. We're going to talk about this. Please, I need you to look me in the eye and talk about this." Tears burst down his face as he pleaded with his wife.
"Brian, I don't want to see you," she responded. "And I don't want to talk with you. I want nothing to do with you. I've got a babysitter that will watch Jennea."
"I became a single father right then," said Head.
From that point on, Head took care of Jennea. She travelled with him on his tours. Head made sure that Jennea was safe.
"Big, beefy security guards would take her on stroller rides while we were on tour," he recalled. "I still drank but not near as much."
Head paused, shook his head, and with shame and anger written across his face, he said, "But I couldn't stay sober. I didn't know how."
Drugs and alcohol soon swept back into his life.
"I had sworn that I would never do methamphetamines again," he said. "I saw what it did to my child's mother. It just took her feelings away and made her leave her own child. I just wanted my wife dead. I wanted to kill her for what she did. I thought my wife was the scum of the earth. How could she do drugs and let the drugs win her like that?"
Even though Head swore he would never do drugs again, he confessed, "I ended up with an everyday crippling addiction to methamphetamine, and everything that I said about my ex-wife came true for me. I sunk to the lowest gutter I could ever think of. I would spend time with my kid and I would still be on it because I needed it to function. I would get up in the morning and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and snort meth and then take her to school."
"I told myself that I had everything under control, that I could handle it. But I couldn't. My life was just spinning out of control."
One evening before show time, Head looked at his daughter, Jennea. She was singing. Her little voice was beautiful. "Wait? What are you singing?" Head could not believe it. His daughter was singing one of his own songs. She was singing "A.D.I.D.A.S., All Day I Dream About Sex."
The full weight of his crumbling life fell on him, "What am I doing? I'm a junkie, my daughter is singing 'all day I dream about sex,' and I'm going to die."
As Head recounted his story, he leaned forward in his chair, stretched out his arms, and screamed. Everyone listening to his story jumped at his burst of emotion. The anger and frustration of so much wasted life overwhelmed him.
But then his face changed. His countenance lifted as he began to talk about his friend Eric, who gave him hope in that dark time of life.
"I don't mean to be weird with you," Eric said with shyness written in his eyes. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I felt the Scripture jump out at me. I've never done this before, so I don't really know how to do this, but I felt like this would mean something to you. It's Matthew 11:28: 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'"
This Bible verse struck a powerful chord in Head's soul. He had tried everything to get pleasure out of this life, but he had come up empty. He reached for the stars and saw his wildest dreams come true. He got more money and more fame than he ever thought would come from playing a guitar. But the burden never left. The hole in his heart never filled. His life spiraled out of control.
He wanted peace. He wanted rest. But he couldn't find it. He thought the path was pleasure, wealth, or success. When his daughter was born, he thought maybe satisfaction was in being a father, but that, too, failed him.
"I remember, all tweaked out, looking up in the dictionary 'weary.' I looked up 'burdened,' and I pulled the Scripture apart."
"I'm weary and burdened, and I need rest for my soul," he said to himself. He felt the verse cry into his soul.
Eric and his wife invited Head to church a couple weeks later. He saw the verse again. The pastor was speaking on it. He felt God calling him. "I didn't know if it was real, but I said a prayer to receive Christ at the church. Then, I went home and did what I always did. I neglected my daughter and took my drugs."
"Jesus, you got to take these drugs from me," he said in one last desperate prayer to God. "Search me right now. Search my heart. You know I want to stop. Take them away. I can't do it on my own."
The phrase "Come to me" rolled through his head. It wouldn't leave. He kept hearing Jesus call out to him.
"Suddenly, I felt like Heaven invaded Earth, all around me, and I was just in awe of the feeling of ecstatic bliss. I looked up and I was shaking." He felt God. He couldn't explain it. He couldn't define it, but he knew God was there. He knew God heard his prayer.
"Father! Father!" That's all he could get out of his mouth.
"I felt so much fatherly love from heaven and it was like, 'I don't condemn you. I love you. I love you.' It was just love, and instantly that love from God came into me. It was so powerful that the next day I threw away all my drugs, and I quit Korn. I said, 'I'm quitting Korn, and I'm going to raise my kid the right way.' I got the love from God coming into me, and then it came out of me to my kid. It changed me."
Head smiled when he reflected about his daughter.
"My heart was so changed that I said to my daughter, 'Jennea, Daddy's going to be home with you all the time. I'm quitting my career.' And her face lit up; she felt so special.
"God used her to save me," he admitted. When he saw his daughter's life heading down the same path that his life took, he knew he needed to change. He knew he needed help. It was Jennea who helped him hear God's voice. It was then that he finally understood that Jesus offered the purpose and rest he so desperately was seeking.
"When you finally have an understanding that Jesus is everything, and that Jesus can take all that stuff from you and that he takes care of you, you don't have to worry about things anymore. Like, what is life? How did we get here? Where do we go after death? He gives that understanding to you, by faith. He shows you that you're right where you belong, and that feeling is the most incredible feeling in the world and the universe."
"My dream came true way more than I ever dreamed about. I made more money. I played bigger shows. I had houses, cars. I tried drugs. I tried sex. I tried everything to try to get pleasure out of this life. But in the end it was only God that gave it to me.
"My music used to scream about all my pain in the past. But now I'm screaming about where all the anger and partying got me and how God saved me from myself.
"I thought that I could fulfill my life with all this stuff. I used to think if my dreams could just come true—well, they came true, but they didn't fulfill me. I got so down I just wanted to die. I thought to myself, What's this life, this life doesn't matter, and who will care if I die? Am I going to get clean and raise my kid so she could be miserable like I am and not have any answers for life?"
Brian admits that in many ways life after Jesus has been harder. Many of his greatest fans became his critics when he quit the band. But Brian knows Jesus does not offer to take away the noise; what he offers is rest as the city roars and as the night shrieks of trouble. He offers comfort in the middle of the craziness. He offers love, purpose, and meaning. He offers what no one else can. He offers rest.
"But when Christ came in, that feeling he gives is the gift of understanding life. Everything was created by Christ and for Christ. We are created to be with him. Being with Christ is the most incredible feeling because you're where you belong. And contentment is given to you in life because you don't have to look anywhere else and you're exactly where you need to be. And the question about life is answered."
Money will numb the pain, fame will soften the noise, pleasure will hide the terror, for a while. But it won't last. Eventually the screams of pain, the prospect of death, and the terror of every person's failings and longings will waken them to the obvious. Like Head, one day it will all fail and everyone will be left naked in the face of trouble. But Jesus offers rest in the middle of it all.
In 1994 Korn's self titled album debuted and rose to define the nu Rock genre of the 1990s. the band went on to win two grammy awards and sell more than 30 million records worldwide. after more than a decade with the band, Brian "Head" Welch left the band in 2005 to be a better dad to his daughter.
I Saw the Sign
Daniel Montenegro is a twenty-five-year-old Texan. Two large earrings create a hole in each earlobe the size of a quarter. The word Blessed is written in cursive across his neck. His appearance was confident and loud, but the tone in his voice was shy. He smiled.
"My childhood was happy. I have a lot of good memories," he said. "I was very close to my family, but things became difficult when my parents separated."
"This isn't an excuse for my bad choices," he paused to clarify. "But sometimes, it got hard without my dad to lead.
"In seventh grade, a friend asked me to smoke pot. I was told in school that drugs were bad and they would kill you. I wanted to try it anyway. I didn't believe anything my authorities in school told me."
Daniel rebelled against authority. He buried himself in as many drugs as possible. He reasoned that if his authorities lied about drugs, what else were they lying about? His progression into drugs continued throughout his high school years.
Excerpted from I AM SECOND by DOUG BENDER DAVE STERRETT Copyright © 2012 by e3 Partners Ministry. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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