Pastor Who Spent Years on Drugs Recalls Tough Past, Journey to Christ

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A man who spent years addicted to drugs turned his life around and is now helping others get their own lives back on track.


Jay Haizlip speaks to parishioners in downtown Los Angeles (Credit: The Sanctuary)

Jay Haizlip grew up in Alabama, and while he is now a pastor, he took a very unconventional path to get here.

In his teens, Jay moved to Southern California, gained celebrity status in the skate world and appeared on the cover of Thrasher magazine.

While his future looked bright, everything changed when he started doing drugs.

“The first time I ever got introduced to cocaine, I was 15-years-old,” Haizlip told KTLA 5.

His first line of cocaine turned into a 12-year addiction.

“Even though I was extremely addicted, I was functional, I was one of those rare breeds of guys that could stay up for two days and still go to work.”

By his 20’s, he was married with his first child and knew things had to change.  That’s when Haizlip believes a higher power stepped in.

“I was actually on my way to make a drug deal and God put a man in my path that shared Jesus with me in a way I never heard anyone talk about Jesus,” Haizlip said.  That moment changed his life.

“That night I opened up my heart and I prayed a simple prayer of asking him to come into my life and that was the last time I ever got high.  And that was over 20 years ago,” Haizlip said.

Breaking free from the shackles of drugs, Jay devoted himself to God and started The Sanctuary – a Christian church based in Westminster.

Last year, he started a new congregation in downtown Los Angles.  Every Sunday, the second floor of the Alexandria Hotel is filled with music, people and prayer.

Aside from giving his weekly sermons inside the hotel, Jay takes his message to the streets – talking to people, praying with them, and inviting them to service.

“I think we have found a balance in our church, where we don’t enable people to stay unhealthy and dysfunctional but at the same time, we don’t condemn them as they work out the process of trying to get better and become healthy,” Haizlip said.

Jay can also be seen on the Oxygen Network reality series “Preachers of L.A.

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