Vic’s Victory: A recovering drug addict shares his story

By on July 26, 2016

“Vic’s Victory” is one in a monthly series on the addiction crisis facing our society. The series is written by Janice Ballenger, who works at Retreat at Lancaster County, a premiere 160-bed addiction treatment center in Ephrata. Working closely with addicts, she has a burning passion to raise awareness and offer hope to all.


Vic’s Victory: As told by a life-long Ephrata resident

In the decades that spawned the Vietnam War; Star Wars; lava lamps; Pac Man; Rubik Cubes and Swatch watches, Vic was among many doing things other than having an interest in the above. A lifetime resident of Ephrata, he recently reached out to offer hope to all as he graciously shared his personal story:

First of all, my parents were caring and loving. My dad didn’t have much schooling, so the two things he wanted us to do were graduate and get a haircut. My parents had nothing to do with my decisions as to what I did. What I did was my fault. My parents just drank alcohol a little bit, not very much. I read Janice’s article, ‘Beth’s Story,’ in the Ephrata Review and felt so bad for Beth’s family, so I wanted to share my story and how God and AA saved me. If I can give one person hope, my purpose in life will be fulfilled.

I was born an epileptic in Ephrata. My parents took my brother, sister and me to the United Methodist Church. But in 1972 they divorced. Dad remarried and our step-mother made us go to the Church of the Nazarene. I didn’t like it at all. My ‘new’ parents took us out to eat at Kip’s Bar and Restaurant on Friday nights. They would sit at the bar and drink while we sat in the back and ate. Back in those days, that was not considered unusual. Around 1975 the friends I was hanging out with had been drinking for years and I didn’t know it. When I found out, I decided to try drinking alcohol. I started stealing beers out of my parent’s refrigerator. I was drinking more and more, and now was adding wine and whiskey along with my beers. One night a friend offered me a joint of marijuana, so I tried it and I liked it. This all continued, but I somehow managed to graduate in the 1970s from Ephrata High School.

After graduation I got a job at Moyer’s in Ephrata and started drinking different beers at different bars all over town. Then I became bored with that. So I began testing other drugs like acid, cocaine, uppers, downers, lots of speed, and all sorts of drugs. You name it, I did it. Just some of the drugs I did at least once included:

Marijuana: Columbian; Thai Sticks; Killer Weed, weed treated with embalming fluid; Panama Red and Red Buds.

Hashes: Hash Oil, hash treated with opium; Lebanese Blonde; Black hash with opium.

Acids: LSD; Purple Haze; Orange Sunshine; Blue Barrel, a 4-way window pane of LSD and crack cocaine; Match Head Tick; Mescaline.

Barbiturates: Valium; Seconal; Yellow Jackets; Quaaludes; Percocet; Darvocet; Codeine tabs; Morphine; Vicodin.

Amphetamines: Brown and Clear; Black Beauties and others. I learned later that amphetamines and meth were given to the German soldiers in WWII for their stimulant and performance-enhancing effects. I also injected anything that I could find, including crystal meth, cocaine, and heroin.

I would hide behind the bins at Moyer’s to do our drugs. By 1978 I was drinking an entire bottle of whiskey, doing drugs and smoking two to four pack of cigarettes a day, along with multiple visits to the emergency room for seizures. On New Year’s Eve 1978, I went to a party, and did we party! Sadly, two of my friends were found dead the following day. Those were the first two of 15 friends that died during my years of addiction. In 1979 I moved into a local mobile home park. But I still went to outrageous parties with kegs of beer and did a lot of sacrilegious things. I got kicked out of my trailer.

I don’t remember too much about the years between 1980 and 1983. The only thing I do remember is being told, in 1980, that John Lennon had been shot. I lived in a motel in Ephrata. I had to find new drug dealers, as most of my former ones were dead. I was spending a lot of money to feed my addiction. In 1983 I moved into an apartment across from a supermarket with a woman that I knew. Any checks I got from Moyer’s would be spent on drugs, alcohol, rent, and maybe a little food, and in that order. The following year I moved back to the mobile home park with a female that I knew, where the partying continued. Our front door was a revolving drug door. I honestly don’t know how I kept my job at Moyer’s.

The woman that I knew somehow separated from me after a few years. I would drink a half case of beer in an hour, along with a gallon of vodka and doing many bags of pot, cocaine, speed, everything. I wore long sleeved tops to cover my veins and was constantly battling nosebleeds from snorting cocaine. I had to look at the newspaper to know what day it was. Because of the speed, I would be up for many, many nights with no sleep and nothing to do except the same old routine: drugs, alcohol, and now I was reading a Bible I had taken from a motel room.

May 20, 1989, weighing 90 pounds, I woke up in the emergency room, with my Bible in my hand. My last beer had been drunk under the bridge at Moyer’s. I told them about my addictions. My withdrawal started and I was moved upstairs to the “rubber room” in the hospital. From what I remember, my withdrawal was not pleasant. They tried to get me to eat and they gave me my epilepsy medication. Some people get down on their knees and pray for forgiveness. I couldn’t do that because I was too sick. I do remember thinking, “God, if I ever drink or do drugs again, you can commit my soul to Hell.”

After several days my Bible and I were transferred to The Terraces (where the former Foodergong Lodge was). Following my discharge I was taken in by Millie Eisemann. My withdrawals continued until they were almost gone, other than the flashbacks, which remained for several years. I didn’t have a “sponsor.” Christ was and is my sponsor. Staying in their hospitality room, I constantly read my Bible, reading over and over Psalm 16:7 – 11, dwelling on “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me, even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes on the Lord with Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Another member of the Church of the Brethren took me in and I began attending church regularly. I thought of life as like lying on a sidewalk. You can lay on it and stay down or you can get up and walk. I chose to get up and stay up. In 1991, with Millie Eisemann by my side, I found and accepted Christ as my savior. I was even baptized! Twenty-six years later, I am still addicted, but I am addicted to my church and Christ. I am still clean from my addiction to drugs and alcohol. I didn’t write this to brag, boast or anything else. I wrote it just to let those with a drug and/or alcohol addiction know there is hope. I did it, so can you!

Janice Ballenger can be contacted via email at

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