Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story by Brian Welch wasn’t on my radar. I had heard of Korn, but I was never into metal music, never heard them, and did not know any of the band members’ names. But this book caught my eye when it was on sale for a low price for both the Kindle and audiobooks versions, so I thought I’d check it out. I was wary at first about how explicit he might have been about his former life, but Amazon reviews assured that he wasn’t graphic about it.
Brian grew up as an ordinary kid in Bakersfield, CA, who had a passion for music and was a part of several bands before Korn came together and exploded onto the music scene. He first tried drugs at the age of eight with a friend but didn’t get into them heavily until later on. By young adulthood he drank heavily, was addicted to meth, and sometimes tried other drugs. He says that meth was considered a “dirty’ drug but Xanax and prescription drugs were more respectable. He describes an ER doctor bringing drugs to the band, getting high with them all night, and then getting ready to go back to work at the ER the next morning (I would have hated to have been that guy’s patient).
Though he attained his childhood dream of becoming a rock star and loved performing, he found he was unsatisfied. There was an undercurrent of anger in his life beginning with his father’s “Mr. Hyde” moments and his own insecurities from being bullied as child. That was an aspect that caught me by surprise: I think we sometimes think of drug addicts as into it for pleasure and partying and don’t realize that they want the same things everyone else does: a home, a family, someone to love. When relationships fail and when life’s problems surface, it hurts them as deeply as anyone else, and they try to deal with the pain by anesthetizing it with drugs. But the drugs wear off, leaving them depressed, and they know they should stop, but they’re hooked. I also hadn’t realized that meth could leave a user severely depressed as they came off of it, perpetuating a vicious cycle of taking the drug again to numb the pain.
Brian quit several times, but after a time would try it again “just once,” and then “once in a while,” and before long he would be using regularly again. And before we scowl at that, we need to remember how often we’ve decided we need to “cut down” on sweets or TV or social media or whatever, only to pick it all back up again at the slightest provocation. It’s hard enough to break any habit, but when a drug is tailor-made to be physically and mentally addicting, getting off of it for good seems hopeless.
When Brian heard his five year old daughter singing around the house one of Korn’s songs about being addicted to sex, he felt something had to change, but he was so foggy from drug use that he couldn’t think clearly. He was suicidal much of the time that he wasn’t on drugs and felt that the drugs would do him in at some point, but he felt powerless to change anything.
Then God created a perfect storm to draw him to Himself: a real estate business partner who was a Christian shared a Scripture verse with him that spoke to his heart (Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”), he began to run into old friends who had become Christians, he attended a church service with a friend, and he gradually came to a point of believing for himself on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I was almost in tears at this part of the book.
Around the same time he felt he should quit Korn to focus on raising his daughter, and the rest of the book tells of his early “baby steps” as a Christian, his growth, trips to Israel and India, and working on new music.
Sometimes when a celebrity professes faith, we can be wary because we don’t know exactly what they’ve heard or why they’re responding, but as far as I can tell, Brian’s faith is the real deal. Do I agree with every little thing he wrote and has done since? No. 🙂 Some things he wrote caused me to think, “Wow, that’s some good insight,” but then a few paragraphs later I’d wince a bit. He had only been a believer for a couple of years or so when he wrote this, so I pray he will continue to grow in the Lord.
I know some of you would want to be forewarned that there is a bit of bad language scattered through the book. Most of you who have read here long know that the “f word” is usually a deal-breaker for me in books and films, particularly when it is thrown in gratuitously. It’s not just that I don’t like it (though I don’t: I loathe it), but I don’t want words like that floating around in my brain that can then come to the forefront at an inopportune moment, and the more I read them, the more likely it is that they’ll do just that. On the other hand, I have relatives who use such words, and I have to delete about every other post of theirs on Facebook because I don’t want that language on my screen and in my mind, but I can’t unfriend them, because they’re family, after all. I don’t want to be aloof from them and make them feel like they have to clean up their act before I’ll interact with them: that is the complete opposite of the grace of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we have to take people where they are. Brian did say at some point in the book that God was working on him about cussing, and hopefully as he grows in the Lord, God will speak to him about the language of Christians.
There is another issue I wanted to comment on mainly because I feel a responsibility when I mention a book here, because sometimes people have bought books on my recommendation, and I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken idea that I am promoting something in a book that I’m not. That issue in this book is speaking in tongues. The pastor and church Brian was initially under were not charismatic, but later he came under some charismatic teaching and followed it. I know there are good people on both sides of this issue: some of our relatives that we are closest to in other doctrinal issues we would differ from in this. I don’t doubt anyone’s salvation or sincerity if they speak in tongues (though we have had people doubt ours because we don’t), but I personally believe there is a good case for believing that some of the miraculous “sign” gifts like tongues, prophecies, etc., ceased once the Bible was completed. I wrestled with this a lot in my early Christian days after reading The Cross and the Switchblade and being exposed to some charismatic television. I even called in to the TV show one day, and I don’t remember if the person on the line asked me if I was saved or believed in the Lord: they asked me if I had spoken in tongues. They tried to get me to come out with a few syllables to get things going. Alone in my room I prayed that if this was something God had for me, that He would allow it to happen, and I was disappointed when nothing happened. It took me a while to realize He answered my prayer, and that He didn’t have that for me. I don’t think that the modern charismatic movement is much like the tongues-speaking in the book of Acts: there was no trying to work it up by mouthing a few syllables there, and according to Acts 2, the tongues were actual languages that the speaker didn’t know but the hearer did. I do agree with Brian when he writes that God is not going to love you more if you do or don’t speak in tongues.
I would also say to him, if I could, that though I understand his frustration over factions of Christians fighting over doctrinal issues, that doesn’t mean they’re not important and that we can chuck them overboard. The Bible has much to say about sound doctrine, and the apostles spent a lot of time correcting false doctrine. We are all at different stages of our understanding level and maturity level, so there are going to be differences of opinion. I’ve mentioned ere before that years ago when I read 50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe, I was struck by the fact that many of the people he mentioned were on opposites sides of the fence on some issues, yet God mightily used all of them. That doesn’t mean those issues aren’t important: each of us is responsible to study them out before the Lord. But people can differ on some side issues and still be friends and love God and be greatly used by Him.
Brian’s style of writing is conversational and easy to read. I was immensely blessed by hearing how God brought Brian to Himself. I was a little dismayed to read that in recent years he has gone back to playing with Korn, in that the lifestyle as well as the lyrics of their old songs (at least what little I know of them from what he says of them) do not seem conducive to Christian life and growth. I hope he’s not setting himself up for a fall. Yes, as he said in an interview, Jesus did hang out with sinners, but the Bible also tells us there are some things to flee and some things to follow. But I do pray he continues to grow in the Lord and to shine for Him, and I wish him all the best.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)