Excerpt from the book Filling My Life With Joy by Dr. Larry Manley

My spirit was dead and life had eluded me. Everything had become unbearable. God had made me to be simple and to serve Him, but I made such a mess of things. The whole idea of life was now confusing, and in this forest of my life I learned many things while forgetting most of them. The price of my forgetting would cost me dearly over the years.

My experiences in life have been so disjointed and counterproductive, yet ironically they’ve helped me grow into a vibrant, spiritual awareness that couldn’t have been possible without them. This book documents my journey through both pain and pleasure and will show you through my own actions how pain can become inspiring and pleasure can become destructive. When we neglect our spiritual duties, our lives can come crashing down faster than a rotten tree hit by lightning. Yet when we follow our spiritual duties, we receive joy far beyond anything we could ever hope for.

You will follow me through some of my most humiliating adventures, yet you will also watch me embrace the Lord with a new reverence as I grip the essence of my pain and despair while searching out the true meaning of my life.

Yes, I’m a preacher, a man who speaks the Word of God. Yet I was tempted, often, by enchanted whispers from voices within myself that wanted to lead me off my rightful path. Foolishly, I listened, forgetting my lessons about worshipping false gods.

Born on September 1, 1954, in Seneca, South Carolina, the younger of two boys, my mother, Fannie Mae, was crippled and sickly most all of her life. But by God’s grace she lived to be eighty. She somehow always had a laugh, and she was such a beautiful lady.

My addictions have tormented me for over thirty-five years, and I’m still in occasional torment by them. The insanity people experience in situations like mine is sometimes permanent. It also causes many people who I thought were my friends to separate themselves from me, and I’m okay with that!

My genetic makeup was that of a habitual nature, but I had no idea what I was in for. I guess it all started back in 1971 when I went into the military. Before then, I was just a lonely little country boy who thought he wanted to see the world and leave all of his poverty and loneliness behind. My grandparents who raised me were poor. My mother was sick. And I lived in a forlorn world isolated from city or town life. When I look back on all of this, I can see clearly how it affected the essence in me.

In memory, there are two things that stand out: the boredom of loneliness and the shame of poverty. These two mixtures formed a cocktail of nitro that was to explode into unthinkable actions of destruction for me. None of this was seen in my high school years at Seneca High. But the need for action was stirring in my soul.

It was in my tenth-grade year that I began to run with students who were two grades higher than I and would be graduating soon. This connection of friendship with them only validated my desire to see the world in adventure. I wanted out, so when they graduated I quit school and went into the navy with two of them: Ronnie and Kendall. A year later, I married Brenda who also had graduated that same year and was one of the four of us who ran together. Throughout my life, I’ve always liked women who were older than me.

Brenda bore three sons for me—Adrian, Tico, and Justin—over the twenty-three years that I was married to her. Two weeks after I was in naval boot camp, Ronnie died of spinal meningitis. Of course this devastated me, especially after seeing how the company commander had kicked Ronnie out of bed and treated him when he was sick. I don’t blame Commander McNeil for doing this. He was only doing what he thought was necessary to toughen us up. He apologized to me when I cried before him, requesting to be allowed to take Ronnie’s body home.

After the death of Ronnie, I wasn’t fi t for the military anymore. I wanted out, and the year ahead would turn out to be unproductive in everything the navy tried to get me to do. I didn’t care. I began drinking, doing drugs, and whoring around. Nothing mattered. My friend was gone. They killed him, and I was angry with the government. The navy sent me to submarine school in New London, Connecticut, but I didn’t want to be on a sardine can called a sub. I hated it!

Then they sent me to Norfolk, Virginia, and put me on the USS Diamond Head, an ammo ship, and I really hated it. All the time, I was lonely and angry and wanted my girl, Brenda.

Months passed while overseas on a Mediterranean cruise and I had already schemed on how I was going to get out of the navy just as soon as I reached land again in Norfolk.