Article originally posted on Southwestern Christian University’s website. republished with permission.
Former Southwestern Christian University basketball star Ray Hilliard provided a fascinating story about his personal struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, and his eventual transformation that led to his graduation and his path as a successful young professional.
Hilliard was the guest speaker in a special two-part SCU Chapel series that highlights the dangers, destruction and consequences students face when dealing with addictions. Hilliard was joined onstage by his SCU teachers Phylis Hadley and Dr. Jim Poteet in a unique and engaging question-and-answer format.
Hilliard was a two-sport star at Putnam City North High School who caught touchdown passes from future University of Oklahoma Heisman winning quarterback Sam Bradford. Hilliard went on to enroll in a college in the state.
Hilliard said that he began experimenting with marijuana and alcohol, but his frequency escalated beyond his control. He found himself constantly chasing that first initial “high” he experienced only to fill unsatisfied with the outcome.
“I used and used. I was trying to capture those feelings and emotions I first got when I began. It never was the same. The amount for it to have effect on me began to grow and grow over time,” Hilliard said
Eventually, the dependence on drugs and alcohol caused him to suffer feelings of depression and later led him to withdraw from friends, school and family.
“I made both college football and basketball teams only to end up quitting them,” Hilliard said. “I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was embarrassed by my actions and eventually just pulled myself into a shell.”
Hilliard said he became estranged from his parents and eventually found himself homeless in his lowest days. “I was really depressed. I was having really bad thoughts… even suicide.”
Hilliard acted on his thoughts one night when he took the equivalent of six doses of the psychoactive methamphetamine drug Ecstasy and chased it with a bottle of champagne.
“I remember looking into the mirror. I looked exactly like a demon from some horror movie. My pupils were all dilated. I didn’t recognize myself,” Hilliard said.
Hilliard remembered wobbling into a room where his little brother was asleep on the couch thinking to himself that “If I’m going to die, then I will die by someone who loves me.”
As Hilliard slipped into a near unconsciousness, something startled him. “I’m not sure what it was. I began praying immediately to God that if he allowed me to wake up, I would seek help,” he said.
While enrolled in a treatment program, Hilliard found himself at the SCU gymnasium, a popular hangout for pickup basketball games. It was there Hilliard caught the eye of SCU player Josh Gamblin who then notified basketball coach Mark Arthur.
“They never looked at me any different,” Hilliard said. “They listened to what I had been through and didn’t judge me. Just gave me love and support.”
Arthur enrolled Hilliard into SCU after being convinced the young man was indeed serious and wanting to make a change in his life and commit to a Christian lifestyle.
“SCU saw potential in me when no one else did,” Hilliard said. “I learned about the Bible and God’s message, and I took it to heart. I could do anything, but God would have to come first in my life.”
Hilliard would play basketball at SCU for four years and eventually earn the coveted Pilgrim Progress Award, an honor given to the student-athlete who makes the biggest strides in his or her life.
A graduate with a degree in Behavioral Science, Hilliard is using his second chance as a Case Manager for Care for Change, a community based agency providing intensive and extended substance abuse services to children, adults and their families.
“SCU means so much to me. I felt honored to be asked to share my story with students. Hopefully, it will make an impact on someone who might know another who is undergoing similar types of problems in their life,” Hilliard said.
Southwestern Christian University is a Christ-centered liberal arts institution equipping students for a life of learning, leadership, and service; integrating faith, learning, and living; and empowering graduates to excel and to positively impact their world for Jesus Christ. Please support our mission at give.swcu.edu