NORTH CAPE MAY – Bullying, anxiety, peer pressure and family dynamics built up in Ricky Gentek’s soul over time. From his home, Gentek, 30, told his story of addiction, faith, and recovery via Zoom Oct. 8.
“It’s a blessing to see how big God is and how small I am,” he said.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Gentek said, referring to Cape May County.
At 3, his parents divorced. Gentek lived with his mother, who relocated to Middle Township.
“I saw my dad on the weekends,” he explained.
Learning difficulties also rattled his childhood. Gentek said he was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while in the third grade.
“Everything was such a challenge,” he said.
“I hated how the medication made me feel, but I took it every day,” he added.
The greatest burden, according to Gentek, was realizing he wasn’t “like everyone else.”
Music became a lifeline, according to Gentek. He attributes his passion for guitar and band-playing to his dad, but music couldn’t silence the noise in Gentek’s soul.
During his sophomore year of high school, Gentek began “self-medicating” and experimenting with drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and LSDs.
“Full-blown partying” also provided a temporary escape, according to Gentek.
By the time he reached his senior year, Gentek knew something had to change.He described the desire as “mixed motivation:” Wanting to quit without wanting to be sober.
“My family was at the end of their rope,” he said.
After being in and out of rehab, Gentek said his father invited him to a local Bible study, in 2012.
“What on Earth am I doing here?” Gentek said, remembering his thoughts at the time.
At the Bible study, he met a man named Nick, who told Gentek about America’s Keswick, in Whiting, a nondenominational Christian conference and retreat center modeled after the original, in Great Britain. Keswick also offers a drug recovery center for both men and women.
Gentek applied but overdosed on heroin. He found refuge with his father, who helped him through withdrawals. However, Gentek was arrested and housed in the Cape May County Correctional Facility on the eve of Superstorm Sandy.
“I tried to pray,” Gentek said, noting that he felt “safe” in jail, away from the world, and his incarceration became a metaphor.
“I wasn’t a believer then,” he clarified.
After two weeks in jail, Gentek left for Keswick and enrolled in the four-month program. He stayed for an additional three months.
“I gave my life to Christ,” he said.
Intellectual understanding of Jesus became personal, as he asked Jesus to forgive and save him.
Gentek’s recovery journey continued after leaving Keswick.
He “couch-surfed” for a time with friends while working odd jobs.
He desires others to realize their need for a savior, and that recovery isn’t separate from faith.
Today, Gentek works as a professional painter and attends Revolve Church. He still loves music and playing the guitar.
Gentek also occasionally speaks at Cape Assist’s Coastal Preparatory High School, sharing his journey with students on the road to recovery.
“You are more blessed than you know,” he concluded.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at email@example.com.