Preacher’s Journey from Addiction to Recovery

Playing The Preacher Addicted to Painkillers

Brandon Holt was in the prime of his life as a young pastor when a car accident in 2005 changed his whole world. After surgery for a bulging disc, Brandon was told to use the morphine pump to help his pain. “The day I hit the morphine pump was the day that changed my life forever.”

Brandon says he didn’t go seeking drugs, they came to him in the form of a white lab coat. Brandon became addicted to pills and got to the point where he was taking about 15 to 20 per day. He would hop doctors, buy pills off the street, or even get unnecessary tests, like a $1,500 X-ray, just to get more medication.

Watch: How Long before an Opioid Addiction Starts?

As a pastor, Brandon would pretend to cough while on the pulpit and then slip a pill into his mouth. He even lined his grape soda with opioids so they would hit his system quickly, and he would sip this as he spoke.

It got to the point that he was subbing out his wife’s pain pills after her C-section so that he could take them himself. That’s when he knew something was wrong. Eventually, his wife took the kids and left. He knew if he didn’t stop, he would die or go to prison. “I was literally battling for my life,” shares Brandon.

Now, nine years sober, Brandon joins The Doctors to discuss his recovery. A call from his son asking when he was coming home made Brandon realize if he didn’t stop, his son would one day be seeking approval in dangerous ways such as in drugs, gangs or inappropriate relationships. Brandon says it was that day he picked up the phone and asked for help.

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OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry asks Brandon about his difficulty living this double life especially as a preacher, who is often the person people come to for help. Brandon says he was very image conscious at the time and didn’t think addiction could happen to him. He kept his opioid addiction a secret for a long time so it was really difficult to share. He eventually realized that he had to be true to himself if he was ever going to help others or else he was being hypocritical.

Brandon explains that when he was deep into addiction, taking pills at the pulpit, he wasn’t trying to get high but rather he just wanted to function. The opioid-laced soda was used because if Brandon would start to feel symptoms of withdrawal he would drink it to bring himself back. He was seeking approval from his congregation and didn’t want to be up there and have them see him get out of character.

“When I first started out of curiosity, then I transitioned just into wanting to feel good, euphoric. Then, I got to a place where I wanted to feel better and my tolerance started to go up. So when my tolerance went up, the withdrawal symptoms kicked in even more,” Brandon says. Brandon shares that withdrawal is extremely difficult which is why many people relapse when they can’t fight through the initial 3 to 7-day period of physiological withdrawals.  

However, Brandon did it and plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon points out this is the message here. It can be done! He also asks Brandon about forgiveness during his journey. Brandon shares that he is still trying to get his wife’s forgiveness today but they are in a great place because they’re transparent now. He felt guilt and shame for what he did but when his wife forgave him, he learned he had to forgive himself.

Brandon wrote his book “Preaching Under the Influence” when he realized this wasn’t about him. He says if he could help one person out there who is secretly battling addiction then the whole mission is complete. And there are many others, from preachers to CEOs, who have already told Brandon his story has made an impact on them.