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Zach Williams Says Jesus Rescued Him from Drugs and Alcohol

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 21, 2024

When Zach Williams reads the Parable of the Prodigal Son, he sees himself in the story.

Like that wayward son in the biblical story, Williams walked away from his family as a young adult, rejecting the faith and values that had been taught to him from birth. He got hooked on marijuana. He became a heavy drinker. He formed a Southern Rock band and toured the world. And then he realized he had a hole in his soul that could be filled only by Jesus.


Williams goes into detail about his road to redemption in a new book, Rescue Story: Faith, Freedom, and Finding My Way Home, that will be released Feb. 27 (Zondervan). The Christian artist has had a string of hits in recent years that have inspired millions, including five that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Airplay chart. (Chain Breaker, Old Church Choir, and There Was Jesus -- a collaboration with Dolly Parton -- stayed atop the charts the longest.) He even won two Grammys.

“My dad was a worship leader. My mom sang in church,” Williams told ChristianHeadlines.

He experienced God in church as a youngster, he said. Other times, though, he would grow uncomfortable during services and go hide out in the restroom until it ended.

“When I turned 18, I ran as far and as fast as I could from that for a number of years,” he said of the church. Williams became a partier.

“I was one of those guys that for about seven, eight years of my life, didn't go a day without smoking pot, and it's just how I lived and functioned,” he said. “My dad owned a construction business. And for me, it was the only thing that made going and getting on a construction site any fun. It was just like, ‘If I'm gonna do this, I've got to do this high all day long.’”

Williams then transitioned from marijuana to alcohol.

“I started drinking heavier. I was more of a binge kind of party guy,” he said.

His alcohol dependence only worsened when he formed a Southern Rock band in 2007, Zach Williams and The Reformation. The group released two albums. It toured the U.S. and Europe. He was doing what he had always wanted to do -- sing music in the limelight. But he found the experience unfulfilling. 

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Photo Courtesy: ©Zondervan/CanvaPro Design

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.