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Abuse Victim Chooses Dark Path In Attempt to Escape the Pain

Randy Rudder - 700 Club Producer

“I remember not understanding what this feeling was. All of a sudden I wanted to hide my body. All of a sudden I didn’t want to be seen by anybody. All of a sudden, I went from this vibrant personality as a little boy to a very, very inward, depressed, dark state,” Michael Cannatello recalls about being molested as a child.

Michael’s parents didn’t think twice when a pastor on staff at their church, began to pay special attention to their seven-year-old son. “I didn’t understand what was happening,” Michael says. “I didn’t understand what sex was all about I didn’t know. From that day forward, I remember like a blanket of shame coming over me.”

Michael’s mother was debilitated by multiple sclerosis and his father worked three jobs to provide for the family. Michael was ashamed to tell his parents what was happening, and the abuse continued. “I felt inside, we were doing the right thing by going to church as a little boy, but it was killing me. It was hurting me. It was destroying me inside,” he adds. “I never turned my back on God. I always believed in Him. I always knew He was real, but my view of Him became worse, because I said, ‘if God would allow this, did He really love me?”

By the time Michael was 18 he had moved to California. He led two lives - one as a worship leader, the other as someone very active in the gay lifestyle. “I started to do things that I was very, very ashamed of,” he says. “Visiting pornography shops and going into the booths and having sex with other men privately behind closed doors--while I was in the church, while I was leading worship.”

Michael left the church and started frequenting gay clubs. There he was introduced to cocaine. “The very first time that I did cocaine, I said ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to be normal.’ The shame lifted off of me. The guilt lifted off of me. I felt a sense of euphoria and the second that I put that drug in my body, I chased after it,” he says.
While Michael’s promiscuity continued, his drug use escalated to heroin and meth. Then in 1996, at the age of 26, he was diagnosed with HIV and given six months to live. “I just remember my life flashing before me,” he says. “And I just remember saying ‘God, is this how I’m going to end up?’ I remember weeping, and I went into such a deep depression, but after that, I went deeper into drugs, to try to alleviate the torment. I was in total torment.”

Michael started hearing voices. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and institutionalized. But among the hundreds of voices came a whisper of hope. “I would hear that voice, which was the Lord speaking to me, saying ‘Michael, this is all going to turn around for you one day. One day you’re going to have a testimony. One day all this is going to change.’

Michael was released from the mental hospital. His body began shutting down from the HIV and drug use. One night, alone in his bedroom, he found himself in a physical and spiritual struggle for his life. “I was shaking and just sweating profusely, and I cried out to God and I said ‘Lord, I said if you don’t help me now, I’m going to die. I need your help. I need to hear from you. I need you to speak to me and tell me what to do.”

Then God told him to open his Bible. Michael says, “When I opened up the Word of God and I opened up and read through Jeremiah 30. When I got to verse 17, it was like a light was shining on this one verse, and the verse said, ‘I will heal you of your wounds and I will restore health back to your body.’ And when I read that scripture, it was immediately that life entered into my body, and I knew what He meant by healing me of my wounds, Michael adds. “He was talking about the shame, the abuse, the torment, all of the mind maladies and all of the things that happened to me.

That night Michael recommitted his life to Christ and took the first step toward god’s promise of healing. “From that day forward, the Holy Spirit literally held my hand and walked me through a time of deliverance,” he says.

Michael left the life of gay nightclubs and drugs. Soon after that experience, he came under the care of Dr. Douglas Walsh, a specialist in HIV treatment. “At that time Michael had been battling probably one of the worst addictions I’ve seen in my history of medicine,” says Dr. Walsh. “He was having congestive heart failure, he was suffering from failure of his liver and his heart—in very, very poor shape. His HIV was advanced. He had an extremely high viral load. His immune system was just down in the single digits. And we prayed together and we worked together and started our journey on getting our health better.”

As Michael grew spiritually, he began to heal physically. Dr. Walsh says, “Today Michael is totally HIV undetectable. In other words, he has no detectable virus in his system at the present time, and he has a perfectly normal immune system. Michael was an absolute miracle. He should be dead and I tell him all the time that God has a purpose for him.

Michael lives out that purpose by teaching others through Lazarus Ministries, in honor of the God who he believes raised him from the dead. Today, the only voice he hears is the voice of his savior. “He became everything to me that no one could ever become. He became my best friend. In a matter of a few weeks, he delivered me from addictions that had plagued me for decades,” Michael proclaims. “He was the one who restored me, and He was the one who put the satisfaction on my soul that I don’t need men, I don’t need money, I don’t need sex, I don’t need drugs to fulfill that inside of me. My fulfillment is in Jesus Christ.”

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