As a distance runner, Liberty University redshirt sophomore Nick Doan is used to going at a quick pace for continuous stretches of time. He knows the burn in his lungs by memory, and he pushes himself in relentless rhythm. He’s a competitor, at ease edging out runners to gain the upper hand at the finish. But he is most comfortable racing to gain glory for the One who has brought him back from the bowels of brokenness, addiction and pride.
Years earlier, a gaming addiction in middle school rendered Doan socially awkward and unable to connect with peers. School became a wilderness, as bullying left him with few friends and even more isolation. Doan dove deeper into the realm of virtual reality, spiraling him further from the real world.
His parents noticed the detrimental effect and took away gaming privileges. Doan’s father took him to a local coffee shop on Sunday mornings to read the Bible together; Doan’s first true introduction to God.
But wired with an overstimulated draw to technology, Doan turned to another addiction: pornography. He struggled for years with a false fix of contentment.
“I didn’t want that, but it was the only thing that satisfied my soul because I didn’t have Jesus at the time,” he said.
Distraught at his inability to kick habits himself, he continued battling into his sophomore year at Oak Hills High School in California. Then, Doan got desperate. In that moment, he surrendered his life to Christ, saying, “Alright God, give me something. I want a relationship with You.”
While these spiritual battles wore on, Doan continued to play soccer, but couldn’t quite find his fit on the pitch. After he heard about an upcoming track meet, he decided to give it a go. At the starting block with borrowed track spikes, he tore off and churned across the track to win the 550-meter race, .3 seconds off the qualifying time for the indoor state meet.
What Doan noticed most about the meet was not the victory but the pain, the exhaustion the first 150 meters and pushing through the next 150.
“That pain felt so good, and so bad at the same time,” Doan said. These emotions, and the success, were enough to convince him to step away from soccer.
By cross country season as a junior, Doan’s pace continued to quicken, as did his popularity. With each first-place finish, he’d blast through times seasoned veterans take years to obtain. And in the spring, Doan’s spectacular pace garnered media attention. The glare of the spotlight shifted his perspective; during interviews Doan focused on self-accomplishments, and the only mention of God was that he liked going to church.
From the outside, Doan seemed to have a handle on the track. But this seed of self-sufficiency took root and sprouted into other areas of life. His faith became stagnant, believing that if he could run on his own strength, then he could take care of himself and tackle the addictions he originally gave over to God. He delegated God to the passenger seat and took over the steering, tightly gripping the wheel.
During the summer, runs strained with effort and Doan’s times slowed significantly. He also relapsed into his pornography addiction. Frustrated by ramming against walls, Doan hit a low his senior year despite his cross country team winning the state championship. He went out for soccer once again, but shortly into the season, terrible foot pain made him head to the doctor. He had a broken second metatarsal, and was off his feet for five months—an eternity for a runner.
That's when he found FCA, and Southwest Riverside County FCA Area Representative Phils Sabordo. He began attending Huddles and found a genuine fit with other athletes eager to dive into the Word.
Said Doan, “I grew in my faith more in those five months than I did in the three years I was a Christian.”
It took a physical and spiritual breaking to reassemble God’s grace into his heart, and once humbled, he gladly gave back the driver’s seat. His senior year launched with renewed purpose, as he was set on solely glorifying God and His power to restore what addiction and pride sought to destroy.
Now in his redshirt sophomore year of college, Doan reflects on his journey with a softened mindset, recognizing that it’s not under his own strength that he is able stand as he is today. He tried to do things his way and was wrecked. Only when he allowed God to step into the wreckage and begin a restoration did Doan fully find his heart humbled, embraced and set free.
Read more of Doan's story in the latest FCA Magazine article, Putting Pride Aside.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Manguiob/Liberty University Marketing and Donald Pierce, DYESTATCAL.com