Airing his struggles

Jay Haizlip has nothing to hide from his thousands of ministry members at The Sanctuary church in Westminster — or from television viewers, for that matter.

The 49-year-old former professional skateboarder has shared with parishioners his story of overcoming drug addiction, and soon everyone can get a glimpse of his life in an upcoming Oxygen documentary series, "Preachers of L.A."

The show, which debuts Oct. 9, will follow Haizlip and five other bishops, ministers and pastors in their everyday endeavors.

"I think it's time for the church to be transparent and show I'm a real person," said Haizlip, who lives in Huntington Beach. "The way I am on the platform is the same way I am behind closed doors. I'm not a different person at home than I am in public."

At a time when reality shows depart from, well, reality, Haizlip said there is a need for on-air honesty.

"People need to see that we're relatable, that God has helped us, and he can help them," he said. "I hope it breaks down the stereotype that people maybe have in their mind concerning God and church. A lot of people can express an opinion of what God and church is about, but if they're not willing to be transparent and honest, I've discovered that the majority of the time they really don't know why they think that, and it's not ever based on any personal experience they've ever had."

Haizlip became a born-again Christian in 1990 after battling drug addiction.

The pastor, who grew up in Alabama, had a lucrative career as a skateboarder. But with his fame came exposure to drugs. He started smoking marijuana at an early age and by the time he was 15, in the 1980s, he snorted his first lines of cocaine with a neighbor.

"I remember thinking, 'Here's a beautiful lady, this is a multimillion-dollar house, I'm already being sponsored by these companies, I'm smoking weed just about every day. So what could be so wrong with this?" he said. "Looking back at that moment, that's when my addiction got a hold of me."

Haizlip moved to Hollywood and began to lose his possessions to drug dealers and arrive at work loaded. He decided in the late 1980s to move home and sober up.

"I left Hollywood thinking that if I go back to Alabama, I'm going to escape all of these people I'm hanging out with, doing coke with," he said. "I'm going to Alabama, and I'll just smoke weed and drink. Of course that didn't work because the problem was in me. I get to Alabama, and I continued my addiction."

A "supernatural experience" led him to quit. While on his way to buy cocaine from a dealer, he was approached by a man who started talking to him about God. Haizlip was so intrigued that he asked the man how he could get clean and find religion.

"God radically came into my life," he said. "The addiction lifted off of me. The weight, the pain, all the stuff I had done, I felt it come off."

Since then, Haizlip has devoted his life to helping others and spreading the word. He has traveled across the nation and to other countries, incorporating stories about skateboarding into his preaching.

Christy Haizlip, 46, Jay's wife, had known him since they were kids in Alabama.

Jay's addiction didn't surface until after they said "I do."

"He didn't bring that into our home, but it was something that was definitely tearing us apart," Christy Haizlip said. "And because we did have such a great relationship, and he was my friend first, I was in a place where I didn't know if I should leave him at his low point."

Even after he found God, she was skeptical. She had seen him enter and leave rehab centers multiple times.

"Is this just another thing we're going to try and do to keep [Jay] on the straight and narrow?" she said she asked herself at the time.

Christy watched from a distance and decided within a week that her husband had changed.

In 2002, the Haizlips moved to Huntington Beach, and Jay started preaching at the Edison Community Center. Then he established The Sanctuary church and became its senior pastor.

Christy Haizlip said they bounced around to different venues until landing at their current location in Westminster in 2008. They would later establish a campus in Los Angeles. Plans for one in Long Beach are in the works.

The skater-turned-pastor said he is still in the process of filming for Oxygen and hopes that when the series begins, it helps viewers.

"Whether they're not into God or they're into God, I think that there's going to be something that can bring value to anybody," Haizlip said. "I believe it will be uplifting, encouraging and inspiring and at the same time be entertaining."

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