John gave God control and now he’s back in the driver’s seat
John’s foray into drug use began at the age of 15 when he was “lacing blunts” with cocaine. Over time the addiction grew and by his adult years he was spending his entire paycheck on crack.
“I didn’t even eat,” he said. “I’d get paid and by the next day, I was slap broke. I was chasing an image beyond foolishness. I mean, there’s no words for it, I was just a dead person.”
His addiction consumed him and he believes his prayer for relief actually came in the form of incarceration. An eventual robbery and assault conviction left John facing a reduced sentence of 50 years, even though the full weight of the law could have ushered in life behind bars.
“At the time, it seemed like the only thing that could get me off of drugs and save my life was prison,” he confessed. “Addicts act like we’re too hard for God. So, we use other things and present them as God like a gun or dope. We feel like that’s the image of being somebody in the neighborhood. Like, that’s where power comes from. We’ve done tried everything in this world to fix that hole in us: we done tried drugs, done tried sex, done tried robbery. But I found out quickly how fast you can fall.”
John said he prayed extensively for the judge and the district attorney while serving his time and knows the only reason he was given a second chance at life was because “God touched the heart of the judge.”
When he got out of jail John found a job, got married, and moved to Dothan, but things again started to spiral when old habits began to take root.
“It’s a proven fact for me, when I put God first He makes everything right,” he said. “But when I got some money, I started to get big-headed and that led me back to drugs again. Once God let my pot build up, I left Him. I thought I could keep the benefits without putting Him in control.”
John ultimately lost his family, career, and even his car, which he “gave away for $50 worth of drugs.” Haunted by guilt and shame, he left Dothan and made his way to Birmingham with hopes of starting over. The cravings, however, were never far behind.
“I slept in abandoned houses and in the back of a truck,” he said. “I opened the back [of the truck] one day and put my brand new shoes, pants, and CD player on top of my Bible and I lifted it up to the sky. I told God to take it. I told him that day, and I’ll never forget it, ‘Crack cocaine is my God. I get up every morning to chase this, to serve this. It doesn’t even call me, I go looking for it. I do everything for it. If you can take this from me and be what it is to me, you’ll have the best servant you’ve ever had.’ And God answered me.”
John had been to other rehabilitation facilities before coming to the Mission, but realized quickly that those programs not only cost money, but focused on the drug and the addiction exclusively. He pointed out that the individuals and curriculum at the Shepura Men’s Center emphasized a relationship with God, and for him, that proved a significant difference.
“I was in the street and lost,” he said. “I was homeless, hungry, and looking for a place to stay, but I found a lot more than what I was searching for. Here, everything – the meals, the chapel, and the staff is about God and what He can do for you and how He can deliver you. Jimmie Hale fed me, but even after the food faded away, there was still something left. There was still something there to feed off of. I now have a relationship [with God] that has come alive and it makes me hold my head up. It’s strong and I know where I’m headed.”
John recently graduated from second phase of the program, is excelling at his new job driving buses downtown, has found a place to live, and is in the process of purchasing a car. He has been clean longer than at any point in the last 28 years and he’s motivated to continue this journey.
“Crack cocaine was everything to me,” John said. “I couldn’t live without it. Now, I go to work and I laugh and smile. I’m happy now. I mean, I’m real happy. I don’t see anything that can hold me now. Crack is a controlling substance, but it doesn’t control the way I trust God. I got taken all the way to the bottom, below even a dog. I think a crack head is looked at as one of the worst people on Earth. But God resurrected me. Jimmie Hale gave me a home and taught me that man can be better if he trusts in God and not himself.”
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