The Road to Recovery — Parolee to Peer Specialist

Part three of Tim’s story is dedicated to his late wife, Jacqueline, who after many years of fighting lost her life to cancer. Jacqueline you are very loved by many.

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It was my third trip to prison in five years and this time I was looking at the long and lonely path of a 30-year prison sentence.

Been there, done that. I knew what I was in for, I knew the drill. I went to the diagnostic unit to get my assignment and I was happy because they assigned me to a brand new unit. I had a big smile on my face, I thought I was in for a treat, but that wasn’t the case.

My first trip to prison, I was “Inmate 51- – – -.” Here I was, back in prison less than five years later and I was “Inmate 643814.” It’s crazy to think that many people came through the prison system in such a short period of time.

When I arrived on my unit, 80% of the other inmates had numbers beginning with 19—–, 20—–, 29—–. These men had been locked up for over 20 years! Instantly, the white boy’s words were racing through my mind.

“God is going to keep you where you are closest to Him.”

So, I started going to church. I went to bible studies, listened to the chaplain preach — I got into it. Until, I saw the same people who were preaching, conning others. The guys who were speaking in tongues were getting in fights and having homosexual relationships. I started questioning everything.

This whole time I was searching to fill the void inside of me but I was searching on the outside for something to fix the inside. I didn’t realize the problem was me. I was looking for relief. I was looking for the formula for change, but leaving out a key component. The search kept leading me to dead ends so I turned around and went back where I started.

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Even though I was never arrested for a drug related charge, I knew if I wanted to be up for parole, I needed to take some classes. Initially, the motivation to take the classes was all game, but Gpd was playing game on me and I didn’t even know it.

Going into substance abuse classes, I had three questions I wanted answered. I never shared those questions with anyone but they were always circling in my mind. Little did I know, God planned on using those unanswered questions to show me that He was there– even in the struggle.

Listen, I am really trying to help you guys. I didn’t take this job to teach you out of this book, I am an 8 year clean heroin addict. I know what it’s like to be in your shoes.”

I was shocked. In my mind, I had an image of what a heroin addict looked like, and she wasn’t it. I had no idea. As she started talking about dopamine and the affects drugs have on your brain and body, one of the questions that had been circling around in my head had finally been answered. From that point forward I listened. I listened to every single word she uttered from her mouth.  Each class was more informative than the last. I was starting to understand addiction and was eager to learn more.

TDC moved me to another unit where I met Mr. Haygood. Mr. Haygood had been sober for 11 years, and had a lot of insight to offer. It was through Mr. Haygood’s teaching that I realized I prayed the wrong prayer. It wasn’t just crack that was the problem for me– all of it was a problem.

It came in small doses, but I could see God working.

“As long as we can stop using, we thought it was okay because we looked at the stopping and not ay why we were using.”

Of all the times, I’d been to jail. Begged for drugs. Stopped and started again I had asked myself over and over again, “Why am I doing this, why can’t I stop?” And for the first time, I was starting to understand the answer to those questions. Each puzzle piece was connecting to the last.

As I realized the puzzle pieces were connecting and I was running out of excuses, I also realized I had a decision to make. I was laying in my jail cell after a racial riot had caused the unit to be locked down, and I remember saying to myself, “Okay God, I hear you. This is something I want. I don’t know where you are taking me but I know this is what I want. Today. This day. I know I can’t do this with your help.”

That was April 28, 1995. Today, I am celebrating 20 years in long term recovery.

Today… physically… I’m not on dope. My face is not shrunken in. I’m well groomed. I’m dressed to impress and I don’t look like and addict. I smell good. I look good. Emotionally, I’m stable and because God placed me in a situation where I was able to enter into a recovery program, I get to live life again.

“I don’t know all of the answers, but what I do know is that when I die, I’m going to die drug free.”

                                                                                                ~

Today, Tim works as a Peer Specialist. His job gives him the opportunity to introduce recovery to people who have never seen recovery. He shows people who don’t believe recovery is possible how to live a drug free life. Tim is also a sponsor to others who are new to recovery and wanting that change in their lives. Tim gets the opportunity to enter treatment facilities and prisons– places God is able to continually use him as a vessel to show His good works. Because of the transformation God did in his life, leading him down a path of long-term recovery; Tim has been able to be a supportive son to his disabled father, a better brother to his siblings and was able to lovingly encourage his ailing wife as she fought but ultimately lost her battle to cancer.

Final words from Tim…

“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God placed me in a situation where God could talk to my physical ears in a spiritual way. Today, my mom is my best friend. As a grown man, I now sees what the boy couldn’t. I know what my mom was trying get me to learn all those years ago. Today she gets her flowers on this side of the dirt. I was lost but now I’m found, I was blind but ow I see… that’s more than a parable in the Bible to me, it’s the story I get to tell others like me, every day!”

(This blog is Part Three of a three part story. To read parts one and two, follow the links below.)

The Road to Recovery — Part One

The Road to Recovery — Prisoner to Parolee (Part Two)

Resisting Temptation

If you’ve ever known anyone who has struggled with a drug or alcohol addiction you’ve probably heard something like “Hi, my name is ____ and I’ve been sober for ____ days.” When I counseled people with addiction, before I learned anything else about them I knew their addiction and how long they had been sober. This weekend I was taught a very harsh lesson and I learned just how important it is to remind yourself of how long you’ve had strength to resist the temptation of sin. 
 
This week was really tough for me. Emotionally, I hit a low I haven’t felt in a while. I could feel myself spiraling down and I could also feel Satan plotting with his minions ready to attack. I felt overwhelmed and after fighting temptation, I gave in to one of my sin struggles and turned to food for comfort. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit covered me, assured me I was not defeated and had the strength to push through. I pushed through only to be continually attacked with ferocious weapons that felt too hard to fight. With every dagger thrown at me I could feel myself becoming weaker. Satan’s attacks began to get a grip on me and it was as if every sin I’ve struggled to overcome was suddenly lurking over me and had me in a daze ready to give in. 
 
I’m ashamed to admit that although I didn’t actually participate in the act of sin I was thinking about, I gave power to temptation by letting the thoughts linger and take control of my mind. I began justifying it in my head and making excuses before anything even happened. 
 
Fortunately for me, the only direction you can head when you are down is up and something incredibly beautiful happened. Engulfed in lingering thoughts of temptation with Satan and his minions encircling me, I could literally feel Jesus covering me, taking all the daggers being thrown at me. As I pictured Jesus enduring the pain that was intended for me, the Holy Spirit began whispering “5 years Brandy, 5 years. You’ve fought this battle with strength and self control for 5 years, don’t throw that away, you can do this.” 
 
God completely broke me in that moment in the most beautiful way. He reminded me of the spiritual growth and transformation He has done in my life in the last few years, and specifically of the growth that happened while I was in Korea. He reminded of the big plans He has to use me in mighty ways and the strides we have made to get closer to that place. And most importantly He reminded me that I have self control! He reminded me of 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self control.”
 
What ever sin you struggle with, alcohol, drugs, lust, anger, over eating, sex, legalism…ect, I want you to know that sin is not too big for you. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” He gets angry when we are distressed, he makes the earth shake and tremble, the heavens quake (2 Samuel 22:7-8) He doesn’t like to see us hurting and will continue to take our pain, and equip us with the strength to fight when we are weak. You can do this! Even if you have only been “sober” for 1 day, it is one day of victory and you should be proud of that! 

1 Year Sober

5 months ago I went through the process of being matched with girls who would be in community with me. I met so many amazing girls through the process. I met girls who were solid in their faith, I met baby Christians who were hungry for the word and who’s passion inspired me and I met 4 amazingly beautiful girls who would soon be part of the community group God chose me to lead.
Throughout that entire process, I prayed heavily for the girls who would be in my group. I had no idea who God would choose but I knew He had a plan, He always has a plan! I prayed the Lord would soften my heart to whatever struggles they had. I prayed He would equip me with compassion, love, empathy, insight, and wisdom to help them through their struggles. I prayed that with all the flaws written all over me, they would see through the flaws and trust I was serving our creator and I would lead them well. I prayed God would remove my insecurities and self doubt and replace it with confidence in knowing that He equipped me to lead them well. I prayed the Lord would move, that He would speak to us and we would hear Him and He would change our hearts.
As I got the news of who would be in my group I was so excited but also overwhelmed. Through the process of sharing life maps, these girls revealed struggles I had never dealt with and I doubted my ability to empathize and encourage them through what they were going through. God quickly minimized my fears and doubt as I got to know these girls. The relationships I began to form with them completely opened my eyes and changed my heart. During one of our times of sharing, my friend who is celebrating 1 year of sobriety today, shared these words… “Some days after I get home from work, I would love to have a glass of wine, just one glass… But I know I can’t have just one glass.” Those words resonated with me so much that night. In the midst of my struggle with food God used her words to help me realize I had an addiction, a dependence on something I could not control and He completely broke me. Her words stirred inside my heart that night and still ring in my head today.
You see, all the time I was praying about how I was going to impact these girls and shine light into their lives, I completely forgot about how God would be using them to shine light into mine. I am so blessed to be allowed to be part of their lives and part of their story and I am so thankful for the encouragement, accountability and truth they have spoken and continue to speak into my life.
S, I am so incredibly proud of you, your dedication and drive are such an inspiration. Your journey has helped give me the confidence that I can fight my addiction as well.
M, your love and compassion for others brings joy to my life. I love how big your heart is!
J, the insight and wisdom you bring to every conversation we have inspires me. I love the boldness you have when you speak truth into my life.
B, you have been my rock! You have encouraged me and held me accountable even when I didn’t want it and you’ve done it in such a loving way.
I am so blessed by all of you! I love you girls!