Substance Abuse Ministry Call
My name is Brandon, and I have a substance abuse ministry call. I was born in a small town in Kentucky in 1986. Growing up, I had opportunities to attend my grandparents’ church, but I was not a fan of it. For some reason, I had an unhealthy fear of God. This fear made me want nothing to do with Him or the church. I thought if I were to pretend He didn’t exist, then everything would be okay.
My Early Struggles
I was raised by a single mother who had to work a lot to support us. While growing up, I felt like I was different from other people. I felt alone and like I didn’t fit in. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to do it. On the outside, I looked like any other kid, but on the inside, I was an emotional basket case.
The dark period of my life started pretty early on. At twelve years old, I experimented with alcohol for the first time. My life would never be the same. When I took my first drink, I felt something that I had never felt before, relief. For the first time in my life, all my feelings of inadequacy and pain went away. I thought that I had found my solution.
Once discovering that with just a little alcohol, I could face the world, my life took a drastic change. Throughout my teenage life, I used alcohol and marijuana daily. To fund my habits, I began selling small amounts of both. I used the money to keep me and everyone around me in a constant fog.
March 30, 2015, was a day that would change my life forever. Looking back on this day, I now know that it was the day that God stepped in. However, I was too dumb to realize it. At the time, I would have considered myself an agnostic. I didn’t want to believe in God because if He were real, then He would want nothing to do with me and rightfully so.
My drug use at this time had steadily evolved into a several hundred dollars a day methamphetamine habit. I was selling drugs twenty-four hours a day with people in and out regularly. That day around 2:15 p.m., the local drug task force kicked in my door and charged me with manufacturing methamphetamine. This time was not my first run-in with the law, and unfortunately, it would not be my last.
I went to jail, and when I got inside, I felt a slight sense of relief. I was exhausted and had a nasty infection in my stomach. They sent me directly to the nurse after booking. I went into a segregated medical holding cell for the medical safety of other inmates. When the nurse weighed me, I was only 98.5 lbs. At the time, I wanted to die and was not far from it.
I was in jail for 16 days before I could make the bond. During that time, one of the guards asked me if I wanted to go to church. I said yes immediately. I just wanted to get out of my cell for a while. During the service, I felt something on the inside of me. It felt like a knot in my chest and an extreme and overwhelming emotional tugging at me.
After the service was over, I returned to my cell and, once again, was alone. That feeling that would not go away, and I began to cry. I went into the shower and completely broke down. I fell to my knees in that disgusting shower stall and begged God for forgiveness and asked Him to help me. When I had finished with my “break down,” I stood up and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
For the first six months of my new life, things went great. I got involved with a local church and became very close with the head pastor. I did little odd jobs and kept busy to keep my mind off of the world around me and the fact that I was facing a 25-year prison sentence. One day out of the blue, I made a mistake and used drugs. I can’t say why I did.
Back to My Old Ways
Once I slipped, I fell back down hard. Confused, I thought that since I had messed up, God would no longer want anything to do with me. I felt like I was separated from the source. Once this happened, I went right back into the same thing I had been doing before.
This time things got a lot worse. I started injecting drugs and became wild and reckless. I was in and out of treatment programs and halfway houses for the next several years. For a while, I lived in my car until the motor blew on it. Once that happened, I was living on the streets. On the run from the police in my town, I slept on a bench in the city over. I wanted to die.
January 2, 2018, was the day that God intervened. I was five months out of my latest round of treatment and back to the same old song and dance. That morning, I got a call from probation and parole telling me to come into their office. I knew that when I went in, they would test me. Something different happened this time; I didn’t run. So, I went to the office and told the woman I had been using. I was tired.
When I got to jail, I was relieved. The first time, I was terrified. But this time, I felt peace and safety for the first time in a very long time. After a month, the judge agreed to send me to long-term treatment. I wondered why he gave me another opportunity for treatment. I had failed so many times. Now I know that it was God’s mercy and His favor.
God Always Loves Me
February 6, 2018, was the day I went to treatment. When I went in this time, I wanted things to be different. I knew I wanted more. My previous round of long- term treatment did not go well. It took me ten months to complete a six-month program. Two days after arriving at the facility, I was in my bunk, and for some reason, I started to pray. I had not prayed in a long time.
I told God that I had messed up, that I didn’t want this life anymore and asked Him to please help me. If He did, I would spend the rest of my life telling everyone how it happened. I had already messed up one opportunity and understood if He did not love me anymore. In my head, I heard a voice say, “I love you so much that I died for you.” After praying that prayer, I felt whole.
Suddenly, I felt that I wanted to read. I was not a big reader and knew it would be difficult to do so in a room with 60 other people, but I decided to give it a shot. There was a small library, so I went down to see what they had. I was drawn to a section where the religious books were, picked up one of the Bibles and took it back to my rack.
I opened it up and started reading out of the Gospel of Matthew. One of the guys that had arrived at the same time as I looked up and said, “Hey, man. If you got any questions about anything, let me know. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, too, and would love to read with you.” Richard Brown was fresh out of prison, and we did not know each other. I was reluctant at first but remembered my prayer and agreed to start doing a Bible study with him in the mornings.
What started with Rich and me reading the Bible together in the mornings grew into a group of 20-25 men spending an hour a day reading. We read the Jesus Calling devotional, a section of the Bible, and prayed. We were there for one another throughout our time at the center. It was not a faith-based program that allows this type of gathering, but with some reluctance, we had access to one of the classrooms to hold our study each day.
My Substance Abuse Ministry Call and Finding CLI
While I was in treatment, I found my substance abuse ministry call. I loved working with the guys and, for the first time in my life, felt fulfilled. Every night, I had guys stop by my room and talk with me. I spent hours listening to them, praying with them, and sharing any experience I had with their situations. The facility had a firm rule against clients being in another client’s room. However, they seemed to overlook people coming into mine. That was the favor of God again. Therefore, I realized my calling to work with individuals that have substance abuse issues. God allows us to go through situations to equip us with the tools that we need to follow our calling.
I found Christian Leaders Institute one day while researching Bible study courses. Immediately, I enrolled in classes. However, I did not sign on again for almost six months. I knew I was called, but I was afraid. I tried to put off what I knew I should do. The funny thing is, no matter how fast or far I tried to run from my substance abuse ministry call, it did not seem to matter. I re-enrolled into courses and am happy to report that I am now on my way to becoming what God wants me to be!
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