“My wife and I founded Big Fish Ministries. Thanksgiving will be my celebration of 17 years of sobriety. I was 23 years old and lost in addiction and a hopeless person. I came from a good family and never wanted for anything. I was an all-state football player at Thompson High School and went to Tennessee-Martin on a full football scholarship. In my senior year, I started smoking pot trying to fit in. Then college was six hours from home and there was no accountability. Partying became more important than school. I lost my scholarship for academic reasons. I was kicked off the team and lost my identity and the dream of my future. At first, I lived with my parents. They thought it was a phase I would get over and bailed me out of jail. They finally said enough and stopped enabling me. When I was ready to stop, they would be there to help. Addiction leads you to do things you would never do to including steal from the people you love. I deserved to be thrown out. I went from knowing how to get drugs to living at the drug house. I hated life and got high or drunk every day. It was three terrible years. I was in trouble with the law, but a detective cared enough to take me to The Foundry in downtown Bessemer. My parents had something to do with that detective leaving me there. They never quit loving me, but they quit enabling me. They saved my life.
I was born again at the Foundry. I was laying on my mattress on the floor in the chapel and couldn’t sleep. My prayer that night was Lord, if you are real, help me sleep. That was the first honest prayer I had prayed in a long time. It was like He sat down beside me. I started weeping and asked God to forgive me of my sins. I had rejected Him so many times. Right before I entered that program, my dad brought me a Bible while I was in the city jail. I threw it in the corner and never opened it. God loved me enough to never give up. 17 years ago He saved me and gave me a life I never dreamed I could have.
I joined the Foundry School of Ministry and met my wife there. We were called to the Anniston area to be counselors at City of Hope. We were there for ten years and it grew like crazy. Men and women were court ordered to us from Baldwin County and said there was no Christ-centered recovery program there. God called us to Baldwin County and we started with a thrift store to pay for those who can’t afford the service. I worked as a painter and a welder, which is not me, but the God provided for us. We leased a little building on Country Road 12 and started in a garage apartment. We were established in 2014 but took our first residential student in February 2016, only three years ago. We became a 12-month residential program to help those struggling with addictions and homelessness. It begins with rescue and crisis counseling and evolves into working full time and being drug-tested and participating counseling. We launch them as stable and productive citizens filled with hope and a vision to fulfill God’s plans for their lives. Our women’s home opened in May.
We serve Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia Counties and people learn about us through court, jail, and churches. A high concentration of drug addicts are in jail. Most people in addiction end up in legal trouble, and at risk of losing their job or their family. We currently have 25 men and 10 women. We can house 33 men and 18 women. We have a waiting list and have to turn people away all of the time. We need financial support. The need is here and everywhere and one day we hope to franchise.
Drug addiction is an epidemic in Baldwin County and our nation. It is the symptom of a deeper problem and the solution is often to numb yourself with drugs or drinking. The deeper pain often goes back to sexual, physical, mental, or emotional abuse they experienced as a child and never dealt with it. Shame that leads to hopelessness is also at the root of pain. There is failure, self-hatred and not meeting the expectations of family. They look at their future and see nothing good happening tomorrow. Some of it is passed down from generations. They would rather be high or drunk than face the reality that good things won’t happen. There is a proverb that says with no vision of the future, people cast off restraint. We teach the pathway to stability is Jesus.
It takes a tough person to get sober. When you use, you haven’t been dealing with life. You get clean and have to deal with all of those years of avoided anger and shame. That is why people relapse. I used for three years and when I got sober, it was three years of emotions hitting me at once. You are also see how you have hurt friends and family and more shame stacks on top of that. When you stop, you know the hell that is coming.
To recover from addiction, you have to be ready to surrender and deal with the pain of reality. It begins with a hopelessness that you are wasting your time and will never get back on your feet. Give in to that thinking and you will never make it through. It often takes several times and relapses. At Big Fish, we are filled with grace and love and accept people who come back. I know the power of the Lord to save people no matter what their addictions or what they have been through. The way God helped me is the way I want to help others.”