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Keeping Hope Alive Through Addiction and Prison

“I remember him coming in,” said Judy. “He'd been out on the streets for days, and literally the bottoms of his feet were just like hamburger meat because he had just been walking and walking and searching to do drugs.”  

Newlywed Judy already knew about her husband Sidney’s occasional bouts with drugs.  But this, this was the sign of a full-blown addiction.

“He just turned around and looked at me, again, with tears in his eyes and just said, "I'm not going to make it; am I?"

“I knew in my mind that I wasn’t going to ever quit, cause I had tried,” said Sidney.

They met at a job interview in 1994 in Gulfport, Mississippi.  Sidney, coming from Oakland, California, was hoping for a new start.  Judy was the hiring manager.  

Judy said, “He had a real leadership ability about him cause he just sort of would take charge of something once he was given a task to do.”

So, Judy not only hired Sidney, she fell for him.  But she didn’t know the whole story.

He grew up in a poor neighborhood in Oakland.  But unlike many, he never had to do without.  His mom worked hard to make sure of that.  But what Sidney really needed was her love and attention – he got neither.

At 12 years old he downed a bottle of pills, desperate for any sign she cared.

“I felt like I wanted her attention and I couldn’t get it.  And I remember I’d go to any extreme I could to get her attention. The next thing I knew I was having my stomach pumped.  I remember going to like an institution and she left me there. It broke my heart.”

It was only a matter of time before he discovered drugs and would spend the next several years, buying and selling them and stealing to satisfy his habit.

“Chasing that feeling was all of a sudden outweighed everything else in importance,” said Sidney. “It provided an escape. I didn't have to deal with anything.”

Numerous attempts at rehab failed, by the time he left for Mississippi at 23, he was an addict, running from police and desperately hoping for a new start.

“I didn't want to be a drug addict, and I knew that I was.”

When he had met Judy, he was able to hide the depth of his addiction, but now after a few months of marriage the truth had come out.
 
“So I knew that it would be her that left before I would change.”

But Judy, a Christian, saw Sidney through God’s eyes where there was potential and hope.

She said, “And so the hope gave me some direction to some faith that God was drawing me into this for a reason.”

Keeping hope alive was another matter.  Arrested in 1996 on outstanding warrants, Sidney would spent 13 years behind bars, despite finding religion in prison, he relapsed soon after his release.

“It just wasn't enough. You know? I just didn't have what I needed inside of me,” said Sidney.
“Nothing satisfied the hole. It was like a bottomless pit.”

Disappearing at times for weeks, Sidney would bounce between bouts of sobriety and addiction.  

“There were points in time for me when I was desperately sad, afraid, angry, resentful. I went through all those things but it would always come back full circle to have the hope,” said Judy.

Then in 2010, his parole officer recommended he go to the faith based rehab program, Teen Challenge.  There, Sidney had to face the hurt and anger.

He said, “I was just tired of being somebody that I wasn't, and I just angrily screamed out at God that if you're who they say you are here's an earnest, pure, from the bottom of my heart opportunity for you to show up and fix me cause I'm done."

“I felt like I had a wall that I had built up, you know, to protect me from other people. I felt like He just reached out and those brick walls that I had built, I mean, huge, I mean impenetrable they just turned to dust.”

Sidney says at that moment he gave his life to Christ, realizing that through Judy, God had been showing His love for him all along.

“I was still loved and accepted even in the worst position in my life and she still wanted me,” said Sidney. “I feel the same thing when God saved me. That's the exact same feeling that just overwhelmed me and no matter what I did, and no matter who I'd hurt or how many times I'd failed, and he didn't care. He loved me.”

Judy said, “He was the part of him that I had always loved, the joyful, kind, compassionate, loving person and he was so willing to do whatever it took. And again, I guess that's just the God, the hope, the faith in me that just believed.”

In 2013, at 43 years old, Sidney graduated from Teen Challenge and is still drug free.  He went on to earn a master’s degree in social work, and today works as a substance abuse counselor in Mississippi.

“Well, it had to be God. There's no other way. I couldn’t have done it on my own, of my own free will or my own volition. I wouldn’t have been strong enough,” said Judy.

“I got God's attention and it satisfies everything,” said Sidney.

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