I lived with my mother during my early years. I grew up very poor but my family was pretty close. I was happy and had a good attitude. Because I was into sports, I seemed to be very active socially and did well in school, too. I had some people who were positive influences for me. I remember feeling good about myself, feeling like people cared, and having hope for the future.
At the age of thirteen, I moved in with my dad. He had a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I used to say to him “Dad, you are rich!” He wasn’t, though. Every penny he made went to survival. He didn’t know it, but to me he was my hero. Dad was excited about me moving in with him. He knew I didn’t have any clothes so he bought me a whole new wardrobe. He tried to do everything he could to make me comfortable there, but nothing worked. The biggest problem I had was school. I tried to make friends but it was just so hard. Everyone seemed so different. I got very depressed. I started sleeping all the time. I felt like I was being broken mentally. I made friends with a couple of guys down the street from my house. They would skip school just about every day. I remember begging them to go to school. I didn’t really beg, but in my heart I was saying, “Please, please come to school. I can’t do this alone anymore!” I never really expressed that to them, though. Weeks went on like this until finally one day I told myself, “I don’t have to do this anymore,” so I skipped school with them. That was a real turning point in my life. I had never considered just giving up before. For a short time, I felt such a relief. One by one, I gave up on everything in my life.
We moved around a lot. Each time I went to a new school, I thought, “I can start new!” At this point, though, giving up had become part of my character and the thought faded away. I felt out of place wherever we moved. I seemed to find all the bad crowds. I even felt out of place with them, but it seemed they were the only people that would accept me. I started drinking a lot and smoking weed all the time. I hated smoking weed. I just did it to fit in. This was my life
I was seventeen and still in the 9th grade, the same grade as my little sister, Amanda. Two brothers also lived in our household. John was 16 years old, and Steven was 11 years old. My dad and my step-mom decided to split up that year. She left with John and Amanda. I saw John a couple of days later in school and I told him I wished they were home. He said, “Not me. I’m having a lot of fun at my aunt’s house.” That made me really sad. About a month later, my dad tried to get her to come home but she wouldn’t. Reality hit me at this point and I began to think, “What are you going to do with your life?” I stopped talking to everyone at school and started doing my schoolwork. When I asked for help from my counselor, she helped me create a plan and said, “If you buckle down and stick with the plan, you could graduate in 2 years.” That sounded good to me and I was excited about it.
Meanwhile, though, home life was a struggle for everyone. We all were stressed, especially Dad. I felt I was only adding to Dad’s problems. I decided it would be best for me to move in with my mom. Dad didn’t want me to go, but the way things were going, I felt it was best. My mother lived in Kentucky and that meant a new school. I didn’t care, though. I just wanted to do something with my life. The day after I got there, I asked my mother to sign me into school. When the school said they needed proof of custody, which my mom didn’t have, my heart dropped. I knew that process would be a lot of trouble to a lot of people. Discouraged yet again, I just quit school altogether.
Even though I was depressed and had a low self-esteem, I never saw myself as a high school dropout. Now I had become one and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt like I wanted to hide from people. I had become a failure with no options I thought. My uncle saw me struggling and helped me get a job with him at Krispy Kreme Donut Factory. When I was hired, my uncle told me how easy it would be to advance. I went to my room, lay down, and cried silently. He was just trying to encourage me but it was just a reminder that I was a high school dropout. I never told anyone how I felt about that. I just bottled it up inside.
I was depressed for a while maybe a couple of months. Then, just before my 18th birthday, I gave up totally. I didn’t care anymore that I was a dropout. I didn’t care what others thought about me. I didn’t care about anything. I just began partying, having fun, and doing what I wanted. I got an apartment and bought a sports car. My life became one big party. I became spontaneous, too. I had started working with my dad in a cabinet shop and began having trouble at work. I told them they had two weeks to move me to day shift or I would quit. Four weeks later, in the middle of my shift, a co-worker jokingly said, “Philpot, you’re not going to quit!” I chuckled and said, “You wanna bet?” and walked out. Everything was a joke. I took nothing seriously.
With all that reckless living, I soon began to believe that nothing was important. For a short time, I moved in with my dad again. That didn’t work out, so I moved back in with my mother in Kentucky. Not long after, my stepmother called and said my little brother, John, had been in a car accident. I said, “Is he okay?” She said, “No, he is on life support” He didn’t make it. That was the first time I had ever lost anyone. This was serious. This was no joke. How would I deal with this reality? Four months after his death, I couldn’t even say my brothers’ name! I learned to cope with John’s death by staying mentally numb from the time I woke up until I went to bed. I did this by taking xanax and using alcohol a lot more.
My dad didn’t know I was doing xanax or that I was drinking the way I had been, but when he bought a new Thunderbird, he was pretty excited about it and wanted to share some of that excitement with me. He asked if I wanted to borrow the car for a night. Of course I said yes. All I remember after that is taking four xanax sticks and buying a fifth of liquor. I woke up in jail the next morning in Ohio. I didn’t know why I was there until they took me into court that morning. The prosecutor said that I drove the Thunderbird into someone’s living room and that my alcohol level was way above the legal limit. The judge let me out on my own recognizance so I went back home to Kentucky. My mom spent a lot of money on a lawyer, who got the charges knocked down to just a DUI. I was supposed to pay some fines, serve three days in jail, and do some community service. Since I was expecting to do more time, I thought I was very fortunate. Well, you would think I would appreciate the break. I didn’t. Just about three weeks after I was sentenced, I was driving again and was at a party. I drank a little bit and fell asleep. The party seemed lame. I remember my cousin woke me up telling me that one of our friends was causing trouble and asked me if I could give him a ride home. I drove him to his house, but on the way back I was pulled over by the Ohio State Patrol and given a ticket for DUI. Since the judge had given me a break only three weeks before and told me he didn’t want to see me in court again, I decided to not show up for any of it. I was now running from the law for both offenses.
Not long after that, I moved in with my cousin in Ohio. He just recently started messing with heroin. I was scared of it, but even more than being scared, I was curious so I tried it. There were a few people there that night. All of them were shooting heroin. I think I was the only one snorting it. I threw up a number of times that night but I thought to myself, “This is the drug I have been looking for!”
My mother’s boyfriend told me he would get me a job working with him, so I moved back to Kentucky with my mom. Still every now and then, I would drive back to Ohio, get my cousin, and we would go to Dayton and pick up some heroin. It wasn’t long before it became my weekend ritual. My stomach was getting really bad because I was snorting heroin all the time. That is when I made the decision to go to the needle. The first time I shot dope, I was in my dealer’s bathroom with my cousin. I remember injecting it, and then waking up on the living room floor ““ soaking wet. My cousin said I walked out of the bathroom, sat on the couch, and started convulsing. He said he then threw me on the floor and threw ice water on me. That whole episode really shook me up for awhile – not only me, but my dealer as well. She told me not to come back. That didn’t stop me. I went back a couple of days later.
After I moved on to the needle, my appetite for heroin grew. I would take a trip to Dayton as often as I could. I would overdose frequently. I didn’t know why I was overdosing until it happened at my mother’s house. It was about 10:30 p.m. and my sister was having a small get together at her house. My mother and her boyfriend was there so I thought it would be the perfect time to go to her trailer, which was about five trailers down, and get me a “fix”. I remember standing in front of my mother’s bathroom vanity getting my dope ready. I woke up in an ambulance strapped to a gurney. When I arrived at the hospital, the only person I remember seeing is my mother. She had a scared look on her face. I thought she would drill me with questions, but she didn’t. Neither one of us said anything until the doctor came in the room. He said the reason I overdosed was because I am allergic to heroin. Sometimes I would be fine, but there could be that one time, no matter the quantity, I could just die. I don’t think it bothered me much. I know it sounds really bad, but I was getting used to overdosing. I think it affected my mom the most. My aunt called my mother the next morning and asked her what had happened to me. My aunt said God woke her up and told her to pray for me. That prayer saved my life that night but when my mother told me, I just brushed it off.
I tried to hide my drug use from my family, which caused me to be away from home for weeks at a time. Each time I came back, my mom was always concerned. She would ask if there was anything she could do to help. In the beginning, I got angry and told her to quit bringing it up. I told her I had already quit, but as my habit grew worse, I became more desperate to get money for dope and started taking advantage of her kindness. I showed up at her house one day knowing she would ask me if she could help. I don’t remember what I told her, but I talked her into giving me $600. I called a guy who lived near my mother and asked him to give me a ride to Dayton. He was a good dude and didn’t have a clue, so I told him I needed to pick up some of my personal belongings. He agreed. When we got to Dayton, I asked him to stop so I could call to get directions to where we were going. What I was really doing was calling my dealer to have him meet me somewhere. I called the dope man and he asked me how much I wanted. When I told him, he seemed really nervous. He said, “Meet me at the apartment complex in 15 minutes. Don’t be late!” He was used to me spending $20 and sometimes $100 at a time ““ never $600. When we got to the complex, my dealer was already there. I told my driver friend to wait in the car. I jumped in the back seat of my dealer’s car and the first thing he did was ask me to lift my shirt. He was checking for a wire. I was compliant. Then I gave him the money, he gave me the drugs, and I left. My friend said, “Where are your clothes?” I said, “He told me he didn’t have them.” He knew something was going on but he didn’t say anything else about it. I then asked my friend if he was hungry. I told him I would buy him lunch. He said, “No, but I can stop somewhere if you are hungry.” I said, “Yeah, stop here at this Church’s Chicken.” I didn’t even order any food. I walked straight back to the restroom to get a fix.
I remember laying the dope on the sink with my syringe, sticking the rest down the front of my pants, and then waking up in an ambulance. I had overdosed again. My body was shaking uncontrollably. I asked one of the paramedics what was happening to me and was told to “just calm down and it will stop.” I think I was in shock. They took me to the hospital and a police officer was waiting for me there. I asked him why he was there. He said I was being extradited to Butler County for some outstanding warrants. He also said he had my syringes and they still had dope in them. He and I talked for an hour. We talked about my life and all the things I had been through. He then said, “You know, I really don’t think you would do too well in prison. I’m gonna throw these syringes away.” What a break! I would have been looking at some prison time definitely. I still had the rest of my dope in my pants. I had to find a way to get rid of it before I left the hospital, so I asked the police officer if he could get me a phone. While he was getting the phone, I pulled the drugs out of my pants and threw them in the garbage can next to my bed. The officer came back with a phone and I called my cousin. I told him about the dope and asked him if he could come and get it. He said, “I’m on my way!” I was being taken away when my cousin and his friend showed up. They walked into my hospital room and grabbed the whole garbage bag and walked right out the front door with it. The police officer took me to jail in Dayton, and then I was transported to Butler County. Butler County said they were too full, so they told me to go on home. Of course, I was given another court date but I never showed up. I walked to my friend’s house and tried to call my cousin. He was no where to be found.
I asked my friend if I could stay with him for awhile. He agreed. He was a heroin addict as well. When he was young, he was in an accident that left him in a wheel chair. He had his own house and lived by himself. Staying with my friend was a relief for me because I no longer had to try to hide my habit. He also had his own vehicle so I always had a ride to Dayton. He had a driver now, so it was a good trade off. My friend and I hit it off pretty well. I found a job working in another cabinet shop. It felt good to have steady money coming in but it didn’t last long. I missed work at least one day a week. When I ran out of dope, I would get sick and wouldn’t go to work. After a couple of months, they let me go. I gave up on finding another job for awhile. I don’t know exactly how I did it, but one way or another I managed to get dope every day.
One day my friend and I were sitting in his living room preparing for our daily trip to Dayton. There was a knock at the door. An older black guy asked if my friend was there. I told him to hold on and said, “Hey, man, there’s some old black guy at the door asking for you.” He said, “Let him in.” Then he walked in and the first thing he said was, “the Lord sent me here to talk to you.” I walked into the kitchen to give them some privacy. As I walked back into the living room, the guy looked at me and said, “Brother, would you like to pray with us?” I said, “Yeah, that’s cool.” He held his hand out. I took it and closed my eyes. He prayed out loud for my friend. I don’t think I prayed that time; I just joined out of respect. After they had finished praying, I noticed the guy still had a hold of my hand as he was talking to my friend. I started to pull my hand away but the guy said, “Brother, hold on for one minute. The Lord has a word for you, too. If you would, put your hands in the air and close your eyes.” I thought to myself “What the heck is this guy trying to do!” I don’t remember everything he said, but I do remember he talked about my past and it was accurate. I was blown away until he got to the end and said, “God has a calling on your life. You will work in ministry.” I thought, “Now he is way off. I can’t imagine a day without drugs.” The thought of it seemed unrealistic to me. I said, “Ok.” and walked back in the kitchen.
A couple of weeks later, I was hanging out with my Uncle Randy. He said he had heard that I was having a hard time and wanted to help. I moved in with Randy. My uncle was an awesome guy. About 4 years earlier, he had an accident at work which messed up his back pretty bad. He was on massive amounts of pain medication. Every time his doctor would find a pain medication that would work for him, his body would build up a tolerance for it. Even though he was in so much pain, he always seemed to be high-spirited. He helped me get a job at a liquor store not far from the house. One day while I was working, a guy came in and said, “I’m not from around here. Do you know of anyone who wants a job building trailers?” I said, “Yeah, me!” Needless to say, I wasn’t around the house much because I now worked both jobs. Even though I worked so much, my habit didn’t slow down. Most of the time, I tried to keep a pack of syringes handy. I would only carry two at a time. The rest I would stash behind my uncle’s washer and dryer. I thought that would be the perfect hiding place, but it wasn’t.
My uncle was cleaning there one day and found them. He said to me, “Justin, you can’t keep these in the house anymore. Man, I have kids.” I said, “Ok, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” After that, it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” subject. He never brought it up again. I could tell he really wanted to help but he didn’t know how. When I got paid that week, I told my uncle I wanted to treat him and his wife for being so good to me. I made reservations for them at a nice hotel. They said they enjoyed themselves a lot and thanked me. That following week, a couple of buddies and I decided to go in on a couple of grams of heroin. I stayed gone until Friday. When I walked in the door, my uncle said, “Justin, where have you been?” I said, “I’ve just been staying with some friends.” He said, “Have you been going to work?” I laughed and hugged his neck and said, “Don’t worry so much. I will be ok. I’m going to moms this weekend. If you need to talk to me, call there.” I went to my moms and the following day I got a phone call from my aunt. She said she found my uncle that morning – dead. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what caused his death. I heard it was a blood clot in his leg. I’m not sure.
When my uncle died, it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” I barely remember being at his funeral. I didn’t want to feel or think about anything. I quit work. I still lived in the trailer with my aunt and my two little cousins. We needed money to pay rent. We only had $30 but rather than paying rent, I took the money and used it to get high. I didn’t go back to the trailer. I abandoned them. I asked my friend if I could move in with him again. He said he was cool with that. A couple of days after I moved in, some guys he knew came over and asked if they could cook crystal meth in his basement. The guy said we could have all the free meth we wanted. That was my first encounter with meth. It wasn’t my drug of choice but it took the edge off the dope sickness.
One day, we had no money for dope so we went to this trailer park to try to sell some of the meth. No one wanted to buy any so we decided to pull to the front of the trailer park and get a fix. I hooked my friend up first. Then when I tried to put some of the meth in my cap, I accidentally poured way too much. My friend said, “Whoa, you put way too much in there!” I said, “Yeah, I know. I don’t want to waste it, though. I’m just gonna try to run it all.” As soon as I ran it, I felt a huge vibration throughout my whole body. I sometimes felt that same feeling when I would run cocaine, but never this intense. My eyes were trying to close. I knew I had overdosed. I said to my friend, “I’m overdosing! I’m gonna go over to this trailer and ask them to call an ambulance before I collapse.” He said okay. I remember getting out of the van and walking toward the trailer. I was thinking, “I’m gonna die. My mom’s gonna find me dead. The police are gonna call her and tell her that I died from an overdose.” I was terrified and began to pray. I said, “God, don’t let me die like this! Please don’t let me die like this! I don’t want my mom to have to get that phone call. Please don’t let me die like this!” The next thing I knew, there was a calming wave that started at the bottom of my feet and went to the top of my head. The vibration was completely gone. I ran back to the van and told my friend what had happened. He said, “Awe, you think it was God?” I said, “Yeah, I think so.” He said, “But you overdose all the time.” We talked for a couple of minutes. It seemed the more we talked about it, the more I questioned it. I got another fix. We made it back to the house around 7:00 A.M. I was in the kitchen looking out the back window and saw a bunch of children playing. They were all staring and pointing at me. I yelled for my friend and said, “Do you see all those little kids out there?” He said, “You’re trippin’ out.” I said, “You really don’t see them?” Then he said, “That’s what happens when you do a lot of meth. You start seeing things.” He told me he had been seeing things all morning.
One of his friends came over. We told him we were trying to get money. He suggested that we try Check-N-Go. I don’t know why, but we had never thought of that. We cashed a check for $200 and then the three of us headed up to Dayton. While I was driving on our way back, I noticed my friend and his friend were in the back talking quietly. I didn’t know what was going on; I just felt something wasn’t right. Then I noticed his friend giving him a fix and it looked like my friend was overdosing. I said, “Awe, man! Are you alright?” I let his friend drive while I checked on my friend. His friend said, “I’m gonna pull over here at Burger King and get me something to drink.” When he got out, I noticed he had left a cap of my friend’s dope lying in the seat. I picked it up and put it in my friend’s pouch. When he got back in the van, I said, “Hey, you left my friend’s dope laying out. He said, “I know.” And he stared at me.
After it became obvious to me that my friend was faking, I was thinking, “These guys are trying to trap me! What are they trying to do?” I was on a lot of drugs, so my judgment was cloudy, but I knew something wasn’t right. We stopped at a gas station and I remember thinking, “This is all just too much.” I went in the rest room and cried. The guy driving came to the door and said “Come on. We gotta go.” I said, “Just leave me here.” My friend wanted to talk to me so I walked outside to meet him. He said, “Man, I’m sorry.” I said, “I’m done with you, and I’m done with these drugs,” and I threw them in his lap.
I walked about 2 miles toward town. When I saw train tracks, I got an idea to sneak on the next train that came by. I thought if I could just get away from all the people and all the drugs, I could get clean. The only problem was the hallucinations I was still having. I was still seeing people coming after me so I started running through the woods next to the tracks. Somehow, I ended up in Rentschler Forest and started getting sick. I thought the park rangers were chasing me so I started making my way out of the park. I was too paranoid to take the street so I stayed in the woods. Then I started seeing a witch chasing me. When I finally made my way out of the woods, I was throwing up a lot and was very dehydrated. I needed water in the worst way. I decided to cross Route 4 but I didn’t know where I was going. I had given up on the train idea and it was getting dark. After getting sick so much, I was really dehydrated and needed water. I started knocking on doors in this nice neighborhood. Of course, no one answered.
I made my way to the end of the street where I saw a church with cars in the parking lot. I walked in to see if I could get some water and a lady came out of the sanctuary and met me in a big open hallway. When she saw me, she asked if I needed help. I told her I would just like to get some water and use the phone. She said ok and pointed me in the direction of the water fountain. Then she got a friend to go with her and they both took me to use the phone. I called my sister and said, “Niki, will you come and pick me up. I’m done with these drugs. I just need to get away.” She said no. I didn’t ask any questions. I just said ok and hung up the phone. I started walking towards the front entrance and the two ladies asked me if there was anything they could do to help. I said, “No, thanks, anyway” and walked out. As I was walking, I kept looking back at the church. I wanted to go back and I didn’t know why. What was back there that I needed? I turned around and saw a heavy-set lady wearing a long, white dress. She was waving me back to the church. I thought her to be another hallucination, but I wanted so badly for her to be real; because if she were real, that would take the pressure off of me to make the choice. I remember staring at the church and trying to decide what to do and thinking, “I have nowhere to go. I have no money. I have no life.” I gave up, but this time giving up was the rite thing to do.
I went back into the church but I didn’t see anyone in the hallway. I sat down and the same lady that gave me the water came walking out of the sanctuary. When she saw me, she stopped and stared at me for a minute, and then she said, “We are going to get you some help.” I didn’t know what to say. She invited me to listen to their worship band practice, so I went in the sanctuary and sat down. Everyone was walking up to me and shaking my hand. They treated me like a real person. I had not felt that way in a long time. I sat there about 15 minutes, and then the pastor of the church introduced himself. He said, “How is everything going?” I said, “Alright. Hey, there was a heavyset lady with a white dress on. I haven’t seen her anywhere. I have seen everyone else, but not her.” He said, “You are hallucinating, aren’t you?” I said, “Yeah, I think I am.” He took me to his office and we talked. When he asked me what my problems were, I said, “To be honest with you, I am a heroin addict. I want to quit so badly, but I just don’t know how. I pray, I have actually sat down and asked God to take this addiction away, but that didn’t work. I don’t know what to do anymore.” He then asked me if I tried checking into a rehab. I had tried, but they wouldn’t accept me because I didn’t have insurance. He said, “Let’s try again.” He soon discovered that without insurance they wouldn’t take me in. He asked if there was anywhere I could go and offered me a ride. I sat and thought about it for a minute and then I said, “Yeah, I guess I will go to my dad’s.” It was very hard to go to my dad’s house. I didn’t want him to see me in that condition. He really worried about me, but I didn’t know what else to do. The pastor found someone to give me a ride. I walked out of the church and sat in the van. I remember taking a deep breath and realizing I could breathe fine! I no longer felt sick at all! I thought about the drugs, but the thought of doing them made me feel dirty! I was very excited and I couldn’t wait to tell my dad!
When I got to my dad’s house, I told him, “I’m done with these drugs! It’s over! It’s because of God! I’m not sick any more! I don’t even want drugs anymore!” He didn’t really believe me. He said, “I’m just glad you are safe.” The next morning, I woke up feeling pretty healthy. I couldn’t believe it! I was just waiting for the sickness to come, but there was nothing the whole day! The day after, I woke up and still felt no sickness. I guess I was expecting to have withdrawals and I had always experienced about three days of sickness. The third day, I woke up still feeling healthy. I rejoiced, “It’s over! It’s really over!”
I started calling everyone I had hurt to tell them I was sorry for the hell I had put them through. I first called a family member who lived close to my dad. I said, “I am done with the drugs and it is because of God. I’m not just saying it this time! I will prove it.” Then I called my mom and told her the same thing. She was so excited. I think she was crying. She said, “When did you quit?” I told her I quit Thursday night and she said, “I was at work Thursday and was talking to one of my co-workers who is a Christian. I was telling him about you and how concerned I was. He said his church was having revival and it was televised. He told me he would ask everyone to pray for you.