His name is Darryl. He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the child of two parents who divorced when he was two years of age. His father had a serious drug problem and his mother left him to be raised by his grandmother. Though he was raised at an early age without parents, his grandmother took him in as her own and raised him. She was his rock, a strong Baptist Sunday school teacher filled with the heart of God, and the greatest example of God and unconditional love he had ever been shown. At age five, his estranged mother came back for him and moved him to Austin, Texas with a new boyfriend she had recently acquired. Being ripped from everything he’d known, he now found himself with his mother and a strange man. He flew back to Nashville every Christmas and summer. Happy to see his grandmother, there was still a catch in going back to what used to be his home: his father. He had to also see his father during every visit, but his father was an abusive man mentally, physically, and sexually. All the while, his father positioned himself between his ex-wife and son, degrading her to his son in order to convince his son to come live with him so he wouldn’t have to pay child support.
When he was thirteen, the pain of abuse, neglect, and turmoil between his parents fighting over him became too much. Filled with anger and resentment towards his father, he needed a way to cope. He wanted to find a way out of the pain, so he began experimenting and trying marijuana. Eventually this led to an evening where he and his friends took some marijuana to a party and were busted for possession; afterwards all of his friends’ parents forbid their kids from hanging out with him, and he then lost his friends. The next group of friends he stumbled on were even worse to him. His best friend in high school was the son of two drug traffickers. He would often be hanging out with him at his house and find bricks of marijuana in their closet. The drugs continued to come. The first time he drank alcohol, he drank so much that he blacked out. The cycle started to exacerbate as he drank more and more, and before he knew it, he was taking Xanax, an anxiety and panic disorder prescription pill, and then his moms’ painkillers, and then tripping on acid by the age of fifteen before he could even drive a car. He recalls a memory of having to call his parents from a hospital after an acid trip. His drug use continued as he was arrested for the first time at age eighteen. His remedy to the arrest and drug use was to move away from his mother and her boyfriend, thinking that Austin must be the problem, and telling himself it had to be the environment causing him to delve into the world of drugs. So he moved back to Tennessee where his father was. His sobriety lasted three months. He quickly became aware of what he calls “a prescription painkiller epidemic” in the Tennessee/Kentucky region. So he started going to doctors, manipulating, inventing problems, and faking injuries to get prescription painkillers.
By nineteen he got hooked on Vicodin and gradually progressed into deeper levels of desperation to fill his addiction. He would call into Walgreens pretending to be a doctor with DEA numbers to call in his own prescriptions, and he attended fifteen different doctors’ offices and clinics. From the outside, his family looked normal as no one was aware of his father’s abuse, but there was incredible turmoil within. By nineteen he couldn’t kick the drugs and found himself in his first rehab treatment center. He didn’t finish, and instead moved back to Austin. He began working for a large, national corporation whom we will leave unnamed. He then had the idea while working for this national company, to steal company information and then open accounts at Dell, purchasing dozens of laptops. The company he stole information from wound up being run by the United States Department of Energy. He never received the laptops, and instead was traced by the U.S. government to his home computer, as the FBI came looking for him. He received a piece of paper that read “The United States Government vs. Darryl Stevens.”
Because of his family situation, they dropped a portion of the charges down from a felony to a misdemeanor. He was put on a one-year probation by the U.S. government for all of his committed crimes. Darryl pauses to reflect on what he’s sharing with me, only to confirm that if he had not experienced all of these occurrences personally, he would not believe it himself. Darryl did not complete his year of probation, mostly due to the fact that he could not stop using drugs. His violation required he be in another rehabilitation center which he eventually left and did not finish. He was then arrested for his misdemeanor and taken into federal prison, transported in what Darryl refers to as an “all white Con-Air airplane.” Upon getting out of prison, the cycle again continued to repeat itself: getting back on drugs, attempting to get clean, and getting back on drugs over and over again. From the period of thirteen to twenty-four he was actively using drugs. He always referred to himself as a “safe drug user,” meaning he would buy a pill on the street, but, still Google it to see what it was. His golden rule was that he would never cross the line into heroin. But after continuing down the path of taking prescription drugs, and then snorting them, he eventually found himself using a needle in his arm and shooting up heroin. When he thought it couldn’t get any deeper, he was then involved in thirteen car accidents within that one year. Darryl again pauses to reiterate how aware he is that it’s a complete miracle he’s even sitting down right now and retelling his story. For the last year and a half of his drug using, he was a full-blown IV heroin addict. He was a walking zombie of himself.
He stops to let me know that throughout this journey, he would have moments where his heart would long for the Lord. The seed his grandmother planted left a lasting impression, one that would echo into the dark, empty tomb of his drug life. He recalls a memory of a Christmas where he was high and almost passing out, but he still begged his mother to take him to church, only to pass out in the church. He shares with me that in the midst of his drug use, he would go to church and long for just a touch of God, yearn for just an encounter with God’s love. Though he longed for more from God, he couldn’t break through the walls he’d built up around himself. He continued down the path he had known since he was thirteen. Those paths lead him to a drug dealer’s house, where he overdosed on Xanax and heroin, losing consciousness. The drug dealer put him into his car, drove him to an abandoned parking lot, and called for an ambulance while performing CPR on him. Upon arriving at the scene, the paramedics shot him with two shots of adrenaline, which moved his body, but did not revive him. Hours later, he woke up in the hospital with his mother standing over him. He found himself at the end of his rope and had to make a choice: accept some form of spiritual help or die.
Something happened to him after that incident causing him to change his mindset and heart to pursue changing his life for good. He realized he had hit rock bottom and had nowhere left to go but up if he didn’t want to die. He was put in a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and heard for the first time testimonies of others who were also on drugs and gravely addicted but were now clean and free from drug use. These testimonies created a glimpse of hope within him and spurred him on to do whatever it took to get clean. He then became willing to look at every piece of pain he had, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, problems with each parent, and childhood traumas. He worked through them by processing them, mourning over those memories and moments, and sought the Lord’s face. While in the treatment center, they would take Darryl and other patients to church. He remembered one of the staff members of his treatment center accepting Jesus one night when they were attending a service. As the staff member accepted Jesus, it touched and moved Darryl so much that he began to cry.
Throughout this journey, Darryl would have moments where his heart would long for the Lord.
As soon as he completed the treatment center, he got out, received Jesus, and was baptized. He then began what he describes as a “crazy, three year spiritual journey.” While he was in the treatment center, one of the things he was told was to find a “spiritual god of your own understanding, a higher power.” Darryl knew of Jesus and that he had been taught of him being “the truth, the light, and the way.” But he wanted to know about all religions and began looking for truth anywhere and in any area he could find it, hungry for the thing that would fulfill him and bring joy. So he began reading different “holy texts” from Islam, Buddhism, and different New Age ideas, all while attending a Christian church every week. Being far away from his grandmother, and not having any Christian friends, he had no one in his life to show him the way or give him answers. He was looking for “the fullness of the power” to stop using drugs for the rest of his life. He enjoyed different New Age ideas and practices, but never found what he was looking for. He remembers getting deep enough into it before he felt like the Lord was saying “that’s enough.” It came while attending an Indian medicine wheel ceremony, and he described it by saying, “There were spirits everywhere and it was dark and too much for me, that was when God ended my involvement with New Age.”
Though he was now living in Austin, he knew some people from a church in Houston who got him into worship music from Jesus Culture, and the music started to speak to his heart. His friend who attended the church was an overseas missionary and happened to be in town fundraising for his missions. While visiting with Darryl, he invited him to a screening of a movie called Father of Lights in Houston. Darryl immediately felt in his heart that he should go, and took his friend up on the offer. Going in with an open heart, he met God there radically. By the end of the movie and worship service, he came to the realization that this is what he’d been looking for his whole life, this was the “fullness” he’d longed for. Others came up around him and prayed for him; he met an amazing God. From that night forward Darryl has been a different man. His old man is dead, and he has been made a new creation. As Darryl describes it, it’s like 2 Corinthians 3:18, he’s been going from “glory to glory to glory to glory.” He responds to his story by reiterating that he knows he should be dead, leaving out countless other stories that indicate by all accounts he should’ve passed away multiple times before. God spared Darryl’s life, looked at him, and told him, “You’re my son and I’m going to do a work with you.” God took Darryl, lifted him up, and cleaned him off, powerfully changing his life forever. All of the stuff he went through is gone, and he has become a man of purity and wholeness.
Darryl has continued to walk in wholeness ever since by remaining sober, becoming more spiritually, physically, and emotionally powerful, and shifting into the man God has called him to be. Now drug free for over four years and serving as a leader in his church, you can only comprehend the stories of this man by concluding that his “old man is dead and he is a new creation.” While continuing to not only grow successfully in his personal life, God also enabled him to grow in his career as well. Two years ago, God gave Darryl an idea to start a company while he was working a job for twelve dollars an hour. Shortly thereafter, Darryl started a computer company in which he taught himself how to do web design, creating a successful business that took off within the first year of opening. Today, that pure, clean, and passionate man for God takes the breakthroughs he’s had to bless others, bringing hope to those who are walking down the same road he had taken. He’s the first person you’ll see in church hungry to pray for others, that they may experience and know God as he has come to. Everything Darryl faced he got through by taking his life to Jesus and overcoming. Darryl concludes by saying, “Whatever you face or are facing, you can always overcome it by the cross.”