TITLE: THE SECOND CHANCE
By Celeste Duckworth
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A Second Chance
by Celeste Duckworth
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Our son, Johnnie had volunteered to enter the Teen Challenge Drug Recovery in San Diego, California over eight weeks ago. No one was allowed to visit him for 30 plus days depending on how things went at the entry level for him. It had been over sixty days when we got the call that we could go and visit him. We loaded up our car for the two hour trip. If only we could have a second chance to do things right.
When he was in school, he still got straight A’s. How could we have not noticed? Why didn’t we pay attention to the signs? He was now twenty-four and addicted. Guilt has a screaming voice. For the addicted it screams with the volume set on high.
We drove to the Center in silence, me looking out the window trying to comprehend our new future with its own doubts and fears. Would Johnnie stay in Teen Challenge? Would our son ever be freed from his tormenting prison? My son was in pain and I could not help him. The next few hours would tell. Teen Challenge has the highest lifetime cure rate in the entire world and that cure is only 86%. Many do not make it out to freedom. Teen Challenge and God gave us our only qualified, sliver of hope.
My heart had committed to memory the time John had finally confessed to us that he was addicted beyond his ability to stop. I saw my husband’s face crumble in pain and cry as he began to grieve over Johnnie. The silent kitchen closed around us as we both filled the room with our fears and helplessness. Our son, still under the influence, simply walked upstairs and left us. A second chance seemed impossible.
We knew the proportions of Johnnie’s drug abuse and the major problem facing our family. Hope was thin and we were as frightened as our son looked.
“One more chance God,” I would pray.
A bed opened up for Johnnie in just five weeks. Time was essential because being an addict meant one’s reserve could reverse at any given moment. He could additionally walk away from this program at any time, but being extremely far from home made that tough.
God had a four year log on the prayers that were sent up on John’s behalf from our church and especially from me, his mom. When sleep escaped me, I would sneak downstairs, scream into a pillow, and give back to God all my pain-filled fears over my son. I drew a line in the sand and would not let the enemy of his soul have him. The prayers for Johnnie escalated to prayers for the salvation for drug dealers, and the removal of their homes to force out the drug resources for other parent’s kids. I also asked God to heal the land and city where the drugs were sold.
“Oh, Earth, Earth, Earth, hear ye the Word of the Lord,” I’d pray.
John’s drug habit had a ten year life and six of those years we had no clue he was addicted to methamphetamine. The last four years were a terrifying nightmare of fighting, theft, lies and every kind of dark sided horror. He had been told to leave home five times, and lived in the streets under trees with no shoes and only a quarter in his pocket. Addicts will use all their resources before they give up and become powerless. Johnnie reached that point at the age of 24. Most addicts do not give up that quickly. He was ready to volunteer his freedom and his drug to enter the one year program.
When the day came to enter the program, our son sat in the back of the car and just brooded all the way to the San Diego Teen Challenge. I knew he was changing his heart. I prayed again for that Second chance our family so desperately needed. On our side in this transition was that Teen Challenge was a two and half hour drive from our home. Johnnie could walk away but it was a long way home. We all got out of the car and the intake person recounted all the rules to Johnnie while we listened. It sounded like a tough place but this was the last stop for our son before prison. He was at his bottom. I left him there and cried all the way home. I would not see Johnnie again for 60 days.
The car’s tires crunching on the gravel driveway into the church parking lot brought me back to the present. Immediately we were met by one of the attendees who helped us to empty out the car carrying food, a basketball, sodas, and donated clothing. When he spoke to us, his voice sounded familiar, it was Johnnie! Our shocked looks were replaced with joy, elation, tears and bear hugs. John was clean; he had put on some weight, now buzzed off hair, and was especially thrilled to see us. The glad to see us part hadn’t been around for eons. John even stood taller than I remembered. Gone were the angry eyes, his hatred of us, the frail, thin, bent over body, and the rebellion in his heart. All my fears and doubts dissolved as I saw a miracle standing before me, answered prayer in the form of a man and a second chance. Hope and my Lord had delivered my son from his prison of fear and pain.
Johnnie still had ten months of discipleship to finish but he was on his way. In 90 days he was transferred to The Castle Teen Challenge in Riverside, California and it was there that Johnnie would find his greatest challenges. He at one point told us he should have gone to prison as it would have been easier. When he said that I called our church prayer hot line and we started to storm heaven on his behalf. I had one friend who called me every week to ask about him. Our prayer did not return to us void but full of grace for God had truly returned our son back to us and gave our family that second chance we had cried out for.
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