The door of my jail cell had just been shut behind me. I was in the first minute of a 30-day sentence for a second-offense DUI charge. Thirty days in which I could reflect on the life I had been living and the choices I made that led up to my imprisonment.
I had asked myself this a thousand times. So many others were living the life I was living, they never got caught and their life seemed just fine. So why me? I did not need anyone to feel sorry for me. I was good at that on my own.
I grew up as a very angry, insecure, depressed person. I was not popular in school, in my town or even in my own family. My parents divorced when I was 4 years old, and my mother never remarried. It was just her and I.
My father was an alcoholic, and it seemed everyone that lived around us drank or used drugs. I never could fit in with the other boys I went to school with. I didn't know how. I wanted to fit in so badly and just be accepted. I would do all kinds of things just for their acceptance, but it never worked. The more I tried, the more I failed. The more I failed, the angrier and more isolated I became.
There is always that one kid who is constantly picked on and beat up in school - and it was me. I was always told that I would never amount to anything. I heard it from people around home, kids at school and even from my own teachers and the parents of kids I went to school with. At the church my mother and I attended, we were treated no differently. I swore to myself that one day I would be popular and I would not be just another loser.
At the age of 12, I was first introduced to alcohol. I had relatives that would serve me any time I wanted. Growing up, I swore to myself that I would never become an alcoholic because of my father. It was fine if I drank, because I knew what could happen, and I was not foolish enough to let that happen to me.
Although I did drink, I did not like it much. I did not like the effects of it, but I did it anyway. I was already beginning to use it to medicate.
Throughout the rest of my teenage years, I coped as much as I could, and the alcohol was an escape even if it was just for a little while. I ended up quitting school because I just could not take it anymore, and I knew sooner or later, I would crack. I started working at that point, obtained my G.E.D. and things finally started looking up.
As soon as I got out of my town and started working in a place where no one knew who I was, it seemed like I was accepted right away. Of course, I mixed myself in with the party crowd and smoked marijuana for the first time. I fell in love with that drug for the next 16 years. For the first time in my life, I felt relaxed. My mind wasn't racing and thinking of a hundred things at once. I did not care about what people thought toward me, about the bad day I had, about all the stuff I had lived through or how bad I hurt on the inside. I felt that there was nothing wrong with getting high. After all, I was not hurting anyone. I was well liked, I was a very hard worker, I was kind, considerate, helpful and intelligent. Besides, I felt good for a change.
I got to know so many drug dealers that I obtained the popularity that I so very much wanted. I could have a different date for each night of the week, phone calls every night and making money to support my own habit, which was becoming worse and worse.
There was never a time when I was not high. I never felt normal without it. I became so popular that even the police knew exactly who I was, so that gave me a sense of adventure, a thrill, playing cat and mouse, so to speak. After a while though, I knew my time was running out. The popularity that I so longed for did not satisfy me. I realized that the friends I had were only there for what I could give them or get them. I wanted to get out of that life, but refused to give up my comfort.
This is the first time I prayed.
I prayed for a good wife so that I could settle down and get my life straightened out. Funny thing is, God answered that prayer.
As soon as I met my wife, my mother became terminally ill with lung cancer. This sent me into a frenzy. My mother was my life line. If anything ever went bad, I knew I could always go back home. I could live carefree with no consequences. Now, that was being removed from my life.
Even though I would not give up my comfort (marijuana), I started to pray a lot when I was alone. I knew that God existed, and for some reason, I knew he was hearing my prayers, even though I was not hearing him.
It was a rough time in the beginning of my marriage. I wanted to stop abusing drugs. I wanted to get my act together, but at the same time, I did not think I could live without my comfort. I wanted to help people and make a difference in the world. God had begun to show his presence in my life, and God had put a call into my life, but at the time, I wasn't recognizing it.
Although I had gotten married, I did not know the first thing about what a husband was supposed to be like. I did not want kids because I did not want the responsibility of taking care of them. I used my own wisdom and took what seemed a good route as doors were opened up to me. I took a course to become an emergency medical technician and went through that course and passed it with flying colors. Always high, I might add. But things happened, and I quit doing that line of work.
In everything I tried to do, I failed. Nothing went my way, my addiction became worse and worse and my marriage was not what I had hoped it to be. I refused to admit I was the cause of a lot of the problems in my life and marriage and always found an excuse why I failed. Most of the time, it was "somebody else's fault."
I drank more and more, along with the drug use I was doing. I had started using harder drugs than my normal ones, so on any given night - usually every night - I was well numbed. Then, one night, that all came to an end. I had already been caught for one DUI, but that was just a fine and some probation, until my second charge came in the form of a severe car accident.
I tried to escape, but I could not. I was a mess. I ended up with a concussion and 14 stitches in my forehead from partially going through the windshield of my truck, and five broken ribs. In three seconds, I lost the only life I knew -my marriage, my house, my friends and almost my physical life.
At this point in my life, everyone had written me off and said I was a lost cause and a hopeless case, and I felt the same way about myself. I felt like I was a piece of garbage that had just been thrown out. I did not see any more reason to live. I knew I was lost.
In the first week of my jail sentence, I gave my life to Jesus and asked for his help. I did not feel any different after I did it. All I knew was that I did not have anything to numb myself with, and for the first time in a long time, I had to hurt and feel again. I also had nothing to look forward to when I got out - no place to live and I had fines to pay.
Pastor Gary Krabill introduced me to the Juniata County Prison Ministry and asked if I would be interested. I thought it would be better than going to a homeless shelter, so I put myself into the program. I did not really want to have to change, but I knew I had to. My way did not work, and I knew I would probably drink myself to death or overdose or end up back in jail if I didn't.
God was working, though.
He had been preparing special people to receive me. It took very patient, merciful and forgiving people to deal with me. I was a handful and pushed everyone to their limit. Several times, I broke the rules by drinking and smoking pot, but they never gave up on me even though, in a way, I wanted them to. I am glad now they did not.
Two weeks after my release from prison, I had a job and a means to pay off my fines. God started to reveal himself in powerful ways to me as well. From the beginning, he left me know that he was there and gave me hope, a reason to keep going, a reason to try.
Getting sober was not an easy task. I had to learn how to feel again, think again and hurt again, and then learn how to properly deal with these emotions that, for so long, I had kept under lock and key. However, for the first time, I could understand what I was reading when I read my Bible. I knew when God was instructing me. I knew for the first time I was not alone.
There were too many blessings that I received as I went through the prison ministry to mention, but the biggest was the special people God had placed into my life through the program and through the church I was attending.
The next four years, God had me walking through the desert, so to speak. As he revealed more of himself to me, the more I grew and began to understand that God had been active in my life for a very long time. I began to see that He had a plan for me and He was not about to let me fail. God himself was becoming the father I never had.
Today I am completely sober, no desire to even drink or use drugs again. I am completely cured, and in place of my need for them is a need for Jesus. I know how to deal with my emotions and deal with situations without numbing myself and running away from the problem. I understand that my real problem was not alcohol and drug addiction. My real problem was the heart wounds I received as a child. After all, if a child knows his own father does not want him, will he think that anyone else will?
Because I did not have a good father around who was also not a good husband, there was no way for me to know what a real man should be and what a good husband is supposed to act like. My addictions were just a means to deal with that tremendous hurt that I carried so long.
God took me under his wing and showed me all these things, and then taught me how to be a man that is pleasing to Him. In place of that hurt, He has brought me much healing. This year has been an incredible year in the Lord for me. I have begun to preach (not full-time, but getting experience). I have found God has made me a good public speaker, and I have been reunited with my four half brothers after 30 years and reconciliation has taken place.
I had used, mistreated and taken advantage of so many people. God has shown himself to be a true God of mercy, grace and ultimate forgiveness. He has given it to a person who did not deserve it. He has become a father to the fatherless.
I thank the Lord for making me a miracle.
Darren Simcox, of Mifflintown, turned his life around through the support of the Juniata County Prison Ministry. For more information about the ministry, contact the Rev. Gary Krabill at 436-2132.