Stories of Transformation: Sam

Literally held hostage by his addiction, Sam knew he had to run if he was going to find lasting transformation

His second time through our recovery program, Sam couldn’t help but feel like he was missing something.

At 23, he had an addiction to heroin and methamphetamine that rivaled most of the older guys on campus. But even though he was going through the same motions, attending the same meetings, studying the same verses – he wasn’t making the same progress.

“I thought, ‘Why can’t God just take away this addiction so I can get back on track?’ There are people who get sober in 30 days and never look back. My friends from high school were getting their degrees, getting married and having kids. Why was I here again sharing a room with 40 other guys?”

God had two words for Sam: heavy blessing.

“Some blessings come without a cost. But intensive recovery, that’s a heavy blessing. God does a miracle, but He expects you to put in the work.”

Sam admits that’s not where his heart was on the first two attempts.

“The full surrender wasn’t there. I grew up in the church, so I knew all the right things to say, but I put up boundaries. I was saying, ‘Help me out in this area, but these areas of my life, those are none of your business.’”

Sam left the Mission the second time because his heart told him he was ready. But he wasn’t prepared for what his addiction had in store for him.

“I let people live in my townhouse that I shouldn’t have to keep my habit supplied. It became a complete drug den. I sat there and watched it all happen. Near the end there were between 60 and 80 people a day cycling through to buy drugs or guns or other things. People were getting hurt. My own habit was skyrocketing.”

Dangerous people moved in. Men with guns kept a close eye on the house at night. Sam was limited on when he could leave, where he could go and how long he could be gone.

“They let me know that if I was away for too long, they would assume I was snitching on them. If that happened, it wasn’t just me who would have a problem — they would go after my family, too.”

Sam had become a prisoner in his own home. Worse, he had become an addict with access to unlimited amounts of drugs.

“My body was starting to shut down. I was on a $300 to $400 a day heroin habit in addition to a lot of meth. I was extremely sick; I didn’t have control over my own thoughts.”

Then God gave Sam a nudge that may have saved his life.

“I had this feeling that something big was about to happen. It wasn’t paranoia, I feel like God was throwing me a bone. It was a now or never deal. I didn’t want to go back to the Mission after where I’d been, but I knew it was either that or die here.”

At 2 a.m., Sam quickly packed a backpack, slipped out of the house, and ran for his life.

Your support gave Sam a place to run to.

“I knew there were people at the Mission who cared about me. I decided, even if I don’t like what they tell me to do, this time I’m going to do it. I wanted to find out who God is.”

Just as Jesus has done for us countless times, we welcomed Sam back with open arms and helped him start on the long road ahead.

“In detox, I was awake for 37 days. I don’t remember most of it. I know it was hard to walk, they [Phoenix Rescue Mission staff] would pick me up and move me from one bunk to another when I got sick. I remember that as I started to get my strength back, they would make me get up and walk with me out back. God used them to help heal me.”

When the drugs finally left Sam’s body, something amazing happened. He headed into recovery with a hunger we had never seen in him before.

After finally surrendering to God’s plan, Sam has become a peer support specialist, a certified chaplain and is currently pursuing a degree in Substance Abuse Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

“We were skeptical of any changes this time,” says Sam’s mother, Shannon. “Because of Covid, there was much less interaction, but we would get a 2-hour visitation pass every now and then. I don’t remember if it was the second or third time, but my husband and I both walked away thinking, ‘He’s definitely different.’ There was a maturity and a humility there that he didn’t have before. When he told us that he was leading worship, we couldn’t believe it.”

“This time I had a real moment of honesty with the Lord,” says Sam. “I told Him, ‘I don’t know you the way I thought I did. I’ve had a taste, but I’m still thirsty.’” Sam has never been the same since.

Today, he’s clean and sober once again. But he’s more than that – he’s transformed. Beyond becoming a graduate, he’s become a peer support specialist, a certified chaplain, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling at GCU, all by God’s leading.

“I didn’t want to go back to school,” Sam admits, “but I wanted to do something for people and my resume is extremely thin. I want to be able to say I’ve got life experience, but I’ve also got credentials. So, this is where God is leading me. Again, it’s a heavy blessing. I’m trying to trust and obey… to love people the way Jesus does.”

Sam’s parents are still shocked by the change, but grateful for your support that made it possible.

“The Mission took care of our son when we had no clue what to do,” says Shannon, “and they did it with grace. There are a lot of rehab places, but for us, the faith-based part has to be there. Because that’s where the difference is. Behavior modification is great, but if at the end you have the same heart, it’s not real change. They restore the person on the inside and we feel privileged to give and support that.”

The change she’s seen in her son has also inspired her to get more involved. Shannon serves at our Hope for Hunger Food Bank and is a mentor for one of the women at our Changing Lives Center.

“God is good and He’s got a good plan,” says Sam. “He didn’t give me an easy blessing. It was hard and it still is today. But it’s been the best one. Life keeps getting better.”

Sam’s mother, Shannon, and his father are both grateful for your support of Phoenix Rescue Mission, which allowed Sam to find the love and help he needed for a transformed life.