John Fuller: On the last “Focus on the Family” broadcast, Jacqui Strothoff explains that her family discovered that she had a heroin addiction after she overdosed at her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.
Mrs. Jacqui Strothoff: I can remember when I was becoming conscious, looking up and having him looking over me with tears just running down his face, asking me, “What’s the matter?” You know, they told me you almost died. What’s the matter?” I said, “I wasn’t tryin’ to kill myself. I was just trying to make the pain go away.”
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John: You’ll hear more about what it’s like to deal with and then overcome such a powerful addiction with God’s help on today’s “Focus on the Family.” And your host is Focus president, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, last time we heard how Jacqui’s teenage life spiraled down into a world of heroin addiction, funded by prostitution with friends dying from drug overdoses and her little brother actually dying in her arms. When she was 16, Jacqui married an older man, a drug dealer who seemed to have everything she wanted and she soon became pregnant. But he was physically abusive and one severe beating led to a miscarriage and Jacqui was left sterile. God had a purpose for Jacqui and even though she thought life was hopeless, He saved her in a miraculous way. We don’t have the time to recount all the details right now, so I’d strongly recommend that you get the CD or the audio download of what you missed from last time.
John: Yeah, or of course, listen on the app and you can find the download and CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us for information about the CD, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: This time Jacqui will continue her story from the point where she not only accepted Christ, but was instantly healed of her addiction to drugs. I mean, that is a powerful testimony and then we’re gonna hear from her late husband, Bob, who has his own tale to tell.
John: All right, so here’s Jacqui Strothoff in a message recorded at Times Square Church in New York City, on today’s “Focus on the Family.”
Jacqui Strothoff: From that moment on, I had such a hunger in my heart for the things of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. I used to sneak out of my bed at night and I used to take my flashlight and go down to the cellar thing by the kitchen in the program and just read and read and read and read, because I just couldn’t get enough of the Man called Jesus. I couldn’t learn enough about this Person who would die for someone like me. I wanted to know more. I wanted to love Him more. I wanted to serve Him more and I stayed that whole year. I never dreamt. I used to see girls come in and leave that program and I used to think, “They must be crazy. Leave here to go where? Back there? Back to the streets?” I couldn’t understand it, because I knew I had found the life, the truth source of life and the living Savior and I wasn’t about to go nowhere. (Laughter) He wasn’t shakin’ me. (Laughter)
And there was no doubt in my mind or heart that God had called me to go back to the streets that He saved me from and to tell people that are still stuck there, who are still under the deception and the lie that there’s no way out, that there is a way out and that Jesus is that way and that, that way is open to any and all who choose to take that path.
And you know, nobody ever told me that. I never heard that (Emotional). It’s kind of sad when you think about it. I shot dope for 12 years and I never heard a single person come and tell me that until the end, until I was so confused and so blinded I couldn’t even understand what that meant. It makes you think when you see someone like that, when you’re sittin’ beside someone like that, you know and you know you’ve got the goods and you know you’ve got what they need, you have to speak it; you have to tell them. How else are they gonna know, if you don’t tell them?
I met my husband at that school, but certainly did not know he was gonna be my husband. In fact, I really–I was not interested in guys or dating or anything like that. I’d had too many bad experiences. I thought, “It’s just You and me, Jesus. We’re gonna save the world.” (Laughter) We were just gonna be the dynamic duo, you know and I wasn’t gonna worry about anybody else. (Laughter) But what He was to me though there was a friend and a ministry partner.
When we used to go out on our outreaches at school, I was always lined up with Bob, because our pasts were similar and we worked well as a team together on the streets. So, he was a very good friend. And then, one year I was home for Christmas vacation and he was coming to the same area to a chaplaincy seminar so that he could do prison work at Louisiana Teen Challenge. And when I went to pick him up and I got out of that truck and I looked at him and he looked at me and it was like, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.” (Laughter)
All those things and all those feelings that I never felt for him while we were in school, the Lord just went, wham! You know (Laughter), but the neatest thing about it was, that He was building a relationship and a friendship on spiritual things that would hold us solid in the years to come, that all the sugary stuff and the other kinds of stuff that was nice, but that never would have held us through the tough times.
And we were in ministry together. We worked at Brooklyn Teen Challenge right here and then we went out to Southern California Teen Challenge. And while we were in Southern California Teen Challenge on my first anniversary, I found out I was pregnant.
Audience: (Verbal Response)
Jacqui: You know, God is so good. I never presumed on Him and prayed and asked Him, you know, for a child because I felt like, you know, the wages of sin are what they are and sometimes we have to reap the consequences of what we sow, even though those sins are forgiven.
And I thought, “Well, Lord, you know, that’s okay. You know. we could just spend our life helping everybody else and else’s kids and stuff.” But He knew that the desire of my heart was to have a child. And He gives me that on my first anniversary. I mean, I think Bob cried for a month. I know it took us about three months to get the phone bill paid. (Laughter) He called everybody he ever knew in America. (Laughter) It was a glorious time.
And our first child was a son and some years later, just as I was going into the hospital to have a hysterectomy for some new problems that developed, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.
Audience: (Verbal Response)
Jacqui: So the Lord thought, “Let me just throw one more thing in here (Laughter), really keep their heads spinning.” So, I have a little girl and little boy who are so, so precious to us, because they were two children that we were certainly, according to the world, never supposed to have.
But then there were many things like that, that we were never supposed to have that God just seemed to like to prove Himself and that is my message. You know, my message is, there is nothing He cannot do. There is no one He cannot reach. And there is nobody that He cannot keep by His power and for His glory.
I thank you for the opportunity to come and share with you tonight. It’s been a blessing for me. It always is a blessing for me to glorify Jesus. And I hope, you know, that you will consider though, when you do folks or you do think you might have an opportunity to share Him with someone that doesn’t know Him or share Him with someone that’s hurting, please, please don’t hold onto that secret. It needs to be shared. Amen, thank you. (Applause)
John: Well, that’s Jacqui Strothoff on “Focus on the Family.” A quick reminder that you can get a CD of this program for a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or request that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. All right, let’s return now as Bob Strothoff takes the stage to share his side of the story on “Focus on the Family.”
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Mr. Bob Strothoff: I thank the Lord for this opportunity. It’s a tremendous honor and prior to knowing Christ, the only honor that I knew was, “Yes, your honor, no, your honor.” (Laughter) So you can see why it’s such an honor, amen? (Laughter)
Almost 26 years ago, I began to make poor decisions, decisions out of rebellion and mistrust for adults. My father died when I was 5-years-old and at an early age, through rebellion [I] began to experiment with drugs. And I think it’s a poor choice of words even for me to say “experiment” with drugs, because it wasn’t an experiment. It was just pure, pure hedonism. I just wanted to have fun and be respected by the older guys and so, I tried it. But you know what? I liked it and that was the real dilemma. I liked it and I began to use more and more drugs and I started using pills, not pot.
I started as a street rat. I started stealing before I needed to steal and I started hangin’ out in pool rooms and shinin’ shoes and doing all the things that you wouldn’t think for a lower-middle-class individual from almost in the suburbs, would do. But, that’s what I did and that’s the life that I chose.
And I began to get into things and involved in things that I no longer controlled and very quickly, as I went through a bit of “hippiedom” and a bit of this and that, I ran into something that was more powerful than anything that I’d ever experienced to that point and that was heroin. I shot some heroin one day and I looked at the guy that shot the heroin in my arms and I said, “I don’t ever want anything else. I’m in love.” I never got married. The whole time, the 10 years that I used narcotics on the street, I didn’t get married because I had a full-time spouse: narcotics. And I became totally, totally reprobate. I didn’t care about anybody or anything. I weighed 120 pounds and I gained a few since then. (Laughter)
I can remember at the 20th anniversary of Teen Challenge, Brother Dave hadn’t seen me for about a year and he said, “Oh, you’re gainin’ some weight.” And I said, “The blessing of the Lord.” He said, “Don’t blame that on the Lord.” (Laughter)
But I was rippin’ and runnin’ and I was payin’ a tremendous price. Real soon, I didn’t like what I was doin’. I didn’t like the pain that I was experiencing. I didn’t like the pain that I was causing other people. I didn’t like that every night when I came home, that I cursed and pushed my mother around and took her money off her and disrespected her. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like when I lived in other places, I would get thrown out of ’em, because I was a terrible tenant. I didn’t like that I didn’t have a car or a driver’s license, because I was totally irresponsible. Up until the time I became a Christian, at 24, I never had a driver’s license or a bank account.
And so, I went looking for help. And I want to tell you that I was serious about getting help many times. But I began to hear this over and over again: “But, you’re a junkie. Once an addict, always an addict. Don’t you know there’s no hope for you?” Maybe if you weren’t a junkie.
I got arrested. My front door was kicked in flat. [The] police arrested me. I was skinny, sick. My room was filthy. There was mold growing on the plates that I had in my room and they found all kind of paraphernalia and they found 30 phony bags of Epsom salts that I was selling Epsom salts to people. [I] didn’t care if they died or they didn’t die. I didn’t care.
I went to prison. They didn’t have rehabilitation therapy in prison. They had a bed for me to kick my habit on. They strapped my head, my arms and my legs. [They] put my naked body through a hole in the canvas, with a bucket under me so that I could take care of my needs and left me there until my habit was gone.
The pain was tremendous. I was fighting a fight. There [were] no friends. My family had been [worn] out. There was nobody lookin’ out for me. I was on my own. I went to the methadone program. It made me sick. It made me worse than what I was. I went to a therapeutic program. It changed my mind a little bit, but my heart was still rotten. I just couldn’t get it.
Nineteen seventy-four, Christmas, my partner got triple-life in prison. I was wanted by the FBI. We were chased from Pittsburgh to Montreal, warrants in Canada and throughout the United States. We had a number of bank robberies and drug store robberies and I can remember doing a bank robbery and looking out the window and watching the cars go by. And the only reason I was robbing this bank was to get money for narcotics. I wasn’t tryin’ to be a playboy or go to Hawaii or buy a condo. I just wanted not to be sick anymore.”
And I looked out the window and I saw the cars going by and my image in the window with the ski mask on my face and I said, “This isn’t ‘Baretta.’ Somebody’s gonna come here and kill me.” And my life got continually worse and that was a nine-year end, almost 10 years and I was tired, 120 pounds. Let me tell you, 6’2″ and 120 pounds, there’s not much there.
My only hope was death. Prison was a relief and [the] night before Christmas, when all through the house, those mice were supposed to be stirring, I was stirring up a clothing store. It was Sunday night. Friday night I had robbed a store. Came back Saturday night and tried to break the same window. It was like a Chinese gong. I woke up the whole neighborhood. They had Plexiglas in it. So I had a brainstorm, that on Sunday night I was gonna do it again.
So I used about enough narcotics that the doctor that eventually worked on me that evening said was enough to kill his cancer ward. And I walked through the window. Broke the window, walked through the window and the guy that was with me yelled in the window, “The police are here.” In my stupor, I ran out and saw the police officer and saw it was a guy that had a dog in the car. I figured, “Well, I can outrun the dog.” (Laughter) You’d think the silly thing is, that I thought I could outrun the dog. No, the silly thing is that I thought he was gonna let his dog be bothered.
He got out [of] the car and shot me. I was running up the hill. He stopped and “bang.” And he shot me, but I got away. I was so anesthetized, I didn’t even–you know, the bullet went through my leg. I got away, jumped the fence, got where I was going, got to the guy that I had been doin’ the burglary with, knocked on his door. He came to the door in his robe like he’d been sittin’ at home all night and he said, “Don’t bleed on my rug.”
You see, that’s it. Nobody cares. Nobody’s concerned. Nobody’s about taking care of you, so you’re takin’ care of yourself and you get harder and you get harder and you get harder and you get harder.
I went to the hospital that night and the police officers came and I was laying on a slab. They let me lay there on the thing and bleed for about an hour and a half and finally the police officers came. And so, I had a very unhappy week in the hospital, but I had a lot of time to think. And I thought, they’re gonna kill me. You know, this is a big-boys’ game. I’ve been to a penitentiary. I’ve been to programs. I’ve been everywhere I know to go. How can I get help? And I came up with a blank. Isn’t that sad? I don’t know. There’s no help.
So, I got up and I went to the hearing and I went in the hearing and there was three other guys in the bull pen with me and they went in front of the judge and I only had a few dollar[s]; a friend had a few dollars out there and they went in front of the judge and one, two three, for burglary, they got $5,000 bonds. That means they had to come up with $500. No way I can come up with $500.
I went in front of the judge. He gave me $1,000 bond; 80 bucks I had to come up with. I almost fainted. Never got a play. I had a record long as Long Island. And I walked out of that courtroom amazed that this happened, felling lucky. You know, you think a guy that had been doin’ this and goin’ through all that, just got shot and worried about bank robbery warrants following and that, you think he’d quit.
No, I took my 120-pound, 6’2″ body, runnin’ around my neighborhood with a pellet gun and a stocking over my head, sticking up drugstores. See, there was nothing else to do. It’s not about wanting to quit. It’s not about being tired of doing what you’re doing. It’s about having the power to overcome the
I’d come home every night for years and my mother’d stand at the door screamin’ at me. Every night a scene when I was livin’ at home, if I wasn’t livin’ at an apartment or somewhere else, in some boarding room or on the street. My mother’d be at the door, screamin’ and yellin’. One night I came home and it was quiet. And she said, “Bobby, don’t you want to know why I’m not screamin’ at you?” And I said, “No, I don’t. I’m just glad you aren’t, so go back in your little hole and leave me alone.”
But I found out later that my mother, that night, had come to the end of her road and she began to contemplate, “What in the world am I gonna do with this boy? I’ve raised him; I raised him the best I knew how. I’ve tried to help him with his problems. I tried to,” you know, [she] assisted me. One time she wanted me to get in this program. She spent $2 in dimes calling the same guy back. He kept saying, “There’s no room.” She kept calling back and saying, “But there got to be room.” “No room.” “Gotta be room.” My mother wanted to see me get help, but she couldn’t help me. “What am I gonna do?”
And that night, she said, “If there’s a God, I’m giving him to You, God and me to You, God.” And she said her hands raised up to Him and she began to thank Him and experience Him. And that night was the first night in years that she slept and she slept every night after that, no matter what.
You see, my mother, she had come home and the door’s kicked down flat and spent the next couple days calling morgues. And my mother experienced addiction, believe me. And now she turned my life over to God and I thought, “Well, good for you.” You know? What’s that mean? But, what it meant was, that God began to intervene in my life. And He began to do things and manipulate and work through my life and He brought more people. He brought a lady into my life that told me about the Lord and wanted to bring me to a prayer meeting and I got past her and etc., etc.
But then a man came to me. He was a guy I shot drugs with, [that] I did time with, [that] I did all kinds of things with, almost took a life with, a guy I shared very intimate parts of my addiction with. And he came and he pulled up. I got in the car and I said, “Hey, you know, how’re doin’? I haven’t seen you for a while. You ready to cop?” [I] said, “You want me to buy drugs?” He said, “No. I’ve been clean 18 months. Christ changed my life.”
I looked over at him and he was like fat and healthy. He had rosy cheeks and smilin’. (Laughter) And I got an attitude and I said, “You make me sick. You come back here fat and healthy, tellin’ me (Laughter) how good you’re doin’. What about me? I’m dyin’. I got a hole in my leg. I’m goin’ to prison. Good for you, pal!” And he said–and because he had been an addict and knows the behavior of an addict, he said to me, “You can feel sorry for yourself or you can realize that the same God that changed my life, can change your life.”
Audience: (Verbal Response) Amen! Amen!
Bob: And what I recognize to be the Spirit of God right now, was in that car and spoke to my heart and said, “This is it, pal. This is your chance.” It was February 13th, 1975.
I went home and I had told him, I said, “Listen. I worked a couple of months while I was on parole and I sent in two weeks ago for my money for the IRS. It was just enough money to pay for a lawyer, about $150.” I said, “If it comes tomorrow, I wanna go in that program.” I got a shot, right? Two weeks? [The] IRS? Forget it. I went home. I woke up in the morning. I went out to the mailbox and it was there. (Laughter) I gotta go in this program. “Look at this. This gotta be God.” The IRS, my money, I gotta go into this program. (Laughter and Applause)
As I was standing at the mailbox, he came pulling around the corner to see his grandmother that he hadn’t seen for 18 months, across the street from me. I ran out to the car, begged him, “Get me into the program.” Well, he did. That was 16 years ago. I had the worst problems of anyone that was in that Teen Challenge program. I mean, they wanted to throw me out every five minutes for major problems, not like dirty shoes or not making your bed. I’m talkin’ about shootin’ dope and lyin’ and doing everything, ’cause I was a junkie.
And I went in and they were gonna throw me out of the program and I went in and I said, “God, what am I gonna tell ’em?” I had shot drugs on God’s mountain. I said, “I deserve to be thrown out. What am I gonna tell ’em?” He said, “Tell ’em. Remind them of where you’re at.” And I went in. And tears were running down my face and they thought I was a con man. And they said, “You don’t want to be here. You’re just running a game.” And I said, “Let me tell you something. This place is Teen Challenge and I’m a challenge and I need your help. (Laughter) I know how to be a junkie. You show me how not to be a junkie.”
They put me on a definite discipline and I didn’t see the end of the road for about three months. But I was grateful to God that, that happened, because it brought about the peaceable fruit of righteousness in my life. And I began my ministry and I’m so grateful to God for meeting me. And all I ever wanted was to stop shooting dope, but I wanna tell you somethin’ tonight. The very least thing, the smallest thing that He did for me, was that I am no longer an addict. He’s done so much more for me.
And I just want to encourage you tonight, that no matter where you find yourself and what situation you find yourself in, that He’s there with you. And because He’s with you, there’s the ability for Him to keep that which is committed unto Him. So commit it. Make your move. Commit to Him and He’ll keep it. Eleven years my wife and I have been married. I can’t tell you what the odds are against two junkies stayin’ married 11 years. Two regular people staying together 11 years got a rough shot in this world. (Laughter) Well, we’ve been together 11 years and every anniversary, we look at each other and laugh, and say, “You believe this? Look what He can do.” (Applause) Two of the “miserablest” [sic], meanest persons, as mean as spit, I’m tellin’ you. (Laughter) But God was able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we even asked or think. (Applause)
John: What a positive note to end on today’s “Focus on the Family.” That’s the late Bob Strothoff and I think he’d be very proud of the fact that he and Jacqui made 22 years together before he died unexpectedly at the age of only 48.
Jim: Yeah, John, sadly Bob died of a massive heart attack when their two kids–those miraculous children that Jacqui wasn’t supposed to be able to have–they were 13- and 19-years-old when Bob died. What a difficult time they had, in addition to all the other stuff that had happened earlier.
Bob and Jacqui had worked for many years for Teen Challenge in Pensacola, Florida, helping men and women overcome their drug addictions. After Bob’s death, Jacqui felt the Lord leading her back to her home state of Rhode Island, where she served as the executive director of the Teen Challenge Women’s Home for over a dozen years. But now Jacqui says she feels God wants her to be free to share her story whenever and wherever He leads her and she’s founded her own speaking outreach called In His Presence Ministries.
And you know, as I listen to Bob and Jacqui’s stories, I couldn’t help but wonder who they might have been saved from all those years of drug use and crime if they had access to Christian counselors when they were in middle school. Jacqui said she started drinkin’ alcohol and using pills when she was 12-years-old and Bob said he was about the same age.
If you have any addiction issues, either right now or maybe even in your past, let me encourage you to deal with those with a Christian counselor. There’s a lot of emotional damage that can occur in the addiction cycle and you might not even be conscious of that fact. But if you’re finding that you have trouble with relationships, with trusting people, those are the red flags that you need some help.
If you don’t know where to turn, please call us. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. We have a highly regarded group of Christian counselors here that will count it a privilege to spend time with you on the phone and then help you find a like-minded counselor in your area to continue to talk with. We have an extensive network of counselors across the United States who meet our standards and can help you.
And if you’re a friend of Focus on the Family and support us financially or maybe you haven’t supported us at all or it’s been a while, could I ask you to consider helping us be there for these folks who are strugglin’ right now? This is part of the gospel. This is what we need to do and you can do ministry through Focus on the Family. And when you give today, I’d love to send you the CD of Bob and Jacqui Strothoff for a donation of any amount as our way of saying thank you for partnering with us.
John: And you can be part of the team when you call 800- A -FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate generously online and request that CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Next time, join us as we hear an amazing story of Kayla Aimee. She gave birth to her daughter when she was just 25 weeks into her pregnancy.
Mrs. Kayla Aimee: I felt very numb. Like I said, it happened so fast. It was a lot to process and I … I felt a little bit abandoned by God, like I’d waited so long to have this baby. I was so excited to be a mom and as soon as I saw her, I loved her so much and then she was just taken away and I didn’t know what was gonna happen to her.
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John: It’s a powerful story on the next “Focus on the Family.” On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.