Her life had descended into a haze of addiction—until a young customer rekindled some long-forgotten memories.
Every day she planned her escape. The hair salon closed at 8 each night; the nearest liquor store at 9. If everyone pitched in to sweep the floors and close the tills, Stephanie could make it there in time to pick up some whiskey, drive home and pass out as quickly as possible.
Whiskey wasn’t always part of the plan. Sometimes she couldn’t make it to the liquor store in time, in which case she’d simply swing by the supermarket for some beer.
Besides, she always had some pot around, which she smoked before work like other people brush their teeth.
In between the booze and weed, Stephanie would buy pills. “Vicodin or any other painkiller,” she says. “Adderall was a favorite, but not always easy to get.”
In truth, Stephanie didn’t have a plan at all, just a habit. A routine. Her way of life.
She liked talking to people, and she was good at her job, but there was no joy in it, not for Stephanie. Like wrecking her car or choosing all the wrong friends, cutting hair was merely something to do.
She did have a boyfriend for a couple of years, but he was an addict, too. They’d broken up, at least in part, because Matt wanted to get help and Stephanie just wasn’t there yet. In fact, Matt would still contact her from rehab.
“He told me that he had started reading the Bible,” she says, “and that he was praying for me.”
He wasn’t alone. Stephanie’s half-sister Hannah—the girl she laughed and shared a room with growing up—she was praying for Stephanie, too.
Stephanie blew them off. You and your superstitions can go right ahead. I don’t care. Pray away.
Let’s just say that today was not the day to think about rehab or redemption. Stephanie was already in a mood from getting baked the night before, and there was a line of customers waiting for haircuts.
In particular, there was a boy with a cross hanging from his neck and a thick, colorful book on his lap. Stephanie couldn’t quite make it out, but something about the book looked familiar.
Stephanie remembers a lot about her childhood, except for the time when her parents were together. They divorced when she was 2 and both remarried quickly. She soon had new siblings and a long drive between parents.
At Mom’s house, there was God and church—Wednesday nights and twice on Sundays. Instead of a TV, the kids had Adventures in Odyssey, Focus on the Family’s audio drama series. Stephanie and her siblings would listen to new episodes on the radio every weekend; during the week they relied on Odyssey cassettes. And every night, Hannah and Stephanie fell asleep to stories about Whit, Connie, Eugene and the Barclay family.
At Dad’s house, where Stephanie lived most of the year, her family never went to church, never prayed, never even mentioned God. In each home she enjoyed her siblings, and in each home there was love. Stephanie knew the rules and never questioned the differences.
She was 16 when her father moved the family to Idaho. It was far from her mother in California, and the first year was rough, but Stephanie eventually made new friends.
“They showed me things such as how to skip class and smoke pot,” she says. “They had connections with people who would buy us alcohol. They taught me how to shoplift. I felt like I fit in.”
Somehow Stephanie managed to graduate—she even completed cosmetology school—but she still chose all the wrong friends, including some guy she met at a party.
“He asked if I smoked pot,” she recalls. “I said ‘yes,’ and we smoked together. His name was Matt.”
Stephanie remembers a lot, but lots of it she would rather forget. She’d rather forget waking up to find her car parked on her neighbor’s lawn, and she’d certainly rather forget the time she came to in the hallway of her duplex, her arms covered in blood.
“I realized that when I was I drinking, I had tried to kill myself.”
In between their breakups, she and Matt were inseparable. Yet when Matt developed an opiate habit, Stephanie was too buzzed to see it.
“I made real poor choices, and I didn’t have a job,” Matt says. “I ended up living in my car.”
Thanks to a loving grandmother, Matt made his way to rehab. He joined a Bible study and started praying. He’d call Stephanie and encourage her to be sober; she’d lie and tell him she was. It’s not that she didn’t want to be sober; she just didn’t want it enough. She was working at the salon now, every day planning her escape.
There were several other girls cutting hair that shift. What were the odds that a certain customer would end up in Stephanie’s chair—a boy carrying a thick, colorful book? When she called the kid’s name, she finally saw the title: Adventures in Odyssey: The Official Guide
Her customer was describing how he wanted his hair cut, but Stephanie was barely listening. I used to listen to Odyssey! Are they still making new ones?
They talked and laughed about old episodes and characters. The boy told her about new characters and storylines. As she cleaned up, Stephanie pondered their conversation.
“I felt happy,” she says. “I felt like I was worth something. I wanted to remember what it was like to feel good about life again.”
That night Stephanie hatched a new plan. She remembered passing by a Christian bookstore, so she took her tips and went to see if they had any Odyssey CDs. The moment she heard the theme song, it felt like home.
“I sat in my car and I . . . . I listened . . . and I cried.”
She went back to her apartment and, for the first time in a really long time, she prayed.
She kept on listening, and it all came back. The hope. The comfort. The peace.
“I thought the Lord had forgotten about me,” Stephanie says. “I was completely wrong. He used that boy and He used Adventures in Odyssey . . . to reach out and show that He did love me—that He does love me.”
Stephanie started attending an addiction support group, and she started being honest about her struggles. She even thanked Matt for his prayers.
They kept talking, and they started reading the Bible together. And pretty soon, Matt wasn’t her ex-boyfriend anymore. They finally had something in common besides partying. Less than a year later they were married.
“We restarted completely,” Matt says, “and we based our marriage, our life, how we raise our kids, on God’s teachings.”
The couple recently celebrated eight years of what Stephanie calls “a God-centered, sober marriage.” They are parents to four young boys, and they’re all fans of a certain audio drama. They listen when they’re in the car or doing chores—and every night as they fall asleep.
Just like their mother did.
Focus on the Family relies on the generosity of donors to provide hope to hurting people like Stephanie – and to create programs like Adventures in Odyssey! Help us make a difference by visiting FocusOnTheFamily.com/donation. This article first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Focus on the Family magazine.
© 2018 Focus on the Family.
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