Stephanie’s Odyssey

By Thomas Jeffries
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Stephanie with Adventures in Odyssey Characters
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 as routinely as brushing her teeth.

In between the booze and weed, Stephanie would buy pills. “Vicodin or any other painkiller,” she
says. She started using amphetamines. “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.

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 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 high 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.

Where it began

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.”

The difficult days

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 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.

The turning point

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 stories. 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 bought some 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.

A new start

She kept on listening, and it all came back. The hope. The comfort. The peace.

The love.

“I thought the Lord had forgotten about me,” Stephanie says. “I was completely wrong. He used that
boy and He used 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 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 those boys are 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.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.

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