Two and a half years into his marriage, John Pursell found himself under the proverbial garden tree.
“I remember thinking, Why, one time, what the heck! She wanted to!” he shares.” And it wasn't her fault. I was the man in the family.”
From his wife's hand, John drew his first snort of the enticing powder. One encounter with crystal meth ripped away both his and his wife's rationality, plunging the pair into a twisted romance with addiction.
THE POISONED TASTE
The couple used the drug recreationally, then full time. “You wake up one day and you cannot function without it,” John explained.
Without the drug, he would sleep for days:
Imagine, if you can, how good you would feel if you got up to go to work, and you only got two hours of sleep the night before.
Imagine now you had to go to work, and you didn't sleep at all.
Now imagine that in the last several years, you've skipped a third of all your sleep, and the only way that you can be awake any longer is with methamphetamine.”
The chronic sleep deprivation eventually wreaked havoc on his job performance as a carpet installer.
“We could tell something was going on and he was spiraling downwards,” said his boss, Barry Staunton.
It wasn’t as if John reveled in his new lifestyle. He despised it. “While you’re in the middle of it, you hate it,” he explains. “It takes you away from everything you love.”
A little over a year after their first encounter with meth, John and his wife split. The drug had consumed all of their attention, and the bills were piling up.
“It created monetary problems,” John explained. “With money problems comes marriage problems.”
After the breakup, John attempted to sustain a semblance of a career as a carpet installer, all the while building a lucrative meth lab in his house.
“In one day I [could] hit two grocery stores and a hardware store, and in less time than it takes to make a pot roast, I [could] make some meth,” he explained.
But after the police raided his lab, John was forced to take his “business” on the road, bouncing from hotel room to hotel room, wherever he could concoct the drug most surreptitiously. Going fugitive, he hid out in an upscale crack house for a few months. But the cops finally caught up with him on March 5, 2005.
Sitting on his bunk in the county jail, John replayed a day in his boyhood when he walked down the aisle in a little Baptist church. Now that he'd lost everything—his wife, his access to meth, his self-respect—this time he walked down a figurative aisle.
Lord, I can't do this, and I know You can, he prayed. And then, “the peace of God that passes all understanding came over me.” In that instant, his desire for his demon drug fled, replaced with a hunger for something deeper. Something more satisfying.
DAYLIGHT IN DETENTION
In prison, one of John’s buddies enrolled in a Prison Fellowship Academy™ and urged John to join him: “Man, if you really want to change, [the Academy is] the place.”
Lord, if that’s where You want me to be, John prayed, that’s where I want to be.
A few weeks later, John‘s application was accepted, and he was transferred to the unit where the Academy was housed.
When John walked in, the difference between his new “home” and his former prison barracks seemed like “daylight and dark.”
In a typical prison barracks, they just open the door, tell you where your bunk is, shut the door and that‘s it. It‘s over with … you can imagine going from a barracks of 40 people, and maybe half a dozen of them, at the very best … are trying to live for God, and moving into a barracks of 100 people and 70 percent of them are somehow, some way in tune with God a little bit.”
For years John had been operating from a self-gain agenda. But at the Academy, he found a new modus operandi—mode of operation—one driven by character. “They drilled us while we were there,” he explained. “We had six core values: integrity, restoration, community, affirmation, responsibility, productivity.”
And no TV. That was a good thing. “There's sometimes when I'm out here and I think, I need to just do that again. It does remove all of the worldly images.”
A NEW START
After 18 months in the program, equipped with a stronger faith and a commitment to a lifestyle of integrity, John was ready to go home. He faced inevitable hurtles: finding a job, a place to live, and transportation. But his mom loaned him her car for two months, and his old boss Barry decided to hire him as a warehouse worker.
Barry knew that John did good work. In fact, when John wasn't plagued with his addictions, he was known as one of the top carpet installers in town. “People wanted John to come do their carpets,” Barry said.
Even though Barry had been burned before by hiring a former prisoner, he decided to give John a second chance. “Giving him another opportunity just felt like the right thing to do,” Barry explained.
PRODUCING NEW FRUIT
Day by day, good choice by good choice, John has been coming back from the fall, and finding victory. He regularly attends church and is finishing up his final quarter at Bible college. He recently signed on his first home, and in March he will celebrate his fifth anniversary of living meth free.
“Now I‘;ve been straight for nearly five years. I can‘;t imagine going back to that.”