News Articles

Drug & alcohol use, homelessness preceded 20-something’s ministry

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BP)–At the lowest point of his life, Steve Austin was spending $1,500 a week on crack cocaine and prescription drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking 10-20 joints of marijuana and several packs of cigarettes a day. One day, he found himself homeless and penniless. He was 24 years old.
He couldn’t turn to his parents, who were practicing tough love toward him. His only friends were drug users. Then he thought of Sam and Linda Wrather whom he had met at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and had invited Austin to stay with them.
The couple told Austin about a drug rehabilitation program, Teen Challenge of Memphis, in which their son, Michael, was participating.
Austin had gotten many such referrals over the years, but this time, because he was so desperate, he listened.
“I didn’t have any hope. When you don’t have any hope, you don’t have any reason to live,” Austin said. And his attempts at suicide had failed, which just confirmed his desperation.
So he sought help from the rehabilitation program. There, he had an experience with God over several months which initially led him to give up drugs without any drug treatment and also removed the desire for them, he recounted, stating he’s been drug-free for three years.
Austin, who is a student at Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn., and pastor of Rucker Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, said he is not proud of his past, but if he can help someone caught up in that kind of life, he said his struggles are worth all the pain he suffered.
His life was like a maze from which he didn’t know how to escape, he said. “It just snowballs, and you don’t know where to turn to get out of it or the first step that you need to take.”
Because he entered his “maze” during childhood, Austin spent a long time there. He was incarcerated in jail or prison 40 times and took drugs 13 years, eight of which involved crack cocaine. His longest incarceration was for seven months.
No one is to blame except himself, Austin said. He was raised in a Christian home in a town of about 1,000, Maury City, Tenn. He made a commitment to God at age 6. And Austin knew God had special plans for him when he was healed of leukemia at the age of 3.
He may have been afraid of not meeting the high expectations of his family or of God, Austin said. For whatever reason, at age 10 he began rebelling, which led to “a life of sin.”
But God continued to work in his life, he said, sparing his life several times. He was shot at point-blank range more than once and stabbed and beaten.
His parents, Jim and Delma, have been wonderful through it all, Austin said. During his adolescence they continued to show him unconditional love and to hope he would return to God.
Austin said he remembers one night when he left his room he tripped over his mother because she was kneeling at the door praying for him.
The entire experience was painful for them and for him. He was miserable and he continues to have disturbing memories. He also lost many opportunities, squandering away, for example, a baseball scholarship to college and a business because of his actions.
But despite everything, God has kept providing new opportunities, he said.
Today he’s a new person, he said, referring to 2 Corinthians 5:17 which describes a person who has begun a new relationship with God as a new creature.
And he has an unusual attitude about his former life.
“I would not change one thing,” said Austin. He has learned from his struggles, for one thing, learning a submission to and a reliance on the Lord rather than on himself, he explained.
Austin also has a special discernment of drug problems in others. He can’t really explain it, but when he sees a certain action or attitude in another person, he remembers he used to act that way. And he tries to confront the person.
Austin is quick to tell his story, whether he’s in a college class or in the marketplace.
He refers people to Teen Challenge, of which he was a client and a staff member for a year. The international program has centers in numerous U.S. cities.
He advises parents not to “give up” on their children. They should try to teach children they are responsible for the choices they make, even at young ages.
He said he realizes his past is a stumbling block for some considering a relationship with him, but “for me it has been a building block.”

    About the Author

  • Connie Davis