“From that very first time I hit that crack, it turned my whole life around. I just never been to where I went with crack cocaine. It’s like nothing else. It takes, it robs you of all your money, your resources, all your self-esteem.”
My name is Lucious Turner. I’ve been in recovery approximately 10 years. It would be ten years on the 8th of January. That’s my birthday celebration. My childhood was good. I grew up in a home with my grandparents and it came to a time where it was just me and my granddad and my grandmother, everyone else had left. Then it became just me and my grandmother. As far as my background growing up, I grew up like a normal kid back in the ’50s. I was born in ’51. It was a whole lot different than what it is now. Community helped raise the children then, if you know what I mean. Not like today where you’re not allowed to discipline your children. In layman’s terms, whooped your children, that’s in our neighborhood.
I went to church, I grew up knowing about God. That, right there, helped me a lot because it’s like this with that. They said, “Teach a child in the way that he should grow up.” You got to teach these kids when they are very little. What you instill in them, they won’t too much wander away. They might wander away, but that seed is still planted inside them to respect God, to love God. I made the choice of getting away from God. You get grown and you want to do this, keeping up with the Joneses and everything of that nature. That’s how I ended up getting on what is called the wrong track. I got away from my roots, what I was taught about God.
“I made the choice of getting away from God… I got away from my roots, what I was taught about God.”
How it started… I was in Job Corps. I was going to go to this dance that night. I was waiting on my other two partners to get dressed. I was reading a Batman comic book, that’s me. They was over there, I noticed they was making this sound like a huffing and puffing sound. I looked up like “What are you all doing?” They were smoking weed. I had never seen it, never smoked it. Little boy from Alabama, Montgomery, my first time even… I was in Lincoln Nebraska. I looked at them, I said “Man, you guys going to be dope addicts.” They told me something like, “No man, no.” I looked up to these guys. I went over there and they said, “Try it,” and then they showed me what to do, so I did it. Didn’t hit me until we were on our way to the party, midway. I felt a real light feeling, like a flotation and all that crap. Something I’d never felt in my life before. That was the beginning, that was the first thing with marijuana. Then alcohol came.
It was just peer pressure. You want to be accepted in a particular group. I knew right from wrong. Back then it wasn’t cool to be a square, as you might say. I wanted to be part of the in crowd so I experimented and it just escalated. It escalated along the years. It came to a point where I became an adult. I was still drinking, it was good because alcohol is very acceptable in our society. It’s like a social norm. Some people can drink sociably, but some can’t. I was one of those who couldn’t do it sociably. I became drunk and I wouldn’t stop until I got to that point. It was in 1983, I was living in Florida, been down there several years. I was in Pensacola and then when it really hit me I moved to a place called DeFuniak Springs Florida, that’s fifty miles from Panama City. That ain’t nowhere. Panama City, if you know about Panama City, it’s alive.
I got into crack cocaine. First selling, making money. Then I got to the point that I was introduced to the crack through a female. The cardinal rule is never use your product, but I allowed that to happen. It was downhill ever since then. From that very first time I hit that crack, it turned my whole life around. It was… It’s weird. It’s unbelievable what it can do to you, what you allow it to do. I just never been to where I went with crack cocaine. It’s like nothing else. It takes, it robs you of all your money, your resources, all your self-esteem. You don’t care no more. All you care about is getting that next hit. That just… that’s some deep stuff even to think about it. You lose so much. I lost my children. I lost my relationship. Nine years. I never stayed with a woman nine years in my life. She gave me two sons and I never went through from conception to birth with any other of my children, just those two boys. It was amazing to see them and nurture them, but I lost all that.
“All you care about is getting that next hit… You lose so much. I lost my children. I lost my relationship… My whole world was gone. That was my children, my boys. I was their king and I disappointed them.”
I didn’t know men had nervous breakdowns either. I had one when she left. My whole world was gone. That was my children, my boys. I was their king and I disappointed them. She had to leave though because… she saved the family, that’s what she did. She saved it. At that time, I didn’t see it like that. By the way, I’m an ex-Marine, very macho. Crack knocked me to my knees. Like I said, I had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what was happening. I just knew I started crying and couldn’t stop.
Here you go, this is God’s intervention I’m going to tell you about. I was walking to the store to get something. I went to that store a thousand times. I started crying, I didn’t know why, I just know I couldn’t stop. Through the tears I see a sign one block up from the store. It had hope, H-O-P-E. That’s what the sign said. I never seen that sign before and many times I went to that store. My feet start going towards the sign. I went in there and I was still crying. That lady said, “Hold on, hold on.” She said, “We’re going to get someone to help you.” A lady came out of the back, they got me and took me in the back and asked me what was wrong. I finally told my story, told them what was going on with me. Like I said, I didn’t know what that place was. I just seen a sign that said “Hope.” This is what I’m telling you about. How God takes over when you’re helpless and stuff, and nobody to help you.
I knew at that moment what was going on. I knew who was helping me. I knew who had me when I seen that sign. It was God. He put me in the hands of the people that I needed to see. Like I told you, I had never seen that sign before. All the times I go to—this a small town, one of two grocery stores, the one in my neighborhood, I go there all the time. I never seen the sign Hope.
They put me in a van and they said, “We’re going to get you some help.” They took me from DeFuniak Springs to Pensacola, Florida. That’s where my wife and kids were. They had went back there to their relatives. When I heard Pensacola Florida, I was like, “Good.” I didn’t know where they was taking me, so when they took me to this place and I seen some keys that I was familiar with—the large keys, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to jail, but I have—I’ve seen these keys like jail keys, I was like, “Whoa.” They were going to lock me up. They were locking me up in a psychiatric ward. They got me at the university hospital. Bust my little bubble for a minute. I was like, “Dang, they put me in here with the crazy people.” All the time, I didn’t know I was crazy then too.
“Through the tears I see a sign one block up from the store. It had hope, H-O-P-E. That’s what the sign said. I never seen that sign before and many times I went to that store. My feet start going towards the sign.”
I was there and that took some adjustment, but I needed that because I was suicidal. And homicidal, I had anger in me. I wanted to kill my wife, I was angry. I was going to kill myself, blah-blah-blah. Then this voice come to me and said, “God would forgive you for everything but self murder.” That’s what I was taught as a kid. I told you how there’s things that you’re taught as a child that come back to you. You can draw on them later in life. That killed that idea. Anyway, they gave me medication. The medication worked. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but that stuff ain’t no joke. You take that medicine they give you… they don’t tell you nothing but then you become a lamb. All the rage gone, all that other stuff gone. You moving slow, but that’s what I needed. It helped me get back.
I did it and I think in about two weeks—I’m not sure, they wouldn’t release me in Pensacola, they had a stipulation that my parents, my mom or somebody, my marine corps buddy—came and got me from Pensacola. They took me back to Montgomery. I’m still doing the recovery thing. Taking the medication, can’t taper off. The VA picked up and I was getting medication from… I changed from one medication to another medication, which was Zoloft. To this day I still take Zoloft. It’s not a problem, it’s just part of my regimen now.
That was the devastating part of my life. I did four rehabs after which, it was a chain. I wanted to do it. No rehabs get out the same day. On that same day I would get out, I’m saying while I’m there, “I’m going to go to a meeting, I got me a list. I’m ready.” I really meant it, but once I got the money in my hand something happened. It was known as a trigger. Money was my trigger. I said, “I’m just going to go pay the dope man the money that I owed him before I left.” I’m lying to myself now. What I did, I’d go there to pay him. What do you think he do? He’d give me one. Don’t take it. I should have never went to the dope man number one. That’s a high risk area, they taught me that in rehab. I did it anyway. I did it for a time, four different rehabs.
The last time I was in Tuskegee. It was a place called Building 62, that’s a rehab place. This time I was tired. I had been doing this crap about twenty-five years. I was tired of that lifestyle. It was just me and God was in the room. I was looking out the window and I started talking. I told him I was tired, I needed his help. That’s what I said. I’m watching some pine trees. Tuskegee full of them on this VA base. This view I had was a whole bunch of pine trees on a sunny day. All of a sudden the trees start swaying backwards and forwards. I’m standing there looking like, “Where’s this wind coming from?” I’m serious. I had a peace come over me. I knew at that moment that it was God. I knew it was God talking to me. I couldn’t see the wind, but only those trees was moving. That was the moment that I was saved, I mean for real.
“This view I had was a whole bunch of pine trees on a sunny day. All of a sudden the trees start swaying backwards and forwards. I’m standing there looking like, “Where’s this wind coming from?”…I had a peace come over me. I knew at that moment that it was God.”
I picked up the Bible, a blue Bible, a Gideon Bible. I had on a blue shirt, gray pants that I got from the clothing room there. I took a picture in front of that building. I still have that picture to the day. And a pair of tennis shoes. I had two more pair of pants that they had gave me and a shirt. I didn’t have anything when I went there, just the clothes on my back. From that moment that I seen that wind and God come—it was just one thing after another. God was just doing things. Introducing me to people that were going to help me.
I knew the twenty-eight-day program wouldn’t work for me because I did it four times already. I don’t know what works for other people, but that didn’t work for me. I needed something long term and I told my social worker this. She said “We know a place in Phenix City.” They called it House of Restoration. It’s not that word House of Restoration, it keyed in on the word restoration. I needed to be restored. They said Pastor Robinson runs it. I had talked to some more guys and they was telling me about this place over here that Pastor Robinson… all I heard was good things. It was what I was looking for.
It was a two-year program, so that was the ideal for me. They sent me here and I really wanted to meet that guy that I had been hearing so much about, Pastor Robinson. He was sick at the time, he was in the hospital. I went on through the program and everything. The day came that he was getting out and I heard that he was getting out that day. I was standing out there because I really wanted to meet this man. I don’t know why that I really wanted to meet this man. I really did. I had heard so much about him. After I met him I learned why. That’s God again. This man going to mentor me, teach me stuff about God and the world that I didn’t know.
I was in this program a year and a half. I became a deacon. I’ll never forget when I told him about how when I pray–this is right here, too, I used to always go over there, right over there—I told him because I thought I was crazy, I thought something was serious. It was about when you pray then I hear these voices. Not voices, but images come in my mind. They’d be explicit images. It [was] throwing me off, you understand? I’m like, “Who do this? I must be… look what’s in my mind?” When I told him about it, he told me what it was. It was Satan. He didn’t want to let me go because I was one of his main boys. He was telling me that was what it was. I found out that was what it was. He don’t want you to do that. He don’t want you to pray to God, Satan don’t. Satan going to jump in there and shoot stuff in on you. I learned through him how to rebuke that and keep on praying. Then you get better at it, you know.
Recovery is a highly spiritual thing. Without spirituality you ain’t doing nothing but spinning wheels like I did my first four times. I didn’t include God. They say even in the twelve steps, they tell you if you have a higher power seek him immediately. It’s not a religious foundation, but it’s because of atheists you got to say your “higher power,” and I’ll stay who is Jesus Christ my lord and savior. You may have Buddhists in there too so you don’t want to offend no one. These are stuff you’re going to learn with the program. I just tell anybody it’s God. Ain’t nobody but God. If you seek him and then when he come in your life, he grant miracles after miracles.
“Recovery is a highly spiritual thing. Without spirituality you ain’t doing nothing but spinning wheels like I did my first four times. I didn’t include God.”
I’m driving a 2009 automobile out there. I got it. I wanted twenty-five hundred dollars from my bank to buy a 1999 Mercury Marquis and the lady said “We don’t do them on cars that old.” So I said, “Okay,” she said, “But I see here you had a couple loans with us, Mr. Turner, and you did good. Let me see what I can do.” This is God again. Thirty minutes later, she called me. She said “You’ve been approved for a seventeen-thousand-dollar loan.” All I had asked for was twenty-five hundred and they give me seventeen thousand, and all I had to do was sign my name. That never happened to me in my life, never. I had two dimes and a nickel in my pocket at the time when I signed my name. Tell me that ain’t God.
What you do, what you say without God, I couldn’t of did it. God placed you in the places that you need to be. House of Restoration was a Godsend to me. All the things that I needed, I received here. Counseling, whatever, it was here. Food, I was a hundred thirty-five pounds when I came here. Shoot, I’m still two hundred now. I got it all here, House of Restoration. I’m serious. When you called me and told me about this opportunity, I was glad to do it because I want others to know. I really do. No matter how far you go down… hit bottom… human beings they’ll leave you, not God. He remade me. Put me on a potter’s wheel and he reshaped me. He reshaped my thoughts, all of that stuff. I’m grateful. I share with others what he did for me.
Photographs taken at Higher Power Outreach Church in Phenix City, Alabama.