By Cassie Tipton-York

In the scriptures, there are many recorded accounts of the miracles performed by Jesus during His earthly ministry. The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the Centurion’s servant (Matt. 8), the demoniac (Mark 5), and countless others were changed and transformed when they encountered the Son of the Living God. Even Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9), a Pharisee who lived his life persecuting followers of Jesus, had an eye-opening experience when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. The conversion of Saul, renamed Paul, shows us how Jesus can even turn great wickedness around for His glory and for the advancement of His kingdom. Like Paul, everyone who knows Jesus Christ as their personal Savior has a “Damascus road” story. Although I know now that the path to my salvation was plotted long before I was born, my redemption story goes like this:

My Backstory

I grew up in Mitchell County, I did not have a perfect childhood, nor was there anything about me that was perfect. I was an illegitimate child who was not pretty or exceptional in any way. I sought solace for the imperfections of my life in friendships and through social acceptance, thinking that if other people liked me then I must be worth something. I hid my feelings from everyone. My fear of failure, my feelings of worthlessness, and my self-loathing were all carefully tucked away behind a mask of laughter which I had been forging from birth to cover my weakness and insecurity.

Towards the end of my senior year in high school, my fears of inadequacy gained significant momentum as I was preparing for the next phase of my life. Although I had been accepted to college, I was more frightened of failure than ever before. It was during this time that I made a fateful mistake; I started drinking with some of my friends from school. Alcohol offered a long-awaited refuge to my fear and pain, and like most people who have problems with addiction, I was good at drinking. Drinking gave me false courage and I used it to muster up the nerve to go on to school as was expected of me. Shortly after moving into the dorm, I started smoking marijuana and thus begun my descent into drug addiction. Within two years, I flunked out of school, I started using methamphetamine, and I got in trouble with the law. I sought help through psychiatry and drug rehab; however, neither worked and I continued to use.

Over the course of the next fifteen years, I tried to forge a life for myself out of the chaos of addiction by getting married and having children. Although I managed to stay clean while I was pregnant, having children did not stop my drug use and my addiction just kept getting worse. By the time by youngest child turned two years old, I was using OxyContin on a daily basis and methamphetamine whenever I could. After my marriage fell apart, during my second attempt at managing my addiction through methadone maintenance, I started attending a local church with my parents. I was still abusing drugs, I had an open case with DSS, along with other assorted problems associated with my addiction, and I went to church hoping God would take all the negativity out of my life. Although I wanted God to remove all the bad, unwanted aspects of my life, I did not want to give up what had become my life: getting and using drugs. What I did not realize at the time was that God was working; but for my life to get better, it was going to have to get worse. I was not ready to give up the drugs.

Gradually, however profoundly, my addiction cost me everything: my marriage, my possessions, my self-respect, and eventually my children. Once DSS stepped in and removed my children from the home, I made one last feeble attempt to get clean in an impatient detox and rehabilitation center. I no longer believed that I could ever go back to living a normal, clean life, therefore, I did not believe that this stay would “fix” me, just as the other attempts at getting clean had not worked in the past. Needless to say, even though I learned some new things about myself and my addiction, this stay was no different than the rest, it did not change me. Utterly hopeless and desperate to escape, I cut all remaining ties with the people who showed any concern for me and I set out to destroy myself. Living out of a backpack on the street, staying with whoever would put me up for the night without any regards for my personal safety. I was consuming more drugs than ever, living the life of a reprobate. I did not have any intentions of returning to the life and the people I had known, I never thought I would see my children or my family again, but the LORD had something else in mind.

The Road to Damascus

I am sure the Apostle Paul, and probably most anyone who encounters Christ at some point in their life, thought nothing special would happen on that day, or on that journey, but when the Lord shows up, He shows up in a big way. For Saul (Paul), he was on his way to Damascus to punish followers of Jesus Christ when the voice of the Lord spoke to him and then he was rendered blind for three days (Acts 9). For me, I thought I had been forgotten by God, an outcast and menace of society, an individual without hope who was destined to die in their addiction. That is when the Lord Jesus Christ stepped in and changed my life forever.

I’ll never forget the knock of intervention on the door of the home of which I happened to be, “Cassie, we know you are in there, so might as well come on out.” Well, I thought, it is finally over. No more running, no more hiding, whatever happens next has to be better than this. I grabbed the couple of backpacks which held the few possessions I had left, and I stepped out the door to face the consequences of my actions. Four members of the Yancey County police department were waiting to take me into custody, and as they put me in the car, an inexplicable relief washed over me. On the way to the police station, I thought about the choices I had made that led to this event, and quite honestly, I was surprised that this was to be the end of my running, rather than the death I had been so actively seeking. I did not care what happened next, at least the life I had been living was over.

I had been in jail for about three weeks– the drugs were out of my system, when the moment I had been dreading was upon me, the moment when I would have to face all the mistakes I had made. I did not have anything to mask my feelings, no pills and no meth, only the raw, undiluted truth of what all I had done. The weight of my sins, the guilt, the shame, and the sorrow crushed me into oblivion, but it was in that moment of brokenness that I met Jesus. In what seemed almost like a dream, where time has no meaning, He was there; I could feel His presence. He revealed to me in that cell that although the burden of sin is heavy and the punishment for sin is death, He already bore my sin to Calvary and died on a cross to pay my debt. Jesus Christ changed my life in a jail cell in Yancey County, and from the moment He showed me the truth, my life has not been the same. Although I had lost all faith in myself, I was given faith in a power greater than myself by the One who spoke creation into existence, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Friend, Jesus Christ.

A New Life in Christ

Over the last six years, God has truly blessed my life. First of all, I am a living witness to the love, the mercy, and the power of God. I am blessed to be an encouragement to those who have loved ones suffering from addiction and a beacon for those who may be seeking help themselves. What Jesus has done for me also serves as a reminder that although the world may try to discount His existence, He is still very much alive and performing miracles the same as always. He is true and faithful to His Word, He came to seek and save those that are lost, choosing the foolish of this world to confound the wise and the weak to confound the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27). When you put your faith and trust in Him, you can do all things through His power and His strength (Luke 1:37), even overcome addictions that seem impossible to defeat.

Not only have I been clean and sober since the Lord changed my life, I have been granted a new life in Christ. In 2012, I regained custody of my children and God has restored and renewed my relationship with them and my other family members. I have also been recently blessed with two more children that I acquired when I married my husband in November of last year, a man who also happens to be another one of God’s miraculous conversions.

When the Lord changed my life, He gave me a heart of service and a burning desire to help others like myself. I felt led to go back to school so that I could pursue a career in substance abuse treatment. In 2015, I graduated from the Human Services program at Mayland Community College where I earned my Associates in Applied Science degree in Human Services Technology. Among Mayland scholarship recipients, I was honored to be chosen by Mayland’s scholarship committee to speak at D.R.E.A.M. Day (Dreams Realized Every Day AT Mayland Day), and I was recognized by the faculty at Mayland as an outstanding graduate for both my academic and leadership skills. At the beginning of this month, I started my last semester at Lees-McRae College where I am earning my Bachelors in Applied Science in Human Services. I currently hold a 4.0 GPA and I intend to eventually pursue my Masters in Addictions Counseling.

Like each one who is a redeemed child of God, we all have a conversion story. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins until the Lord Jesus opened our blinded eyes and wrote His truth on our hearts. I am sure I will never come close to being as influential as the Apostle Paul, the only similarities we share is being chased down by a Holy God despite the magnitude of our sin. I know that it is only by His love, His grace, and His mercy, that I am where I am today. Although my life is still fraught with obstacles and I still lack faith in myself, I have complete faith that the One who called me out of the darkness will finish His good work in me until He calls me home, or when the trumpet sounds at His glorious coming.

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. — II Corinthians 5:17

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. — John 8:36