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Baptismal Service

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          A Letter to My Addiction
        CryStal Starnes

         LIFE Member, Gaston County

Dear Addiction, 

     For as long as I can remember, you have been a part of my life, even as a small child, you made your presence known. But the Lord knew me when I was in my mother’s womb.
     You’ve taken my family from me, not once, but twice. Once as a small child, and now as an adult. But the Lord gave me a new family. I am a child of the King and He calls me His own.
     You took all the good feelings I once knew as a child, like happiness, and joy, and left me with hopelessness and despair. Eventually, you even took those bad feelings and left me with nothing; just numb. But the Lord restored my happiness, and my hope is in God and God alone.
     You’ve taken my self-esteem. How can I feel pretty with such a nasty and ugly disease? But the Lord told me I was beautiful and I’m made in His image.
     You took my faith in God. How can I believe in anything unless it makes me feel the way you make me feel? But God never left me, and by His Amazing Grace, my faith has been restored.
     You’ve taken my sanity and left me with the craziness going on inside my head. But God took that craziness and gave me a sound mind.
     You took my dreams I had as a child and left them shattered on the ground. But my God says, surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:18)
     You took my freedom and left me in the chains of bondage, but thanks to God above I know the chain breaker. He holds the key.
     You’ve taken my strength to fight, why bother when I know you’re going to win every time. I was defeated. But the word says: “For everyone who has been born of God, overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
     You’ve introduced me to so many people, and since we stick close to our own kind, other addicts, you took those same people. But there is one you can’t take,  “For I know my redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the Earth.” (Job 19:25)
     Every day is a battle, but there is a whole war to fight, and with the Lord by my side, you don’t stand a chance. He is the way, the truth, and the light that guides me and gives me hope, love and joy. You will no longer defeat me. I loved you for far too long. Now my heart is set on Jesus and loving others. His grace and mercy have set me on the path of righteousness. I am free and no longer need you in my life. So goodbye!

~Crystal Starnes


Testimony of Toney Maryland

September 2019

My name is Toney Maryland. My life before I surrendered was miserable and unstable. I felt like it was me against the world. I started drinking and smoking weed when I was around sixteen years old. At around nineteen this slowly progressed to smoking crack.  I thought I was blending in with the crowd, that I was around, trying not to be different. I use to love to drink and get high. As the years passed by I got worse, so did my nerves. I worked during the day and chased drugs and girls in to the wee hours of the morning. I lied on a daily basis, cheated when I could, and stole when the time was right. I told myself that I didn’t need any help and that I could handle this. I told myself that I could slow down when I wanted to and stop when I got ready. I was bold and hard-headed. I only prayed when things got bad. I was stubborn, miserable, and regretful because I knew I was throwing my life away but I didn’t care. I just wanted to smoke crack…A night stalker, I was. I went from one trap house to the next crack house chasing drugs every chance I got.

I came to the point of surrender when I got tired of the cycle that I was in. I felt like I was a hamster in a cage on one of those spinning wheels. I got to the point that I had to admit that I had a problem. Plus, my marriage was going downhill. My wife was going to leave me if I didn’t get help. I was tired and miserable and desperately needing a change.  It was at that point that I surrendered my life to God. I was clean for two weeks when my wife, Kim, found L.I.F.E. Ministries. I have been attending ever since my first Tuesday night visit.

My life since trusting God can be described as free, humble, and thankful. My eyes are open to the world that I use to live in. My thought patterns have changed. I am filled with His Holy Spirit! God has renewed my strength. The LORD has brought me from darkness into light. My wife and I are finally together as one. I thank God for His grace and His mercy. In the mighty name of Jesus, He has delivered me!




By Jessica Getsinger

My story started in 2015 when my involvement in substance abuse began. I started snorting pain pills, doing Xanax and sniffing cocaine on the weekends, mainly just for fun as I became more involved in the party scene.  My drug use in the beginning was only "sometimes."  I was the inquiring friend asking others to stop doing drugs.  I would often ask them, “Why are you addicted?" That was me! As a matter of fact, I remember helping a friend get clean and into a local rehab.  I never in a million years would have thought I was going to be in this situation UNTIL December of 2017.  It was during this time that I was faced with some huge situations that brought to me much pain. My son’s father left and went to prison.  I felt alone and helpless. This hurt me more than I can put into words.  I shoved the pain down deep inside, not telling anyone what I was going through during this time.

I don’t blame my addiction or anyone other than myself for the choices I began to make. I believe that as a person, YOU choose to use, but I now know that this event in my life was the beginning of a slow slide into a life of drugs.  I began to self-medicate my depression by ingesting more and more pills attempting to shake off the sadness that had quickly become an unwelcomed guest in my life. The pills quickly became my first addiction.  In as little as one month I had gone from swallowing the pills, to snorting, and I couldn’t seem to stop. By January, 2018, I knew I was addicted to pain pills.  The pills made me tired and I found it difficult to fulfill my role as a mother.  This led me to using cocaine to give me a boast to get through the day and to lift me up from the pain pills that I was still taking. 

I thought I was happy and doing okay.  I was still a functional addict.  I was able to hold myself together during all of this and I thought the drugs were helping me to cope with my inward pain and loneliness.  I was a working mother, living a "normal life," I thought.  Quickly these drugs caused me to drop down into a depression that only my mom saw.  She knew I was staying up late at night, spending lots of money, while I did everything I could to avoid her.  I would often bring my son to her so that I could chase after my addiction.  My life was spiraling out of control and I was headed for certain destruction.  I was home one evening all alone, I had picked up 5 pain pills, 'Perc 15s', and went to do them, only to discover that they were ALL fake.  I started to freak out!  I was broke and knew I'd end up dope sick if I didn’t get my fix.  I went to bed, the next morning came and there it was, 'the sickness' I had dreaded was coming.   I called my mom and my dad and told them I needed help.  I went to the hospital and from there I was sent to my first rehab, 'Holly Hills.' I was able to get clean from all the drugs that I had been doing.Honestly I did whatever I could to get through it so I could return home. 

Once I was home, I could hardly wait to pick up some more pills, which I did and my addiction continued following only about one week clean after detox.  When I came home, I went RIGHT back into the same things, with the same PEOPLE, into the same situations.  All I wanted to do was get high. My addictive behavior continued to escalate.  In was in June of 2018 that my cocaine usage really began to increase.  I was still taking pain pills, and this became an increasingly dangerous but daily mix for me to simply function.  Then in September, 2018 I went to buy some pills from a friend.  She invited me to come inside and hang out so I did.  Once inside I found others smoking crack.  I didn’t have my drug of choice, pain pills or cocaine, so I quickly joined them and I smoked crack cocaine for the first time.  This quickly became a strong addiction in my life.  I loved the feeling, the sound of the train, the way my head felt, and I thought I loved everything about it.  For the next several weeks I replaced all my other drug use with crack cocaine.  I began staying with others who were doing the things I did.  I then quit my job.  I found myself now jobless, lying constantly, and smoking.  The only thing I really wanted to do was smoke crack.  I began to stay out late at night, distancing myself from those who cared about me, and staying with others who were also addicted.  My drug use then took another step downward as I began snorting heroin which quickly led to injecting heroin into my bloodstream.  I feel in love with the "wash".  The feeling I experienced right after shooting heroin.  The warm feeling that I instantly felt was like no other.  Now I found myself jobless, my family was disappointed and struggling to understand me.  I didn’t even understand myself.  I was doing everything to hide my addiction, when really I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself. My life was going downhill fast.

In November 2018 I began shooting heroin daily, snorting pills daily, doing basically any drug available whenever I could.   I didn’t care what it was if it promised me a high.  I was addicted to heroin and experiencing "dope sickness" on the days that I couldn’t get the drugs I needed because I had no money or couldn’t find anything to steal.  I was a full out JUNKIE.  I decided it was time for me to get clean. I went to my second rehab, 'Walter B Jones' in December of 2018. After leaving this rehab I decided I'd never do pills or heroin again because I didn't want to be "dope sick."  It's sad when you say, “I won’t do a drug that makes me sick but I'll still get high,” and now I know that is the devil talking. I went about 2 weeks without any drug use.  I finally talked my family into giving me my car back.  This only helped to restart my addictive behavior all over again.  My stealing and addiction started right back up.

As a recovering IV user, I decided to try shooting cocaine & smoking crack again, “only one time” I told myself.  This turned into shooting ANYTHING POSSIBLE; pain pills, crack, heroin, suboxone, xanax, molly, meth, cocaine, triple Cs, anything I could physically break down, it was going into my veins.  Once this started I was a walking monster, literally! I did everything in my power to get drugs stealing anything in sight.  It didn’t matter if it was from my mom, my dad, my friend or from a store and off to the Pawn Shop I would go.  I would do anything for my next fix. I lived this way for about six months, from January 2019 until July of 2019.  During this time I caught over 10 charges, went to jail weekly, and did whatever I could for my high for the next rock, or next shot.  I lost everything behind this drug, my cars, my home, my kid, myself and even my freedom. On July 8, 2019 I went to prison for 8-10 months due to my drug addiction and again in February of 2020.

When they say people do as they're raised, that isn't true I was brought up in a church going, loving family, but my depression sent me into drug use and addiction.  I do not blame my problems on others.  NO! I have accepted full responsibility for all of my actions.  Do I say my recovery came from the help of others, YES. But, most of all my Savior helped me. GOD was the only person I had late nights in a cold, lonely cell.  I prayed for God to take the taste from my mouth, take the addiction away from me. and also to stay with me and never leave. All the nights I had drug dreams I praised and prayed to the Lord asking for his guidance. I got through my time in prison because of God and I know it is because of Him that I am even alive today.  How do I know it's real? He was the only one I had, everyone else was gone. I was in this alone, because of my choices.  God spoke to me one night and told me to follow him. That night I gave my life to Christ. I haven't had a drug dream, not even a thought of relapse. As of today 3-10-2020 I have 8 months and 3 days clean. I cannot explain why we go through situations that we do, but the Lord has a plan for all of us and without him we are NOTHING.  It is my experience and belief that addiction cannot be overcome without help from the Lord.  I’m so thankful for my relationship with the Lord and also my LIFE MINISTRIES family, along with my biological family who has been there and supported me for the past 3 years.  I believe prison and my Savoir is why I am now clean.  I am so thankful for finding myself and the LORD. This is my testimony of the LIFE I now have as a recovering addict.


                                                                                                                Jessica Getsinger


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"The Difference in my Life"
Tina Harper
Hello everyone, I am excited to share some of my story with you tonight. It has been amazing for me to see how God has led me to where I am. I was born in the crazy 70s to two very young parents who loved their children very much. My mother was only 17 years old when she gave birth to me. She had a difficult life growing up and becoming a mother at such a young age. I think about what God told Paul about his difficulties in life as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "For my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."


Looking back, I can see God's strength in the most difficult times in my life. In 1975 my dad was killed in a car accident, This devastated my mother. She was left with three kids to raise on her own. She did the best that she could with what she had. In 1976 she was in an airplane accident  and suffered a broken back and two broken legs. She remained in a coma for several days. During this time my sisters and I were separated, as two of us went to live with our dad's mother and my other sister was with my mother's mother. It took my mother 2 years to learn to walk again. Following the accident we moved around alot so that mom could be closer to therapy and Duke Hospital. I remember riding the bus with my mother to travel to therapy at the hospital. Mom was in a back brace. My mother taught me alot about not giving up and being determined in life. She was a strong woman and did what she needed to do in order to survive and provide for her daughters. 


Then when I was 9 years old, I was molested by a family member. I told my mother and she immediately took me to the police station to press charges. The police officer told my mother that since it happened in another state that she would have to go to that state to press charges. She went to the state to try to press charges and they told my mother that they could not help her because they thought I was probably lying. My mother was devastated. She knew I was telling the truth. She did not know how to help me.


I turned inward and kept all the pain, the hurt, and all my feelings inside. I felt as though I was nothing. I did not believe that there was anything good in me. I felt that I could do nothing right and everything that I did was wrong. I felt worthless and useless. I internalized everything. I was very shy by nature. I stuttered when I spoke. I kept to myself. I had no friends and the friends that I did have made fun of me behind my back. I know that this world can be a painful place to live because there is wickedness and sin all around us.


From the age of 9 until I was 16 I was molested by four different people in my family. I then lived with my grandparents for a while and during that time the sexual abuse stopped. I experienced some normalcy and structure, which was what I needed and longed for. My grandparents made sure that we went to Awana's and church and that we were active in the church's activities. That's where I was first introduced to God. We went to church camp in Tennessee. That's where God began to get my attention. Later I would understand that He was after my heart.   


After I left my grandparents house I moved in with my mother. At 16 years old  I met a young man and we got married. My husband struggled with drug addiction. It was during our two year marriage that he introduced me to drugs. At the age of 17 I found myself pregnant. I stopped using, gave birth to a healthy daughter, but then I returned to my drug use. The following few years were full of uncertainity as I continued my search for love and fulfillment. I moved alot. There were different men involved in my life. They would come and go. I had a second child, a boy. Later I had another girl. My drug addiction continued off and on. I remarried and then divorced again. I was empty inside, longing for a good life for my children, and a joyful one for me. 


One of the most difficult times for me is when I lost my children because of my drug use. After two and a half years I was able to have two of my oldest children returned to me. I was never able to regain custody of my youngest daughter. This has weighed upon my heart for years. I had allowed my drug addiction get in the way of my relationship with her. I pray that one day she will forgive me and we can have a relationship.


I continued to use drugs for the next 25 years.  My relationship with one man after another continued. I was broken, hurting, starving for love. These relationships were always rocky and full of difficulties. I married again but also found myself once again addicted to cocaine and alcohol.  Our marriage ended after I cheated on him while I was drunk. I woke up in bed with a man I had no recollection of what I had done the night before. Again, I went through a divorce.  I felt like I had failed everyone again. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change my life. I fely hopeless and helpless. I needed God in my life but I was too stubborn to give my life to God because I felt like I didnt deserve anything from God. I believed that I was never good enough and that God would not accept me. I had done so many things wrong. How could God want me? How could anyone want me? 


At the age of 52 I had hit my rock bottom. I did things that I never thought I would do to get my next drug or my next drink. I was broken and ashamed. My heart was filled with regrets, shame, guilt, and self-loathing. I felt defeated. I became suicidal.


The words of Jesus are so true as recorded in John 10:10 "The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy."  The thief, our enemy, was almost successful in my life. I told my daughter that I was going to commit suicide, that she needed to come home from work or she was going to find me dead in the floor. My grandkids were home too. On her way home to me she called the police. She then got me on the phone and pleaded with me not to do it. I had a bottle of pills in one hand and a bottle of liquor in the other. I was getting ready to end my life. 


I am thankful that God intervened and spared my life. All the lies that I had believed had finally gotten me to this point of total despair. So I got on my hands and I knees and I begged God to please help me. I promised to do whatever it took to get past my past. I prayed, "God, if you would just come into my life and show me that I am worthy and show me the way." And in that instant a peace flooded my heart. A calm came over me. There was a bright light that seemed to shine in my soul. I believe that day the Lord came into my heart and saved me. I went into a psychiatric care hospital for 16 days. Once I was discharged, I entered rehab a month later.


I had prayed to God that he will put people in my life that will bring me closer to God. I needed resources in my life, positive people that would uplift me and show me the path to Wellness. God placed some strong women in my life that have shown me that I am worthy. I am loved.  I can be anything that I wanted to be as long as I set my mind to it. As long as I had God in my life I could be whatever he needed me to be. I want to thank the women at Haven of Blue Creek for having the faith in me and taking a chance on me.


I was then introduced to Life Ministries, God has used Life Ministries to change my life. This program has helped me to walk closer to God. I have had to renew my thinking. All the lies I had believed for so long like I was unlovable and hopeless. I now know that God does love me and that as I place my faith in Him, there is always hope for my future. I have discovered that a daily relationship with God is what I have always needed in my life. I am thankful for Life Ministries.


God has been so good to me. He has changed my life, God has opened doors for me that I never thought would be open. He has entered into my life, into my pain, into my hurts, and He has healed me. I no longer have the urge to use alcohol or drugs. 


God has placed people in my life who have helped me reach this point in my recovery. The Haven at Blue Creek, LIFE Ministries, and special God sent people who have cared. These helped me secure employment at The Bagleman in Winterville. I have now been blessed to work at The Haven now, helping others who are struggling.


I am now working for the rehab I was at as a recovery advocate.  Praise God!  I think of this scripture when I  see his blessing in my life Jeremiah 29: 11 for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you hope and a future.

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