Tag Archives: drug addiction

Did You Know: Drug Poisoning in Alabama

A very common but devastating outcome of significant drug use is drug poisoning (the scientific name for a drug overdose). Sometimes a drug overdose can cause death but other times it causes a state of unconsciousness that the user may come out of.

This detailed map on drug poisoning mortality shows the rates in which people in the United States have experienced drug overdose deaths based on race, geographic location, and age through 2002-2014. [Full map found at http://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs-data-visualization/drug-poisoning-mortality/]

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Did you know that in 2002, the state of Alabama experienced one of the lowest amounts of calculated deaths, which was about 5 per 100,000 people? In 2014, less than 15 years later, that number rose to an average 15 deaths per 100,000 residents. Jefferson County was found to have one of the highest death rates in our state. We have been able to see this statistic first hand over the past few years.

What we have realized is that the city of Birmingham is seeing a drastic shift in drug usage and location. Typically, people would assume to find drugs in inner city Birmingham, but in recent years we have consistently worked with addicts from Over the Mountain areas such as Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, Pelham and Vestavia. Now, the drug scene is more spread out than ever throughout our city and we cannot ignore this fact. We’ve seen that drug use is not always based off of where you grow up or how you grow up- it’s because all people are broken and in search of healing; some of our pursuits of healing just manifest themselves in more outwardly destructive ways.

Over the next few weeks we will further dig into the demographics behind drug use in our city and how it has affected the men and women we’re working with.


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What does it look like to be “ready”? Part I

How do you know when someone is ready for the grueling, painful, struggle that is recovery from drug addiction?

We’ve found ourselves asking that question on a daily basis. We are constantly coming in contact with people who are telling us that they’re ready- ready for a fresh start, a new life, different circumstances, for a change. But what does being ready even mean? And can anyone ever actually be fully ready for something like this?

Someone can believe that they’re ready to change for a lot of different reasons. Many times it comes out of realizing the depth of their struggle, how much the drug has control over them. Other times it can be brought on by someone else reaching out and giving a person the option of something else to live for such as a job, friendships, family, or a place to live. It can also be a result of missing children, spouses or other loved ones. Even court mandated lifestyle changes can result in someone thinking they’re “ready” to turn their life around. One of the main reasons we hear people say that they’re ready to change is when they have nowhere else to turn.

We are constantly reminded that being ready can look different than what we would expect.

We’ll continue to unpack what being ready might look like and what comes next.

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One thing we always try to stress to the men and women we work with is that we are all broken. We are all sinners that are in a constant fight against sin and we are ALL in need of a Savior. The truth of the matter is that some peoples’ sin is more outwardly self-destructive than others. For example, someone who has been caught in a heroine addiction will very quickly loose (in most cases) their family and friends, job, living situation, and ultimately their life. While for the rest of us, we have the ability to hide our sins such as pride and gossip. These things can and will take a toll on our life and our relationship with the Lord and others, but typically we will not loose our physical lives due to either of these sins.


We want people that the world labels without hesitation as “broken and needy” to really be able to see that this title belongs to all of us. Not one of us more deserving of it than the other. Once people begin to realize that we are all battling something, they tend to not feel so alone anymore. This is the beautiful thing about being in a community of believers! None of our sins look the same, but we can not neglect meeting together and encourage one another all the more as we see the day approaching. [Hebrews 10:25]

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Day 11: Open Doors

open-door-2On Friday, we were able to sit down with a man who has known of and supported Urban Purpose in many different ways throughout the years. But recently, the Lord has laid it on his heart to partner with us in more ways than he ever has in the past. This man manages a company and is willing to hire on someone we work with from time to time and give them a chance in the work force. This is a BIG DEAL.

For any business owner to knowingly hire someone who has past drug addiction and felonies, this would typically be considered “shooting yourself in the foot”. But thankfully- this particular business man knows Jesus. And we all know that if Jesus didn’t give us a second chance when we least deserved it, then none of us would be standing where we are today. It is only by His grace that we have accomplished anything worthwhile.

That is exactly what we want for the many, many people who have made (and still make) some pretty rough mistakes throughout their life. We desire for them to be given second and third chance when they definitely do not deserve them. We are constantly blown away by how God provides these open doors for our folks to walk through, baggage and all.

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A Telling Obituary

After a young man’s death came from a drug overdose, his family wrote an obituary that has sent shock and awe throughout the internet. Clay Shepard was a 22-year-old, North Caroline resident who was well-liked by all. Another thing he had going for him was a family that loved him dearly. What this family wanted to do by writing this obituary is to warn and give advice to some people that might be struggling with the same sort of issues. Sometimes a loving family might not be enough to fight the intense battle that addiction brings.


Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family.

We loved Clay with all of our hearts, but we now know that was not enough to shield him from the world. This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death. It’s not to vent our anger and frustration at a world where drugs can be ordered and delivered through the internet. We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time.

Clay was a solid student, decent athlete, and a very likeable kid. With his seemingly endless positive traits, he had the potential to be anything from a captivating politician to a brilliant engineer, but drugs began to creep into Clay’s life while he was in high school. As trouble hit, his father stepped in and forged an incredible bond with Clay. Although Clay could never be completely honest about the trouble he was in, his love and respect for his father became a lifeline over the last few years. He successfully completed drug rehab several times, but the craving that comes from true addiction was more than he could overcome.

While we always felt we had some grip on Clay’s issues, his ability to hide and disguise his addiction proved superior to our parental (and sibling) sixth sense. The worry that we have felt watching Clay struggle, has been replaced by a deep feeling of loss that now exists knowing we will never see his smiling face again. Despite these troubles, we can smile knowing that the last communication we had with Clay was a text and answer between mother and son to say “I love you”, just as it should be.

To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath. Clay’s struggles have ended. He is finally at peace. We will miss his keen sense of humor, impersonations, cooking, plant advice and rhythm on the dance floor.

Goodbye Clay, we love you and miss you dearly.

Mom & Dad, Cole, Wade & Jess, Jean & Lucas

The full obituary can be found here, on Legacy.com.


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Finding Meaning

“My life is just now starting to mean something to me.”

This comment was made just the other day by one of the guys we are working with. We have been able to provide him with housing, steady counseling sessions, different job opportunities, and people to walk beside him. He is in his 50s and has struggled with multiple addictions. He’s been homeless or living in an unstable situation for around 20 years now.

Time and time again, we find ourselves fighting for people when they do not really want to fight for themselves. But now, his life is starting to mean something to him. This is exactly what we fight for. So that our friends can see the meaning in their lives and so that they will fight for themselves!

We know he will still make mistakes and there will still be frustrations and failures that we must face with this man- because after all he is human. The bright side? Now we know it is not just us wanting something better for him, he wants this for himself!  This may not seem like a big deal to some, but trust us- it’s monumental.

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Is Drug Addiction a Choice?

“I’m not great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”     -Chandler Bing, Friends

Everyone remembers Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, aka the funny guy on the hit TV series Friends. What most people aren’t aware of however is his severe drug addiction. In this video, Perry is debating a journalist named Peter Hitchens on whether or not the addiction piece of using is a choice. While the top is supposed to be centered on drug courts, it quickly turns into a debate on this issue that has been and is being heavily looked at by people all over the world. The American Medical Association has defined addiction as a disease. What do you think?

Matthew Perry on BBC Newsnight

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