A Fuller Heart: Road To Recovery
Man’s Testimony Benefits Those Who Listen
This is the first of two columns about a local man, Judd Hamilton. Hamilton has crossed the country and back again, searching for something. Yet, it took a return trip home, with lots of bumps in the road, to get him to where he needed to be.
Judd Hamilton’s face was as calm and serene as the Chapel we were seated in. Sitting at the back table, which was strewn with books and notebooks, Judd warmly welcomed me into his usual hang out at the UCAN City Mission in downtown Jamestown. His shirt mimicked N.W.A.’s famous first studio album, “Straight Outta Compton,” but read “Straight Outta God’s Word” instead.
“I wore this shirt on purpose,” he said with a grin.
Judd said he spends most evenings at this table in the back of the Chapel, a simple area with a few Biblical paintings, some pews, a study area in the back and a pulpit at the front of the room. Most people leave him be, unless they have a need for prayer or discussion.
At first glance, Judd appears to be a very chill pastor — calm, collected, accepting and down-to-earth. And, in many ways, he is. However, he is also a resident of the mission and a man on the road of recovery. For years, Judd struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol — but has since been sharing his testimony with the men at the shelter, students and anyone who could benefit from his experiences.
After hearing his moving testimony a month or two ago, I asked him if he would sit and be interviewed – and he said he would be glad to.
Judd’s story is not always heartwarming and uplifting – he said he has experienced some of the darkest lows in the midst of his tale. But, he has also experienced the beauty of God’s grace and peace.
“You would not have mistaken me for a Christian many times when I was out on the streets because it looked bad from the outside,” he said. “But God was doing this heart work. Often times, in my worst brokenness, it’s when I’m closest to him. He never gave up on me – and no matter how dark it seemed, there was always a glimmer of hope.”
When he began his road to recovery, Judd recorded his jumbled thoughts in a journal, a raw documentation of his addiction, his life and experiences along the way. Recently, Judd took the advice of his pastor and turned the journal into a book titled, “Thank God For My Addiction.” Judd said it may be strange, to be thankful for this thing that has caused him and his family so much anguish over the years, but he said it is one thing that drew him closer and closer to God.
Judd said he started drinking in high school, but he didn’t have a typical tale of a dysfunctional childhood that many people who are addicted have. Rather, his childhood was picturesque – his family was loving and caring, he was involved in sports and had friends. Yet, addiction reared its ugly head and Judd moved from alcohol to marijuana, and later, to cocaine and methamphetamine. At one point in time, he was on the top 10 most wanted list.
Often times, Judd said he felt like it was the places he was in that caused his addiction to flair. So, he moved from place to place – but never felt the reprieve he was looking for.
When he moved away from Jamestown, he wanted to move “to be somebody.” He chased the material goods and wealth – but one day, came to a realization. One morning, after staying up all night getting high, he stood outside watching the morning unfold in southern Florida.
“I’m looking at the house, I’m looking at the cars and I can have all the drugs I want – and I’m like really? Is this all there is?” he said. “It was a spiritual experience. I’ll never forget that moment.”
However, that was just the start to his journey home. Judd said he can’t remember all the rehabs he has visited and has relapsed more times than he can count. Yet, God still had a plan for him. A spot came open at a facility in Pennsylvania Judd calls the Farm — and Judd decided to go.
The Farm is a large, sprawling space of quiet contemplation – no cell phones, no internet, no television. He said you could walk about all you like – there was nowhere to run away to.
It was a perfect place, Judd said, for reflection and reading Scripture. You can tell Judd has studied the Bible intimately as the verses roll off his tongue without a second thought – with abundant joy and excitement. He said he spent a lot of time reading the Word, and was able to start facilitating groups and helping others at the Farm.
Just when everything seemed to be going well and he thought he would leave the Farm without incident, it turned out that wasn’t meant to be. He said he had to come back to the area for court and while he was waiting to see the judge, he ran into some old acquaintances – one being his former drug dealer. He said he had no intention of using drugs when he entered the courthouse – but that changed in a short exchange of words.
“Then, one of my dealers comes in and sits behind me. We were reminiscing and someone close to us had just passed,” Judd said. “Out of the blue — he asked if I had my piece (my pipe) on me. And I said ‘No,’ and I couldn’t believe the next part – I said ‘Why, do you have something for me?'”
Judd could not believe that came out of his mouth because everything was going so well.
The drug dealer replied “You know it.”
Instead of going back to the Farm, Judd went over to the dope house and got high. Then, the regret hit him.
“And I thought, ‘I threw everything away, I’m going to get kicked out of the Farm. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do?'” he said.
That night, Judd stayed in an empty apartment and did some soul searching. He said it was a miracle he didn’t go and get more drugs. Usually, he said when he starts using again, he doesn’t stop.
“I’m in this empty room all night long, pacing — trying not to go get more. Trying not to hustle,” he said. “I called Pastor Rick, he comes and scoops me up and gets me a cup of coffee. I asked him ‘Can you drive me to PA so I can go get my stuff?’ Because I assume I’m getting kicked out.”
On his way back to the Farm, Judd said his brain was buzzing with hundreds of ways to lie and get out of the situation. He knew he shouldn’t lie about it — but he didn’t want to lose his place at the Farm. He approached the Farm, certain he would be removed from the program and had no idea what would happen after that. Yet again, something unexpected occurred.
“We get to the Farm and the director comes out and he puts his hands in the air and he says “Welcome back – addiction is a beast. Go get some rest – we’ll talk about it in the morning,’” Judd said, tearing up. “I experienced God’s grace through this man – I couldn’t believe that he let me stay. I got to stay and I got to experience something so powerful – that God loves me, no matter what.”
If you’re enjoying Judd’s story, please keep an eye out for the next addition of A Fuller Heart. In the second part, Judd will reveal what led him to the UCAN Mission, other events from Florida and another special revelation from his time at the Farm.