On paper, Damon West had it all.
Raised in a loving Christian home in Port Arthur, Texas, West rose to fame as the star quarterback for the University of North Texas. After college, he began working in politics in Washington, D.C., and then secured a job working for one of the largest stockbrokers in Dallas.
But in secret, West told The Christian Post, he was a “complete, broken mess,” a man making “every wrong turn possible.”
Unbeknownst to many around him, West had endured childhood sexual abuse by a babysitter at the age of nine. By the age of 12, he escalated from drinking and smoking to using marijuana.
“Abuse affected me deeply; I got into adult behaviors at a young age that soon turned into serious addictions,” he recalled.
When his football career prematurely ended due to a shoulder injury, West developed a dependence on prescription drugs, and eventually began dabbling in cocaine, ecstasy, pills, and “nearly every other drug in the book,” he admitted.
But it wasn’t until he was introduced to meth in 2004, West said, that he became a “full-blown drug addict.”
“Meth was a gamechanger,” he said. “Before that, I was still managing life; I was at the height of my career. Meth turned my world upside down and at that moment, I became a slave to that drug and gave everything away for it. I went from working on Wall Street to living on the streets of Dallas. I was homeless.”
To support his addiction, West began breaking into storage units and committing robberies, crimes he continued for three years: “All I could think about was my next fix,” he said. “I was a sinner, a thief, and a drunk.”
On July 30, 2008, West was arrested by a SWAT team and put in county jail, or, as he puts it, “rescued.”
“God got me out of a situation I never would’ve gotten out of myself,” he said.
Nearly a year later, he was sentenced to 65 years in prison for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity — a moment West said was his “true rock-bottom.”
While in a Dallas jail waiting to be moved to state prison, West began asking his fellow inmates how to survive for the next several decades. “All of them told me to join a gang because these guys were all lifers. They didn’t care about making parole,” he said.
However, West’s mother, who had prayed for her son every day throughout his life, told him, “Debts in life need to be paid, and you’ve been hit with a big debt by the state of Texas. You owe your parents a debt, too.”
West’s mother told him not to join a gang or get any prison tattoos. “Come back as the man I raised or don’t come back at all,” she said.
“That was tough love,” West said, “and I promised her I wouldn’t join a gang — but I didn’t know what I’d just promised.”
But one inmate, West recalled, offered him a different perspective. An older, black man identified only as Mr. Jackson told him: “Be a coffee bean.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett