By Scott W. Bailey —
“I’m not going to survive this. There’s nothing left to live for. I give up!”
Through tears I fashioned a noose from the bed sheet, eyeing the light fixture at the top of my jail cell. It should hold me I thought. What was there left to live for? I had failed in every area of my life. The withdrawal from drug addictions would probably kill me anyway. What good was I now? I prepared to end my life. I had become a prisoner of my own making.
Years earlier, around Thanksgiving of 1984, I received a blow that changed my life forever. Living in Maui at the time, I thought I was at the height of health and happiness: surfing, partying, and living free. Over the years many of my friends died from drug overdoses; others were facing jail sentences. Somehow escaping both, I was enjoying all the fantasies of a twenty-nine-year-old who thought he was immortal.
An earache and a bump on my jaw got me to the doctor one sunny afternoon in paradise. I wasn’t ready for the look of concern on the doctor’s face. He didn’t like what he saw and rushed me in to surgery the next morning. That evening I was told the surgery lasted over eight hours and that they had resuscitated me back to life. Not knowing what was going on, I still felt drugged. My head was wrapped up like a mummy. After ten days the bandages were removed and what I saw was horrifying.
There, staring back at me in the mirror, was a monster. A scar running from the top of my ear down to my Adam’s-apple was accented due to the swelling of my face. One eye was stuck, paralyzed wide open, mocking me with fear. My pride melted into horror. This couldn’t be me. All those years of being the golden child, the chosen one in the family, destined for greatness, came spiraling down as I imagined my future with a face marred for life. I wanted to die rather than look like this.
Three weeks later my doctor called me in for a meeting. “Scott, you have a rare cancer called Mucadermal Carcinoma. Due to the rapid growth of the tumor in your lymph nodes, you have one to three years maximum to live.” He explained that he had removed a large tumor located near my brain. The nerves had been nicked and the right side of my face was paralyzed, and probably wouldn’t heal.
Then he added an extraordinary comment, “But I don’t believe it has to be this way.” All I could hear echoing in my ears was the death sentence, but something inside of me still wanted to live.
Reeling from shock, I recounted the beginning of my drug addiction fifteen years earlier when my mom and grandparents died within a few months of each other. My motto became it is better to go out in a ball of flames rather than rust. And so I did. What was once a “party addiction” of heroin, cocaine and pills became a way of life, massive amounts. It didn’t matter; I was going to die anyway. I pushed away those who loved me. I became so strung-out that I kept a syringe of heroin in the drawer waiting for me so that when I woke up in cold sweats in the middle of the night it would take away the nightmares and send me back into drugged oblivion.
Slowly all the favor, the rock-star status slipped away and I became your everyday garden-variety sleazy junkie. Who could ever love me? I was so addicted there was no way out and I knew I would never be normal again. Demonic activity began to surround me.
Soon I was busted for possession of drugs and so began my life as a prisoner.
It started off as a weekend in jail, and years later I would be bunking in the same prison as Charlie Manson.
During one of my short-term stays in the county jail I found myself drawn to a Bible study with other inmates and learned a little about a Savior I never knew. Later, when I got out on the streets, I tried to keep reading the Bible. I started in the gospels reading Jesus’ words in the morning, only to gravitate back to the partying every night. The Bible reading stopped, and the partying continued full blast. I quit showing up to my meetings with my probation officer, which put me in violation. I was on the run. My addictions were back full force and I was more desperate than ever. There was nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide.
Having survived an overdose, I would later experience a night of terror. In a sober moment, I witnessed with my own eyes occult sacrifices of animals right across the street from my friend’s apartment. God taught me an unforgettable lesson in those two events: that Satan was real, and so was hell — and I was going there full speed. He was not willing however that I would perish!
One night I slept under a bush in my hometown, where I had grown up the highly favored great-grandson of one of the most influential men in that city. Look at me now, I thought. I cried and cried. How had it come to this? I had squandered it all — money, looks, influence, education, and the right upbringing — all of it wasted as I wrestled with my reality under a bush. In that dark, cold night I remembered the God of the red letters in the gospels — the One who had reached out to me in jail, this God who loved me when no one else would. I mustered up my voice and whispered to Him. “God, if you hear me, if you know me, I need you. Please help me. I can’t stop these drugs.”
A couple days later the police found me. I was busted, with guns drawn, a full fanfare of cops and cars chasing me through a house. This incident brought me to face my greatest fears and yet my greatest desire. I would now experience withdrawal from drugs and my final days living with cancer in a jail cell. My addiction was so severe that I truly believed there was no way I would live through withdrawal, or “the jones” as known to addicts. I knew in three days the withdrawal would be hitting me full force.
There I was, lowering the noose over my head, fitting it around my neck, when the speaker in my solitary glass cell burst with the words “chow call.” A buzzer rang and the cell door clicked open. Bewildered and frustrated I took off the noose and ventured out into the main population of convicts. I was drenched in sweat, shaking, having thrown up for three days. Overwhelmed with the fatigue of not sleeping and depression of a dying man, I had no choice but to step in line to the chow hall. It was useless. I could not eat. I could barely sit and focus. My stomach and bowels were exploding and my muscles twitched on the verge of seizure. I would have to wait another hour until the rotation back to the cells. Walking back I was not sure if I had it in me to make another attempt at killing myself.
When the cell door opened, there on my bunk was a Bible!
How did it get there? I had no celly (roommate), and the room was completely enclosed in glass. This is what they did with convicts who were considered dangerous to the general population and the state was preparing to ship off to a prison. Yet, there it was: a Bible.
Immediately falling to my knees near the bed I began to weep. This Bible was mine. God was real and He did care about me. I wept and wept, crying out to be forgiven. I wanted to know this loving God who chased me down. Desperately needing Him, He was my only hope to survive. I wept. Hope began to invade my heart. Tears flowed from my eyes as I marveled at how my physical ailments seemed to diminish as I held the Word of God close to my heart.
Looking down at the floor there was a pool of tears on the concrete at least eighteen inches in diameter. Opening the Bible, I began reading from the book of Acts. Here were Christians who had just gone through what appeared to be the most agonizing of circumstances, having watched their Savior crucified.
They felt alone and were not sure what to do next. I related to them. This book continued drawing me in. Reading on I learned about a man named Paul who was imprisoned for loving his Savior. The words were jumping off the pages and ministering to my soul. Each day I physically felt stronger, healthier, and renewed. I was filled with hope and truth. Jesus Christ was my Savior who delighted in leaving the 99 to come find me.
Nothing could stop me from devouring His Word. Soon I began to speak with anyone who would listen, inmates and guards. We all needed hope and direction. I spent about a month in county lock-up. This was a time of preparation, equipping me to walk with the God who loved me.
Soon I would be transferring to Chino State Prison, which was a lot scarier than staying in county lock-up. I leaned on God for hope and courage. At Chino they burned my clothing and allowed me one possession, my Bible. I received underwear, pants and a t-shirt. No shoes, jacket or any bedding. The prison reminded me of an old movie with three tiers of cells.
My cell had one bunk, a toilet, a small window in the door and a tiny window on the back wall with the glass broken out. It was barely big enough for one man. On a cold winter night, sitting next to the door as the light spilled onto the pages of my Bible, my God was with me.
During my twelve-week stay at Chino I had a different roommate every week, all of whom I shared the love of Christ with. At least eight of them began to study the Bible and pray with me each day. Soon I was allowed to go outside and have recreation time. My circle of influence grew and I shared whenever I could. Some looked ready to kill me for doing that, but I was so full of joy being alive I did not care. Surely they needed a Savior too!
Most inmates were classified and shipped off to their permanent housing within ten days of arriving at Chino. I’m not exactly sure why God kept me there that long. There were twelve who were either stoked or suffered being locked up with me. Sharing from the scriptures with greater confidence each day I saw God’s favor going before me always.
After twelve weeks I got word that they were transferring me to Corcoran State Prison. When I asked about Corcoran I received many concerned looks, even from the guards. “What’s wrong with Corcoran?” I would plead. I came to find out it was the newest prison in the system, designed for hardened criminals with the highest security level, including a death row. Not considered a danger to the system, I was classified as a level one prisoner and should have qualified for a work furlough program. But it never was to happen. Instead, I was being shipped to level three at Corcoran with violent criminals. Some notorious figures who lived there were Charlie Manson, Noriega, and Sirhan Sirhan.
I cried out to the Lord. “Why, Lord, why are you sending me there?”
I arrived exhausted after hours of riding on the bus completely shackled down with chains around my waist, hands and feet. Once again, I was stripped of everything I had, except my Bible. I was in solitary lockdown for two weeks with a roommate that looked like Charlie Manson’s double. Needless to say, there were quite a few restless nights in that cell.
They moved me to new housing and I received freedom to walk the yard. That’s when God began to open my understanding of why He brought me to Corcoran. I found out the first day in the yard that there was a chapel. Seeing an open door I yelled, “Praise the Lord!” A convict my age yelled back, “What? Praise the Lord!” His name was Dyon, the chaplain’s assistant. He came out with a puzzled look on his face because apparently not many stopped by with that kind of greeting. We soon became fast and best friends. His knowledge of the word was incredible and he began to disciple me. At Corcoran we had the best Christian library in the whole state penal system, and I was accepted into a Bible College program for prisoners.
During August of 1990 I was released from prison with $200 to my name. To be honest I was more anxious about living my Christianity on the streets in the midst of temptation than I was coming into prison on my first day. Thankfully, I had made many friends that were praying for me. The guards took me to the train station and paid for my one-way ticket to Santa Ana. That city happened to be where many of my former drug connections lived. I quickly hopped any bus that would get me away from there.
Finding a motel room for the night, I spent my last fifty bucks. “What should I do, Lord?” I began to pray. Not wanting to contact my old druggie friends, I remembered there was one true friend I could trust. He was responsible, owned a house and his own company. I called him.
He seemed genuinely glad to hear my voice and informed me he had just gotten married. Right now, it wouldn’t be a good time for me to come by. Completely understanding his position, I explained my new faith in Christ. Thanking him for being a faithful friend through all the years I assured him, “Jesus will take care of me.” And then I hung up.
Prayer consumed me all night. Early the next morning as I was leaving the hotel room, I almost shut the door with the key inside when the phone rang. To think I almost missed this call. It was 6:30 in the morning; no one knew I was around. Who could be calling? Grabbing the phone I heard my old friend’s voice. “Scott?” he said, “Is that you? I have been up all night calling every hotel in the surrounding cities trying to find you.” Apparently, I had shared the love of Christ with him but forgot to mention where I was staying.
“After you hung up, my wife and I talked. We decided we want you to move in with us for two months, free room and board. Over that time, if you work for me I’ll give you $1000 to go get a place of your own.”
All through the years God had provided and cared for my soul! At the end of two months I moved into an apartment in Dana Point where I was to meet my future wife and begin what is now a 30-year ministry with the Lord. God has blessed me with three beautiful children and a chance to know Him, love Him and serve Him. He has never once let me down. Never!
He Calls Us…
Beloved, it is a great and marvelous mystery to be loved by the God of the universe. He calls us His very own: His friends, His kids, co-inheritors of the Kingdom with His Son, Jesus Christ. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has delighted in walking with me every step of the way. No storm has overtaken me that He has not provided a way through. No trouble has saddened me that He has not caught my every tear and comforted my soul. He has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. And He wants to bless you!
If you’ve not met this God of heaven yet, then take a moment to invite Him into your heart. His Son, Jesus, took your every trouble to the cross and willingly paid your price there. He rose on the third day to bring you not only life eternal, but life more abundantly.
I am a living testimony of that grace, a living stone standing here declaring that God is good and He loves you no matter what. He has set this prisoner free. How about you?
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here