Derek Steele: Overcoming Addiction
By Ken Hulme
The 700 Club
Single events don’t often shape a childhood—or a lifetime. But for Derek Steele, being severely punished for stealing a piece of candy affected him for a lifetime. He’s written about it in a new book called “Addict at 10” Ken Hulme tells us his story…
“I screamed and yelled and banged and cried until that didn’t get me anything,” said Derek. He remembers it like it was yesterday. Derek Steele’s mother’s live-in boyfriend had locked him in his bedroom for 30 days as a punishment for stealing a single piece of candy. “I was beyond angry. I just wanted to smash everything and everybody around me.”
Derek was given food, but had no books, toys or TV during his 30-days of solitary confinement. He recalls, “It got to the point where my days and nights were mixing together. I mean I reached what was a delusional state: not being able to sleep at night, sleeping during the day.
Remarkably Derek’s mother did little to rescue him. “The hardest part of it all was that feeling of ‘I must be absolutely worthless.’”
That sense of worthlessness and self-loathing would stick with Derek long after his “punishment” was over. In fact, even from an early age, he learned to medicate his emotional pain by using illegal drugs and alcohol. “At 8 my first drink was with my parents at a Mexican food restaurant. My first drugs came when I was 10, through my sister and her friends.”
Derek’s drug of choice at age 10 was marijuana. “I remember the feeling, I mean I started laughing and was laughing uncontrollably.”
For the next decade he medicated his emotional pain with alcohol and drugs. “Ecstasy was my favorite. It made me feel ten feet tall and bullet proof and the smartest guy in the room. It was a way to suppress all of the feelings; the fear, the anxiety, the loneliness and the self-loathing.”
By the time he turned 20, Derek had burned out physically and emotionally, and was facing prison. He’d violated his probation on an earlier charge. That’s when it hit him. “When the truth set in I saw what I was. I was a liar, a cheat, a thief, a dropout, a drug addict and I knew was going to jail “
With his worldly possessions in a plastic bag, Derek checked into a Christian rehab center. It was there, through the counsel of a staff member, that he had his first real encounter with God.
Derek remembers the counselor’s words, “He told me, ‘The only way that you are going to be able to win this battle is with God’s help.’ I told him I didn’t believe in God, that I had never gone to church. It just wasn’t a part of my life.” Back at his bunk, Derek got on his knees and prayed the first prayer that he had ever prayed.
“And I said, ‘God I feel like a fool being here on my knees and I don’t even know that You exist, but I need help.’”
That was Derek’s turning point. The next day he returned to the staff member’s office, and for the first time, on his knees, prayed to receive Jesus as his savior.
Over the next year, Derek wrestled with his additions, in group meetings and living with other recovering alcoholics. He never took another drink.
When he left rehab, Derek married and began to work in sales and marketing. Within 5 years he and his wife started a high end landscaping design company, which quickly became the largest and most respected in Houston.
When he sold that company 5 years after he started it, he became an instant millionaire. But Derek’s reaction to success was surprising. “You know, there was a very small amount of bliss, maybe an afternoon of bliss after we had sold the company and saw the money in the wire transfer. Then the next day I was thinking, ‘Is this it?’”
Over the years that Derek had been running the business, he had drifted from God. He says that caused a growing void inside.
“There was a God sized hole that I was trying to put everything other than God into, shopping and traveling and everything else. And all those things stopped working. And so the last resort for me was to either kill myself or to drink again.”
That’s when Derek sensed a quiet voice inside telling him to call his sponsor. His sponsor urged him to pray.
“When I prayed and I hit my knees in my closet, I invited God in to have all of me. It was like immediately all of those thoughts of drinking and going back to that and hating who I was at that point, was removed.”
Over the past few years, Derek has been serving other recovering alcoholics at the Christian rehab center where he found hope. He published his first book called, Addict at 10, his life story.
But ask him what is most important to him now, and he’ll tell you it’s spending time with the two children that he and his wife have been able to adopt.
“Bedtime’s the best time,” he said, “when we read books. I don’t know. Just praying with them at night.” Derek cries, as he said he often does when he talks about his kids. “He won’t have to go through what I had to go through. The cycle is broken. The cycle is broken.”
Derek’s conclusion: “What Christ has done for me is available to anyone. Christ is the solution. Christ is the answer.”
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