ROCKINGHAM — Donald Turner wasn’t always an addict.
He spent 18 years as a pastor in Moore County, travelling the world — including Africa and Haiti — “leading thousands of people to Christ.”
But an incident in January of 2015 led to him getting hooked on opiate painkillers.
“Once I got addicted to those, I went to a couple of different treatment centers,” he said. “I got thrown out of one. Then got back out and started back on the opiates. Started drinkin’ on top of that.”
Richmond County is a hard place to try to stay clean, he said, because of the availability of drugs.
Once he added alcohol — and cocaine — to the mix, Turner said he was doing “anything and everything” to get his fix, including stealing from his own home, pawning everything he owned, taking things that weren’t his, and borrowing money from people without paying it back.
“I did stay on the streets for a while,” he said. “I was 220 pounds got down to 156 (standing at 6 feet) — very close to death.”
At the height of his addiction, he was up to 2oo milligrams of opiates per day, which run about $1 per milligram.
All he cared about was getting his next fix, his next drink — not caring about his family or who he hurt.
“I was walking around in a fog,” he said. “When I began coming out of the fog, I had to do whatever it took to get whatever I needed to stay in that fog, so that my emotions would not well up and I wouldn’t feel.
“After the tornado path of destruction I left in my wake, when I started to realize it, I just wanted to escape from it,” he said. “And I think that’s what a lot of addicts and alcoholics go through. They see the terror that they’ve caused in people’s lives — they stay that way ‘cause it’s where they’re safe at.”
He recently woke up — following a wreck where a truck hit a telephone pole — handcuffed to a hospital bed and learning that he had apparently assaulted a police officer while in a blackout.
Court records show Turner is charged with one misdemeanor count each of assault on a government official or employee and resisting a public officer.
“I put my son, my wife through pure Hell,” he said. “I hit rock bottom. I was down so far I didn’t have anywhere to go but up.”
But Turner said his wife, Pamela, stood by him through it all.
“God blessed me with a good wife, who, no matter what I put her through, she always made sure that I at least got to go to the right place,” he said.
She helped him get checked into The Bridge to Recovery in Oakboro, a “transition home which helps men with addictions get into Christian rehabilitation programs and provides them a safe place to stay while on those waiting lists,” according to its Facebook page.
Turner said that Samaritan Colony in Rockingham did not have a bed available at the time, which is why he went to Stanly County.
“In a situation like that, when there’s no beds in certain places, (addicts) are right back on the street and using,” he said. “I was blessed by her getting me in there. She drove me there from the hospital.”
He said the first several days were really hard on him, as people from multiple Christian denominations came in to talk and pray with him and the others at the center.
“I more or less just sat there and thought to myself, ‘I just wish these people would just go away, ‘cause I was still running from God,” he said. “A Methodist preacher began to pray a prayer before he left and I fell on my face. That’s the first time I felt God in 15 years. And it changed my life.”
Turner said he felt so comfortable there that he switched his bed dates at Samaritan Colony with several others so he could stay at The Bridge to Recovery longer “because I was getting fed (spiritually) what I needed to be fed at the time.”
“What amazed me was all the volunteers who came in that didn’t have drug problems, didn’t have addiction problems who truly, truly wanted to help,” he said. “And to look at a person like me, at that time…I was rough, I was homeless-lookin’…not knowing who I am, yet still chose to help me.”
That help, he added, came without judgement.
“I don’t never say that I won’t never go back to where I was — because I believe you don’t ever say, ‘Never say never,’” he said. “But I believe by the grace of God and what he’s given me and the people he’s introduced me to, my change…is possible.”
Turner said for others like him, there is change out there.
“I believe, truly, in every addict and alcoholic’s heart — somewhere down deep in that fog, they want to change,” he said. “And there are places where you can make that change.”
Turner will be telling the story about his change while at Bridge to Recovery at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Godfather’s Pizza.
“I believe if people will come and listen to my story, and few other people’s stories, that they can make a difference in peoples’s lives,” he said. “Whether it be money, time, people can make a change.”
On a promotional card for the meeting, Turner used the infamous Edmund Burke quote: “The only necessary thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
“And that’s the truth,” Turner said. “If it wasn’t for my wife, God most of all…and the people at this place, I would be dead today,” he said, close to tears, “without a shadow of a doubt.
“When somebody can actually look at you, like my wife, as much as I’ve hurt her, when she can look at me with tears running down her face and say, ‘I love you…and I want you to get better,” he sniffed, “it makes a big difference.”
Turner, himself, wants to be a good man who does something, by helping lead others to get the help they need.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.