Adam and Karen: "We Never Thought Life Could Be This Good"

Spring 2011

Adam and Karen Steeber have been married 3½ years and have been clean since spring 2007. Adam works in auto repair and Karen works as an in-home caregiver to someone with a disability. Their son, Isaac Jacob, is 1½. Another baby boy is due in late May. The family attends Heartland Community Church in Rockford.

Adam Steeber: My drug of choice was heroin. I used for about seven years. Toward the end I was looking at up to six years’ prison time, because I have five felony convictions – mostly from stealing in order to buy heroin. I wanted to stop getting high and turn my life around, but I also didn’t think I could go through heroin withdrawal. I felt trapped.

My older brother and I are only 18 months apart. Growing up, we did everything together. During and after high school I followed him into addiction – although his drug of choice was crack cocaine. In 2006, he entered Rockford Rescue Mission’s Life Recovery Program, and I started to see a big change. He was telling everyone he knew about Jesus. I loved him and was happy for him, but I thought, “You go take your Jesus stuff and I’ll take my bag of heroin, and I’ll see you later.”

But as I watched my brother continue to change, I softened. For Easter 2007, my brother brought our whole family to Heartland Community Church. The service really impacted us, and that was when I decided: “I’m going to go down to the Mission and I’m going to do this. I’m going to actually try.”

I wholeheartedly believe I was prayed to the Mission. My brother was almost done with the program when I decided to go. Everyone there said, “You don’t know how happy your brother is that you’re here.”

Life started falling into place for me. God changed my heart. He gave me the courage to ask my probation officer for drug court instead of prison. Drug court is high accountability – court once or twice a week, random drug tests. And I got through it successfully.

I believe 100 percent that God delivered me from my heroin addiction. I never got sick. In the first month and a half I was at the Mission, my desire for heroin left me, and it has never come back.

Karen Steeber: Being abused – verbally, emotionally, physically – felt normal for me. Through a series of terrible relationships with men, I had allowed it as a lifelong pattern. I was always taught, “Just brush it off. You’re fine.”

I have two daughters from other relationships. Because of the abuse, I ended up giving them up for adoption. That took my other problem, crack cocaine addiction, to new depths. I stopped working, stopped caring about anything, and I got high all the time. Friends from work introduced me to new drugs like Methadone and Vicodin. So now, along with my crack addiction, I was getting drunk and popping pills left and right. And as my addiction escalated, so did the abuse. Serious stuff, like bruised ribs and being kicked down flights of stairs.

In all, I used crack for 10 years, stole money to finance the habit – which at its worst cost $400 a day – and never got caught. But I couldn’t afford my addiction anymore and it was wreaking havoc on my life. I always got my identity from men, so I left the abusive guy I was with and met another guy who promised me the world. But very little changed. I was an emotional mess, and my drug use spiraled out of control.

As I started to seek help, a friend took me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. As I introduced myself, a guy named Jake was the first one to get up and give me a hug. At those meetings, Jake and others talked about the Rescue Mission. I thought, “Yeah, yeah, that’s nice. I’m fine. I got this.” That was always my motto: I got this. But after a couple more weeks of hell, I decided, “OK, I’ll go.”

So I went and filled out the application. They called me back an hour after I left, and said “Bring your stuff and we’ll see you tomorrow morning.” That was one of the scariest nights of my life, and it was the last time I got high.

That first night in the Mission, I thought, “What did I get myself into?” I woke up the next day feeling miserable and exhausted. I met with my counselor, and it was that day, in my second class, that I accepted God. But it was with the attitude, “OK, you all are nuts. Sure. I’ll try this. I’ll show you it doesn’t work.” Little did I know that it was working.

While I was at the Mission, I learned a completely different side of God that I had never known. They taught me about the core of my addiction. A lot of it was self-esteem and identity. It was feelings about my past that I didn’t want to feel. That was hard. It was too raw, and it hurt. I couldn’t cover it up.

Jake helped me in my first 90 days with all those raw emotions. Things were hurting and it would have just been easier to go get high. At the AA meetings, he would encourage me to stay at the Mission and keep dealing with it all.

That shows me how God knows me as an individual. He puts certain people in your path at exactly the right times.  Without Jake’s help, I wouldn’t have stayed.

Adam: Karen and I met in July that year, at a Christian 12-Step meeting. Before long, and without either of us intending it, we knew God meant for us to be together.

Karen: After we got together, everybody would say, “That’s Jake’s brother.’ And I’m like, “Jake who?” I didn’t have a clue. I went to Adam’s parents’ house, and he was excited to introduce me to his brother. He said, “Karen, this is Jake.” And I’m like, “Oh, my goodness.”

Adam: I had wanted Jake to be my best man at our wedding. He didn’t, because he had gone out and relapsed. He had a lot of shame and he felt like (garbage) about himself, and that’s why he didn’t come. I really didn’t care. I just wanted him there. I think he knew that.

Five days after our wedding, Karen encouraged me to call him. He didn’t pick up, but I told him “I love you, and I wish you were at my wedding, and I miss you. Call me.”

He ended up calling me back and leaving me a voicemail, and he said the same thing back to me: “I’m sorry I didn’t come. I love you. I’m about to go to work. Call me later.”

The next morning – Thanksgiving 2007 – they found Jake in his car, overdosed on cocaine and heroin.

I am so proud he’s my brother. No one’s perfect, but I know he accomplished some goals that God had for him here on this planet. He witnessed to a lot of people. He wasn’t just another drug addict who happened to go out and overdose.

I don’t know how I stayed clean after my brother died. I do know that people prayed for me and loved me. In a way, getting high would be a slap in Jake’s face. But I was still fresh into the whole God thing and the whole living-sober thing. Before, any time I’d had a problem, I ran to drugs.

Karen: I was watching the person that I’m completely in love with, who I just married six days ago, fall to his knees. I never have seen heartache like that. He was in physical pain. He came through it, and felt all those emotions without going to get high. Adam was willing to feel his way through it and lean on God. The Mission taught him how to do that.

Adam: God will stick with you in the worst of your circumstances. You feel like you’re going through some fire, and some terrible depression, and you feel like life totally (stinks), and Jesus is right there with you. If people can realize how awesome his love for us is, it will change your life.

I never thought my life would be this good. One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 3:19-21. It says God is able to do exceedingly beyond what we can ask, think or dream. He really can.

-- as told to Jim Killam