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The Phone Call That Changed an Addict's Life

Auburn Sandstrom, professor of writing from the University of Akron, tells her story:

I was curled up in a fetal position on a filthy carpet in a cluttered apartment. I’m in horrible withdrawal from a drug addiction. I have a little piece of paper. It’s dilapidated because I’ve been folding it and unfolding it. But I could still make out the phone number on it.

I am in a state of bald terror. My husband is out, and trying to get ahold of some of the drugs that we needed. But right behind me, sleeping in the bedroom, is my baby boy. I wasn’t going to get a Mother of the Year award. In fact, at the age of 29, I was failing at a lot of things. So, I decided to get clean. I was soon going to lose the most precious thing I’d ever had in my life - that baby boy.

I was so desperate at that moment that I wanted to make use of that phone number – it was something my mother had sent me. She said, “This is a Christian counselor, maybe sometime you could call this person.”

It was 2 in the morning, but I punched in the numbers. I heard a man say, “Hello.” And I said, “Hi, I got this number from my mother. Uh, do you think you could maybe talk to me?” He said, “Yes, yes, of course. What’s going on?”

I told him I was scared, and that my marriage had gotten pretty bad. Before long, I started telling him other truths, like I might have a drug problem. And this man just sat with me and listened and had such a kindness and a gentleness. “Tell me more … Oh, that must hurt very much.” And he stayed up with me the whole night, just being there until the sun rose. By then I was feeling calm. The raw panic had passed. I was feeling OK.

I was very grateful to him, and so I said, “I really appreciate you and what you’ve done for me tonight. How long have you been a Christian counselor?” There’s a long pause. He said, “Auburn, please don’t hang up. I’m so afraid to tell you this … He pauses again. “You got the wrong number. I’m not a therapist, but I’ve really enjoyed talking with you.”

I didn’t hang up on him. I never got his name. I never spoke to him again. But the next day I felt like I was shining. I discovered that there was this completely random love in the universe. That it could be unconditional. And that some of it was for me. And it also became possible as a teetotaling, single parent to raise up that precious baby boy into a magnificent young scholar and athlete, who graduated from Princeton in 2013 with honors.

In the deepest, blackest night of despair, if you can get just one pinhole of light … all of grace rushes in.


Auburn Sandstrom, “One Phone Call Changed This Drug Addict’s Life,” The Healthy (3-14-20)

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