Teen Challenge program helps Justin Issacs live a drug free life

By Lynn R. Parks

In March, husband and wife Justin and Erica Isaacs, Bridgeville, competed in the Eastern Regional Powerlifting Open in Baltimore, sponsored by USA Powerlifting. Justin walked away with a second-place ribbon in his weight class and Erica claimed first place in her weight class.

That's astonishing, Justin says, considering the fact that a little more than seven years ago, they were both using and dealing drugs.

"Back then, if you had told me what my life would be like today, I would have told you that you were crazy," he adds. "I feel like we are both brand new people."

Justin credits their turnaround to their religion. Both are devout Christians. They attend the Uprising Church at St. Paul's, an independent church in Hebron, Md., where Justin is a regular speaker at the Friday-night service for young adults. He also is a part of Lifted in Faith, a weight-lifting group that travels around the world, doing demonstrations and preaching.

His weightlifting coach is Mike Hall, five-time world powerlifting champion and known as the "world's strongest drug-free man."

"Our message is salvation in Jesus alone," Justin says. "We preach the gospel message from the Bible. And I share what I've been through, how addiction had me by the feet and I had nowhere to go, and Jesus was the only way to break the chains."

Justin, the son of Pam and Alton Isaacs, Seaford, started using drugs when he was 13 and a student at Seaford Middle School. To support his habit, he soon was selling drugs. "Primarily I was addicted to cocaine," he says. "But I used alcohol, anything I could get my hands on."

That continued through middle school and through Seaford High School, where he graduated in 2006.

"My parents, my family and friends tried to talk to me, to get me to change," he says. "I went to rehab and my parents paid thousands of dollars for psychiatrists and medication. Nothing made any difference."

In November 2007, Justin and Erica were arrested by the Seaford Police Department and the Delaware State Police Governor's Task Force.

Both were charged with possession of drugs and possession of drugs with intent to deliver. Both went to jail until the bonds could be paid.

"My parents were at the end of their rope," Justin says."They bailed me out and told me about Teen Challenge, which they had just learned about." (Delmarva Teen Challenge in Seaford opened in the fall of 2008, nearly a year after Justin's arrest.)

Eric Mooney, Georgetown, was Justin's attorney.

"I had two prior major drug arrests, and my lawyer said that I was looking at a sentence of 20-plus years," Justin says. "When I asked him about Teen Challenge, he told me to go ahead and go while I was out of jail on bail. He would do what he could, and we would see what happened."

Justin went to the Teen Challenge residential treatment center in Ft. Myers, Fla. "I was a little freaked out. I hadn't grown up in church, and I didn't know what to expect. When I got there, I saw regular guys, just like me, but they were happy about life. That's what I was missing."

Within days, Justin started praying, "asking God to take this addiction from me." After the first month, "I began to feel better," he says. "The treatments that I had had before were just Band-Aids. Teen Challenge offered me a way to dig up the root that was leading to the problem."

By the end of 2008, Justin was finished his treatment. "I had just fallen in love with God and with the whole lifestyle that goes with that," he says.

Not only has he avoided drugs and alcohol since then, he hasn't even had a cigarette. "And I don't want one," he says.

Throughout the treatment, Teen Challenge sent regular reports about Justin's progress to Mooney. When Justin came home to Seaford, he was sentenced to probation.

Meanwhile, Erica had renewed her Christian faith with the help of her family. Several months after Justin returned to Seaford, they renewed their relationship. They were married in 2009 and have two children, Elijah, 4, and Ramiyah, 3.

Until recently, Justin was employed by Delmarva Teen Challenge. Late in March, he took a job as a personal trainer at the Havas Athlete Academy, Salisbury. He is certified through American Fitness Professionals and Associates.

Justin believes that his way of life isn't just appropriate for people suffering from addiction."

It's the only way of life, for anyone," he says. "God calls all of us, and it's up to us to say yes. It's a shame that it took me so long. I feel like I wasn't even living before."

Justin wishes that others could experience what he has.

"So many people are in addiction," he says. "I wish that they would open their eyes."

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.