By Sandra Massey Buckley
A Living Testimony
If today you met 26-year old Ben Hutton of Madison for the first time, you could easily label him as a poster child for “having it all.” He’s handsome, athletic, smart, and even plays the guitar. He comes from an upstanding Christian family, is an active member of Broadmoor Baptist Church, and he’s pursuing a college degree in computer programming with a minor in graphic design.
It’s easy for any of us to make assumptions about others, simply from the outside looking in. However, assumptions are most oftentimes not reality, but rather fantasy.
“It’s important to not assume that someone who seems to ‘have it all’ couldn’t have big problems,” says Ben Hutton.
Such as addiction.
“Addiction has absolutely no boundaries,” Ben explains. “Addiction doesn’t care where you come from or how much you have or don’t have. It’s a temptation just like any other sin.”
Ben knows. He’s been there. Just a few years ago as a teenager, he, like many, tried alcohol out of curiosity. Then over the course of around five years, one thing led to another, and alongside alcohol use he added drugs such as marijuana, Xanax, and Adderall to the mix. Eventually harder drugs like heroin and cocaine came into play, though not as often. “For me,” he admits, “Addiction meant I would use almost anything that would make me feel better.”
Addiction turned his world upside down. The kid who at one time did “have it all”—a promising college football career, good grades, a close-knit family, lots of friends, a beautiful girlfriend, his own truck, and ambition—lost it.
“I can’t say there was an exact moment of hitting rock bottom,” Ben says. “For me, I spent years at rock bottom. I spent years making terrible decisions, and the consequences caught up with me. I was arrested multiple times, went to plenty of rehabs, saw plenty of counselors, watched my friends disappear, lost true relationship with my family, and I couldn’t handle school. Basically, I watched my life fall apart. I was miserable.”
His turning point came when his family sent to Teen Challenge of the Dakotas, a Christian-based residential rehabilitation center located in South Dakota. It was here that Jesus truly became Ben’s focus and that he was able to understand how and why his life had “fallen into shambles.”
“Teen Challenge was the most beneficial, yet hardest, thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Ben adds. “I had to be brutally real with myself, the staff there, and most importantly to God. The amazing thing is that God didn’t bring me there to punish me, He brought me there to save me from the life of sin I was living. He brought me there to show me that all I need is Him, His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. He brought me there to show me that I don’t have to be miserable anymore, always searching for something to make me feel better because He is the one who would bring me peace.”
For Ben, a successful, long-term recovery meant digging deep and understanding the “why” behind needing to resist temptation. And for him, the “why” is God.
“Everything in the Bible is meant for our good,” Ben says. “And when God asks us to resist temptation, it’s because He wants to protect us from the consequences that can come from choosing to give in to that temptation. I can say firsthand that dealing with the consequences of addiction were not worth the temporary ‘good feeling’ the drugs gave me.”
For all of us, temptations are simply a part of life because we live in a fallen world. And addictions take form outside of alcohol and drugs, including such lures as food, gambling, shopping, and people. “Addiction is when you start relying on someone or something other than God for comfort,” Ben explains. “The problem with that is that it will never last—but God will never fail.”
While addiction has an obvious control over the individual, it’s often heartbreakingly tragic for the family that is left struggling, behind the scenes. “God blessed me with an incredible mother, father, and brother,” he said, adding that even through the hardest times, they never gave up on him.
Ben’s father, Steve Hutton, began journaling in 2014 as a way of coping. Then before he knew it, his feelings had poured out and the words had multiplied. A book, unexpectedly, was in the making. Soon, Pride Aside was born, outlining the painful and emotional journey of an addict’s father.
Today, Pride Aside is used often as a source of help, guidance, and understanding for others experiencing similar journeys around addiction in their families. “After the book was published, it’s been amazing to see the work that God has done and is continually doing,” says Ben. “The amount of people that have surfaced and spoken up after hearing our story has been incredible. God is definitely at work.”
Pride Aside has also created an opportunity for a new dialogue on the topic of addiction and families. Steve now speaks to schools, churches, and other organizations, sharing his family’s personal journey along with a message of faith, hope, and inspiration.
“As District Attorney, I have seen numerous cases involving young men and women who have had their lives dramatically changed based upon their use and/or abuse of alcohol and drugs,” adds Michael Guest, District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties. “The consequences of their actions can have a lifelong effect not only on the lives of these young people, but also on their family and friends. As parents, we should pray daily that our children would not be led down the destructive path of drug and alcohol abuse.”
Ben is once again on his way to “having it all.” This time around, though, “having it all” holds a different meaning. Now, he is intentional in surrounding himself with Godly people, living his life in a Godly way, completing school, and learning to grow from his past.
“Our eternal life with God doesn’t start when we get to Heaven, it starts the second we accept Christ as Lord and Savior into our lives” he says. “God teaches me something every single day, and He gives me a reason to live and a reason to love. He loves us because that’s who He is.”
Ben’s past experience with addiction is what makes him an inspiration today; he is a living testimony to the mighty and transformative power of God.
“The silver lining is that God can use every single thing I’ve been through for His glory,” Ben adds. “If God uses me to keep just one person from experiencing what I’ve experienced, then sharing my story is completely worth it.”
Visit prideaside.org for more information.