EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a series of periodic articles examining the lives of people who have battled with addiction to drugs.
By TAYLOR STUCK
HUNTINGTON - Sitting in a room full of people at the Lifehouse in Huntington, a sober-living community, executive director Rocky Meadows asked everyone to raise their hands if they thought they were going to heaven.
Out of 30 or so people, Krystal Parsley was the only one who kept her hands down.
"I just didn't believe," she said.
Parsley, 28, began drinking in high school in Boone County. She said she was a "black-out drinker" from the start.
"I was an addict long before I even knew it," she said.
Otherwise, though, she was a good kid, and smart - she received a full scholarship to the University of Charleston for pre-med.
She only lasted a year and a half, as cocaine and eventually opiates took over the next 10 years of her life.
"There was no turning back," Parsley said. "Within nine months, I lost everything I ever had. I dropped out. I used to work for the (Department of Human Resources and the Department of Motor Vehicles) and I lost my jobs."
She had her son when she was 22.
"I didn't have a day sober after that," she said.
Among her low points, she said, was taking back all her son's Christmas presents after getting out of jail for drug money.
"I had detoxed in jail, so I wasn't even sick," Parsley said. "That's how much control it all had over me."
In February 2013, she entered a detox program and moved into a half-way house in Dunbar, West Virginia.
"It did not have any structure whatsoever," she said. "I attended some AA meetings, but I didn't have anyone to show me the way to go and I really didn't have an open mind to it. I went back out for two-and-a-half months, and in the two and a half months I had gotten completely strung back out. I lost my job, went to jail, detoxed for seven days and then I found Rocky's number on the Internet one night. Everywhere I called had a waiting list. But he told me he would see me at 9:30 the next morning."
Parsley said she came to Huntington with the intention of signing away the rights to her son.
"I wasn't trying to take my son down that path with me," she said. "I didn't believe in (the program). I hadn't spoken to God in 10 years. I hadn't walked into a church. I felt like if there was a heaven and a hell, I would go to hell for all the things that I had done."
But within those first six months at the Lifehouse, things started changing. She got a job, and went from being 15 minutes late every day to 15 minutes early. She got a raise. She went back to church and was baptized. She completed the program at Lifehouse and moved out for a time, but moved back in to mentor other women in the program.
Then she was indicted in Kanawha County on 54 felony grand larceny charges.
"I walked into court at a year clean and the judge told me that she commended me for being able to walk in there like that and she put me on supervised probation after the biggest charges of my life," she said. "It's unexplainable without it being God, and that's coming from someone who hadn't spoken to him in 10 years. Now I'm two years clean."
Parsley's success has inspired her older brother to seek treatment. Just a few months ago, Parsley had to call the police on him after he stole their mother's car, wrecked it and stole her credit card.
"I never thought I would be the voice of reason," she said. "When they got him that night, he said he didn't know what it looked like, but he wanted what his sister had."
Now, he is 60 days clean at the Lifehouse.
"I can remember driving down MacCorkle Avenue in Charleston that runs parallel to the Kanawha River. I had a car, I had an apartment - you know what I mean - but I was so miserable inside," Parsley said. "When I was driving down through there I stared into the river wondering if I would die if I drove in it. Going from being that broken to where other people look to me for hope today, it's nothing short of a miracle."
Parsley now lives in Huntington with her son, who will turn 6 in January, and her mother.
She has a full-time job and continues to mentor at the Lifehouse, where she is living proof that if God brings you to it, he will see you through it - one of her favorite things to tell the other women.
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