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Drug Rehab Helps Save Life

Posted by familydynamics on December 26, 2007

IT WAS THE best Christmas gift she could have gotten — one that came wrapped in a hug instead of paper and ribbon.

For Julie Hamilton, a United Airlines flight attendant who lives in Renton, it happened Sunday at the Cross Church and Discipleship Center, a church in White Center that offers a residential faith-based drug rehab program and a food bank, among other services.

Julie and her husband, Denny, have been married 35 years. They have three grown children — a daughter and 26-year-old twin sons. One of them is Zach, a son who has tested both his parents’ patience — and their love — over and over again. Along the way, he’s taken more missteps than most people do in a lifetime.

He has battled drug addiction, sacrificing relationships, jobs and opportunities along the way.

Four years ago, coming down hard from a cocaine high, he tried meth- amphetamine.

“It turned my life upside down,” he says now. “It was a roller coaster headed straight to hell. I should be dead right now. I almost died four or five times.”

Over the years, he has entered in- or outpatient drug rehab programs more than a half-dozen times. Monthlong programs didn’t work for him. In early 2007, he entered a faith-based program run by the church in White Center. The men’s program is designed to run a minimum of six months.

Zach bailed after 2 1/2.

He lived — off and on — with his parents, lying if he was using. They kicked him out numerous times, then took him back when they believed he was clean.

Then came a day last fall when Denny and Julie decided they’d had enough. They ordered him to leave.

“He was in such bad shape,” Julie says. “He was taken over by this drug. It was not my son. Denny and I said a prayer. We released him to God.”

And they shut the door — to their home — not to their hearts.

Sometimes Julie would drop by Liberty Park in downtown Renton to see if Zach was crashing there. Once, she thought she saw him sleeping on a bench. It was another man.

Zach, though ordered out of his parents’ house, didn’t exactly leave. He’d break in to steal credit cards and checks.

Once, Julie found him asleep on the floor of what once was his bedroom. She ordered him out.

“I’m starving Mom,” he told her.

“Go eat with the homeless,” she responded.

“It was hard because he was so hungry,” she says now. “He had fungus on his feet and could barely walk. So he limped down the stairs looking at me with those eyes that were starving. He went into the kitchen and just grabbed some bread. I said, ‘Lord, let this end.’ “

And then came the day Denny called Julie from work. He told her Zach had called and wanted to go back to Cross Discipleship.

“Denny picked him up,” she says. “When they got here Zach was in the car crying and he looked terrible.”

At the church a man came out.

“We don’t have a bed for you,” he told Zach. “You’ll have to sleep on the floor.”

And so, he did.

Three months later, Zach is still there. He has been moved from a bunkhouse where men seeking help initially live to one of several “work houses” the church owns and uses to house men as they go through the program. (There also is a program for women.) Like others in the program, he spends long hours in Bible study and does “work blessings” — lawn care and painting and other jobs that get donations for the church.

After Zach went into treatment, Julie and Denny switched from the church they had been attending to the one in White Center.

“Going into that church was the most awesome feeling,” Julie says now. “These are people there who have been down and out. Some have been in prison. But the love they give you is amazing.”

By nature, Julie is a relatively shy person.

But last Sunday, during the portion of the service in which the congregation is invited to give testimonies, Julie stood up to speak. Just a few months earlier, she said, her son had been breaking into her house to steal checks and credit cards.

“I have the best Christmas present I could ever have — having him clean and walking a line I never thought possible,” she said.

Around her, members of the congregation stood and began applauding.

Zach reached out and wrapped his arms around her.

She was weeping.

So was he.


For information on the Cross Church and Discipleship Center, go to


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