From Drugs to Dreams: Local pastor gets clean and helps others using 12 steps and Jesus

Special Reports

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The opioid epidemic across the U.S. impacts more than 11 million people, killing 130 daily, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

It’s not the only drug being used illegally that alters or claims lives.

A local pastor fell victim to that life in his past and has been clean for seven years. Now, he’s using a traditional program with an emphasis on God to help save others. In fact, he told NewsChannel 6 that out of the 24 people who have completed the rehab portion of his program, Katherine’s Way, only four are not still sober. That translates to 20 people saved from drug and alcohol addiction in one year.

We took a look at what Clifton Nobles is doing in the CSRA and share how he works to take addicts from drugs to dreams.    

Setup: Life with drug addiction

“Can we pray first?”

That’s how Pastor Clifton Nobles starts every interview with us.

We first met at his church, the 143 Ministries International building on Ingleside Drive. And before that first interview, we prayed.

“I thank you for this opportunity to share about your redemptive power…,” Pastor Nobles said.

But he wasn’t always that way.

“I began drinking alcohol. After school we would go and get alcohol.  That turned into smoking weed.  Later on in high school, by the tenth grade, I learned that if I sold weed that I could smoke more for free. That kind of got me into drug dealing,” he told us.

“By senior year I quit school and started selling drugs full time. I did that until I was 25 when I was arrested for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.  I was sentenced to seven years in the Georgia Department of Corrections.”

That life, one Nobles said started with a broken family, led him to prison by age 25. 

“I never learned how to process those emotions properly,” Nobles explained adding that addiction can be sourced to some type of issue that went unhealed.

For the complete interview with Pastor Clifton Nobles, click here.

“They told me they loved me.  They hugged me. They kissed me.  It wasn’t really that,” Tara Brown, a 2018 Katherine’s Way graduate told us. “I wanted them to tell me you’re smart and you’re this and not joke about Tara is our artsy child.”

For Tara Brown it was acceptance. And not just from her parents. 

“Opioids were my major downfall,” she recalled.  “I had not found those yet. I was doing all the party drugs; cocaine, taking pills every now and then, smoking a lot of pot, drinking too much. “I had a cup I got for my high school graduation that fit a whole bottle of wine and I would make sure that was done before I went out.  That was my pre-game.”

At Auburn University, she quickly learned real life was not a game. 

“My freshman year of college, I called my parents drunk and was like I have a problem.  I woke up the next day to my parents moving me out of my dorm room,” Brown admitted.

For the complete interview with Tara Brown, click here.

“I was under a lot of pressure,” Chase Clark told us during his one-on-one interview with NewsChannel 6.  “I was drinking every night and going out to these clubs.  I’d get up in the morning and be hung over and couldn’t go to these meetings. One day, somebody handed me a Xanax and they were like ‘you take this before the meeting and you’ll feel 10 times better.”

Up to ten Xanax a day, Percocet, roxies and everything else made up Chase Clark’s drug life.  And he tells us after his parents split up sending him between two homes in Charlotte and Savannah, he simply wanted to fit in with friends. 

“I took a bunch of Xanax.  I drank a lot at one of my friend’s parties.  I somehow made it across town, by the grace of God. I made it from my friend’s house and I drove to my mom’s house for whatever reason, passed out in her driveway around 6 p.m.  She was having a party for my younger brother who was five at the time.”

He continued, “I remember waking up the next morning saying why am I here?  My mom and my stepdad were both downstairs. And my mom looked at me and said I think it’s time you get some help.”

For the complete interview with Chase Clark, click here.

“I felt misunderstood.  I felt left behind.  I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere and finally I found this group of friends and that’s what they were doing.  And even though I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want to do it, I wanted to fit in so bad,” said Laura King, who grew up with drug addicted parents.

She told us when they separated she was about 8-years-old and that departure left her wanting more.

“I just wanted to be accepted I would have done anything.”

And she did. From friends to bad relationships, she even said one boyfriend introduced her to meth.

“He started having me get rid of it for him. All of a sudden I’m around all of this exciting stuff and lots of money and guns and just all these things you see in the movies in high school,” she said.

And then at 24, the mother of two children received a melanoma diagnosis. 

“Basically, just go home and make her comfortable until she dies,” the doctor told her parents.

She beat cancer, but not her drug addiction. 

“About a year later, I got into another very unhealthy relationship, abusive relationship mentally and physically,” King remembers.  “On my birthday, he talked me into shooting up for the first time. Heroine.”

Life took a downward spiral.

She added, “I started selling my body for drugs.  I started robbing people for drugs. Anything that I could do.  I was physically abusive to people, family members and people I loved.  I lied to everybody. I stole, cheated.”

A near death experience changed her life forever. She overdosed four times in one week.

“The last thing I remember is doing a shot.  I woke up on the floor and I had stuff all over me,” she said.  “I just jumped up gasping for air and I looked in the mirror and my lips were turning from blue back to white.”

And later, she knew it was time to get help.

“I called my dad here in Augusta.  He was in Aiken actually.  And I told him, I said dad I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m either going to die or I’m going to prison.  So he came and got me.”

King’s next step went something like this:

Detoxed. Relapsed.  Detoxed again and then relapsed once more. 

She learned that she had a warrant for strong arm robbery and she was arrested and sent to jail. A moment behind bars changed her life for good. 

“I hated everything about who I became.  So, I dropped to my knees and I said God if you can do one thing for me, please just save my soul.  Please just save me. Save me from all of this. And man he moved mountains in my life.”  

For the complete interview with Laura King, click here.

Drugs. It knows no color or economic background.  

And Pastor Nobles highlighted just how bad it is in the CSRA.

“Marijuana is the most popular drug.  That’s what mostly everyone gets started on.  It is a gateway drug. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says.  I see it. I know it is. The biggest problem that we face here, as far as addiction is concerned, what we’re seeing is methamphetamines and opioids, which is basically pain pills and heroine,” he said. “We know you don’t want to destroy your family.  We know you don’t want to hurt your parents. We know you don’t want to lose your kids.  But you keep doing all these things and it’s because you’re spiritually sick and we can help you.”

Program: Life in Katherine’s Way and Immanuel’s House

Once he helped himself and his wife Ana, Pastor Nobles launched 143 Ministries International. Nobles told us 143 translates to ‘I love you’ in ‘beeper language’ from the past. And in the program’s first year 31 people went to rehab.  

“I got the idea of if we’re going to send all these people to rehab where they’re not going to get Jesus.  Why don’t we start our own and we can teach them the 12 steps like we knew and Jesus.”

The couple launched Katherine’s Way, named for Nobles’ grandmother. It’s a Christ-centered home for women once addicted to drugs and alcohol.  

“These guys took these 12 steps straight from the bible,” King said showing us where the women study.

It’s a power that sets Katherine’s Way apart from other rehabs. 

“Cliff told me when I first got here, he said, ‘what I want you to do is anytime you say God, replace it with Jesus, that way you will build your relationship and your belief in Jesus.  How do get to know someone you don’t know? You talk to them,” she recalled.

Ana Nobles spoke with us outside of Katherine’s Way where she is the Women’s Program Director.

“Their first meeting will most likely be an AA meeting,” she shared along with the strict rules women must follow in the program.

No cell phones, no internet (not until it’s job search time), no TV until weekends and little to no contact with what and who you knew outside.  It’s all so the women can pray and focus on connecting with God through the 12 step program. 

Nobles added, “Then they have the day to get into their big book, complete their step work because it’s 12 steps, so it’s a process of what they have to go through.  Once they get to that fourth step, it’s a lot of soul searching that has to go on there. “We offer a community.  We keep them plugged in.  We offer them a safe place.  We allow them to make mistakes.  We allow them to make bad choices and we don’t throw them away and we don’t turn our back on them.”  

For the complete interview with Ana Nobles, click here.

Katherine’s Way has two transition homes for women to work and reclaim their lives. There’s a place for men too, called Immanuel’s House.

Facilities: 

Katherine’s Way Rehab – 8 women 

Katherine’s Way Transition Home #1 – 6 women

Katherine’s Way Transition Home #2 – 6 women

Total = 20 women 

Immanuel’s House #1 – 6 men

Immanuel’s house #2 – 2 men

Total = 8 men

Everyone meets at The River church on Friday nights. 

It’s located on Warren Road.

Worship. Praise.  Testimony.

And Pastor Nobles gives a word to many who are not on drugs, but knows and loves someone who is fighting that battle. It gives them hope. 

It’s hope that they can see from people have been saved. Brown is oneof the first graduates.

“I’ve had to fight for me so I can be the mother that my son deserves.”      

King is set to graduate August 3.

“Cliff says you can tell somebody’s walk by the fruit that they bear.  The leaders here and the girls that graduate, they have the fruit that I want.”

Future: The Sober Life

Though successful, Ana Nobles has seen people who do not make it.  Some can’t even try.   

“We’ll have 10 to 12 women who call that we can’t take and that’s every month,” Nobles said.

That amounts to around 200 women they turn away due to space.  Facilities they already have challenges with in Richmond and Columbia counties.

“They don’t want us in their backyard until the drug addict is in their house,” Nobles said. “We can teach them why they’re getting high.  We can help them get close to the Lord, who is the only one that can heal them.”

A healing he’s hoping to expand throughout the CSRA. 

“We need to find property. We need to find a location where we can do this and where the county is not, where we’re not doing anything wrong with the county.  We’re not in residential neighborhoods. We need to find a location, land, property where we can go in and we can do our work and where we can work with the local government, rather than have them tell us we’re in the wrong area,” Nobles said.

But the labor is not easy and it’s not cheap. 

Ana Nobles description compares it to somewhat of a miracle.

“We have nine beds, seven of those are scholarship.  So, the way that we pay our bills, God provides.”  

And because they believe their cup runs over and their hope eternal. 

“It would be a 30 bed facility. It would be a place where women eventually can bring their children,” Ana dreamed, adding that there would be a separate facility for the children.  “That’s what we want Katherine’s Way to be.”

A goal hopefully not too far away for helping people from drugs to dreams.

Click here to watch From Drugs to Dreams Panel Discussion.

Watch the shorter, broadcast version here.  

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