Every September, Stephanie Murphy posts her raw story of addiction on Facebook for National Recovery Month. She gives people a window into the past to give hope to those who struggle and doubt life can ever change.
She wrote, “If you are convinced you will never be more than an addict, there’s hope. You are not a mistake. You were made for so much more.”
Some who look at her life now find the past hard to believe. Zack and Stephanie have been married close to a decade and have four children. He is the student pastor at Pleasureville Baptist Church in Henry County. She is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids and works beside Zack in ministry.
“I believe if God can do this in my life, He can do it for anybody,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie grew up knowing Zack Murphy and his family, who were members of Southeast Christian Church. She was constantly on the move after her parents divorced when she was 7. At the time, it seemed everyone else had the picture-perfect family—at least from the outside.
“I felt like I was the only one at Goshen Elementary School dealing with divorce,” Stephanie said. “I was so unhappy. I often felt lost in the shuffle.”
She took her first sip of alcohol at 11 and loved the taste and the effect. Alcohol began to make life bearable—at least for a time.
“We lived in a three-story house. Every level had a bar, and the basement was lined with liquor,” Stephanie said. “I drank more through high school. By then I ran with a group of kids who also drank.”
Around the same time, Zack woke up paralyzed from the waist down after a rare spinal cord stroke in 2004. He was just 16. Much of life as he knew it was over. Thousands at Southeast prayed that he would walk again. Zack persevered through years of physical therapy. He now can walk a few steps with a cane.
“I want people to know that God did heal me,” he said. “I can do far more than doctors thought possible.”
After graduating from high school, Zack forged on with his dream to be a pastor, but the Bible college he attended was not easy to navigate in a wheelchair. He switched gears back in Louisville, getting a job upholstering furniture.
In 2009, he and Stephanie reconnected, but all was not well. While he struggled with moving forward to be a pastor, Stephanie was so overwhelmed by her addiction that she planned to end her life.
In a desperate moment, she prayed, “Lord, if you’re real, I need you to do something.”
She called her dad, who took her to The Healing Place for a three-month recovery program. During treatment, Zack and his parents as well as some in Stephanie’s family showed up to support her.
Life looked different sober. Stephanie began to believe that God cared about her, that He had a plan for her life. He would forgive the past and walk with her in the days ahead. For the first time in memory, Stephanie had hope.
If staying at The Healing Place three months was hard, so was leaving.
“I remember thinking I still wasn’t safe to make my own decision not to drink,” Stephanie said. “For a long time, I couldn’t go out to eat or go anywhere alcohol was available. I fought for recovery. At the same time, the Lord radically changed my heart.”
Zack saw life change so radical it’s hard to recognize the girl she used to be.
“In my opinion, Stephanie is the epitome of true repentance,” he said. “When I think of what it truly means to turn from sin and give it to God, I visualize her story and her life. God has used that to teach me what it means to give it to God.”
Stephanie and Zack got married in 2011 and began volunteering at Southeast’s Crestwood Campus. They live in a Habitat for Humanity house built by Southeast volunteers—many from the Crestwood Campus.
Four young children keep them busy as well as ministry. Zack takes classes at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and they both pour into the kids in their youth group at Pleasureville Baptist.
It would be easier to bury the past. Stephanie is, after all, a pastor’s wife. But God uses it often.
To parents dealing with children in addiction, she tells them to keep praying.
“Someone prayed for me long before I got sober,” she said. “The Lord is faithful. The Bible says the prayer of a righteous man is effective. Pray constantly and hold on to hope.”
To the person in addiction, she advises them to give their lives to Jesus and turn to Him for help. He specializes in redeeming and restoring.
“Addiction is dark, dirty and ugly, but God uses our stories to further His kingdom,” she said. “In time, I realized that my story is more God’s story than mine. It’s about how He restores and redeems. Talk openly about what God has done for you. Live your life for an audience of One.”