Austin Simon found Jesus on a bathroom floor.
After going on a meth and heroine bender, he was delusional and hadn’t eaten for days.
“My mother always told me the three things I needed to admit to God with my whole heart to go to heaven,” Simon added. “At that point, I was convinced that I was dying. I asked God to save me because I was scared, and I didn’t want to go to hell. I promised Him that if I lived, I would do His work, whatever that meant. I felt a warmth come over my whole body and for some reason, I knew I was saved.”
Simon traveled a long journey to that bathroom floor.
He began using marijuana in middle school and quickly progressed to prescription pills and harder drugs.
“I’ve pretty much done every drug in the book,” said Simon, 27. “My main drugs I liked to do were cocaine and opiates. I looked up to a lot of the older kids in the neighborhood—the drug dealers.”
By 15, he was selling pot and got kicked out of Male High School as a freshman. He dropped out of DeSales High School before his senior year.
“I was addicted to the lifestyle as much as I was the drugs,” Simon added. “I liked the debauchery, the sin, everything that came with it, the girls. At first it was fun. You think you’re going to be some big-time dope dealer. Of course, it never turns out the way you think. By the end, I was pretty much selling and making zero.”
Simon’s body is covered with tattoos that reveal details of his life.
Tattoos on his arms depict the battle between good and evil: a rat hanging from a noose, an anti-police tattoo, the face of rock star Marilyn Manson, Jesus, Mary, Saint Christopher and praying hands.
At 18, Simon was still living at home and working various jobs while dealing drugs and using cocaine, meth and heroine.
“There’s always, in the drug world, something else you say you’ll never do, like look down at somebody else and say, ‘I’ll never be that bad,’” Simon said. “I started injecting heroine and figured out you could put many different drugs in a needle. I became almost obsessed with the needle. Once that happened, stuff really went downhill from that point.”
Simon had run-ins with police and spent some nights in jail, but following his fifth time being arrested, he was charged with a felony for possession of meth while having a weapon.
At 25, Simon landed in the Bullitt County Detention Center for 100 days before the judge offered a diversion sentence: He could either go to jail for three years or complete a recovery treatment program and then serve three years under supervisory probation.
He chose the latter.
The power of a praying mom
When Simon was young, his mother, Karen, a Southeast Christian Church member, attended the Blankenbaker Campus while he and his dad stayed home.
However, Karen filled out a Connections Card every week for three years, asking for prayer for her son. No matter how dark his life got, Karen never lost hope.
The moment when Simon confessed Christ on the bathroom floor came shortly after he spent seven months at Healing Place in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and returned home only to relapse.
Fleeing the familiar
After beginning a relationship with Christ, Simon knew he needed to distance himself from his friends and connections in Louisville. His mother enrolled him in Recovery Works, a 30-day treatment center in Elizabethtown.
Simon has been clean of cocaine, meth and heroine since July 2018.
“My mother bought me a cheap motel room, the nastiest, bug-infested place, and I was happy to be there because I wasn’t in Louisville,” Simon said. “I remember seeing all the drug and prostitution activity and stuff that I could recognize from my life in the streets and just being comfortable. It was where God wanted me. It’s like He took away the desire to do drugs. It was like I didn’t have an addiction.”
After a month in that motel, Simon got an apartment and a job, but he is now pursuing a career in graphic design like his dad.
Simon then connected with Justin Blair, campus support pastor at Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus.
“My mom would call me once a week about this guy named Justin Blair from Southeast,” Simon added. “Her main point was that he has tattoos just like you. I don’t know what about that got me going, but I was curious. I called him and said, ‘Hey man. I’d like to meet you.’ He said, ‘Come on in.’ I said, ‘You’re not going to miss me. I’ve got tattoos on my face. I’ve got tattoos everywhere.’ He accepted me as a brother. He loved me before I loved myself. That’s when I started to get involved with the Encounter addiction recovery group. That really saved me.”
After six months of attending Southeast worship services and joining a small group, Simon was baptized by Blair and Southeast member and mentor Reggie Hughes last September.
“Simon has been the hardest person God has given me to help disciple,” Blair said. “He has been a rollercoaster and that’s not abnormal when you first get sober. Your brain is all over the place. God definitely did something in these past months. He went from dreading walking into this place, but also dreading to go back to his old lifestyle. He was kind of in this lost place really … I don’t know what the exact moment was, but he’s gone from being very anxiety-ridden to being on fire and can’t wait until the next Encounter and Sunday service. I think he finally surrendered to the fact that he was either going to be all in or all out. It’s kind of like that fork in the road. And he chose all in.”
Simon’s probation ended Aug. 11.
“It’s like people in here don’t see the tattoos anymore; they just see me for Austin,” Simon said. “I see them accepting me for me. I see them not being hypocrites. That was one of the big shockers for me: ‘Wow. These people really live out what they say. They really love Jesus.’ That’s really inspiring.”