Meeting Cheryl Humbert, you wouldn’t peg her as a recovering drug addict, but the 66-year-old grandmother used cocaine on and off for 40 years.
At her worst, she spent $1,000 a month getting high, but that didn’t stop God’s love from breaking through.
“I believe with all my heart I’m the biggest sinner I know,” said Humbert, a Southeast Christian Church member. “I don’t care what you’ve done, I could one-up you if that’s necessary for you to know what God can do with your life. I’ve had abortions. I’ve been married three times. I’m a murderer. I’ve had affairs. I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. I’ve stole. I have been just a rotten person. But the beauty of all these things is that God restores that. I thought I had gone too far for God to take me back. I literally had one foot in the grave when He pulled me out and said I have other plans for you.”
Humbert likes Psalm 116:3-4 and 8, which says, “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save me!’ For You, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.”
“Somebody said to me one time, ‘So you got your life back?’ and I said, ‘Oh, no. I don’t want that life back. I got a new life. God gave me a new life,’” Humbert added.
Humbert was one of more than 800 people baptized during Southeast’s 2019 Easter Weekend services. Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman baptized her.
“Kyle says to me, ‘Is your family here?’ I said, ‘Nope. Just me and Jesus.’ He said, ‘All the better.’ So when I came up out of the water, for the first time in my life, I felt free. I felt clean. I hadn’t felt clean in so long.”
Humbert had attended Southeast off and on for 30 years, but never got connected.
“You can confess your sins, you can repent—you can do all of that and then you can walk away, and your life won’t really change,” Humbert said. “Or you can take it a step further and open your heart.”
Southeast Women’s Ministry associate Tiana Miller met Humbert at Starting Point and invited her to join a Bible study on Tuesday nights.
“Cheryl’s love and gratitude for Jesus was apparent every single week as she shared what she was learning and looked for opportunities to share His love with everyone around her,” Miller said. “I tease Cheryl a lot about not being able to complete two sentences about her relationship with God without crying, but the truth is, she really just loves Him so much and remains amazed by His grace.”
Humbert has three adult children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with one on the way.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Humbert grew up one of three siblings in Goshen, Kentucky. Her parents were both alcoholics and divorced when she was 7.
The siblings went to church with their grandparents, but after Humbert got pregnant at 16 and married the father, she soon stopped going.
“Our grandparents took us to church all the time,” Humbert said. “My grandma was fire and brimstone, like, ‘You’re going to burn in hell if you don’t,’” Humbert said. “I loved youth group, and it was amazing. I stopped going to church. Maybe it was shame and my husband’s family weren’t churchgoers.”
Humbert moved to Richmond, Kentucky, with her husband, but they got divorced four years later.
With $100 in her pocket and a toddler, Humbert “hit the highway in a funky old car” and moved to Texas to live with a friend.
She got a job as a dental assistant, and following the advice of her coworker, started smoking cigarettes to lose weight. That same coworker introduced her to cocaine.
“We just started doing this, and it was fun on the weekends,” Humbert added. “By the time I moved back home—four years later—it was an issue. Cocaine was not my problem. It was the solution to my problem, but it became my problem.”
Humbert returned to Louisville and remained single for more than a decade, but married her second husband because “her biological clock was ticking.”
“I thought I could save him,” she said. “He went to jail for dealing pot. He was in there for four years and during that time, we just kind of floundered around. I had two babies. My oldest daughter was a teenager. We were literally on the street. I was thinking, ‘He’s got three meals a day and cable TV, and we don’t even have a roof over our head.’”
Another divorce followed, and Humbert met her third husband, Bruce, in 1988. They lived together for 10 years before getting married.
Humbert and Bruce attended Southeast occasionally.
In 1992, they started their own cleaning business. Humbert stopped doing cocaine in 1998 after her friend from Texas got saved, moved to Louisville and shared Jesus with her.
Humbert accepted Christ, however, cocaine still lurked around the corner.
“Bruce put the cocaine in my face and said, ‘Why can’t you just do a little?’” Humbert said. “I know what the last 10 years have been like, and they’ve been amazing. My life has been good. My family has been good. My kids are happy. But I was sick. I had an addiction, and I never dealt with it. I covered it up.”
In 2008, Humbert began using cocaine again, and she struggled with her addiction for the next decade.
“As long as I wasn’t doing it at all and wasn’t around it, I seemed to be OK, but as soon as I started, then it took me,” Humbert said. “It was like an entertainment thing. We worked all week, so we didn’t do it during the week necessarily, but as soon as Friday came, you’re ready to go.”
Bruce died of pancreatic cancer in September 2017, and Humbert’s “world was rocked.”
“I realized coming home I had never lived alone because I went from my parents to getting married and then I had children or husbands,” Humbert added. “I was 64 years old. The very first thing I did was hit the drug dealer because my life was gone. His hobbies were my hobbies. We looked forward to spending time together.”
After some prodding from her children, Humbert went to The Brook Hospital, which offers addiction and mental health treatment programs.
Humbert’s kids—who put boundaries up between her and the grandchildren—graciously drove her to a treatment for four weeks.
“Honestly, I went there to use cocaine responsibly,” Humbert said. “You’re going to think that’s a crazy thing, but if you’re an addict, you think, ‘If I can just get a handle on this a little bit, I don’t have to get rid of everything.’ It gives you an idea of the mindset of an addict.”
Humbert’s first day of sobriety was July 27, 2018, and she’s been clean ever since.
“I did it for my kids,” Humbert added. “I was yelling at the Lord, ‘I’ve lost everything,’ and that included the fact that I had put this big separation with my kids because that’s really all I had. I’ve always loved my children, but I just loved cocaine more.”
Humbert is now involved at Southeast in a 3/3rds Bible study and ministers to former inmates at Community Transitional Services, a halfway house in Louisville.
“I tell these kids when we were in rehab and recovery, ‘Beware because when you walk out this door you’re different, but the world’s the same.’ That’s why 80% of people who recover relapse. It’s really hard. That’s what God did for me. He took all this trash and turned it into something good,” she said. “I say to the Lord every morning, ‘What do You have for me today?’ He brings me something every day. I’m not laboring for Him. I’m loving Him, and I’m loving Him by sharing Him.”