“I was trapped, and I couldn’t get out”
Adrian Terrell was living on the street for eight years before he found his way out with Christ’s help
By Denise DuBois
Today, Adrian Terrell is a Christian man, first and foremost. He is married and has a daughter whom he talks to regularly and has a good relationship. He has a job and a routine. A few years ago, these things may not have been a possibility for the 39-year-old.
Adrian grew up in what he describes as a good, loving home.
“Both my parents showed me a lot of love. I pretty much got anything I wanted. Proper clothing all the time. It was great,” he said.
His parents gave him and his brother a foundation on Christ, that God is the creator and Jesus died for our sins, but he said he never experienced it.
“Now that I look back on it, I knew I was running from it the whole time,” Adrian said.
Adrian spent a lot of time running. Growing up in Dallas, Ga., he travelled all over the Southeast. He can count of the states he’s been through. But these weren’t vacations. He was a vagabond. He hitchhiked everywhere he went and slept, when he was able, in a tent or in jail.
His journey began when he was 18 years old.
“I lost a real good friend of mine in a car wreck. I think that’s where I really started becoming angry. If there was a God, I was angry with him because he took my best friend,” Adrian recalled. “When I was 19, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. That threw me into a deeper spiral.”
His mother passed away when he was 20 years old, and with no reason to stick around after that, he left.
“I was in my hometown, drinking. I saw a train parked on the tracks and heard its whistle like it was leaving. I climbed on the back and 18 hours later, I jumped off,” he said.
Noticing the car tags, Adrian realized he’d made it to Kentucky.
“I wanted to get away from everything and start over. I could freely do what I wanted to do, and I liked that. From there, I’d go from place to place trying to find happiness.”
He spent some time back with his dad after a little while wandering the states. He also met a woman and had a child. But even then, he wanted to leave – his rebellion setting in.
In 2008, he packed his bags and went to Tennessee. That was the beginning of an eight-year period in which Adrian considered himself homeless.
“It was okay for a year or two. I found it adventurous to panhandle money and tell people these long, drawn out stories that weren’t even true to manipulate them to give me money. Homeless guys taught me how to run signs and make $200 to $300 in four or five hours. Why work?”
When sleeping in a tent got old, he would collect the money he’d gotten and get a hotel room to sleep and clean up.
“It became a lifestyle. It was no longer fun to be walking 20 miles a day panhandling money. Then it went to stealing,” he said.
Adrian shared story after story of being on the streets, stealing from Walmart, doing drugs in restaurant bathrooms, being in jail for public intoxication, and doing whatever he could for money. A time or two, he even looked Death in the face.
“Many times, no doubt I got in the car with people who had a mind to kill me, but God was working in me, because I got out of those situations,” he said.
Jail time was actually a welcome break from street life. Adrian could get a shower and a meal. Since he was doing drugs to stay awake, a cell was one of the only places he could actually relax enough to get sleep. But he’d go back out into the lifestyle he’d cultivated over the years.
“For most people caught in that lifestyle, it’s not that they can’t get out if it, but that they don’t know how to get out of it because they’re used to it. It’s part of their everyday life,” he said.
That happened for him the last few years that he was homeless.
“It wasn’t fun anymore. I was trapped, and I couldn’t get out. I had been involved in so many things that I didn’t know how to get out – just my way of living. It still gets to me this day sometimes. Most people who have been homeless that long don’t make it out of it. They die in it,” he said. “The drugs had taken me over and stolen from me anyone I ever was.”
In his time hitchhiking and travelling, Adrian came across many people he believes the Lord sent his way. He had an older lady pick him up once because she told him God told her to do it. Another man invited him into his home to shower and clean up and pointed back to Christ. People prayed over him before giving him money.
“I’ve always been running from Him, but He send people in my path,” Adrian said.
One childhood friend came to his rescue. Her family invited him to stay in a tent in their back yard so he could get off the streets and get his life cleaned up. It was two weeks later that he met his now wife, Polly.
Over the next nine months, she encouraged Adrian to go to rehab and get sober. They married in March 2017 and he was sober for 15 months. One day in January 2018, his addictions caught up to him again, and he left. Polly activated the chain of prayer warriors she had amassed, and God started working.
“I was walking right here,” Adrian said, while sitting in a booth at Popeye’s restaurant, pointing to Highway 280. “I was headed to the pawn shop with my guitar.” Drunk, he had intended to pawn his guitar and head back into the life he’d worked so hard to forget. “I don’t know what happened. I lost all interest in wanting to drink. That was the pivotal moment.”
Adrian still deals with combating his addictions, but he does it now with Christ.
“I wouldn’t change anything. There are some things I did that still nag me today. Without some of the things I had done, I did it to myself, but without those, I wouldn’t seek God the way that I do. I began to pour myself into the Word because it’s what you need to change your thinking. I’m careful of the conversations I’m part of. I love scripture. Some days it takes everything I’ve got to shift my thinking.”
Today, it’s hard for Adrian to think he was ever the person he was back then – those eight years fading into the distance with every passing day.
But he and Polly know that there are still people on the streets who need help. They encourage others to seek help, get into a rehab program, and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Adrian is just one person who has made a life for himself. There are still nearly 300 more in the area.