Anthony Bynum had sold drugs on the street since the age of 14. Addicted to crack cocaine in his 20s, he was ordered by the court to see a counselor.
He sat sullenly across from the man, unimpressed by the college degrees that lined the office walls.
â€œHe had never experienced anything that I had experienced,â€ Anthony said. â€œHow can he tell me anything when he hasnâ€™t experienced anything, when he doesnâ€™t know what Iâ€™m going through?â€
Anthony says it was the grace of God, not counseling, that eventually cleaned him up. After going to prison three separate times, he finally changed his ways.
Now, 10 years later, he and his wife, also a former drug addict, hope to help others with Substance Abuse Ministry.
â€œWhat we took from society, weâ€™re willing to give back,â€ said Rosalind Bynum, Anthonyâ€™s wife and co-founder of SAM.
With assistance from the Coalition of Black Churches, the Bynums plan to open a ministry in the Oaklawn community in March. Right now, theyâ€™re searching for volunteers willing to aid in their mission.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to start something that we canâ€™t finish,â€ said Rosalind. â€œWeâ€™re looking for some dedicated helpers.â€
The couple chose the location because of their personal experiences there.
â€œI walked the streets, and I bought drugs in that area,â€ said Rosalind.
They hope drug addicts and those affected by drugs â€” friends, neighbors and family members â€” will participate in the ministry and make changes in their community.
SAM will have a nonjudgmental â€œBible-based atmosphere.â€ Plans are in the works for Bible study, group discussions and job training.
The couple believe their personal experiences will encourage people to attend meetings. They both know asking for help is not an easy thing.
â€œ(When I was on drugs) I knew there was different help out there, but I shied away from them because I was like â€˜Theyâ€™re going to look down on me,â€™â€ said Anthony.
Rosalind also knows how people used to see her.
â€œThey just saw a drug user, a no good prostitute,â€ she said.
Because of her experiences, Rosalind says she looks at things differently.
â€œI can see people that can really make something out of themselves,â€ she said. â€œI will be here to give someone hope â€¦ I would show them love. People that are on drugs need to know that people love them regardless of what state theyâ€™re in.â€
Both Anthony and Rosalind credit family members and prayer for their recovery from drug addiction.
Rosalind fell into cocaine use after a disastrous relationship.
â€œWhen I was on drugs, I was on drugs hard,â€ she said.
She had â€œnever even drank a beer,â€ but at the age of 24 she started using and selling cocaine. She lost her job, home and nearly lost custody of her children, who were being cared for by her parents.
â€œThat drug, it does something to you where you donâ€™t care anymore,â€ she said.
At one point, Bynum weighed only 90 pounds. She says her time on drugs was â€œthe longest three years of my life.â€
During their addictions, Anthony and Rosalind had occasional encounters. They were already acquainted from their days at Lincolnton High School when Rosalind was on the basketball team and Anthony was her â€œbiggest fan.â€
Rosalind recovered from her drug addiction before Anthony and became an inspiration.
â€œDuring the time when I was still drug dealing, she had got saved and cleaned up, and I when I would see her, I was just so proud of her,â€ he said.
Surrounded by drugs all his life, Anthony says he â€œjust grew into drug dealing.â€ Drug use soon followed. It was a life he had come to hate.
â€œI always stayed paranoid, which caused me not to trust people around me,â€ he said.
Working as a street hustler, he was never without a gun.
â€œThereâ€™s someone whoâ€™s always out to get you â€” whether theyâ€™re out to rob you, or theyâ€™re out to take you out because you took over their territory,â€ he said.
By his third stint in jail, Anthony decided to devote his life to God. He started by ministering to his fellow inmates.
â€œEven though youâ€™re in this little aquarium, youâ€™re inside a world thatâ€™s inside another world, thereâ€™s still drug dealing, sex, everything is going on in prison,â€ he said.
Learning he had become a Christian, Rosalind visited Anthony in prison and brought him books on faith.
The couple fell in love five years ago and have now been married three years. They live in a residential neighborhood and have a combined five children.
Rosalind is employed as an optemetric technician and is attending Gaston College with a double major in nursing and medical office administration.
Anthony, who also attended Gaston College, works in telecommunications.
They plan to devote their free time to their new ministry. While it was Rosalindâ€™s initial idea to start SAM, they have both become passionate about it.
â€œAs a team, I think we can be a powerful punch,â€ said Rosalind.
For more information on Substance Abuse Ministry or to volunteer call (704) 740-7854 or (704) 748-2691 or e-mail RosalindBynum@hotmail.com.
by Sarah Grano