'It's Never Too Late to Turn Your Life Around'

Interview by Jennnifer Schuchmann, Copyright Christianity Today International

In March of 2005, Brian Nichols allegedly shot three victims in an Atlanta courthouse and hours later, a fourth—at a construction site a few miles away. While trying to evade police, Nichols forced himself into Ashley Smith's apartment where he held her captive for seven hours. Miraculously, Smith was able to convince the alleged killer to surrender peacefully. After the event, details emerged about how Smith witnessed to Nichols and read to him from Rick Warren's bestselling book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Her story made national headlines and Smith was hailed as a heroine. But there were parts of the story that America hadn't heard. In her book, Unlikely Angel, released in late 2005, Smith tells of her terrifying encounter with Brian Nichols and reveals that, prior to the ordeal, she had struggled with an addiction to crystal methamphetamine and actually gave the drug to Nichols after he asked her for marijuana. Following these revelations, Smith was assailed by critics, who questioned her integrity and joked that it wasn't "God" but drugs that helped Smith survive. A year after the Atlanta hostage crisis, Smith continues to put her life back together, and even has plans to work with Celebrate Recovery www.celebraterecovery.com, a faith-based addiction recovery program established through Rick Warren's church. Today's Christian recently spoke to Smith about her life today. What have you done in the past year?

A lot of healing really. To begin with, I just spent time with my daughter and learned how to be a normal, straight person who was not on drugs. I also had to learn how to be Paige's mom all over again.

How did people respond to the revelations made in your book?

For the most part, the attention was positive. There were a few people who were like, "Uh huh, see I told you she wasn't this perfect angel or whatever."

How did you respond?

I was like, "No kidding! That was my point from the beginning."A?

But for the most part, the feedback was wonderful. Since the book has come out, I've been able to go out and do a lot of public speaking. It still amazes me when people come up to me—and they don't even have to be addicted to anything, they just have a problem in their life—and they say, "Ashley, you've given me hope."

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I'm like, "Jesus gives you hope through me."

How did people react when they learned that you gave Brian Nichols crystal meth?

Some people asked me whether it was God or the meth that calmed him down. To those people I said, "You know, meth doesn't calm you. It speeds you up. It makes you hallucinate, go crazy. Really, that's what it did to me. And obviously, he settled down. So the answer to the question is yes, it was God."

Addicts say that meth is a very difficult drug to quit. Did you just quit or did you use a 12-step program to get clean?

The first step in any program is realizing there is a greater power than yourself. When you're trying to come clean and restore your sanity, you just have to give it all to God. And that is where I left mine—with God. I don't necessarily go through a 12-step program now and I didn't then. I just leave it all to God.A?

My surroundings have totally changed. The people I hang out with, the way I live my life, all aspects of my life changed. Yes, I know how hard it is to get off meth, but I wanted to do it long before that night.

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