YORK — Brad Hearon was a 19-year-old pastor’s son on a rebellious roll when he started cooking some meth in his El Camino one night.
Hearon remembers thinking how highly flammable the ether was. He was hiding away in a Kansas field, balancing the fluid on his lap in a brownie pan. Then his friend lit a cigarette.
Hearon hit the floor when the El Camino was engulfed in flames. Life as he knew it was obliterated in that instant. He sent up a frantic prayer- “God help me!”- while his “friend” fled the scene.
With less than 1 percent chance of living, Hearon beat the odds. Now permanently swathed in scar tissue from the experience, he travels around, telling his story. He speaks in huge, echoing stadiums, and in tiny schools with students perched on the bleachers. He’s reached half a million people in the U.S. so far. He wants only one thing: to help others avoid the mistakes he made.
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Hearon will be speaking at New Heights Assembly of God on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 10:00 a.m. He will speak to the youth at 4 p.m. The community is invited to both events, at 1522 S. Grant Ave. in York.
Hearon’s message: There is life after addiction, as long as you recognize the problem.
“This is not a hopeless situation,” he said. “Even if you’ve done meth and messed up, you can get help before it’s too late.”
It may seem like a remarkably foolish mistake to light a cigarette near a panful of ether. But Hearon’s road to selling meth was all too well-worn and unremarkable. A football player, he tried marijuana at a school party. The school drug-tested its athletes, and he was banned from sports. This left him with a sense of isolation and darkness that eventually drove him to use meth. “I’ll just try it once; I won’t become that guy,” he told himself. He also told himself he’d never sell it. But drug users soon run out of money to support their habit - and sure enough, there he was, cooking and selling the white crystal powder.
After the car ignited, Brad managed to tumble onto the field. But he was alone, and writhed in agony for hours. He finally caught a ride and was life-flighted to a burn unit, his skin tightening like a strait-jacket.
Hearon was in a deep coma for months. Surgery after surgery followed. His bones calcified and had to be broken, then healed. Pain was like an ocean, washing over him.
His father, the pastor, stayed near and would read Bible verses to him, including Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
And that promise has come true. As an inspirational speaker, Hearon has taken part in the “Wounded Warrior” program at Eagles Summit Ranch. He’s the founder of H.E.L.P. INC. (Hearon Educational Learning Program), helping people overcome addiction.
It’s hard to grasp, but Hearon is now glad the accident happened. It forced him off a self-destructive path, but he also met his wife, Autumn, at a conference for burn victims.
Autumn Hearon was burned in a chemistry accident at school. She is also a motivational speaker. She talks to women and young girls about how important it is to derive your worth from what’s inside, not what’s on the outside.
Life is good, but Brad Hearon cautions that we still have to pay for our choices. As Joni Mitchell wrote, “pleasure moves on too early, and trouble leaves too slow.” Brad says “When I chose to manufacture meth…well, life is full of choices. One of the only things that we have no control over is the consequences of our actions. I was given less than 1% chance to live, burned on 80% of my body. They gave me little hope of ever having a normal life again.
“I am not a victim - I am a survivor, not only from the burn but from one of the most addictive drugs in the world. We all get in ruts in life, not only in the grip of addiction, but in attitudes as well. A rut is just a grave with both ends kicked out of it. I chose to live. You can as well.”
“Brad has not let the pain and tragedy of life stop him,” New Heights Pastor Lance Loven said. “He lives each day serving God and helping others. No matter how much pain and failure you have experienced in life; God offers His love and grace, just like He did Brad. When you hear Brad’s story, you will be reminded that God is a God of second chances.”