Screaming. Cussing. Cocaine use by both parents. Mom routinely passing out and burning holes in the couch with a lit cigarette. That was home for Forest Quillen and his two sisters until they went into foster care.
Forest never wanted to become his parents. But he did. A lot of suffering, depression, anger and pain led to reform school in his early teens; then smoking, drinking and looking at pornography in high school until he was kicked out.
“I didn’t understand how to be a man,” Forest said. “I knew how to be successful doing the wrong thing. Little compromises became big compromises. Marijuana became my god. After I was kicked out of high school, I started doing other drugs.”
At age 18, Forest was arrested for burglary and spent two years in prison. His mom overdosed and died while he was there.
Forest started selling and using meth as well as IV drugs. He spent two more years in prison for stealing to support his drug use.
“I realized that people hated me,” he said. “They didn’t trust me. They didn’t want me in their home. I hated the reputation I had built for myself, but I didn’t know how to change my life. None of my family went to school; no one had jobs. I didn’t know how to be a man.”
Forest had been diagnosed as bipolar and, by age 22, was in a mental health institution in Perry County. The diagnosis was permanent psychosis from shooting up bath salts and other drugs. He was labeled non-recoverable.
He decided to kill himself, but didn’t go through with it. He had prayed before, but it was always a bargain. “God, I’ll give up pills, but I need to keep the weed.” Forest finally told God that he would give Him everything, and God began to work in his life.
Forest began to go to church, but didn’t know how to be a Christian. Finally, with the help of a pastor, he went to Chad’s Hope. Forest didn’t want to go to another treatment center, but the pastor told him to think of it as discipleship. For 12 months, he spent four to five hours a day studying the Bible.
The man labeled non-recoverable hasn’t used drugs in five years. He is now a husband with a 15-month-old daughter and works as the Outreach Director and Care Pastor at Chad’s Hope.
Forest has spoken to more than 100,000 students and started a company called Be Somebody, which does character-building and anti-bullying. And he recently received a pardon from Governor Matt Bevin.
“I have things in my life I never imagined,” he said. “God is No. 1 in my life. ‘Behold, I’m making all things new in your life.’”