This article appeared in Oct/Nov ’17 issue of Owensboro Living.

Julius Maddox, born and raised in Owensboro, grew up playing sports and dreamed of playing college football. He was a star athlete at Owensboro High School, but his once promising life spiraled out of control once he began hanging out with the wrong people and abusing drugs.

At age 25, Julius was incarcerated for drug trafficking.

In jail for four months, Julius missed a lot of special times with his wife and children, including his daughter Myla’s first birthday. He vividly remembers his wife and daughter coming to visit, and his daughter reaching out for her father, only to be stopped by the glass that divided them.

“She had this confused look on her face,” Julius said. “I knew what it meant. I knew it meant I messed up. I remember walking back in to 40 some guys in the jail cell and just crying. I couldn’t stop crying.”

It was this low point that finally gave Julius the motivation to seek change.

“I realized I turned into the monster I never thought I would be,” Julius said. “I had become a monster. I polluted my community. I was a negative influence on everyone that surrounded me. I knew that I needed to change, but I didn’t know how. I just wanted a new way of living.”

After crying in front of his fellow inmates, Julius remembers getting to his bed, hitting his knees and saying, “God if you are real, you will give me purpose and show me that you are real.”

From that day on, Julius said things began shifting. He was soon accepted into the local recovery program Friends of Sinners, and was released from jail.

For the first time in his life, he held a job for a year with Ben Pearl Painting. But even more, Julius says he learned how to be a man, and how to take care of his family and raise his kids.

“I never really knew what a man did,” Julius said. “I didn’t know that a man has responsibilities every day. Get up every day and go to work. Just the normal things that your average person would do, I didn’t see that in my household growing up. I went from being in jail and having zero responsibility to having every responsibility in the world. But I asked for it.”

After 16 months in the program at Friends of Sinners, Julius said that people started seeing qualities in him that he had never seen in himself. “I became the person I always wanted to be. I wanted to be a great dad. Be someone that people can count on, a productive member of society.”

But this new life came with stress that Julius had never known. Where he once turned to drugs as an outlet for stress, he now turned to lifting weights. And while the bench press began as an outlet to replace addiction, it has evolved into much more for Julius, who now competes nationally in powerlifting.

In his first competition, Julius bench pressed 525 pounds, winning the event. The next year at the same competition, he benched 625 pounds. According to Julius, very few people in history have benched over 600 pounds. And he did it one year into competitive lifting.

He is currently training for the world record – lifting 740 pounds. He plans to reach that goal in the next year.

“If we want to be real, I love lifting, but really it’s a platform to share the Gospel,” Julius said. “I get to go to schools and tell kids my story of how Jesus worked in my life.”

His faith also brought him a job opportunity that he had been waiting for. In May 2014, Julius became a program coordinator at Friends of Sinners, helping other men with stories similar to his own.

“Working here is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Julius said. “I get to see this day in and day out. I get to see what addiction does to our community. I get to fight. I get to make a difference instead of being a negative influence. I get to be a positive influence. I get to do what I love – helping people.”

Having suffered from addiction, Julius sees this as a community problem. He believes people in the community are needed to help fight.

“If we don’t correct the father, the leader of the household, how can we expect change,” Julius said. “I believe that is key. We are here to target the fathers and show them that they can rebuild, and there is a different way of living.”