Despite a life of serious crime and addiction, Stephen Briggs is a changed man thanks to Jesus Christ and the support of Adult and Teen Challenge (ATC).

Stephen Briggs grew up in a Christian home in Saint John, New Brunswick. His parents raised him to be no stranger to God, and Briggs says he first met Christ at a Christian camp in 1980.

Faith, however, quickly became an afterthought for Briggs. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a World War II veteran, Briggs joined the Canadian Armed Force but was kicked out 14 months later because of his addiction to alcohol.

Thus began a string of imprisonments and legal troubles for Briggs. Soon after being discharged, he was sent to federal prison for two years from 1985 to 1987. During that period of incarceration, Briggs met a woman and by 1989 the pair had both a son and a daughter.

Though life hadn't been entirely pleasant yet for Briggs, things took a turn for the worse when he was charged and convicted of first-degree murder in 1991. He spent the next 21 years in prison.

"It literally robs you of your sense of time."

In 2008 Briggs says he decided to make a change. "I got clean after coming out of a coma, thought that I had everything right in my mind."

But after having been imprisoned for over two decades, loneliness and depression took hold of Briggs in a way he never expected. "If you can't talk to somebody... verbalize and be heard, you get as lonely inside your mind as depression," he shared.

Methamphetamine took over Briggs' life in 2013.

"I had never really done crystal meth before and I thought it was a great drug when I first tried it," shared Briggs. "But it literally robs you of your sense of time... you don't even realize that time is going, and the longer you stay awake, the crazier you're going to get."

Briggs says "shadow people" and demonic visions began to invade his sight and his thoughts while using meth. "Every person that uses knows exactly what I'm talking about," Briggs said.

"It opens up a dark side of your mind."

Nearly three years later in 2015, Briggs was arrested in Altona for drug trafficking under the RCMP operation "Project Doorman." He was 52 at the time.

During his eight-year incarceration was when Briggs picked up The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, the man who first began ATC. It was then that the career criminal gave his life back to Christ. He started attending church while in prison and doing daily devotions.

"I've been clean now for four years," Briggs shared. "It's a far better thing than I've ever done in my life."

He began his journey with ATC on August 8, 2018.

Looking back, Briggs acknowledges that despite giving his life back to Christ in 2008, he struggled with finding the will to actually make a change.

"I never put God first in my life because it was always... my needs, my wants, my desires... all about me."

It wasn't until he found the support of ATC's program 10 years later that he found himself able to sustainably decide to improve his quality of life.

"I'm not saying you never have off days because some days you do have off days, but it's pretty good having an off day there than having an off day anywhere else," said Briggs.

"It [meth] opens up a dark side of your mind."

One of the great aspects of the program through ATC, Briggs shared, is how the leaders are all former addicts themselves. "It's not like they haven't been exactly where we've been."

The former addict has plans to become an evangelist minister following his graduation from ATC. "I'm going to go preach and talk to kids, just keep people away from drugs," he says.

Briggs has also set a date to marry his longtime sweetheart this fall, after having not been home in more than 42 months.

The changes in his life, says the ex-addict, all add up to a willingness to surrender. "It's not an easy step, but at the same time, if you really want to change, it's not a hard step either."

"I had to get myself right with God first."

Thanks to the guided work and study that is part of the ATC program, Briggs has been able to engage in meaningful study of the Bible and volunteer with Lighthouse Mission in Downtown Winnipeg.

Briggs says he finds it difficult to watch others still stuck in the kind of lifestyle that he has worked so hard to escape, but takes every chance he can to encourage those who are struggling to not only seek help, but to also seek Christ.

"I had to get myself right with God first," Briggs says, attributing the distance he's come to his heavenly father.

As for his current state, Briggs is looking forward to his upcoming milestones and seeing how God will continue to use him.

"I like this growing thing," he grinned.