DUNDEE – Scott Singletary was absolutely terrified.
He was in a prison cell, about to be confronted by another inmate who was violent and hot tempered, and had been threatening to badly injure him.
“I was scared of this guy,” Singletary said. “Everyone was scared of this guy.”
Singletary was serving a prison sentence at Liberty Correctional Institute on the Florida Panhandle, and he understood how badly this fellow inmate could hurt him. So he decided to put all of his faith in the one thing he was certain could keep him from getting injured.
“It protected me in prison,” he said. “It protected me from harm.”
What he did was think back strongly about a book he had read in the Polk County Jail, before he got transferred to the prison on a probation violation charge. The book was called “From Devastation to Restoration,” by author Jerry Savelle, a man who had once considered himself a nobody and a constant quitter — until he welcomed God into his life, and discovered the Lord could make a champion out of anyone.
That book proved to be a turning point in Singletary’s life. He, too, turned to God for hope, guidance, and a path to a new life.
And in that moment when the violent inmate was coming to his cell, he looked to God once again.
“I told God I was scared,” he said. “I prayed to God to change this man’s heart.”
When the inmate confronted him, Singletary said, he responded in a very simple, matter-of-fact way before this unnerving situation escalated any further.
“I told this man I loved him like Jesus loved him,” Singletary said. “He ran out of my cell, and he never looked at me again. He wouldn’t even make eye contact with me after that.”
Singletary believes he knows why that is.
“God put fear in that man’s heart,” he said.
It was just one dramatic moment in the life of Singletary, who at age 43 has experienced harrowing moments than he would never want anyone else to endure.
But today, he’s also a story of spiritual triumph. A one-time drug addict who landed in prison, today he’s the house director for a men’s transitional home, and he also works with outreach ministries to feed the homeless and help guide people on a path toward faith in a higher being.
“I’m just trying to give back,” he said. “Trying to give people hope – the hope I got.”
On Saturday, Singletary was one of numerous volunteers who assisted at a public baptism hosted by Christian Churches of Polk County, and held on an open field off State Road 542 in Dundee. Singletary was definitely welcomed there because his life story has been an inspirational one, said Tim Williams, a Winter Haven business owner and one of the organizers of the public baptism.
“He was addicted to meth and ended up in prison, and in prison he had an experience with God,” Williams said. “He’s six years clean now.”
It wasn’t an easy life, Singletary admits.
A native of Tampa, he started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol as a teen, just as his friends were doing. His use of drugs just continued to escalate.
‘’I did all kinds of drugs – crack, meth, you name it,” he said. “Meth was the drug that I relied on to get me through the day. It destroyed my life and affected everyone around me.”
That included one of the relationships he dearly cherished: the one with his daughter.
“The thing that devastated me the most was losing my daughter,” he said. “I lost contact, everything – and not just custody. Her mom took her out of state. I was crushed.”
But he still wasn’t able to shake off his addiction, which led him into trouble with the law as his need to feed that burning habit only got stronger.
“I got arrested quite a few times, the last times for possession of meth,” he said. He got convicted, and was given two years of probation. But his addiction proved stronger than his desire to stay out of jail.
“I made it about four months on probation,” he said. “They gave me a (drug) test, and I was dirty.”
When he was taken into custody, now facing a prison sentence. That could have been the lowest, most devastating moment for Singletary. But it actually proved to be the opposite – having hit rock bottom, it was almost liberating to experience.
“When I got handcuffed, it was the first time I was at peace,” he said. “I knew that life (of drugs) was over.”
Arrested in Polk County, he was sent to the Polk County Jail, awaiting transfer to Liberty CI. That was when his life began to change in another significant way, through a remarkable spiritual awakening.
“First, my mom and her Sunday school class were praying for me,” Singletary said. “When they transported me from Hillsborough to Polk County, I was in their jail when I found the book ‘From Devastation to Restoration,’ and from that point on I started seeking God.”
He was ready at that moment to walk a new path, toward spiritual salvation and healing. He could even resist the pull of his addiction while he was incarcerated.
“It was real easy,” he said. “God took that desire from me. The addiction part wasn’t a problem. I actually had peace. I knew He was with me. He comforted me while I was in there. He started restoring me.”
Released from prison in February 2008, Singletary had never looked back at the life he once led, and that nearly destroyed him.
As of June 8, Singletary will have been free of drugs for half a decade.
“Five years ago is the last time I smoked,” he said.
His own story of healing and finding redemption through the Lord, Singletary said, is a path anyone can take, if they so choose.
“I was sick and tired,” he said, “of being sick and tired.”
To learn more, contact Singletary at Porkloin77@gmail.com.