Disenchanted Son of Privilege Discovers New Escape

“I got a telephone call from my father. I’d never heard his voice the way he spoke to me that day,” Andrew Wilkinson recalls. “He told me that he had some trouble, and I had never heard him say those words either, and that I needed to come to the house right away.”

Andrew Wilkinson’s father, Wallace Wilkinson, grew his college textbook company into a multi-million dollar business. He later ran for, and was elected, governor of Kentucky. After serving his term, however, he returned to find his company in disarray, partly due to questionable partnerships, which brought financial ruin to his company and his family. “My dad explained to us that he was being forced into involuntary bankruptcy and that his debts at the moment totaled about $480 million,” Andrew says, “and that this was potentially catastrophic. I realized that our lives were about to change in a very bad way.”

Andrew and his brother had lived lives of wealth and privilege for most of their childhoods.  Although Wallace and Martha Wilkinson had raised their boys in church, Andrew says he never knew Christ. He began to abuse alcohol and drugs at an early age. “I did not understand Jesus Christ as God. I did not understand Him as man,” he says. “I did not understand the plan of salvation. I was spoiled. My brother was spoiled as well. I was immature. I was arrogant. I was insecure. My identity and my life were completely immersed in material possessions, and my identity was in things that had no foundation.”
In 2002, after fighting a long battle with Lymphatic cancer, Andrew’s father suffered a stroke. One day later, he was gone. “My father passed away about a year into the bankruptcy,” Andrew recalls. “And my mother and my brother and I were, for lack of a better word, caught in the headlights, holding the bags.”
While his mother dealt with the fallout from the bankruptcy and negotiated to settle with creditors, Andrew moved to the debtor-friendly state of Florida to protect what few assets were left from his father’s estate. “When I came to Florida is when I started to turn to the things that I knew. And what did I know? I knew drugs and I knew alcohol,” Andrew says. “Over the course of about four years, I went on a road of all-out self-destruction.”                                                      

With no degree, no contacts, and few skills, living alone in a strange state, Andrew continued to turn to drugs. “It gave me the excuse to be a victim. Every day was beginning the same. I woke up looking for the next high. My days and nights were centered around escaping reality.”

One morning, Andrew pulled into a convenience story parking lot and began to get high on cocaine and Valium.
“I passed out. The manager called the city police in Sumter County,” Andrew says. “And they came and found me slouched over in the driver’s seat, with saliva and mucus and fluid dripping out of my nose and my mouth.”

He was arrested for possession of cocaine, and was given probation. When several urine tests for drugs came back dirty, he landed in county jail while awaiting trial. During that time, he and another inmate got into a scuffle.

“Unfortunately for him, this was the end of the line for me. My father was dead. All of the money was gone. My mother was heartbroken and despondent over what I was doing and how I was living my life,” Andrew says. “I had lied, cheated and deceived just about everybody that I could, and here I was, this man was throwing my belongings out into the middle of the common area and insulting me like that. I was a child of wrath, and it came pouring out of me.”

Andrew beat the man in his jail cell until the guards intervened. He was later put in a prison transport van to another county where he would stand trial. Because of the number of stops, the trip took 21 hours. “I was transported in a pair of shorts. I had no shirt. I was shackled at my wrist, my waist and my ankles I was a pathetic, defeated mess,” he says. “I just didn’t have the power inside of me to do it on my own. That’s called being hopeless, and I had to face the truth about what Andrew had done with his life. And the truth was, Andrew, at the helm had made a disaster out of his life.”
In the back of that van, Andrew turned to the one he had heard about growing up in church. “I gave the first sincere prayer of my life. I prayed to Jesus Christ, and He answered my prayer. As I sat in the back of that van, I felt forgiveness,” he says. “I felt the Holy Spirit come into my heart, and I felt the Lord Jesus Christ telling me there was a way and He was the way, but I had to give up. I had to surrender and I had to focus on the future and going forward in His love and mercy and compassion.”

Andrew was sentenced to one year in prison. While there, he began studying scripture and seeking out spiritual mentors. “When I opened my Bible for the first time in prison, the very first verse I opened the Bible to was Luke 19:10. And it says, ‘For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost,’ he says. “When I read that, those words came off of that page and they seared into my heart. They seared my spirit.”

He immersed himself in the Word of God, and was released a year later. Today, Andrew is a husband and father and finally knows what is truly valuable.

“This world screams that you are what you have. I have infinitely more than I have ever had in my life,” he says. “When I look in the mirror, I know who Andrew is. I know what’s important: my faith in God, my wife, my little girl, and the knowledge that there is a ton of life ahead for me.”

Andrew also has a ministry to prisoners, and loves sharing his message of hope.

“I remember what it’s like to be hopeless,” he adds. “My mission in life going forward is to share you’re not hopeless; there is a way. And not only is there a way, but life can come to you more abundantly than ever before, and it is through the way of the cross. It’s through Jesus Christ.”

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