Dynamic and Destructive
About the Guest
For awhile her life lacked direction. But now that she was back home in Arkansas, life was looking up. Kelley Brown, widow of Navy Seal, Adam Brown, talks about meeting Adam, a daring young man with a sparkle in his eye and a bent towards living in the extreme, when she was 21. They fell hard and fast. But alcohol and drugs almost ruined their relationship before it started. Hear her tell about their rocky romance and how she eventually became "Mrs. Adam Brown."
For awhile her life lacked direction. But now that she was back home in Arkansas, life was looking up.
Dynamic and Destructive
Bob: Kelley Tippy had already started to fall for Adam Brown when she learned that there was an issue.
Kelley: I met him in October of ’97. When I saw him, he was not under the influence the night I met him. It was probably about a month afterward, we were meeting each other just at a local restaurant, and he showed up late. He comes walking in, and I immediately notice something is wrong—is very wrong. I just looked at him, and I was like, “What is wrong with you? Are you on something?” He looked at me; and he was like, “I’m sorry to tell you that I am.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Kelley Brown joins us today to tell us how her drug-dependent boyfriend who eventually became her husband went on to become a national hero.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When I first saw a copy of a book called Fearless, I thought, “Let’s see. Dennis wrote A Call to Courageous Manhood.” I thought, “I should probably pass this along to you.”
Dennis: Yes. And I started reading it, and I was reading around some other guys. They all start picking it up when I would set it down. (Laughter) This was just a manuscript. It wasn’t the hard cover book that it became, but I thought, “Man, I wonder if we could do some radio with Kelley Brown about the story of her husband, Adam Brown.” And she’s here.
Kelley Brown joins us on FamilyLife Today. Kelley, welcome to the broadcast.
Kelley: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: Kelley is a—well, she is a fearless, courageous woman herself. She was married for nearly 12 years.
Kelley: Almost 12 years.
Dennis: Almost 12 years to Adam. They had two children.
Kelley: We did.
Dennis: Nathan and Savannah.
Dennis: And she lives just a few miles south and west of here near Hot Springs, Arkansas. The reason this story is so special is there’s really no veneer in this book.
Dennis: I mean, Kelley, I read the story of your life and Adam’s life growing up, and I thought, “You are a remarkable woman to marry such a wild man.” I mean Adam Brown—
Kelley: He was.
Dennis: —was off the charts wild man.
Bob: Where did you meet Adam?
Kelley: Well, I met him out with some friends. The moment I saw him, my girlfriend looked at me. She was like, “Just stay away from him. He’s the crazy one. We’ve heard some stories about him. He just seems to be wild and crazy;” but I immediately was taken with his smile and his pretty blue eyes.
Dennis: It was almost love at first sight, huh?
Kelley: Oh, it was. It was love at first sight. For me, it really was, and for him.
Dennis: But you told me that you had no idea about any of these stories.
Kelley: No. I didn’t know any of this stuff.
Dennis: Okay. What I want you to do right now, just to give an idea of what an on-the-edge character Adam was--take us to the Highway 70 bridge.
Kelley: Gosh! Now, I was not here for this; but this is just something—
Dennis: I know you weren’t. This was a story you found out after.
Kelley: And I’ve heard it so many times, and I think it’s amazing because when people would tell me—we would talk about Adam, and they are like, “Oh, I’ve got a story.” I immediately would just cringe because I’m like, “Oh no. What is this going to be?”
Dennis: “What now?”
Kelley: I knew it was going to be something big, and the story of the bridge was—they were driving in a Suzuki Samurai or a jeep.
Bob: Now, you say, “They.” Who is “they”?
Kelley: There were a couple other instigators in there. There were some friends, but they did not know he was going to do this. About that time, they turned around as they’re on the bridge, and the top was off. One of the guys just turned back and looked like, “Oh, wait, Adam’s gone!” Adam had just jumped out of the moving car and into the water below.
Dennis: As it’s going across?
Kelley: As it’s going across the bridge.
Dennis: Yes, we’re not talking about a bridge that is six feet off the water, here.
Kelley: No, it’s probably a good 50, 60—somebody has even said close to 70 feet. He was pulling stunts like this all the time, but I think that’s one of the craziest ones.
So, when I say love at first sight, it was Adam and everything that was inside his heart. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. You could just see this man that was just so full of life and really wanted to live it to the extreme.
Bob: Okay, give me a context here. How old were you when you and Adam met?
Kelley: I was about 21, and he was 23.
Bob: So, you met him. You were attracted to him. Were you—had you grown up in the church? Were you following Christ at this point in your life?
Kelley: You know I’m not going—my picture, by all means, is not perfect. As a younger child, I was raised in the church. My parents did separate during a very hard time in my life. I was around 13 when I noticed their arguing had picked up. Honestly, I was really struggling with my home life, with my family. It was not so much of a comfort to me anymore. I guess I was looking for that comfort.
So, it was after finding my Bible tucked away in my closet that really got me wondering, “What in the world am I doing? I need to get back on track with God and my family and my friends. I need to become the person that I was and the person I thought God wanted me to be.” So, I was--at this point in my life, I had gone through a lot.
Dennis: You were coming back—
Kelley: I was coming back.
Dennis: —and Adam, as a young man, had also come back as well, right?
Kelley: He did. He did.
Dennis: Tell them what he went through, though,before he came back.
Kelley: Okay, see, that’s so powerful because this is the part I did not know, and it was huge. It was huge because my experience with my own personal battles was on a different level. Adam took it to—with anything he does—an extreme level.
He was always a great child. He was honest. He was loyal. He was dependable. He was trustworthy. He was very active in athletics. He was a football player, and he was—he had wrapped himself up into his football so much—he was like a little football star. He really thought that was going to land him a spot on a college team. Once he figured out his personal size was not as big as his heart was, that, honestly—that was not in his future. So, he really, really lost the direction in his life.
He had accepted Christ into his heart at a younger age, but I don’t think that he actually developed that relationship.
At this point, once he realized he wasn’t everything he thought he was, he started mixing with the wrong crowd and started having a new group of friends that his parents didn’t know. They started seeing some changes in him that, quite honestly, were not characteristic of Adam. He decided to start experimenting with things.
This is where Adam made his fatal mistake; and that was the fact that, at one point, he decided to abuse a drug. With Adam, he had already started, at this point, by drinking and doing the small things where he considered small—they’re not. Even drinking; you never know what your addiction is going to be.
I remember Adam telling me this about the first time that he actually abused this drug, and he said, “Immediately, immediately, I knew the first time I did it that I had just sold my soul to the Devil, in a way, because I knew this was going to be a long-term problem; and I knew that it was something that was bigger than me, it was bigger, at that point, than just anything.”
Dennis: Almost destroyed his life.
Kelley: It pretty much did. I mean for the most part. God was using it—I mean He was using them at that point; but we didn’t know that. It took him to the pit. I mean he was in his darkest time of his life. He had started abusing this drug and started stealing from his family members, started stealing from his friends, started being unreliable, unpredictable. With Adam, that’s just not him. So, the drug really took over who Adam was.
Dennis: Ultimately, Adam hit rock bottom—
Kelley: Oh, yes.
Dennis: —and it was deep.
Kelley: It was deep.
Dennis: Share what happened and what those circumstances looked like.
Kelley: Okay. Yes, he did. He hit a really low point in his life, and he’d hurt just about everybody he could hurt. It’s so sad because I know Adam and I know that it was more just a cry for help; but he did try to take his own life, at one point.
It was New Years Eve, I think, of ‘95. He had locked himself in a bathroom, and he was abusing the drug at that point. So, I can’t really say what was going through his mind, and I wasn’t there; but hearing it from himself and hearing it from his friends, he had hit rock bottom. He was so empty inside, and he knew he had let down everybody he ever loved—ran from his commitment to God, ran from everything; and basically, he figured it was the only way out.
I don’t really—I think Adam really was just—it was more of a cry for help. He wanted somebody to be with him. Everybody had totally given up on him, and he was not used to that.
He had some felonies pressed against him. So, in lieu of going to jail for the felonies, they offered him the option of going to Teen Challenge. So, if he were to spend his time in Teen Challenge and really work on his addiction problem and he stayed there and did what he was supposed to do, all felonies would be dropped; and he would be able to come back from this okay. So, he did.
Bob: So, when you met him and he was 23 years old, was that still a part of his life?
Kelley: I met him in October of ‘97. So, he’d been home about a month. When I saw him, he was not under the influence the night I met him. It was probably about a month afterward where we were meeting each other just at a local restaurant. He showed up late, which was unlike him. He comes walking in, and I immediately notice something is wrong—is very wrong.
After talking with him and the way he was looking at me and the way he was just moving about and stuff, I just looked at him. I was like, “What is wrong with you? Are you on something?” At that point, he looked at me; and he was like, “I’m sorry to tell you that I am. I’m sorry to tell you that.”
That’s where I learned—I really learned. I’d heard stories. I’d heard stories, but that’s not the man I saw at that point. I was seeing somebody completely different until that moment. That’s where I learned the severity of his problem.
Bob: So, what happened in a restaurant when he comes in high and confesses that “Yes” he’s using drugs. What did you do?
Kelley: Oh, my goodness. I don’t really—you know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. It makes sense to me, but I just—I, first of all, was worried about his safety. I did not want him on the road. I knew immediately it was a problem. It was a problem. So, I took him to a hotel room and just had him checked in for the night. We sat there, and we talked a lot about his problem.
I was finding out about him and his past. He was letting me know of his past and everything he’s gone through. That was—it was eye-opening. I was like, “Wow! But that’s not who you were this past month.” It was sad. It was so sad because I saw this guy that could offer so much joy in life; and that’s just what he exuded all other times. Now, to see him the way and the condition that he was, it was heartbreaking.
Bob: Kelley, if you were my 21-year-old daughter—
Kelley: Oh, my goodness, I know. I know what you are going to say. (Laughter)
Bob: —and you call home and you say, “Daddy”—
Kelley: I know. Yes.
Bob: —I’d say, “It’s over with him.”
Kelley: Yes. My dad was not happy. He was not happy. You know a lot of people weren’t. They were all telling me to leave him. Everybody said, “He’s no good for you.” At first—
Dennis: You just met him.
Kelley: Yes, I mean—
Dennis: It’s not like you were engaged—
Kelley: No, no.
Dennis: —you were married, right?
Kelley: We were—
Bob: Wait until he gets his life turned around, then, we’ll talk about what might happen.
Kelley: I know, but I guess at this point it was like I just learned of everything. So, then, I’m just having to accept it. So, I check him into a hotel, make sure he is sober enough to get home the next day. He felt so bad. I remember he wrote a check for the hotel because he didn’t want me to pay for it.
So, he wrote a check in pencil. It was just so funny. In the memo line, he was like, “I’m just so sorry. I’m so sorry I’ve hurt you.” That was like the first experience I had with him and his addiction; but at this point, I had already seen the man that was so just amazing to me that even in a month—like I said, “It was love at first sight.” I mean we fell hard, and we fell fast.
Then, again, he stood me up for a date. So, it was a really bad night. He’d gone on this little binge. I was mad, and I was like, “He’s not getting away with this. He’s not going to get away with it. I’m going to go track him down.” So, I did. I tracked him down—downtown.
Dennis: I mean you went to some tough places.
Kelley: I did. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so angry that I just could not let him steal from his father again because he was driving his dad’s truck. I just didn’t want him to hurt his parents again. I was so sick of him hurting people.
When I found him, he was actually crossing a street. He had a passenger with him. He never wanted me to see him like that. So, this was going to be my first opportunity.
So, I tracked him down. He finally stopped the car, jumped out of the car, and took off running. At that point, I approached the man on the other side of the car. This man then said, “I’ll take you to where he is,” and I agreed.
Kelley: And I didn’t know Adam was in the woods watching this whole thing go down; and had I looked in my rearview mirror, I would have seen him waving his arms trying to get me to stop because he saw this man get in the car with me.
At that point, I think that sent him to a new low, a really new low. He thought maybe he just got me killed or lots of things could have gone wrong at that point because he did—he drove me straight over to this drug dealer’s house. I let the man out. I said, “You know what? I’m just going to sit here in the car. If you see him, tell him to come on out.”
I sat there, not for very long. I got really nervous and kind of came to reality again. I was like, “Well, I know he’s—he doesn’t have his dad’s truck.” So, that made me feel better. Like, “You know what, God? If this is what’s going to happen, he’s Yours anyway. I need to quit trying to be in control of this because there is nothing I can do that is going to make him stop. He’s got to want it on his own.”
Adam, then, spent the night on the stairs of a little church out on the way to Hot Springs and just prayed and prayed and prayed. He hitchhiked the next morning to the airport and called a friend. He got on the plane and went to Texas.
It was through a lot of conversation, and I don’t know--we were just trying to figure out the right path for his life and for us, as well, as a couple. I knew that we loved each other greatly, and that was something that could not be changed. I knew that God was—or I felt that God was telling me to stick in there with him and just be there, be as faithful as I could, be as strong as I could for him, and just know that God can perform miracles. And for Adam’s life to be changed would truly be a miracle.
So, I remember him calling me. He said, “You know what? I can kick this. I can beat this. I know I can do it. I know I can do it. And we’ll do it together.” He’s like, “But this is what I want to do: I want to join the military. This is what I wanted to do a long time ago before I lost my direction. This is what I want to do. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to beat it. But there is one thing: You have to marry me.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “Okay.” So, he—
Dennis: Over the phone?
Kelley: Over the phone. It makes no sense, I know. I sound crazy. I know.
Dennis: After a major drug-induced binge?
Kelley: Yes. I just had that much faith in God that He would change the man I loved because I knew that—I knew that Adam was searching and really seeking God’s grace on this. He was begging for it, and he wanted to change. I knew that. I just felt he needed somebody to be there for him and help him keep accountable.
I thought that him moving and going into the military—we figured that if he got in, that was going to be a divine intervention anyway. There were going to be a lot of obstacles to even get in the military. So, after he did, it was like, “Wow! Okay, he’s in the military. We’re going to leave this place. We’re going to get out of here, and we’re going to start a new life. You don’t have to look at those same faces all the time when you’re recovering.” It was key. It was key.
Bob: I have to go back to that moment when you and Adam are standing looking at one another and exchanging vows.
Bob: At that point, did you still wonder if he was going to be able to beat it?
Kelley: I never doubted he would beat it. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what it was, but there was something about Adam.
I just knew, and God was—I felt like He was really telling me, “This can happen. Miracles can happen.” Maybe, it was just—I was just determined. I don’t know if God put that drive in me or what had happened—maybe from my past or—I just did not want him to just give up and just—I just figured—I just knew he would. That’s just by knowing Adam and spending time with him and really, I just believed in him; and I believed in God completely. I put my faith there.
Bob: You know there are a lot of people who have taken the same step you took—
Kelley: I know.
Bob: —and it didn’t turn out the way it turned out for you.
Kelley: It’s not that I was pretending it wasn’t going to—that it didn’t have that possibility, but I just went in it with my faith. It was completely by faith; and I can totally say—I mean I know that God placed us together. I know for a fact that the life that he led is reaching people in so many places that are untouchable at some points because it’s not sugar-coated.
Adam wasn’t sugar-coated—full throttle Adam all the time even with his addiction. That was very full throttle as well; but also, the way he loved you, the way he treated you. I saw that side, and that’s what I wanted to bring out in him because I knew he could be so much more than what he was.
Dennis: Kelley, because I’ve read your book, I know the rest of the story.
Dennis: There is no question in my mind your love for that young man saved his life from ruin and leaving a legacy of ruin.
Kelley: I know. I know.
Bob: We’ve only begun to hear this story, and it is a powerful love story.
Dennis: Yes, there’s no doubt about that, Bob. I just want to have a little disclaimer here, and I think Kelley would agree with me; that if a young lady or a young man is about to step into a relationship where it looks like a compromise, you need to really seek out godly counsel. It’s not a time to make a decision in rebellion.
Did God use Kelley in Adam’s life? No doubt about it, but I’d be careful of any single person who is hearing this right now—
Dennis: —and they’re in a relationship where they’re going, “I’m not sure about this.” It may be time to hit the brakes.
Bob: Hit the pause button.
Bob: More often than not, things go badly; and your optimism on the front end—you face some really hard times. I mean Kelley faced some hard times in her relationship with Adam. To hear a story of God doing a great redemptive work, I mean we rejoice in that; but again, more often than not, what happens is that there’s a long, painful road and a couple winds up in a hard spot for a lot of years—maybe for an entire lifetime.
It’s one of the reasons we encourage couples to go to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway before they make a decision about getting married. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Weekend to Remember if you’d like more information; and get a copy of the book that tells Adam Brown’s story. It’s called Fearless, and we’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Again, we’ll just mention that this book is authentic in terms of how it presents the kind of language that Navy SEALs sometimes use. While it’s not our normal practice to offer or recommend a book that has that kind of language in it, there is a power in Adam’s story; and you may want to get this book and pass it on to someone you know who needs to read a story about redemption.
Again, the title of the book is Fearless. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to get a copy of the book; or call us to request a copy at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY”.
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If you can help us with a donation this week, we’d like to say thank you by sending you a copy of the audio book of Barbara Rainey’s Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember book. It tells the story of the first Thanksgiving, and the audio book helps bring that alive with some dramatic narration and some sound effects. Again, the audio book is our way of saying thank you to you for your support of the ministry.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE,” make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. We are happy to send you the Thanksgiving audio book as a way of showing our appreciation for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you’ll be back with us again tomorrow. Kelley Brown is going to be here. We’ll continue to hear about a remarkable love story and a remarkable sacrifice. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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