Student overcomes addiction; discovers faith, family and careerSeptember 14, 2022

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Tyler Murphy

Big Spring native Tyler Murphy admittedly says that he was on a fast, downhill trajectory prior to 2016 when he decided to get his life back together.  

“My father was superintendent of Big Spring ISD, and my mother was an algebra professor at Howard College,” Murphy said.  “I was one of the top five Big Spring High School graduates in 1997.  I had everything going for me and went to the University of Texas Austin to major in Computer Science.  That’s when I started to make some bad decisions.  After 18 months in college, I dropped out to play in an alternative rock band.  Of course, along with being in a band, came alcohol and drugs.  The band gig didn’t work out, and I came back to Midland.  My most recent job before my life changed in 2016 was working for Alon USA [now Delek U.S.] as the regional training manager.  I trained managers of the Midland convenience stores.  I was good at it; I had a knack for business.  I could have been better if I hadn’t been addicted.”

In 2016, Murphy entered the residential addiction recovery program at Teen Challenge Adult Centers of Texas in Midland.  He said it was a life-changing experience for him.  He overcame addiction and found a new drive for faith.  He also began working for the organization as part of the lawn crew.  Within one year of employment, he was promoted to his current position as administrative director.  As such, Murphy is responsible for fundraising, grant writing and maintaining donor relations.  

“I really enjoy both the business and administrative aspects of this job, as well as the opportunity to interact with people,” Murphy said.  “I’ve found that my past experience in recovering from addiction has given me a unique perspective in raising funds.  I want my career to continue going in this direction; however, I realize that I need a degree.”

Since January 2021, Murphy has been a full-time student at Midland College, no small feat considering he works 40+ hours each week at Teen Challenge and also holds a part-time position as worship pastor at Grace Christian Fellowship in Odessa.  In addition, he is lead vocalist and acoustic guitar player in the Atmosphere Worship Band.  The band has made a name for themselves in the Permian Basin.  They were the winners of the first ever Odessa’s Got Talent People’s Choice Award.  Besides the acoustic guitar, Murphy also plays numerous other instruments, including the bass and electric guitars, ukulele, mandolin, drums and keyboard—all of which are self-taught.

“Music is a wonderful outlet for me,” Murphy said.  “I never had any formal lessons; I just picked up an instrument when I was a teenager and started playing.  It’s a good thing my wife and step daughter enjoy listening to it!”

Murphy’s wife Vanna is also a past participant of Teen Challenge.  In fact, the two met at Teen Challenge and married in 2018.  Vanna worked as the assistant director of the women’s program while she was taking Culinary Arts classes at Odessa College.  She recently graduated from Odessa College and is now the director of Ledgens Pizza in the Permian Basin.

“Vanna inspired me to go back to school,” Tyler Murphy said.  “College helped her get the education she needed to turn her culinary passion into a career.  My past work experience and current employment in administration and fundraising has made me realize that I like business and working with people.  In December, I’ll graduate from Midland College with an associate degree and then plan to pursue Midland College’s bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management.  Besides fundraising, I’m also interested in the human resources aspect of business.”

This past spring, Murphy won 2nd place in Midland College’s Nonfiction Writing Contest for his report on employee retainment at Teen Challenge.

“I never considered myself to be a great writer, but when I started researching organizational retention techniques, I found it fascinating,” Murphy explained.  “I also liked taking a writing class with Dr. Brown [Midland College English department chair and professor].  In fact, I probably learned more in his class than in any other class I’ve taken.  His class really helped me in my grant writing, as well.”

Besides his two jobs, Murphy also finds time for family life.  He enjoys being a stepfather to Vanna’s 11-year-old daughter Ava who is a 6th grader at Scharbauer Elementary School in Midland.  The family has five rescue dogs—a Golden Retriever, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Italian Spinone and teacup Yorkie.  The dogs were all abandoned on or near the Teen Challenge property, which is located on County Road 1200.  In addition to the dogs, Ava also has a chinchilla.  

“Our household is quite busy,” Murphy said with a laugh.  “However, I never knew how happy I could be when not relying on alcohol and drugs to get through life.  I’m 43 and finally in a good place.  I look forward to what the future brings.”

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