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Once a lost soul, now a new man: New Glasgow man recounts story of redemption from prison and drugs

Anthony TIbbo holds the Bible that was given to him by a Salvation Army worker while he was in prison. What he read, he says, God used to change his life.
Anthony TIbbo holds the Bible that was given to him by a Salvation Army worker while he was in prison. What he read, he says, God used to change his life. - Adam MacInnis
NEW GLASGOW, N.S. —

Judge Clyde Macdonald tried to calm the accused man down.

"Mr. Tibbo, you're not doing yourself any good."

"He didn't do me any good," Anthony Tibbo shouted.

It was 2007. Tibbo was in Pictou Court for a show cause hearing. He was accused of stabbing a Stellarton man in the back five times. 

"He's a pedophile. Let it be known," Tibbo yelled.

If you met Tibbo at that time, defence lawyer Doug Lloy says you would have seen an angry man, addicted to narcotics and with a thick prison record of serious charges that spanned a decade. Tibbo admits he was so unpredictable at that time that some drug dealers would turn out their lights and lock their doors when they saw him coming.

“He was really a lost soul,” Lloy says. 

But much has changed.

Tibbo now lives in a quiet subdivision, in a house he has fixed up almost entirely with his own hands. He owns a lawn care business and enjoys spending time with his daughter and working out at the YMCA. Sundays you'll find him in church.

"He's done a complete 180," Lloy says.

As a longtime legal aid lawyer, Lloy says success stories do happen, but for people with a record like Tibbo's they are incredibly rare.

Tibbo's transformation, says Lloy, seems to be attributed to one thing – his faith.

Abuse, drugs and prison

It was the alleged abuse from Carl Skidmore, who Tibbo was accused of stabbing, that he says drove him to drug use. Skidmore has faced numerous sex offence charges and was convicted in 1999 of gross indecency against a teenage boy in the 1970s. 

"I had no where to dump this feeling of shame and just grossness. It just wouldn't leave," Tibbo said.

A relative gave him a dilaudid pill to try one day and almost instantly he was hooked. The opioid blocked the memories he didn't want to remember. 

And so he kept taking more and more, stopping at nothing to get the fix.

The addiction quickly led to crime and prison time that started in 1998 and continued off and on for most of his early adult years. For a 13-year period, he estimates he was only out of jail for about six months at most. At just 23 he found himself standing in the Atlantic Institution in Renous with some of the hardest criminals on the East Coast. There he saw horrible violence, but none of it was enough to scare him straight.

He recently found a detailed record of the charges he had during that period. They range from dangerous driving and theft to possession of a weapon and break and enter. One time he stole a prescription pad from a doctor's office and wrote prescriptions for himself. He went to three pharmacies before he was caught. Another time he broke into and robbed drugs from a pharmacy in Stellarton.

The crimes continued to escalate in severity until 2007 when he was charged with aggravated assault for the Stellarton stabbing. Those charges were later reduced to robbery. 

"I was almost just full of evil," Tibbo says of the time he stabbed the man. While he said he could justify that crime because of the man’s history of preying on youth, he knew it was wrong.

During his years as a drug addict, Tibbo says he overdosed more than a dozen times. Miraculously, he was found each time and brought back from the brink of death repeatedly.

Looking back now, he believes God had a hand in it all.

After he got out of jail following the 2007 charges, Tibbo started to get his life on track a bit. He met a nice woman and had a daughter in 2011. But while he pretended to have everything under control he was still secretly doing drugs. A dangerous driving offence not long after sent him back to prison in Burnside for a year.

Isolation

Imprisoned again, Tibbo got in trouble for having a shank in his mattress. The guards had found it while he was showering and when he returned they handcuffed him and took him to an isolation cell, where he was to spend the next 30 days.

Tibbo had spent plenty of time in isolation before. Each morning they take your mattress from you at 7 a.m. and don't give it back until 11 p.m. And so he was there alone and angry when a knock came on the door.

He heard a Salvation Army worker's voice and saw a Bible passed through the slot for him.

He took it and sat back on the concrete slab. It opened to the book of James. And he read: "Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you."

He began to weep uncontrollably.

"That's when I repented and believed," Tibbo says.

He knows there are many people who will dismiss faith in God, but he says God did something for him that all the drug programs he had graduated from in prison could not do.

"The programs were trying to externally change me, but they couldn't internally correct my heart. Programs don't affect your heart. Only God can operate on the heart."

A new man

When he got out, he was determined to be a good father for his daughter and not go back to prison. But first he had to deal with the drug addiction that had enslaved him for so long.

It wasn't easy and for months he battled with it.

"I begged God for four months," he said. "God, I can't serve you unless you give me a hatred for this."

Finally, his prayer was answered. He's been clean for about six years now and says he has a complete hatred for the drugs he once craved.

Lloy is happy to say he hasn’t had to see Tibbo in court in recent years, but often sees him around town mowing lawns or at the YMCA. The once angry man is now smiling everywhere Lloy sees him.

“Boy did he ever turn his life around,” Lloy says.

In his garage, where he can often be found working on his lawn tractors, Tibbo keeps a picture. It's of him at his daughter's first birthday party. 

"I was high there," he says.

Above the picture, though, he keeps a verse. 

"And such were some of you," it reads.

He's not that man anymore.

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