Russell Phillips

After 18 years of drug addiction, over 30 arrests, multiple stays at treatment facilities, overdoses, homelessness, and ultimately conviction and prison, Russell Phillips has pretty much been through and seen it all but nothing compared to the pain that he was about to face.

In 2013, everything would finally come crashing down. During an ongoing drug investigation, Russell was set up by a confidential informant and sold cocaine to an undercover narcotics detective. In 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and began serving his time at the Western Correctional Institution (WCI) in Cumberland, Maryland. It was there that a dream was born.

While in prison, reading and writing became his outlet. It was his way of mentally escaping all the despair that surrounded him. He made the conscious decision that enough was enough, and decided to begin taking the steps to change his life. However, on October 24, 2015 18 months into a 10-year sentence, tragedy would strike. He was informed by the Chaplain that his beloved mother had passed away.


Despite his troubles, she had always remained by his side; his sole source of love and support. The loss was devastating, and her presence was irreplaceable. With his spirit crushed, and after 18 years of struggles around drug addiction and crime alone in a prison cell, he reflected on all the things he could have done differently.

This created the desire to change, as well as the desire to make a difference in other peoples’ lives, so that they don’t have to live with the same regret and guilt that he lives with. And since then, he has never looked back.

After serving two-and-a-half-years on a 10-year sentence, on October 28, 2016, Russell was released from prison. Staying true to his dream, he refused to let his circumstances keep him from reaching his full potential. Despite having no money, no job, no license, no car, and no clothes — he pushed forward.

The Early Years

Born and raised by a single mother in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Russell Phillips had a pretty normal upbringing.

However, at the age of 16, he began to drink alcohol and use drugs. Over the next 18 years, selling and using drugs would nearly cost him his life.

As his life spiraled out of control, so did his addiction.

But through it all, Deborah Phillips loved her son unconditionally. She remained by her son’s side, even through the most trying of times. It was heartbreaking for her to watch the person she loved the most slip away. He would often disappear for days at a time, leaving her wondering if he was okay, or even alive.

At the age of 22, he was blessed with a beautiful and healthy little girl who he thinks the world of and loves with everything he has, but even that wasn’t enough to stop him.

He loved his mother and daughter unconditionally as well, but unfortunately, his thoughts and feelings didn’t coincide with his actions like theirs did. As selling and using drugs became his main priority, everyone that he loved became second, decisions that he would later live to regret dearly.

But through it all, they would retain a mother-son love like no other, and maintain an unbreakable bond.


Russell has been clean and sober since April 11, 2014. He inspires many to live their life with purpose and unlock their full potential. His rise from a homeless drug addict to where he is now has been nothing short of phenomenal. His story is an inspiration to all who struggle, as well as those who love an addict.

Russell founded Light in the Shadows, an organization that works with addicts and the homeless. He also just finished his first novel titled “Dear Mom”, which will be coming soon.

Driven by the loss of his mother, Russell strives to make right all that was wrong, hoping that somehow, she bears witness to his tremendous reinvention. Through his activism and speaking, he shares his story to inspire the lost to find their way, as well as a testament to the words he lives by…that “anything is possible!”