When I was a baby, my grandparents took me in and adopted me and raised me as their own. As far back as I can remember I felt safe, loved and wanted. For my entire life, my parents had always worked very hard and sacrificed whatever they needed to give me a solid foundation as well as the best education possible.
So, in response to my dad’s question, there was nothing more that they could have done to give me a better upbringing than I had or guide me in the right direction towards having a bright future. The only negative thing I could think of was that maybe they were too strict and sheltered me a little too much. After we discussed that back and forth for a few minutes, he asked me to make him a promise that I would never go back to the way I had been living—-getting high, picking up more charges, overdosing and every time ending up back in jail. All of me wanted to make that promise to him, but the truth was I had lost control over my life a long time ago and didn’t know who to ask or where to go to get the help that I needed.
It all seemed fun in the beginning. Around the time I graduated high school, I had started smoking weed and drinking. I loved partying from the start and was having a good time while also doing everything else I wanted to. I moved to Vegas, was taking college classes, bought a new car and felt like I was living life to the fullest. Over the next couple years some things changed.
I moved back to California, totaled my car driving drunk and broke off an engagement. Even though I was in the same town as my family, I never really reached out to them. Through all the changes going on in my life, there was one thing that was consistent and that was my daily binge drinking. I never really saw my drinking as a problem until I got a DUI and, then exactly a month later, I got a second one. When I went to jail for my first time and got sentenced to 80 days, I thought I was going to die, and not just from the detox after seven years of drinking hard alcohol. I was in shock that things went bad that quickly and I didn’t think life could get any worse.
Then I got out of jail and tried hard drugs for the first time and was instantly hooked. Three years of my life were consumed by my drug use before I started getting in trouble with the law again and had that more recent conversation with my dad. I left the visit that day and cried out to God. For the first time ever, I fully surrendered my life to Him and was willing to go wherever He led me. That is when doors started opening for me.
When I found out a bed was available for me at Captive Hearts, I was excited but really had no idea how much of a work God was about to do within me. Even though I had gone to Christian school and grown up in church my entire life, 10 years in active addiction had left me so broken. With over a month clean, my brain was still pretty burnt and I didn’t feel there was much I could grab onto. But like my house mom always said, “God will meet us right where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.”
One of the first church services we attended was on the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on circumstances and can constantly change. However, joy is something that comes from God alone and can never be shaken.
Then I attended class with my counselor Diane, and the first verse she shared with me was Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” I felt the Holy Spirit in class that day so strongly and, for the first time in a long while, felt peace knowing God would repair all the damage I had caused by renewing, re-educating and redirecting my life. And that is exactly what happened over the next six months at Captive Hearts.
I always joke around with my parents that they could have saved a lot of money by sending me to the house instead of all those years at private school. And this opportunity obviously wouldn’t have happened had I not gone off the deep end there for awhile. One of my favorite songs says, “Crazy how it took the night for me to get to know the Son.”
Seven months ago when I got released from custody knowing I was going into rehab, I had no idea that I was about to accomplish the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. We did so many different classes that helped me gain knowledge as well as deepen my relationship with God and others. The women who run the program all helped me walk through some difficult things and always guided me with Godly advice. In addition to doing the classes through Captive Hearts, I was also going to Drug & Alcohol five days a week for the IOT program. From the beginning, God placed special people in my class as well as counselors to encourage me to keep pushing on even when I didn’t think I could. The girls in the house became the best friends I’ve ever had and we all grew so much together. We especially looked forward to Wednesday and Saturday nights at Oasis Church. Having spent most my life in church, I’ve never experienced anything like I did there. There is such a revival of recovery in our area and it’s so much of a blessing to see God at work in so many people’s lives. He set us free from the bondage of addiction and set a fire down inside us.
One day my therapist and I were talking about how during my whole life I’ve always been a people pleaser and tried to be a good person and found my identity in what others thought of me. It’s been so freeing to learn that I don’t have to live a performance-driven life but know that my joy comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus and that I will automatically bless others because His love will overflow from me.
I want to close with one of my favorite verses in the Bible that has really helped me on this journey: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).