By Rose Pauly
She sits across from me in a sapphire blue chair. Sunlight is pouring through the windows of her small but comfortable home illuminating the glow on her face and accenting the twinkle in her deep blue eyes. There is so much life it feels palpable. Color is everywhere. It is like the new realities awakened in the midst of a broken heart have escaped and taken shape in the real world. Pain has been reformed, reworked, and redeemed. It has turned into creativity, depth of love, and passion for beauty. That in turn has found expression in the tangible, those things seen in her home. The handmade jewelry. The radiant flow of woven rugs, hanging plants and multicolored pieces of art.
It is hard to imagine that less than a year ago her life was much different. She had been in a type of prison, a prison from which she had no power to escape. The walls had become too thick, the bars too dense, the lock too cumbersome.
For 30 years she had been in the dark and hopeless solitary confinement of a cocaine addiction. It had turned everything she knew into something hollow.
As she looks back at her life she recognizes the beginnings of the trappings. A childhood racked with insecurity, unworthiness and poor self-image. The slightly overweight little girl with crooked teeth. The stinging words, “You’re so stupid!” that seemed to create a hornet’s welt, yet beneath the surface the poison ran through her blood and infected every part of her body. The pain inside grew. The lies believed.
Little did she recognize at the time how the lies, the low self-esteem and the internal pain would propel her into a life-course of making poor choices; choices to anesthetize the pain, choices to escape the internal agony eating her away on the inside.
Escape was found in the white powder. Cocaine numbed the pain. For awhile.
Life moved on and marriage followed. But a wounded heart rarely makes good choices in love. Abusive words. A secret addiction. A broken mother trying to care for two young sons. Hazy yet painful memories of days, high but bed-bound, detached from life, sleepless and driven, craving more. There were good days for sure, days of laughter and delight in the mystery and exhilaration of motherhood. Yet another reality loomed beneath the surface. A reality that was depriving her of life.
There was a longing to be free, but a strange hold, an unbreakable and obsessive hunger for more. It was not unlike the Turkish Delight that entangled Edmond in CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The addiction held such a grip, such a control, that all of life was caught up in pursuit of this strange enticement; an enticement that appeared sweet and appealing, but ultimately and seductively led to utter destruction.
But then the miracle.
It is hard to understand why 30 years passed before the miracle erupted on the scene. But there is neither bitterness nor cynicism in her words. Her marriage had come to a heart-rending end and she found herself as a single mother of teen boys. In this time of confused despair her dealer died. She had prayed and begged God to remove the addiction and to be set free. While racked with unbelievable sorrow for the loss of a man’s life, she knew it was the beginning of her path of deliverance.
In this vulnerable time Marcia's sister gave her a book...Desperate Hope. As she read through the pages HOPE was kindled anew. The true personal narrative of God setting both a perpetrator and victim free from addiction, fear and victimhood gave her courage that God could do the same for her. God was using this book to propel her forward. She reflected, "The book gave me hope as a Christian that all things are possible through Christ which gives me strength. I found my trust in God renewed. It helped me to forgive myself and others. I began to allow God to heal me and to let His love seep deep into my very soul and change me for His purpose and glory."
Something deep inside rose up. There was an open crack in the thick prison door. God was gathering up His hurting daughter and tenderly revealing His mercy and love. He was bidding her to step into the light of day peering through that crack. He was giving her strength to risk. She spoke of her personal encounter with these words,
"God's love is so amazing that it is beyond comprehension and measure."
She pauses in her thoughts as if trying to grasp hold of such profound and significant truths. A voice cracking with the weight of emotion, she speaks clearly and slowly as if allowing each word to find its full expression, “I had been a Christian for most of my life. But even as a Christian I made poor choices to numb the pain. The reality and consequences of those choices brought even greater pain. This added to my low self-esteem and increased my sense of unworthiness.” Ah, the vicious cycle of despair. But she knows that healing comes with acknowledging the truth. And she knows that God is big enough to handle it all.
Marcia began a new journey and a new way of being. She took one small step toward the compassion of God and found the addiction had lost its strangling hold. Her words float through the sunlit room like cool and sparkling water pouring life onto parched ground,
“I finally let God love me."
"I never felt worthy of His love and so I shut Him out, trying desperately to find something that would satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. But He was always there. As I look back at my life I can see that even when I gave up on everything and was ready to end it all He was there. He never gave up. Finally I was ready to open my heart. God is my living water. My thirst quencher. The joy and strength of my life. The beauty you see in my home is really the expression of my relationship with God, of His beauty radiating through me.”
Her voice ceases, unable to continue until she takes a deep breath and regains composure. She begins her next sentence with a conjunction, one word, “but”, yet it is the most important conjunction of her life. It is the point when everything changes.
“But God, in His love and mercy brought me back. He rescued me."
"He pulled me out of the pit of my own choices, of how I chose to deal with my pain. He gave me a new life because He is so merciful, so good, so filled with love for me. I owe Him everything.”
The beautiful lady sitting in front of me turns her eyes to the open window and takes on a faraway gaze. Tears readily form and cascade down those glowing cheeks. Life still has challenges and there is much that is hard to understand. She knows she needs to stay connected with others who share her faith and story. A few scars of the past remain, poignant reminders of choices made and time evaporated. Yet the tears are not tears of shame or remorse. They are tears of overwhelming gratitude. Every day is a new beginning and a gift.
Life’s pain is being redeemed. God is doing a miracle.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV
Marcia Green may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch this powerful message of another great story of freedom from addiction by Shawn Johnson: https://vimeo.com/97052734 “Water at Noon” 6/1/14
By Rose Pauly