Jennifer P.

Jennifer-PhotoTo say I was a heavy drinker is a laughable understatement. At no time in my life, since my first drink at age 13, was my addiction to mind-altering substances anything but out of control.

I was the creative, attention-seeking, youngest child of four in a typical nuclear family of the 1960s. Mom stayed at home, while my stressed-out dad worked to give our family “more.” I think I got lost in the shuffle. In hindsight, at any time l was welcome to actually join in the busy shuffle, but I chose to stay on the outside looking in, honing my skills as the victimized baby of the family.

l was a prime target for drugs and alcohol. I had no vision. Naturally, a synthetic vision seemed better than none at all.

My substance abuse morphed from friend to monster over a painful 25-year avalanche. There were moments of clarity—usually after an arrest, ultimatum or financial black hole—in which l was able to see that it was ruining my life. That l would be better off without it. That l would never succeed with it in my life. But l could not stop. The monster had me trapped in a net, bound with zip ties, duct tape over my mouth and ears and shoved in a dungeon.

Where was God? I said, “God, if you love me, you’ll stop me from doing this!” Yet the elevator of addiction kept plummeting. I did not want to live any more. After many attempts at suicide and many trips to the emergency room, I found myself homeless, penniless and, I thought, without a friend in the world.

I bowed my head from my pallet in the shelter and asked, “God, I’ve ruined everything. What happens now?” It was quiet in my head. The monster was sleeping. And, until I draw my last breath, I will swear I heard God speak to me. He said, “I’ll take it from here. You rest.” From that point on, there were no accidents. No coincidences. No random acts.

I showed up on the steps of a treatment center where l was told my eight days without a drink made me ineligible for detox. I left and traded the last few dollars on a McDonald’s gift card my sister had sent me for cash. With that cash I bought the last alcohol l pray I ever have to drink. I went back the next morning, and they admitted me into a 10-month program. l was willing to do whatever it took to not return to my former existence.

Here’s what my life looks like today: l have a home that is small, clean and mine. I have a job. I’m writing this while waiting at a lab facility for a drug screening, because l have been promoted at work, again. Though it was nearly severed in the past, my relationship with my children is mending in manageable increments. I do service work. I return to the treatment center where God healed me many times a month to share my experience, strength and hope. I have a sponsor and l sponsor others. I run, l sing, l show up. I can be trusted with your keys, your money and your children. The life l have today is the life that I longed for while I lay on the floor, sick and dying, wondering why God had forgotten me.

If you asked me to give back my relationship with God in exchange for erasing all the pain, I would say no thanks. Every scar makes up the confident, reliable, loving and compassionate person I am today. And, while l clearly see what turns l navigated incorrectly, I am forever grateful for those roads.

My monster remains asleep based solely on the condition of my relationship with God. I remain in a constant state of gratitude to never forget what life used to be like—lest I wake the monster.

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