The person you see on the cover of this newsletter is a new creation. My life was a mess, but God turned his hands and opened them for me. Now, I want to help and reach out to anybody I can, to show them, “Look what God can do.”
My story begins with complete failures. Both of my marriages were built around destructive behavior: the first, drugs; the second, alcohol.
In my first marriage, we did marijuana, cocaine, acid, mushrooms … you name it. Living with drugs really scared me sometimes. Especially the dealing. There were times we should have been in prison for the things we were doing.
You always think you’re hiding behind drugs and alcohol, but I wasn’t hiding anything. My life was falling apart. After 15 years, my first marriage ended in divorce and I got some help. I had two young sons and I didn’t want them – or me – to be around drugs any more. Through some short-term treatment I was able to break free, happily … but not for long. After I was clean for a few months, I returned to alcohol – my drug of choice since I was about 16.
Things quickly got terrible. I had nowhere to live, and ended up homeless for a while, sleeping in a tent near the dam in downtown Rockford.
My second marriage lasted five years. We lived in a cheap hotel room the entire time, and I drank every single day. I had trouble working because I’d be shaking so badly. When I was a waitress, customers called me “Shaky” when I would hand them coffee.
I didn’t think I had a problem. I drank at night. I usually didn’t come to work drunk … although to be honest, I did lose a couple of jobs because of that.
It sounds crazy now, but when I was drinking, I loved every moment of it. I didn’t have to face anything. I blocked everything: all my feelings, all my responsibilities. I was hidden in lies, with no truth in me.
I was a full-fledged drunk. By 2006 I’d broken my nose three times in the past five years, either by falling down when I was drunk or from someone hurting me when I was drunk. One time it was because I fell into a drainage ditch on my bicycle. I was just too tired to go on. I had just had enough.
And, the older I got, the more I was thinking about my sons – how I didn’t want them to have to live the life I was living.
I’d been going to church sometimes with my friend Lisa, at Rockford First Assembly. God wasn’t a big part of my life yet, but I knew He was there.
I remember thinking, “If I don’t fully turn my life over to God, I’m not gonna make it.” Yet, I’d be sober going to church with Lisa, and the minute I got home I’d be cracking open a beer. And it just wasn’t right.
Lisa started talking to me about the Rockford Rescue Mission, and I was willing to listen. There was a very real chance I was going to be homeless again soon, and I thought, “ I’m not going to be left out in the cold again, because I will die out there.” It was January.
Lisa asked me, “Are you serious about this? Because if you are, I’m going to have you sign up at the Rescue Mission.” And that’s what happened. She took me over there to fill out the paperwork, and not long after that I got the call, that there was a spot for me in the program.
I had finally given up. I had had enough of being a drunk. It was scary. But I wanted to learn to live a different way. I drank two beers that day – Jan. 23, 2007. Then I hopped on a city bus and went to the Mission. And I haven’t had a drink since.
I was at the Mission just over a year, and went through the Life Recovery Program. They really teach you to turn your whole life around. The biggest and best part was, I surrendered. I had to let go and let God take over my life. And then I could feel the changes happening. It was nice to wake up and not have the shakes.
My whole family came to the graduation ceremony here at the Mission. I was just floored by that. I was so happy.
Today, I have a new life. I live in a nice house and I have a good job. My boys are doing well – they’re 19 and 16 now. I’d like to eventually get into nursing, the career I had started before things fell apart.
Most of all, for the first time in my adult life, my mind is clear. I know what I need: I need God in my life. The Lord saved me, and I can’t thank Him enough.
-- as told to Jim Killam