“Would you have time to write about a lady named Terry who is about to graduate from the program?” He asked me.
I knew that this friend of mine had a heart for those struggling to begin a new life free from drugs. He was a volunteer who helped serve on a board and was involved with the ceremony to celebrate those who had crossed the finish line. My writing would be used as a part of that.
I had never been to a treatment facility before, and an opportunity to highlight the achievements of one of their success stories was being presented to me.
I agreed to meet with her, unsure of what this would look like.
I knew that this resource for helping those with chemical dependency issues had been around for a while, serving teens, men, and women. I was taken to a location in Minneapolis where only female housing was available.
It was afternoon, and I felt a stillness when we entered. I was given a brief tour of the resident rooms, the community meeting place, and the kitchen. It was explained to me that this environment offered peace to those coming from very intense lifestyles, where the addictions ran so strong, many had come close to death.
I met with her in a simple room consisting of a bed and a dresser.
She grew up in a family of wealth, and the high school she attended had a peer group of the same affluence. I had been under the wrong impression that if a person is surrounded by material ease, life will open up much better than one of financial struggle.
This was not the case, as it afforded her a way to buy and use substances that would eventually take over her life.
She was by no means unintelligent. She was a hard worker who found herself at the top of the chain no matter what business employed her. Everything she did made the atmosphere around her better. But, unknown to her coworkers, she was deep into self-destruction.
One of the most shocking things she related to me was that she would go into high-end department stores, grab clothes off the rack, and go put on layers in the women’s changing rooms. She got so crafty at sneaking under the radar that she was carting out expensive items under the nose of security. This was before the invention of the devices attached to items for purchase.
She used all of her dishonest gains to trade on the street for what she wanted. At one point, she was stealing specific items that had been requested. It eventually caught up with her both physically and mentally. And her path led to recovery.
I would not have known for a second the pain she had overcome to now be in such a positive mindset. She had taken all of her coursework seriously, and at the root of it was the understanding that God was on her side, leading the charge to a brand new way of living. He had come in and taken up residence in her heart; that was what she had been longing for that all along. She just didn’t know it.
As much as she had been determined before to get her hands on pills, liquids, and inhalants, she now was going to use that same power to become a mentor to other women.
She had dropped her pursuit of those things that had only brought her harm to embrace a love that was streaming from heaven. This wasn’t a fake display where I saw a person who could easily slip back into her former self. She was upfront and about where she had been and the hurdles she still would face moving on.
But I could see the strength in her eyes and feel the perseverance flooding her spirit. While she had walked a troublesome road, she had her sites set on helping others find their way. That light streaming from heaven was going to touch many around her.
At her lowest, she had been taken in, surrounded by good people who saw her true potential and was given a chance. God had become her priority, and out of a cleansing process, she found her purpose, and there wasn’t anything that would stop her. She had a detailed plan of her every move to keep her on track with laser focus.
I parted ways with her, feeling joy. That is the gift she imparted to me. It was faith building to know that someone could come from such a broken experience and be lifted to a higher plane of existence. I could feel her connection. In her voice, I could hear compassion as she now was moving from self-absorption to an absolute urgent calling to pull others from the flames of despair.
For her life to do a complete turnaround, she had to be willing to look into her past to see where she had been overtaken by darkness that seemed to offer her good but was leading to her early demise. She had to put aside herself and let God take over, and this wasn’t without resistance as her body revolted, wanting its way, just like old times. Habits that had long been entrenched and a mind programmed to respond had to be made new.
But God can do that. And, you don’t have to be in Terry’s same situation to get the help that will reverse a self-control issue or anything that you have fallen prey to. Whatever out of control circumstances seem to have you in their grip, there is a way of escape. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
It requires one of the most challenging actions a person must undertake to overcome. Surrender. To let go of what we might hold onto tightly as a security blanket because it’s familiar.
Terry was very honest about all of her former excuse making. She rationalized her strung-out functioning, which only fueled the problem more. Once she decided that she had value and not all the money that was readily available, this is when the change began. She quit fighting to stay where she was to move ahead.
She had to look back to move forward.
I had this demonstrated through an object lesson.
“I can’t find that letter,” she said, flying past me. I could tell by how she was rushing that something wasn’t right.
I heard things being moved, sighing, and more swift shuffling.
“Where was it last?”
“On the table. It’s not there now.”
I was hoping it would appear in an obscure place because what would happen next wouldn’t be pleasant.
There was more searching, and frantic mode was approaching.
“It isn’t in your room?”
“Where did you see it last?”
“In the kitchen.”
I began looking with her trying to calm her down.
Then she said what I was dreading.
“It is probably in the garbage.”
I glanced over at the bag I was about to take outside.
“It cannot be in there,” I said as flashes of times past came to mind.
I had been involved in far too many of these rescue operations, and it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do at midnight. Yet, we don’t always get our way.
I reluctantly sat on the floor and untied the knot I had tightly made because this wasn’t supposed to be happening. My real self was sleeping, not about to delve into a messy, disgusting pile of discarded waste.
“I hate this,” I said, as she stood by looking like she were ready to hurl. It always amazes me that the one not doing the task appears to suffer the most. I got a pair of gloves because, well, because.
I began slogging through the contents, putting them into an empty bag beside me.
“If this piece of paper is in here, it’s going to be soaking wet.”
I had that happen multiple times before, with checks that had come and accidentally been thrown away like we were so rich it was disposable. I had to retrieve them and get out the hairdryer.
“I don’t want to be here right now,” I said. But I was, and I wasn’t finding whatever she had lost; I had just cleaned out the refrigerator where everything was on its final breath to add to the fun.
“What day did you have it last?”
“I think on Monday,” she said with much uncertainty.
Because time is an illusion in my house, that could have been two Fridays ago or a random Wednesday.
Getting to the bottom of the bag, I had to say it.
“There are more bags outside.”
I dragged myself out to the driveway as we both tried to uncover the elusive correspondence.
“Do you realize I am sitting outside at 12:30 in the morning digging through the garbage?”
Wasn’t carrying her for nine months and bringing her into the world enough? No, because once you are a parent, a good one anyway, you’re driven by forces outside of your will to help.
We came up short. While I reassembled the garbage to make it more pretty, she went back into the house to see if she had overlooked a hiding spot.
As I stuffed everything back into the container, I was struck by the thought that going through those bags was returning to the past.
Just like Terry had to retrace her steps, I had to subject myself to what was once edible but now was a massive conglomeration of unwanted and unnecessary baggage. I shut the lid and went back in. There was no way I would do that anymore—both literally and symbolically.
“I think it was a scam.”
The much sought-after prize was business related, with a deadline and payment requirement.
“What?” I said, standing in her doorway feeling unwashed.
“I went online and looked it up. It wasn’t real, and if I had followed the instructions, I would have been scammed. I guess something protected me from falling for it by taking away the letter.”
She smiled at me. It was now 1 am. Spiritual growth can come at all hours, and you just dismiss the bags under your eyes the next day.
God will continually pursue you to get your attention to remove those things that have hounded you and have prevented a higher climb. Whether we believe it or not, we are a critical piece of the puzzle, and in the grand design, your role is needed.
But it won’t be forced upon you.
It’s an invitation to walk away from the false safety nets and go where heaven knows that genuine awaits. All that is required is to get honest with what is not really for your good, recognize what needs to go, and come clean.