My 5th Recovery Birthday

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Self-Harm, Suicide

When I began this journey, I wasn’t sure that I would make it to this day. Today is my 5th “Recovery Birthday.” I have been clean from my addiction for 1826 days…5 whole years.

In college, I had an addiction. And before anybody passes out or starts whispering, let’s clarify. I know my southern baptists and super conservatives are already sweating. I was addicted to self harm. And on April 28, 2013, it came to a head and I thought I wanted to end my life. I thought after everything I’d been through I didn’t want, or deserve, to live.

I let a seemingly small incident be the straw that broke my back. I had health issues that felt like they would never be solved. I had been victim blamed for an assault I finally felt comfortable talking about. I had gone through a breakup that was really hard for me to deal with (though I praise the Father now I got out of that relationship when I did). I had seen multiple people I knew, one that I cared very much about, complete suicide. I had started drinking to feel better. I had been cutting to make my pain something I could see and control as a physical experience. I was acting recklessly. My PCP interpreted the actions and emotions I was exhibiting as something it wasn’t and began medicating me for an issue I didn’t actually have. My body didn’t react well to this medication; I gained weight (like 20+ pounds in a few months), the chemicals in my brain were being altered, the actual issue wasn’t being treated, I felt alone. I hated myself. I hated most of the people in my life for not realizing what I was dealing with. I hated God, if there was a God, I was seriously questioning his existence at the time and frequently screamed curses at the ceiling.

So. On Sunday April 28, 2013, you wouldn’t find me at church. You could have found me in the floor of a bathroom with a blade cutting my wrists. Then “Wonderwall” came on. If you know why this song matters to me, you know why I laid the blade down and paused. You know why it was significant that within moments my sister found me and called 911.

In a chair in the ER, God whispered to my heart. God shook me back to life. God held me. He said “Sweet child, I have been waiting for this moment, for you to allow me back in. I wish it wouldn’t have taken this long, but I promise you I will redeem this pain, I will use this test as a testimony, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Breathe. You are mine. You are Covered With Grace.” And he breathed life back into my weary, broken, thirsty soul.

He has not let me down on that whisper to my weary soul. Within 24 hours I returned to campus. I threw out my blades with supervision of an at-the-time friend (if you ever see this, friend, thank you). That same friend and another watched over me that night while I caught up on sleep and tried to prepare myself for finals. I passed my finals. I passed my semester classes. I moved home for the summer. I opened my Bible. I was covered in grace. We went to Disney. I started being thankful for being alive. I started trying different churches. We found our church home as a family. They welcomed me. They loved me. They heard my story and spoke the Word of Truth over my heart that God felt my pain and loved me and would indeed redeem this story.

God opened doors for me to serve. God opened doors for me to share my testimony. God set my soul on fire. God gave me new goals, new dreams, new callings. And as I obeyed, he opened the doors. He answered my desire to travel: he sent me on mission including to Africa and a pitstop in Paris. He answered my desire to serve: I was able to serve in homeless shelters, raise money for suicide prevention, he opened various opportunities to serve with so many nonprofits.  He let me be hired by the job that I wanted. He gave me the gift of being loved by some really awesome people that he knew would build me up and support me as I continued this journey.

My weakness became a place for Him to show His strength. I don’t think anymore that God “lets” bad things happen to us. I definitely know there is a God, if there wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I think the bad things that happen are a result of a fallen world around us, or they can be something we perceive as bad at the time that God is actually using to redirect us to the path of goodness He intended for us from the get go.

I don’t think God let me be assaulted, I don’t think God let me become depressed, I don’t think God took people I really loved away from me to hurt me, I don’t think God let me have an addiction to harming myself, I don’t think God let me try to numb my pain with self harm or alcohol or anything else I tried to fill those gaping holes with.

I do think God used each and every one of those painful experiences for good and let it shape me into the woman I am today. I do think God removed some very toxic people from my life after April 2013 and replaced them with people who were good for me and loved me. I do think God sent us to an amazing church that changed my perception of the body of Christ. I do think that God used the pain I had experienced to develop the empathy I have for others and the way I treat others, speak to others, and serve others. I do think that God used the brokenness to rebuild something even better. I do think that God drew me nearer to Him after I questioned him and tried to put myself as far away from Him as possible. I do think that God turned my story into my testimony. It was never without purpose, and I believe He has fulfilled the promises he speaks to each of us in Scripture during the rebuilding of my life in the past 5 years.

I want to end today with a few things. First I want to encourage you that no matter what you are dealing with right now, it is not without purpose. Even if you do not see the purpose now, or if you do not see it in this lifetime, it will not go without being redeemed if you are faithful to the Almighty who promises redemption and blessing to a thousand generations who serve Him. I promise you He will be the same today, tomorrow, and forever. I promise you that HE promises He will uphold you with his righteous right hand.

I realize this paragraph may sound a little like prosperity gospel or preachy or fake. I want to put a disclaimer here that nowhere does God say our lives will be perfect. The last 5 years have been far from perfect. There have been times where I have gotten dangerously close to relapse. There have been times I have questioned what I was going through….some current circumstances have even made me ask God why I can’t be done with the struggle. I have expressed that sometimes I think I’ve gone through enough that I don’t need to continue to struggle with health problems, or mean girls and boys, or fights with people I love, or a low income that sometimes makes me wonder how I’m going to pay the bills. But I have to remind myself and pray very fervently that previous pain has had purpose and current struggles will as well.

I also want to thank those of you who have taken this journey with me. God has worked to put some amazing supporters around me to love me as I continued to find myself and draw nearer to Him. No amount of words would accurately express the gratitude I have to the village who has surrounded me, loved me, encouraged me, spoken truth and life to me, and just been there for me.

So today, we celebrate 5 years. Here’s to another 50+! 

 

*The featured photo was taken about a week before my attempt.

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