STILL I WILL RISE FROM THE ASHES
What Makes Me Qualified??
As a woman who’s been officially walking the road of recovery from family dysfunction since 2015 (and having struggled for many more years prior), I am deeply acquainted with the pain and adversity that comes as a result of that dysfunction. And I’m also gratefully familiar with the joy that comes from breaking free!
The Generational Curse
How generations of sin and brokenness manifested in my life
I come from a long line of brokenness that extends all the way back to my great grandparents, and probably even farther. My grandma was raised by her step-dad because her father wasn’t around. My grandpa and his dad didn’t speak. My mom’s parents divorced after three kids and around 20 years of marriage. And my father was mistreated, if not abused, by his father. So it’s not hard to imagine that as a child things weren’t great in my family either.
Mom and Dad were never married and they fought a lot. Dad was an alcoholic and when he was drunk he would get violent and would become abusive towards my mom. When I was about three years old, Mom had enough and left him. After that Mom and Dad fought over who would keep us kids. Mom was the more stable of the two, but in order to keep the peace, she agreed to let us live with Dad during the week and stay with her on the weekends.
Dad continued to drink and his addiction grew worse. He started spending every free moment at his favorite bar and began becoming involved with other men. When he was at home he was so hung-over that he couldn’t function. He could barely get out of bed and when he did he was verbally abusive.
After about four years like this, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Over the next few years, his health steadily declined, made worse by the drinking. More and more I was forced to take on a grown-up role. I became responsible for getting me and my sister to school and I had to cover for my dad and his lies. I had to be an adult in a kid’s body, but that was my life.
About three years after Dad’s diagnosis, his health took a turn for the worst. He was really sick and was admitted to the hospital. I don’t know if it was days or weeks later, but Grandma came over in the middle of the night. Dad was gone. I still miss him, even knowing all the struggles he faced and the pain he caused in my family; because he was still my dad and I loved him.
A Second Chance
How a new beginning changed everything
After Dad died, we lived with Mom and her husband Mike. He was a good guy and they took care of us. For the most part, we had a pretty good life. But something was still missing for me.
For a long time, I had been curious about God. I used to go to church with my grandma when I was little, so I knew of God and some of the bible stories, but I didn’t know God. In eighth grade, I remember all of my friends going to youth group meetings on Wednesday nights together. Every Thursday they would come to school and talk about church and I would feel left out. So finally I asked to go too.
I began attending Wednesday night youth group regularly and quickly gained friends. That summer I went on my very first mission trip to Chicago. We helped lead VBS, but what I remember the most is the change God made in my life on that trip. I accepted Christ as my savior and finally, I knew God! I was baptized a few months later on my fifteenth birthday and I dove into church and the bible and tried to learn everything I could.
Unhealed Hurts & Redemption
How my painful past led me to unknowingly continue the cycle & how God rescued me from staying on that path
But soon I began dating and my boyfriend became my focus, slowly but surely pushing God further and further out of the picture. After about five years, three failed relationships, and lots of hurts, God got ahold of me again, but the wounds I had suffered in those years would leave scars too.
However, in the midst of my broken relationships, I had also participated in two international mission trips. Through those trips, God gripped my heart for the broken and hurt people in this world. I realized that my past allowed me to relate to them in ways that many others could never understand.
During my time preparing for the second trip, God spoke to me very clearly and called me to serve him in missions. A few months later I stood in front of the congregation of my church as friends and family laid hands on me and prayed for God to work through my life. And that fall I began attending Lincoln Christian University.
During my time at LCU, I began to grow in my faith and understand God and His Word in ways I had not before. I also met many valuable friends and teachers who helped me begin to heal from the hurt in my past. They affirmed my value to God and helped me understand that my identity is found in Christ alone.
While there, I also met the man who would become my husband. On August 13, 2011, Gilbert and I were married and I thought my life was finally falling into place. I was right where I wanted to be. But only two months later, he was deployed to Afghanistan. We spent almost our entire first year of marriage separated by a literal war.
A Test Of My Faith
How the difficult circumstances of life led to growth and increased faith
When Gilbert finally returned home we had to navigate all new waters. Although we’d been married for a year, we barely knew how to live together, let alone how to handle conflict in a healthy way.
During his time at war, he had experiences which left him with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. This caused him to become overly paranoid, angry, and lash out sometimes for no reason at all. His issues paired with my anger and rage turned our home and marriage into a powder keg ready to explode at any moment.
Our disagreements would turn into arguments which would explode into screaming matches and, on a couple of occasions, I even resorted to violence. One of my worst fears seemed to be coming true – I was just like my dad. But in public, I was good at putting on my mask and hiding my anger and rage. I saved it all for Gilbert – in the privacy of my own home where it was “safe.” I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t know how to fix it. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I was afraid to admit to anyone the things I struggled with for fear of judgment.
In our second year of marriage, as I finished my bachelor’s degree, Gilbert had to work two jobs in addition to his monthly military training and trying to take classes on the side. Our finances were in shambles and we barely saw each other. When Gilbert was home he slept and when he wasn’t sleeping, we fought.
As our dream of happily ever after fell to pieces around us, my anger got more and more out of control. Our lives did improve when Gilbert was blessed with a good full-time job and we received an inheritance so that a huge financial burden was lifted, but we were far from over our problems.
The fighting continued and grew worse. On top of that, we had begun struggling with infertility which just added more stress, anger, and fear to our lives. This is not how I had pictured my life, and I needed a change, I just didn’t know where to turn.
Another New Beginning
How finding Celebrate Recovery saved my marriage and changed my life
In the spring of 2015, our church was getting ready to launch Celebrate Recovery. I had never heard of the program before, but it intrigued me. I had wanted to seek counseling for a long time, but my fear of not knowing what to expect and the shame of facing my problems stopped me. I didn’t even know where to look, and I certainly couldn’t afford it.
But Celebrate Recovery sounded a little more approachable. The idea of being in a group of people all struggling with something and sharing my problems in the structure of a twelve step program sounded like just what I needed. But I was still hesitant.
I was working for a Christian organization, I had recently started leading a youth Sunday school class, and I helped lead a children’s ministry at my church. I didn’t want people to know the truth about me. The fear of judgment crept in again. But God placed a friend in my life at just the right time who was also struggling and we decided to attend Celebrate Recovery together.
Joining a step study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We began working through the steps and I made my inventory. I soon realized that I still held on to some bitterness and pain from my past relationships, one in particular.
After my first engagement ended horribly, I ended up in a good relationship again and I thought I was well on my way to a proposal which I was thrilled about. But suddenly, after two years, he decided he wanted to go “explore the world” before settling down. When I later found out that he had an engagement ring and had intended all along to come back after being with other girls, I felt more worthless and broken than ever.
For the seven years since that relationship had ended, I realized, I had still held on to that pain and sadness. Even though I had gotten married and was happy with my husband, I still found myself occasionally wondering, “what if…”
I was also dealing with new bitterness as Gilbert and I struggled to get pregnant. We watched many of our friends and family receive the joy of a new child as month after month passed for us with still no baby news. It became a very bitter root growing in my life.
But in January 2016 we finally got the news we had waited so long for. After nearly three years of waiting, trying, testing, and treatments God granted us with our first little miracle baby – without any help from the doctors! We were so ecstatic and in disbelief.
But after only one short week God called our precious one back to himself and I suffered a miscarriage. We were devastated. How could a good God be so cruel? How could he grant us the one thing we wanted more than anything and then turn around and just take it right back?
Yet, somehow, I was able to find peace. I mourned the loss of this child and of our dream come true and trusted God to take care of our desires in his way and his time. Less than two months later, God sent our second little miracle. Samuel Louis was born on December 15, 2016, and our wait was finally over. We had everything we thought we ever wanted…
It’s A Continued Journey
How I realized I needed more than just a 12-step group
But my struggles weren’t over. For over a year I had faithfully gone to accountability meetings every week, attended Celebrate Recovery, and even began co-leading a step study. But my heart still just wasn’t quite right. I still couldn’t shake the rage that consumed me. The smallest things would set me off and there was no rhyme or reason to explain what made me feel that way.
I didn’t hold bitterness or resentment towards those who had hurt me anymore, so why didn’t this struggle go away? The stress of a new baby and lack of proper support I felt didn’t help matters any. Samuel had come into this world early after a long and complicated labor which made the first days with him difficult.
All the things I had imagined motherhood would be like weren’t. I wasn’t able to nurse my son as I had wanted. He had jaundice and then the acid reflux started. The first four months of his life were a struggle. I had no clue what I was doing and nothing seemed to go right. All of my hopes and plans and dreams came crashing down and my rage got more and more out of control.
I stopped attending Celebrate Recovery because it was just too hard with a new baby – and honestly, I didn’t really find joy in it anymore. My struggles were consuming my life again and I didn’t want to face all the people who had cheered me on before. But on April 12, 2017, I hit rock bottom.
Samuel had been fighting sleep and crying for what seemed like an eternity. I was tired and worn out and just wanted a break. Gilbert was at work and Samuel just wouldn’t stop crying. I lost it. I screamed at my baby and began to lash out, hitting objects and slamming things, screaming and just breaking down. I was out of control and just couldn’t take it anymore. I called Gilbert at work sobbing and said I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I hated Samuel. I hated my life. I hated everything and I was done.
I couldn’t calm myself down. I couldn’t come back to reality – my emotions had gained complete control and had caused me to lose all ability for rational thinking. I was scared of who I had become and I didn’t want to keep living this way. I put Samuel in the car and just drove. I drove until I couldn’t cry anymore. And then I told Gilbert to get me an appointment with a doctor.
After nearly two years of denial and avoidance, I finally admitted that I needed more help than just Celebrate Recovery. I began seeing a therapist and was able to start the medication to help with my rage and depression.
My New Life
A Perfectly Imperfect Journey
It has taken a long time of working through the twelve steps, seeking accountability, evaluating and re-evaluating my life and my actions and building up the courage to seek all the help I need in order to get to where I am today. And I still have a long way to go. It’s a journey I don’t think will ever be complete this side of Heaven.
But I now realize that it’s ok to need more help. I had very real fears about what would happen if I admitted to a doctor that I might need medical help. Would that make me a bad wife, mom, and person? Would they take away my child if they knew how I really acted? Would they lock me up in a padded room? And what would my friends think? I had been so good (I thought) at hiding the true extent of my struggles from the outside world. What would they do when they found out the truth?
But once I opened that door and let even my deepest and darkest secrets into the light, I found support, encouragement, and the help that I needed. I have been blessed beyond measure by setting aside my pride and trusting God to lead me to a better life. I am growing in my relationship with Christ and deepening my faith in Him, I have gained some of the best friends and accountability partners I’ve ever had in my life, and God continues to bless us abundantly!
Though I can’t always understand God’s purpose in my pain, I find hope and joy in knowing that He is working and his finished product will be beautiful.
God’s work is a lifelong process and we are all here to continue to encourage and lift each other up no matter what step of the journey we are on. God can break your chains and change your life. Don’t give up. Though I still have a daily struggle, I am finding it easier and easier to share my struggle and find healing in my life.
My true desire is to continue to grow and to learn to live up to Peter’s admonition in 1 Peter 1 & 2,
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” . . . For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. . . Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”