Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
As a young child, I went to church regularly and my parents were very active in church. But I felt like I couldn’t live up to the expectations of God because I was not going to be able to be perfect. I felt I needed to earn God’s love. I continued to go to church until my teens, and then my grandmother passed away and my family stopped going to church.
I remember taking my first drink in high school. I didn’t like the taste. I had to hold my nose to get it down, but I loved the way it felt, the freedom it gave me. It was the only coping skill I had developed to deal with problems in life. I became a weekend drinker in college and then began drinking more heavily. Around this time, my parents divorced. I ended up getting pregnant. Even though I wasn’t going to church at this time, and I was walking away from God, I know that God never left me.
Alcohol and the enemy take you to a place where you can’t differentiate between right and wrong. Life becomes a gray area. I decided to stop drinking while I was pregnant but I wasn’t excited about having the baby. In fact, the only thing I could think about while I was pregnant was not being able to drink. After a year, my family stepped in and took my daughter. It’s not that I didn’t love my daughter, but I knew I wasn’t able to care for her and willingly gave her up. My family wanted me to go to treatment and I agreed to go to get them off my back. I went to treatment for 30 days but afterwards continued drinking. I became pregnant again and made a choice not to continue that pregnancy. Afterwards, I felt I had committed the ultimate sin, that in a moment of selfishness and addiction, I had stooped to the lowest point. This just made the drinking worse. Then came two suicide attempts. I was so emotionally bankrupt that I felt death was the only way out.
I remember one night I was in an empty apartment that I had been evicted from. I had no electricity and no running water. It was just me and four walls. I cried out to God, “You’ve kept me alive when I wanted to die. I am completely broken down. It’s up to You to do what You want with me. I can’t keep fighting alone.” The next morning, I went to treatment, but this time I wanted it for myself. I wanted a genuine life change. My moment of desperation met a window of opportunity and I had a moment of clarity. I thought, “Maybe there is something different for me.” I know this was God. I was in treatment for about a month and found out I was pregnant again. The facility was not designed for pregnant women, and they told me I had to leave because I was a “liability.” By the grace of God, a spot opened up in a facility in my state that accepts pregnant women, and I got a place there. I remained there for a year in treatment. I remained sober for the entire pregnancy, and during that pregnancy I didn’t think about drinking. I thought about my son, and for once I thought that I could be a good mom.
I had asked God to show me if I should stay in that city after completing the program, and I felt God leading me to stay. One morning I woke up and felt God calling me to go home and get the baby that I had left behind. I applied for a job in my hometown to do drug prevention in the school. The job required a college degree, but I applied even though I didn’t have a degree and ended up getting the job because of my experience! I got custody of my daughter and had a stable job. But then, funding ran out for my job and I applied for a job with an addiction recovery organization. Again, I didn’t meet the requirements, but I was hired anyway. I continued to be promoted and eventually I was involved in a discussion with the CEO about programming. I felt God was getting ready to act on my dream that an addiction center for pregnant women would be opened in our area. I told him about my experience of being a “liability” and my dream that no one else would ever be in that situation. I had been praying that God would open a place for pregnant women in my area, and when I talked to the CEO I found out that he had also been praying about this! God took over after this. A year ago, I saw my dream fulfilled and the organization I work for opened a residential addiction treatment center for pregnant women just miles from here.
In the meantime, I felt called to do something in my hometown jail. If you want to carry the message of God’s love, the jail is the place to go. That is where you will find the broken but also God’s presence. I asked the jailer if I could do a ministry in the jail, and he said yes. Fast forward three years and I am now married to the jailer and we have a seven-month-old son with our own home. For the first time, I feel stability. My husband and I work together to help people in jail. We believe they need skills and resources and need to know about the goodness of God—that He is not a condemning God looking for perfection. He is a God that wants to love you. My husband also advocates with the state jailer’s association for giving inmates the opportunity to change their lives through rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
I thought I was a terrible person that made extremely bad choices and was going to burn in hell for what I had done. I now know I am forgiven completely and made new through Christ. He continuously loved me even when I didn’t love myself and saw no worth in myself. I am so thankful for the abundance of God’s love and the abundance of grace He has shown me.
I share this story of honesty to reach the next person that may feel they are all alone. My past does not define me. My past does not dictate my future. God defines my path and my purpose. I am forever grateful for the life I live today. To get to show up and watch God show out.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.