Photo by Billy June Richardson
I love these big beautiful mountains of Southeastern Kentucky, but I almost didn’t get to experience the beauty of them. I almost lost the chance to dance on their peaks. I almost lost the chance to grow up in these hollers and see the glory of God in their beauty. But, by the grace of God, I blossomed like an evening primrose in the dark shadows of a coal mine.
There is an ugly poison in our beautiful mountains. Its name is addiction. It has poisoned generations and — no matter what form it takes — its clutches are visible and heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking for those in its grasp and for those like me, who have felt the generational curse and consequences of addiction’s reach.
My story is not one of a Phoenix rising from the ashes reborn. Mine is a Joseph story (Genesis 37–50). A story of victory over all the demons in hell and forces of sin and darkness. Mine is a story of angels of mercy and hope. Mine is a story of redemption.
Addiction is an expression of despair, a slough of despondency. My birth parents wallowed in it — blind to the beauty of the eternal paradise before them, and enslaved to the god of alcohol. As they worshiped at its altar, I drowned in the consequences.
I couldn’t find the steps to get myself out; then God sent an angel!
Billy June came on wings of hope with a food basket from her church. (My birth mother had somehow reached a point of despair and contacted Billy June’s church, asking for food for herself.)
This was the kind of despair that spent the food money on alcohol and cigarettes, a despair that caused a mother to attempt to drown her own baby in a bucket of water. It was a despair that nearly ended my life.
Several food baskets later, Billy June was even allowed inside the rusty school bus we called home. That’s when she saw me for the first time. My birth mother had been trying to conceal me and had tried to “get rid of me,” so she could leave Kentucky and go back to my father in Georgia.
“There’s a baby on that bus,” Billy June told a social worker, who agreed to come along on the next food delivery to see for herself and to evaluate the situation for social services.
On that next visit, they were met with ugliness and carbon monoxide fumes so strong the social worker had to leave the bus to vomit outside. They found a baby living on that bus — a baby so pale — with her eyes rolled back in her head. This baby (me) was dying from starvation, multi-organ failure and carbon monoxide poisoning. I had a blood count of 2.4 and had stopped crying and expressing my needs, realizing it was fruitless.
For many months I had lain in a pit of darkness until the doors of death opened to receive me. What a glorious salvation it was the day those doors were slammed shut by the God of all creation!
After I was taken by social services and placed in a loving home, doctors said I wouldn’t last a week. I spent a year recovering physically. However, if I’m honest, every day is a new victory mentally and emotionally. Every day is a testament to God’s mercy. Every day is a day that I can glorify God as a walking billboard of His mercy.
I still suffer from the lasting consequences of addiction’s reach. Mental turmoil and emotional scars from the abuse and abandonment I went through are still potent today. But, through it all, one truth remains: All the forces of evil and darkness cannot compete with my Champion in heaven. What the devil and this fallen world meant for evil, God has transformed into good. Those doors of death have been refined and reformed into beautiful gates of heaven awaiting me one glorious happy day. The chains of addiction haven’t just been broken. In my redemption, the forge where they were created has been razed to the ground and, in doing so, I have been raised to a new life, full of hope.
What a beautiful privilege it is to give my life and place my trust in my Champion! May the rest of my life reflect His glory, redemption, and the hope and comfort that can be found in Him.
Some people say I should have been aborted or left to die. That my suffering should never have happened. That the emotional and mental turmoil I still experience to this day could have been prevented by abortion or death. But I defy them to ignore the immense blessings my God continues to rain down upon me.
Nobody knew the joy that was coming! May my every day be a hallelujah!
You Light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
Psalm 18:28 (NLT)
For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
Psalm 32:7 (NLT)
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.
Psalm 27:10 (NLT)