My name is Rachel, and I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism, and I also struggle with codependency. I struggled with chemical dependencies for nine years. It started off the way it did for a lot of people I know — a little here, a little there.
My mother and father were both addicted to drugs and alcohol, and divorced while I was a baby. I didn’t see much of my dad once they split up. I grew up in the turmoil and chaos of addiction. It wasn’t uncommon for Mom to take me on drug runs with her. As I got older, I saw the effects of drugs and alcohol, and I wanted so badly to be different. I didn’t want to be like my parents, or anyone else in my family who was addicted. I wanted to be “somebody.” I wanted to know that I mattered.
I went to church for three or four years, and I loved it. I went every week, was involved in Girls in Action (GA), participated in every Christmas play, and anything else that went on. I also got baptized during my time there. Those few years were the best years of my childhood.
Unfortunately, there came a day when I didn’t want to go to church. I was 11 or 12 years old, and I wanted to do what all the other kids were doing. I felt like I could not be a “cool” kid and go to church at the same time, so I rebelled. Growing up with an absent father for the most part created deep hurts that I did not really begin to deal with until I got into recovery. The pastor of the church I went to as a child became like a father-figure to me, and one day he suddenly died. It was then that I decided I was done with God, and it was that same year that I used drugs for the first time.
That first time turned into many, and there wasn’t much that I wouldn’t do. As a teenager, I convinced myself that I would not get “that bad.” All I did was smoke a little marijuana and drink a little alcohol. I did not have a problem, and I never would. By the age of 16, alcohol was my drug of choice until I found out that I was pregnant. Once the reality set in that I was going to have a baby, I wanted to change. I did not want to bring a child into the mess that I was brought into.
Doing what I believed was the best thing for me and my soon-to-be-son, we moved in with my aunt. I really believed that things were going to get better this time. We lived with “normal” people, I had a car of my own, I was going to graduate from high school, and my son had everything he needed. Nothing was going to go wrong.
But the day came, about six months after my son was born, that I used again. All it took was a little bit, and I was hooked – even worse than that I was before. After just barely graduating from high school, I had an addiction to pain killers. Pain killers eventually turned into heroin, and eventually into using heroin intravenously. I lived to get high.
One night in December 2012, while watching the movie “2012,” I realized for the first time ever in my life that if I were to die I would go to hell. I had not thought about God in years and ran in the opposite direction of anyone who tried to talk to me about Jesus. But that night I realized I was lost.
Also, for the first time in a long time, I prayed and told God that I was sorry. That was it. I just said, “God, I am so sorry,” because I didn’t know what else to say. Two weeks later, I was arrested for the first time for possession of a controlled substance and wanton endangerment because Landon, who was 2 at the time, was in the backseat of the car. It’s a terrible memory that Landon still remembers to this day, but I believe it was God responding to my prayer
I was again convinced when I got out of jail two weeks later that I would be able to stay clean, but I couldn’t. No matter how much I didn’t want to use, I couldn’t not use. I experienced exactly what Paul said in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.” Unable to comply with the terms of my felony diversion, I went back to jail in July 2013. Again, God was intervening in my life.
Having had more than a couple of weeks to dry out, I was left with just my thoughts. It’s said that the worst place to be is your own mind, especially a mind that has not been transformed by Christ. I was alone, angry, and disgusted with myself. I had no idea how long I was going to be in jail this time, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to my son.
I noticed several church groups that would come into the dorm and invite everyone to attend. For the first month I turned them down, angry that they would even invite me, especially after all that God had done to me. I blamed God for everything. After some more sitting, I finally decided to go to church one night. I began reading the Bible for myself, I prayed all day every day, and wrote in my journal every night.
Another church group came in and asked if anyone wanted to be baptized, and before I had time to think about it I came forward and gave my life back to Christ. It was the best feeling I have ever experienced in my entire life. I finally believed that God loved me and that Jesus was enough. In October 2013, I was sent by probation and parole to the Cumberland Hope Community Center in Harlan.
I was in treatment for almost 17 months. It was exactly what I needed to clear my head and get my priorities straight. Even though I had lost custody of my son, I was able to stay in contact with him through the two families that kept him while I was there.
While in after-care, I moved into a Christian transition house for women called the Elimisha House where I lived for nearly three years. It was during my time there that I began growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus and received discipling from the most amazing group of women of God that I have the privilege of knowing. I also regained custody of Landon while there in 2015 and God moved on the women of Elimisha House to allow him to come and live with me there.
My mother became ill and moved to Harlan as well, where she died in 2016. Our relationship became strained after I got sober, but I am grateful that God made it possible for us to be together in her last days. I haven’t talked about my dad very much today, but I want to share with you that we reconnected in 2013 before I went back to jail, and our relationship is currently going through the restoration process.
Not long after my mom died, my soon-to-be-husband moved to Harlan to become the youth pastor at the Harlan Christian Church, where I have been a member since 2014. Chris proposed in January 2017 and we married in August of that same year. At almost a year into our marriage, I became pregnant with our daughter, who was born in February 2019. I recently graduated from community college and am in my junior year at the University of the Cumberlands, where I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
I currently work as the church secretary at my church, serve on the praise and worship team, and have just recently started working alongside my husband in teaching the girl’s youth group. I have helped with Children’s Church for a few years now, but was never brave enough to teach the older kids because I was extremely intimidated by them, but it has turned out to be a blessing. I believe I am learning more from them than they are from me. I am a volunteer at the Elimisha House where I try to be as helpful as possible to the women who reside there.
Another important ministry in my life that I have the honor and opportunity to serve with is Celebrate Recovery. For anyone who is unaware of what Celebrate Recovery is, it is a Christ-centered recovery program for life’s hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
In September of this year I celebrated seven years of recovery, and I have found that my addiction to drugs and alcohol was only a symptom of what was really going on. I had to deal with my deep hurts before being completely freed of those things. By working the 12 steps and the eight Biblical principles, I have been able to face other issues in my life beyond chemical dependency such as codependency.
Our CR group celebrated one year in September, and though COVID has made it difficult, especially for people in recovery, it is by God’s grace that we are still able to be there for others. For anyone interested in Celebrate Recovery from the safety of your home, we have a Facebook page called Celebrate Recovery United Harlan where lessons and testimonials are shared every Monday at 6:30 pm.
I give all praise, honor, and glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my recovery. It is only through His grace and His power that I am not longer living a life of addiction. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I pray it blesses and encourages someone, especially if you are currently in addiction and looking for a way out. There is help, and you can recover!