My search for love has been quite an adventure and like most journeys there are moments of magnificent views and times where you slip on a rock and break your ankle; left alone to be consumed by wolves. This is the short version of my exhausting quest for approval.
Each day I played cards with darkness foolishly thinking my hand was good however the darkness consistently had the ace. My way of escape from physical and emotional pain became a monster which held me captive and was killing me slowly. Life as a heroin addict is all consuming. Mind, body, and spirit left in ruins with people watching the self- destruction. It was a constant battle between dark and light. My life the wager and my soul the prize. My relentless search for love and acceptance signed me up for destinations that I had no intention of visiting. The deep roots of bitterness, anger and defensiveness became tools to survive traveling one place to another.
My childhood consisted of day care, so my hardworking parents could put food on the table and provide braces for their three children. My mother was adamant about our teeth, of which I often thank her for to this day. Like many families, the Bennett's had pain and suffered some tough times. The hardships produced many emotional tornados of which often made life seem gloomy and recovery not an option. I was around the age of eight when the Bradley's took in the Bennett's. I do not remember much of the circumstances from this, but I am forever grateful for their kindness to a hurting family and God's incredible design. After living with them for about a year, it would be over twenty years before seeing one another again. The Lord is truly amazing and His miracles are marvelous.
I know each and every one of the many storms I endured makes my character stronger and the Lord will turn the trash into treasure. During school-aged years I was a "just say no!" kid and stayed clear of drugs. It surprises me that I would go from anti-drug to a real life black tar heroin addict later on in life. If I were to speak of drugs today, it would be from the perspective of experience, rather than just facts from a reference book. The pain from a stormy home life left me feeling lonely, and many days were spent in the library or volunteering for teachers. I was an overweight kid, and would make choices like swallowing 75 aspirin and didn't feel as though my life was important. I desperately just wanted to be loved.
Visiting my aunt in California once a year were highlights of my childhood. I often begged her to adopt me and get me out of the lonely life I was living. She read the bible often, which I believe planted a seed of faith in me that God could one day water. The baby blue Precious Moments bible she purchased for me, would eventually be a comfort to me during dark days. The Lord used her to get through to me, of which I am incredibly thankful.
My early twenties consisted of striving to perform and excel quickly. I was good at one thing and that was work. Often promoted before others and the desire to run the place, left me with keys to the front door and wage increases, but no time for anything else. I joined a gym close to my apartment and dropped the extra pounds quickly. I was on a mission to like the reflection of the person I saw in the mirror. There were times I seemed to have it all...working three jobs, going to college, in great shape....but God was missing.
Bruises and a broken heart became my life when I relocated to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge around 2006. I had a man in my life, a house to rent and a job that would provide; foolishly thinking life was perfect. Blinded by a "jacked up" version of love I would experience a few years of physical abuse. Arguments turned into pushing, rage turned into choking, and eventually this all lead to breaking my hip socket. At one point my cat was killed by this man and I often wondered if my fate would be the same. Intimacy seemed like rape and I wondered if this was just how my life would be. I still held on to hope that he would change since he came from two Christian parents that were very involved in their church and such loving folks. The focus of our relationship was drugs. We smoked like chimneys, sold massive amounts and well that was life....being high. I hated the parties and would often go underground so to speak to get away from all the people. Once again I was emotionally shutting down. Life was lonely even though there was another person in the house. The double standards were confusing and heartbreaking. Being locked in a bedroom was really when the fear began to set in. During this time my bible became my go to text. I can picture myself sitting on the bed reading the book of Psalms and Proverbs; journaling became a comfort. I would often sit in front of my mirror and ask God to make me a bird so I could fly far away. I was praying!
Many people often wonder why I didn't just leave and I promise you there were plenty of times I thought about it and would try. Reaching out to law enforcement and domestic violence advocacy took place, but like many government run offices red tape or unanswered messages are common place. Eventually the guy left and I was to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life from there. It took me several months of no heat and lack of running water to make a change. Life was lonely and cold. The common question on my mind.....did my life matter? Where was God?
Ten miles down the highway, I relocated from North Bonneville to Stevenson, Washington to a little apartment above a popular restaurant in the Gorge. Life was getting better. The local grocery store hired me on in the deli department, and it was the perfect opportunity to get life back on track. Then the vodka part of life began to unfold. I'm not sure how many cases I consumed of Monopolowa potato vodka, but it was enough to wipe out my wallet. I spent countless nights at the bar, and cleaned off the shelf from the liqueur store. I probably could have ordered directly from the distributor. Nights of drunkenness turned into stumbling around the small town and at times waking up in the dirt. Only God knows what happened on several occasions. I do remember incidences of sexual assault and waking up bruised and bloody. Hospital visits for dehydration became frequent, and my attachment to the bottle would cause me to lose my apartment, money and even dear friends. Family was being alienated and job loss a hobby. The drinking didn't stop, and my coping mechanism for physical pain and emotional traumas would just serve more painful situations. I was a small town drunk! Alcohol was my broken crutch of life.
After twenty years the Lord put it on Scott Bradley's heart to track down my mother's phone number, which would serve as an intercession to my broken life. After losing the apartment in Stevenson, I visited 5 Rock Ranch to get life on track. I stayed for one night and decided that I wasn't done getting high and the clear glass bottle was calling my name.
Friends helped me along the way by providing me couches and on some occasions a bedroom. I had opportunities along the way to clean up my life, but the relentless pull of addiction was so strong. I had abandoned God and questioned at what point I traded in my soul for this life. Did I give up my entire being in a night of drunkenness? The bottle became more important than friendships and even more important than God himself. A heartbreaking time of my life, and it didn't end there.
Unemployment funds were coming in so I could enjoy putting a needle in my arm. Heroin has an immediate satisfaction. After all, I am one of the most impatient people I know. I walked into sin regularly, never did i really fall into it. God showed me signs along the way to quit before I got too deep, but I ignored them. This was a dark secret that in some sick way, I was happy about. Heroin is an expensive addiction and it didn't take long for me to be back out on the street and couch surfing once again. I began stealing from family, shoplifting from grocery stores, and going down, falling quickly into a pit. Sometimes I felt as though the temperature of the pit was like that of Hell. It was March of 2012 when the secret of heroin use was out.
I went through an episode of withdrawal and found myself confessing the drug use to emergency room doctors and family. The bruises on my arms from shooting up could not be hidden from the nurse getting me ready for the banana bag. People in town had already known what I was up to (guilty by association), but to say it out loud to doctors and family was humiliating. One thing about heroin though, it doesn't care about your humiliation....it's a monster that wants feeding. After three days in the hospital I checked myself out...my father had begged me to stay but it wasn't hours after release I was ready to get back to business.
Much of March to September of 2012 is a fog and the memories I do have are not really any to be proud of. Scott checked in on occasion to see how I was doing and eventually I came clean with what I was up to. I spent most of my time seeking and selling drugs. Heroin, marijuana, alcohol.....that was life. The drinking would come and go and all my thoughts of God were put into a storage closet. My brain was being tormented and my body suffering. I tried several times to get life back on track, but surviving on my own strength was impossible. I was running out of options...even if I got a job interview, how could I pass a drug test with opiates running free in my bloodstream?
September 3, 2012 changed everything. I was living in Washougal, Washington with friends and constantly seeking money to feed the monster. Sitting on the floor with a laptop, I had spent most of that morning communicating with family and Scott about going to the Ranch. It was a huge decision, and I was terrified. The monster inside was growling loudly and telling me no. The night before I was doing massive amounts of journaling and praying to God that he would change my life. Man does He move quickly. Honestly there wasn't much faith up to this point, but the Lord was there rescuing a hopeless, desperate girl in search of something beyond the path of addiction. That morning God was handing me a choice. Let this monster kill you or have faith in the small light of hope that was before me. The light was a hole to jump through and change all that I have known. My journal entry says this. "The Lord pulled me out of darkness. He offered me a light that looked like a star in the heavens. He asked me to trust Him, jump through the hole and to have faith while overcoming the poisons of my sin. Turn to me when you are tempted and I will provide for you a promise of a joyful life. Release yourself to me and I will break the chains that have binded you. Let go and experience the love I have for you. Be of thanksgiving, talk to me in the morning. I am with you throughout your day." We sure talked that morning, and he did comfort me. The words that stand out to me.....Have faith, turn to me, release yourself, let go and talk to me. I can't describe how powerful this message is.
With God's word in hand and Jesus by my side, I am learning a whole new perspective of life. My quest for acceptance and love is now focused on The Lord. I am thankful for what he has done for each and every one of us. I am just one of His many rebellious children and he saved me too. It's been almost three months since making the incredible decision to move to the Ranch. The monster within has been quieted and I am experiencing a freedom from the Lord I've never known. My faith is no longer locked up in a storage closet. Wrestling out past injustices has been a challenge, but the Lord is my strength and through Him all things are possible. The power of prayer is awesome. True forgiveness provides a freedom that is unexplainable. My "jacked up" version of love has been thrown out and replaced with an unconditional love that is amazing. God is love. He is everything. My years of rebellion are forgiven and my soul has not been condemned. I run to the Lord with open arms and am thankful for this new life he has provided me. The words "born again to a living hope" have special meaning to me. I am thankful to Scott and Christy and their dedication to help others. Their continued encouragement and gentle reminders that my life does matter is beyond words. How do you thank someone for saving your life, and loving you unconditionally? I am a person of many words, but cannot accurately describe how thankful I am for these two incredible people.
God is good!
Thank you God for placing the Bradley's in my life and giving them the purpose of providing a place (5 Rock Ranch) for lost souls to heal. You really are an awesome God.