I was thrilled when today's guest, Monica Bryson approached me to write a guest article for Transforming Normal. In Three Weeks to Forgiveness, I share God's redemption in the dark places of addiction and how God never leaves us. I pray that Monica's story of God's redemption in her life will serve as a blessing to you.
The story you're about to read is so much deeper and with so many more details. My hope in sharing is that you or someone you know will understand that there is hope when you are completely lost in a battle with alcohol or anything else that has you bound and scared to death that you'll never change. God is bigger than any fear and any lie that the enemy uses against you!
As a child, I prayed every single night.
"Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guard me safely through the night and wake me with the morning light."
Then, I would call out names such as friends and family for God to keep safe. As I was about to fall asleep a name would pop in my head that I had forgotten. So, of course, I would let God know. I truly believed if I didn't say their name they may not be safe. I knew God heard me. I knew my prayer meant something.
“Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Around the age of 11 or 12, I stopped saying my bedtime prayers.
As a little girl, I was determined, strong, and somewhat stubborn. I knew I could accomplish anything if I tried hard enough. I don't recall anyone telling me I could. I just knew. I remember feeling invincible and unstoppable. I could beat anyone at arm wrestling, ride my bike as dangerous as a 6-year-old could, climb the highest tree, play tether ball with the roughest of the rough, jump rope on a Pogo stick, and run with ANY boy who wanted to "try" to beat me. Most of them couldn't. A bigger third grader named Jerome would take my title in tether ball, and my grandma beat me at arm wrestling. She humbled me in about 3 seconds.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it."
Middle school. It's the grade I teach now and an age I wouldn't want to relive. However, if I could go back I would say no to a few things. Something dramatically changed inside of me at the age of 12. My family moved to a new town and as a result, I changed schools. It felt like I had moved to a third world country. I went from riches to poverty in appearance and in resources.
Maybe this old, dirty, school would have been fine had I not known better, but I did. I don't know the exact day, but at some point in that year of change, I stopped caring. I don't recall having much of a conscience or passion about anything. My grades dropped considerably. I started drinking and I liked it. It gave me something to look forward to. A feeling that I craved and it filled an intense void inside of me.
We're born to make connections with people. Our human souls search for things that will arouse our spirit. I found it in beer, cigarettes, and mini-thins. Mini-thins are over the counter stimulants that contain ephedrine. At first, they gave me energy and seemed harmless. They were legal, cheap, and found at any convenient store. Eventually, I felt as if I couldn't function without them. All three vices interacted with each other to achieve the feeling I longed for. Because mini-thins were found to be extremely addictive and could pose serious heart problems, they were taken off the shelf in Arkansas.
I went to the doctor with the intent to become diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. (Also, a stimulate) It was easy to do. ADD is a disorder for those who find it difficult to pay attention. The prescription for ADD is very similar to the mini-thins that were no longer available where I lived. I was diagnosed immediately and prescribed Vyvanse. These drugs would gradually begin to control my thoughts, actions, and were strategically planned into my day. Everyday. Still, it was a secret. I appeared to function as a normal adult. Honestly, I did.
The God I had prayed to, and my unstoppable human spirit would cease in the way I once knew. Only I didn't know I had given so much of myself away. I didn't know my life was a target for the devil from the moment I was born. I didn't understand my value. But God did. Even though I had abandoned him, he did not abandon me.
"The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
By the time I was 13 I had a 16-year old boyfriend. Drinking became my new normal. We couldn't be together without alcohol and marijuana involved. Even though I was young, alcohol was easy for me to get my hands on. The word "no" was not in my vocabulary. Even after getting in trouble by the police at this young age, I still enjoyed the adventure of sneaking around. It filled a hunger and an emptiness inside of me. Normal is not something I could relate to. I disconnected from my family, myself, and from God. As the years progressed, alcohol remained in my life. I drank to feel normal. I drank because I liked it. But yet, hated it too. I drank because I was fearful of who I really was. I drank because I was filling something up inside of me, that I didn't know what else to replace it with. I drank because I couldn't STOP drinking.
Alcoholism was not in my plans. That little girl who prayed, played, wondered, and laughed had become lost. I didn't realize I took the wide road of destruction. I never felt like I belonged in the life of an alcoholic but I didn't know how to escape it. It must be why I hid it as well as I could. My family didn't know. They knew that I drank, but I hid how big the problem actually was. My kids rarely saw me with a drink. I lived a double life. I had a top-notch clean home, I cooked, I worked, I did everything to the best of my ability. I did everything to mask what I truly was, and how empty and scared I was inside.
That little girl who said her prayers never stopped believing in God. I remember watching women in church freely raise their hands, crying, singing, and smiling. I couldn't do that. I wasn't good enough. But I was determined I was going to be. I really thought I had to reach some level of goodness before I could turn to God. But I never seem to be able to make it to the level I thought I had to reach.
I didn't wait until I could stop drinking before I turned to God. I couldn't do it on my own. I listened to preachers while I drove, read books about God that I couldn't put down, and I talked to him every day. I condemned myself while I looked in the mirror. I cried myself to sleep for months. I hated it and I hated me. How could alcohol have this much control over my life? I was in so much anguish. Living a secret life had become exhausting. I longed to have my life back. I knew I had a purpose and I was ready to find it. Still, as much as I hated it, my body still craved alcohol. But The God of the universe knew my true desire was freedom.
"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires."
God began giving me dreams of freedom, specific songs to comfort me, and placed women from my church in my life to speak truth to me about who I was. God had become such a big part of my life WHILE I was drinking. He walked with me, he talked to me and told me the truth. I would look in the mirror and put myself down, but God would bring me right back up! One night as I was drifting off to sleep a specific song oddly crept into my thoughts. "Sailing" by Christopher Cross. I joyfully sprang from my bed and searched for the lyrics on my computer. This song was unfamiliar to me as an adult but I remembered it from my childhood.
"For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well."
God knew exactly which song I needed. He is a strategic God. He knows me like no other. The lyrics in this song would give me an intense peace each night, as I clung to the words with tears streaming down my face.
Sailing Well it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see Believe me It' not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see Believe me Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be Just a dream and the wind to carry me And soon I will be free
Life is like a sailboat. The wind is against us, waves crashing, trying to stop us from moving. Shaky at times, and smooth at other times. The wind became right and I found the joy of innocence again. He said, "Believe me." I did. This song spoke volumes into my soul. My spirit danced inside of me. He never lied to me. He was my best friend. I didn't have to be perfect or sober. He just wanted me.
After one last weekend of drinking, smoking, and taking pills, I stood in my bathroom on a Sunday Evening and looked at myself. I was white and I looked dead. I knew if something didn't change I would die. I was already dead on the inside. I began to sob begging God to take this addiction from me! I fell to my knees drunk with so much pain. I had no control and no human person could save me. Especially me.
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."
After that night, I woke up at 5:00 A.M. on a Monday Morning. I jumped out of my bed, put my shoes on, got in my car, and drove to town. I parked my car and then took off running like a child!! The song "We Were Meant to be Courageous" blared from my phone!" I felt different. On my way home, I threw my cigarettes out of my window and had never felt so Alive. So new.
"Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit."
God renewed my mind, gave me a new spirit, and gave me my heart's desire. Freedom. The God that I prayed to as a child was with me my whole life. I left him, but he never left me. He pursued me and waited for me. When I look back and think of all the times I could have been dead and how NOW, I see his hand of protection over me, I am completely elated. That person who was addicted to the things that she had dominion over the whole time doesn't exist. I think, "Who was that girl?" I am a brand new creation in Christ Jesus!!
I have been married for 21 years to my honey Mike. It’ been real, it’s been fun, but it’s been hard. We are always working on the FUN and working through the hard. The hard is getting easier! I have two children Jayde (23) and Landan (18). They are my precious gifts from God. I didn’t even have to pay for my raising…..yet.
Life seems to get harder and better every day! I am learning how to love and how to be loved. (It can be so hard!) Jesus renews me, sustains me, and picks me up all the time. I don’t know how I lived without him. I did though, for a long time. It’ been a sweet journey with Christ so far.
You can find Monica around the interwebs at: