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free3John 8:36 – So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Hi, my name is Julie and I am an addict.” That is how I used to introduce myself at Anonymous Meetings when I was there seeking a “Higher Power” to save me from myself. I didn’t even know what to believe in other than the lies the enemy told me. I idolized all the wrong things and ended up making excuse after excuse in order to continue to check out of my self-inflicted, painful life that was created out of my own victimization, guilt, shame, remorse, and FEAR.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

I suffered from addiction for over 20 years. After the suicide of my father in 1992, I went on a bender that seemed would never end. Somehow I was able to graduate from high school and college, work, get married, have children, and survive, all while suffering in silence and harming everyone who loved me and cared for me. I was lost, I was broken, my marriage ended, I lost custody of my children, and I tried to end it all. Life as I knew it was a living hell. I was playing roles every moment of every day. I can say I tried, but to me trying means being inactive and complaining about it. I did a lot of that. I moved states, recovery centers, detox centers, anonymous rooms, churches, and another broken marriage….all searching for truth. .  I took on two personalities, one that helped me survive in the ghetto when I was trying to score, and one that I had to survive the work force and the demands of being a wife and mother, both for which I was completely unprepared.  I was addicted to MORE, to everything, to anything.  My addiction took me places I never belonged, designer drugs were traded for hard core street drugs when the high was no longer satisfying my desire to run from myself and the depression that wracked my entire spiritual being, it cost me more than I could pay, and kept me longer than I wanted to stay.  I was stuck and saw no way out, so I used that as an excuse to stay checked out of life as well.  Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I can clearly see the lies that entered my spirit long before I ever took the first drug or ingested the first drink.  Excuses are the bricks that build a house of failure and I was full of them.  More was never enough.  I was putty in the hands of the enemy.

free2Jeremiah 29:11-14 –  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

My addiction was triggered by my inability to cope with life in general.  I had a desire to feel accepted from a very young age.  My dad had gone to prison when I was in the 5th grade and needless to say, my entire life as I knew it was thrown up into the air and landed back on the ground not even resembling the way it was before.  It was a nightmare of epic proportions in the mind of an intuitive adolescent girl who thrived in controlled environments.  The spirits of rejection and abandonment took over my life and my being.  The thing is I realize now that life is all about choices.  Was I able to make choices about my future at such a young age?  No.  Was I able to grasp the reality of what was taking place in the peripherals?  Absolutely not.  Was I able to truly handle the deceit of the person I trusted the most?  No way.  However, I was able to make decisions as I grew older, and I feel like “triggers” are just another pretext used to check out of life.  I made my own choices.  I stepped in my own holes.  There is no real justification for why I chose a path of self destruction, other than I just did.  To place blame on ANYTHING would be completely unfair.  I stood there for the majority of my adult life, blame-thrower in hand, ready to fire.  I triggered myself. 

girl with raised hands and broken chainsIsaiah 43:1-7 (NIV) – “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

free1I moved from Virginia to Mississippi after a horrible relapse and another stay at another treatment center where I knew all the answers in order to get by and get out, quickly.  I did what I always did best and separated my head from my heart and ran.  I ran away from responsibility again and justified every single step that I took that would get me further away from the truth of who I was.  Geographical cures do not work because the enemy is always waiting at the front door of every new location, unless you are carrying Jesus with you, and I wasn’t.  I found myself on the street again, living in abandoned houses or sheds, giving myself away, piece by piece, in order to get the next high.  There was a street in Meridian, MS that I called home and every day as I walked my beat I passed an abandoned house on Royal Road that seemed like the perfect location to get away, to use my drug of choice without interruption, to sleep when able.  However, every time I passed that house and went to step foot on the property, I was pushed back by some unseen force that wasn’t familiar to me.  I would like to call it “fear”, but it was much deeper than that, the feeling that I got each time I went to defile that old house.  I pondered it time and again as I walked, watching it from the other side of the street.  I left the streets of Meridian, checked into rehab number 10, and tried again to find hope in a “Higher Power” in anonymous rooms.  I left Meridian and traded those streets for the horrific ghetto of Hattiesburg, MS.  I died on the street in Hattiesburg after several vain attempts to secure myself a bed at a place called Jacob’s Well Recovery Center for Women.  I was penniless, hopeless, and completely lost.  I had heard about Jacob’s Well from a counselor at a treatment center that kicked me out because I had no insurance.  I had only been there 2 days when they found out about my dire situation and sent me back out to the streets that consumed me.  Several days later, as I lie on the ground in the middle of the road from an overdose, my heart slowing its beat, I lost my life as I knew it.  When I found myself walking down the street again, I was overcome with fear.  I truly believed I was in hell and if I were to turn around, I would see my own lifeless body lying in the road.  Circumstances changed and my spiritual eyes were open to the truth from the front porch with no electricity and no running water which I called home.  I walked away from that porch, from that street, and found myself the very next day walking across the doorframe of Jacob’s Well, by the grace of God.  After graduation, I saw a picture on Susan Haynes Brogan’s (the President of Jacob’s Well) Facebook page that stopped my heart yet again.  It was a picture of an old abandoned house, on Royal Road in Meridian, MS.  It was the house where the Holy Spirit came through the Haynes family like a flood and their lives were changed.  It is the house where their lives ended and a new life with Jesus began.  It was the very same house I used to cruise by.  There are no coincidences in this life.  Every single step is guided by God and the way is prepared, even in the darkest moments when we see no end to our suffering and our pain.  He is always with us.  I am now a staff member of Jacob’s Well, a lifelong friend and family member to the Haynes, and a trusted servant of God Himself.  I am honored to work beside such amazing people who love God more than their own lives.  I am blessed to have such an awesome family to come home to everyday, and I am humbled by the things I get to do for the women in the program as I counsel them and minister to them out of my own painful past.  God brings everything “full circle”.
free5Jesus’ sacrifice for me allows me to wake up every morning and do everything I can to get it right, to continue to press on even when things are tough, to see the potential in every single thing I touch. I was messed up, broken, bruised, ashamed, and fighting for my life from the streets that consumed me. I am being put back together and my broken heart is being mended.

Genesis 50:20 – You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Today, I sit in victory over satan because of the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. He died in my place so I could be set free! The battle is still raging around me, but I am safe in the storm. I came into the world free and intend to leave the same way. The Lord is using my test as a Testimony to His saving grace and I want to give a voice to those suffering in silence. He is bringing it all back around for His glory! I had to come to the realization that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be until I see Him face to face in heaven.  I had to loose myself from old ways of thinking and fully surrender everything in my life to Him.  Today, I hold onto promises.  I hold onto truth.  I hold onto hope.  In the eyes of the world, I will always be an addict, I will be labeled as a terrible mother, and I will be rejected by a society that lives in shallow boxes, but God…

God says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  He says that I am the head and not the tail.  He says that He will never leave me, nor forsake me.  God says that He will repay me for all the years that I have squandered, the years the locusts have eaten.  He says in His awesome Word that I am worthy, I am loved, I am blessed, I am equipped for His service, and I am FREE! I was in exile.  I was lost.  I was captive to my own depravity and my own circumstances had me bound to the floor by chains that I put on my own limbs and attached to with locks so tight I couldn’t move.  Today, I seek God with all my heart and I find Him EVERYWHERE!  My future is bright and I do have hope!

pain5My desire is to see more people come to know Jesus in an intimate way.  I long to see the light come on in eyes that were so veiled that brilliance no longer shone from them.  I want to see people free from the bondage that so easily entangles.  I have a purpose and it is to be part of the Great Commission.  I am ready and I am able! 

Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.