Michelle HartMy childhood was not the life any little girl should have. It had nothing to do with baby dolls and tea parties; it was filled with brainwashing and sexual abuse.
A Terrible Place to Begin
I was born into a cult. I grew up living in a house with other people, sharing everything with them. The other children and I were hit with belts and paddles as punishment and all of the kids had sex with each other. That was my life, and it seemed normal. We left the cult when my parents got punished for spending too much money at Disneyland.
We left with nothing. We had no money, just the clothes on our backs and a few pieces of furniture. I didn’t realize what was going on at the time, but I was sad and I was scared.
An Uphill Battle
At eight years old, I had no self-confidence and I struggled a lot with negative feelings about myself and became a very secretive person. I used to keep journals and write about wanting to kill myself. I was in fourth grade at the time, and that’s when I remember becoming a Christian – or so I thought. I attended church camps every summer and began living the “standard” Christian life. However, I was still harboring anger and resentment from my past. My family moved a lot, so I never had many friends and it felt like I could never really rest my feet on solid ground. I didn’t really know who God was even in the midst of being involved in church.
Around the age of fourteen, I began to drink as a way of drowning out all of the negativity of my past. I started dealing and doing drugs and even had an abortion while I was living in a whirlwind of bad decisions I hoped would cure the loneliness I was feeling.
I got married when I was 22 years old, but my husband and I divorced three years later. We eventually reconciled but our volatile marriage left me still searching for something to grasp onto.
Looking for Hope
When I started coming to Sandals Church, I only attended the evening service because I was always too hungover to go to any of the earlier services. I was even drunk the first time I was baptized at a church. I had 12 beers that day and I don’t even remember or getting into the baptism pool.
My life felt filled to the brim with problems. And when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, a supervisor at my work raped me. I wasn’t even able to fathom how to continue living through life, so I tried to kill myself. My life felt so empty, and I believed that there was absolutely nothing that was worth staying alive for.
While still struggling with my depression and alcoholism, I joined a church community group. I believed nobody would love or accept me, so community group was a hard transition. I was sober off and on, and eventually joined a ministry dedicated to the healing of women who have been sexually abused. But when that experience forced me to face my past, I started drinking again. There was a lot I couldn’t handle opening up about, and I wasn’t running to God at that time, I was running to lies.
Walking a Path Toward Death
One night at home, I ended up overdosing on narcotics and vodka. Someone called my community group and almost immediately they were at our front door. They dumped out all of my vodka and prayed over me that night.
A week later, I did the same exact thing. Again, my community group was back at my house without any question and prayed with me again. I was so embarrassed and I didn’t want to go to church anymore because I felt like I was the “crazy girl.” My group assured me that they would never judge me, but only respond in love.
That night wasn’t the end of my struggles. Drugs and drinking were a foothold in my life and I truly believed that I would never overcome these addictive behaviors and would never be accepted.
That’s when, in a moment of chaos, God became real to me.
I had sunk so deeply into alcoholism that I had become physically ill on a daily basis. I would lay on the couch every night and throw up blood. My body was literally out of my control and I felt it begin to shut down. On one of those nights, I decided that I would try to take my life again.
My husband walked in on me while I was trying to slit my wrists.
As he rushed to my side to stop me, I heard God ask me what I was doing with my life. Without the ability to calm myself or reach for another drink, my mind became clearer than ever before. As I watched my husband clean up and hide all of the knives in the house, I decided to finally listen to God’s voice. I stopped smoking and drinking completely. I actually went into shock from giving up everything at once and ended up in the ER, but God kept me strong and I didn’t have the urge to touch alcohol ever again.
A Fresh Start
That week, a series called FIT started at Sandals Church. I believe that series was God’s plan for me to get healthy. I began to meet with a doctor to talk about my anxiety and depression. I remained sober throughout the entire FIT series. I was finally healthy enough for the first time in my life, so I did a 5K run. I have had absolutely no urge to drink and it’s wonderful to see how drastically my life changed just over a period of ten months.
My husband and I remarried and now volunteer together on Wednesday nights at Sandals Church with the kids in Real Adventure Team. I fell in love with the experience and the kids immediately, and now I end Wednesday nights feeling totally energized. Because I am no longer hungover on the weekends, I’m back at church every Sunday morning at 8:00 am to serve with the elementary students in Pipeline.
It's amazing how God has turned my addiction of drugs and alcohol into a passion for leading children to Christ. I know now what God has called me to be and without the unconditional love and support of my church family, I would never be where I am today. I was recently baptized – and this time, I was completely sober!
I feel renewed and I feel so alive.
I feel like a completely different person – and I absolutely love it! On my own, I would still be living in darkness. I would be drunk every day and on drugs, I would be sad and empty; I might even be dead. The family I found at Sandals Church saved me and pulled me out of the dark pit that I was in. I can share my story with others, free of any tears or secrets.
This is truly a life worth living.
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