By: Colonie Hughes, Co-founder & Executive Women’s Program Director
I started using when I was 13. Within a year or two, I became an intravenous drug user, a path that stole over 10 years of my life.
Thankfully, I had grandparents who’d been praying for me. About age 19, I had set out to drive cross-country to Vegas but my car broke down in Omaha. It was there that I had a near-death experience with a drug cartel… and an encounter with God. I got on my knees, called my grandfather, and said the sinner’s prayer.
I’ll be honest: Nothing magical happened. However, the peace of God washed over me.
First encountering God, I didn’t realize that maintaining deliverance requires discipline, character-building and denying myself.
I tried my best to live as a Christian for the next few years. I was also an addict, in and out of shelters, robbing pharmacies, and dating a guy who was cooking meth. I was using, but still going to church. I’d be high, but also reading the Bible.
At age 25, the Holy Spirit got a hold of me. I was so desperate and so tired that I’d even handed over custody of my daughter to my grandmother. My hair was falling out, I had sores and I was willing to do anything. That’s when a friend told me about a year-long recovery program. To an addict, a year-long program sounds like an eternity.
I wanted a quick fix yet I bargained with God, “If you can change me in one year, I’ll serve you the rest of my life.”
Although that year helped me find my true identity, my entire recovery journey has taught me more than I could ever learn in a year alone. Here are three of the hardest lessons I’ve learned…
1. You Can’t Quit
After three months, I wanted to leave but I didn’t. I’d wasted so many years lost in addiction that I made a commitment to stay in the recovery program.
One of my best qualities is that I never quit. I kept me fighting for myself. “Besides,” the Lord asked me, “Where are you gonna’ go? If you leave now, you’ll always wonder what your life would’ve been like if you’d stayed.”
Breakthrough is on the other side of perseverance. Nine months into the program, my landmark moment occurred when I realized my drug use wasn’t because I wanted to use; it stemmed from unforgiveness.
2. You Must Be Honest With Yourself
A lot of people just want to take away the drugs, but the drugs weren’t really my problem. I was using for a whole lot of other reasons I didn’t even understand.
You really have to face yourself. I was a manipulator, liar, and overall bad person. I was traumatized, broken, and wounded and I had been medicating my depression, rejection and abandonment.
To change, you have to start letting pieces of yourself go. It took me way longer than a year — over a decade — to begin healing from my fear of intimacy. I had been homeless a long time and didn’t know how to let people love me. I had to learn to receive love, feel like I was worthy, and set down my burden of shame.
I was self-absorbed but I didn’t love myself. People don’t inject their bodies with poison every day when they love themselves.
3. You Have to Walk Away from Old, Unhealthy Relationships
Many people aren’t willing to give up their bad relationships. I had to give up my toxic relationship with my daughter’s father.
The dope was also its own kind of relationship. I had a soul-tie with it. There was a time that I couldn’t imagine not wanting it. I dreamed about it. I had panic attacks about not using.
Old, unhealthy relationships will cripple people more than anything.
The Most Beautiful Thing About an Addict’s Recovery Journey…
As the co-founder of a recovery ministry, I get to watch the presence of God bring light and restored health into the eyes and bodies of people. In just one month, you can see people transformed. Many people come to us beaten, half-dead, starved and addicted. Without even trying, you can see Him start to change people.
Witnessing this transformation is the most rewarding experience because you know it’s a miracle.
God is truly “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us... (Ephesians 3:20).” I’m so blessed that it’s almost embarrassing to me sometimes. Everything the locust stole, He has returned one hundred-fold. I live in joy and blessing now and all because I just gave Him that one year.
I’m not perfect. I’m still a hot mess half of the time, but God is faithful.
Commit to Him. He will completely change you.