Jackie was the middle child, raised in a home with two sisters and two loving parents. By her own admission, there was nothing remarkable about her upbringing that would signal a path toward addiction, but there was a looming darkness in her mood that eventually landed her there. In her early 20’s, Jackie’s condition was called Clinical Depression. In her late 30’s her condition was reassessed as Bipolar Disorder. Understanding her condition didn’t help Jackie work through the pain inside her. She was easily overwhelmed by the typical chaos of everyday life. There was a point in her adult life when the medications that once helped her to control the “extreme” highs and lows of her moods were dropped. She just quit taking them. Some might say this was the point where her trouble began. Yet, something else was going on inside her at a much deeper level.
By the time Jackie was age 47, she was unable to communicate anything she was feeling with her husband. She was watching as her fifteen-year marriage (her second) was crumbling, and her two sons, though she loved them as much as ever, were busying themselves with their own interests. They were no longer the glue holding her together. Over the years, Jackie learned to internalize her pain. She never coped with the loss of her mother, who died when Jackie was only 36. She blamed herself, having kept her sons so far away from their grandma. She also never came to terms with the jealousy and anger she once cultivated toward her eldest sister, Kathy; who, from an early age, suffered from a kidney disorder that demanded her parents’ full attention. Regardless of all that happened in her early years, the constant battery of intense emotion and self-blame had finally made Jackie numb; a feeling she mistook for boredom. Rather than seeking the help she likely needed from the medical community, Jackie reached for another kind of comfort - something she thought would help herself feel alive again. It led her to an affair with an old friend from High School. He, in turn, introduced her to Meth.
“I had always been reasonably healthy – at least physically. I had always been faithful. I had never used drugs before. Suddenly, I wasn’t who I thought I was. Then, in 2012, my sister, Kathy, died – a result of a chronic autoimmune deficiency. She passed away on my dad’s birthday. I didn’t even go home. I used Meth and never dealt with the pain. I can look back now and know that everything about my life had spun out of control, but being high masked the shame of it; at least it seemed to until I suffered heart failure. My son watched as I was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital. It was at that time that my sins were exposed, all at once: The affair, the drug use, the shame. I would love to say that it was a wake-up call, but it wasn’t. If anything, I just grew darker and more distant. Against doctors’ warnings, I continued to use Meth. It resulted in my need for a pacemaker. After that, Meth use landed me back in the hospital again in 2013. This time, no one in my family would visit me, with the exception of my youngest sister’s husband, Bryan. He confronted me. It was then that I finally asked for help. I owe Bryan a lot. He’s been a constant support to me since day one of my recovery.”
Jackie entered clinical programs that charged exorbitant fees at first. Eventually, she found us and entered Rescue the Children in April 2014. “I was stubborn. I fought everything: classes, counseling, group interaction, relationships, and God. I just didn’t want to admit that I needed God. I exited the program after 5 months, but was offered a chance at re-entry if I would submit to 5 weeks of AA meetings and church attendance. I re-entered the program after doing what I was told, but I kept my stubborn attitude. Then in September 2015, I was in trouble once more. I was given an exit date and knew I wasn’t going to make it. I finally called upon God. I asked Him to speak to me. I opened my Bible and read, ‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) From that moment on, I changed.
Today, I have a growing relationship with my younger sister, Michelle. We have a lot to talk through and share. While I was in the Mission’s program, my dad also passed away in March 2015. Through all the pain – the loss of Mom, Dad, and Kathy - Michelle faced most of these losses without me. I’m learning to let go of the guilt in all of that and just live in the moments she and I now share together. To her credit, Michelle’s been incredibly supportive. I am also working on my relationship with my sons. I know these wounds will take a while to heal, but I trust the promises God has for me. I still work on countering the symptoms of my disorder, but I don’t have the darkness in me any longer. I’m learning to lean to Scripture and prayer; to build on my relationship with the Lord. Because of His love, I’m looking forward to the challenges of transition, and moving to a home. I won’t deny that fear creeps in once in a while, but I’m learning to turn that over to God and release the pain that often accompanies it. I just write letters to no one, get the feelings out of my system, and then tear them up. The positive messages I receive from God I keep in a journal. I’ve finally filled my first journal and have begun working on a fresh copy. It’s a start.”
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” - John 14:27
Jackie's story (along with additional pictures) appeared in the March 2016 edition of Lighthouse News