Many people are struggling with depression, loneliness, emptiness, and other difficult situations that bring heaviness to the heart — especially during the holiday season. It’s a sad truth. I’m so amazed by it because when I was there, I could swear it was just me. Now I can see that it affects so many different people in so many different circumstances. More than I ever could have imagined. It breaks my heart to see others suffer. I know the pain. I still deal with the occasional blues and occasional loneliness, but I’m so thankful that it’s nothing like it used to be. When I was deep in the middle of it, I really did believe that no one else could ever understand my pain so I hid it for as long as I could. I was convinced that something was very wrong with me and it would not be a good idea to let anybody know about it. It was a lie that I believed.
So here were are again. It’s Christmas time, and for most it’s the most wonderful time of year, right? (Darn, now I can hear that song starting to play in my head…) Unfortunately, for many it’s not. So at the risk of being called “Debbie Downer” by those who don’t get what it’s like to be like me and so many others, I thought this was a good time to share some more heartfelt words with the hope that a struggling heart will find THE Hope, the only Hope that can shine light in our darkness. It’s the only Hope that saves lives, and it’s the very Hope that saved my life.
We’re all different, but not so much once we reach a state of darkness. My darkness was depression and isolation. It doesn’t really matter how each of us get there, once we get there, I think we can relate to each other whether we go through similar situations or not. So I’m just wondering…when someone tears a hole in your heart, what do you do? How many times do you allow it to happen? How do you react to it? For me, when I was a very lost soul with no self-worth or self-esteem, I would let it happen to me too many times. It took a few people to cause significant damage to my heart – the destruction of my soul. My dad leaving me at the age of 16 seemed to be the beginning of the end. That messed me up so much, the rest happened because I allowed it to. I wasn’t strong enough to fight it. I didn’t care enough about myself. I figured I didn’t deserve any better. I was a loser. There were so many hurts and tears in my heart I ended up with one giant hole. I was completely empty. I finally decided to put a wall up to protect my heart and keep people at a safe distance. I believed that if I did that, then no one would be able to hurt me ever again. I walked around like that for many years. One of the problems with that is that I didn’t do anything about the giant hole prior to putting up the wall. That was the worst thing I could have ever done. I needed healing and I didn’t get it. It caused many years of depression, isolation, and alcohol abuse to numb the pain as much as possible. The wall was not only keeping people out, it was keeping God out — complete separation from the only One who could ever rescue me from my darkness. I wonder how many reading this might be doing this very thing right now. I hope my personal testimony will speak to you and help you to realize the extra damage being done so that you can stop doing what I did and do something about it. It’s not too late.
I remember my old days of severe depression quite well. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when God made Himself real to me and delivered me from what I believe was a very slow and painful death. I remember the suffocating darkness and how alone I was for such a long time. I can’t blame anybody but myself. I made the choice to be a loner because I was too ashamed and maybe too proud to tell anyone I was hurting and needed help. And the longer I spent my days that way, the more convinced I became that there was absolutely no way out. The bottles — beer, wine, Malibu Rum…whatever…all became my companion. They all became my medicine. The only thing I knew to do was drink the pain away. Of course, that made things much worse. The more I drank, the more I needed to drink to keep the temporary peace going. Eventually, there was no peace at all. I drank more because it turned into a mission to kill myself. It was a losing battle from the very beginning. But when your soul is as lost as mine was, there’s nothing else. I’m sure the devil was thrilled that I believed that back then. The deeper I got into it, the less chance I had of reaching the only One who could save me – that was another lie from the devil that I truly believed when I was in a battle for my life. I wish I knew more about Jesus Christ when I was younger. I knew of Him, but I had no clue that He could save me in today’s world. I thought He was just a part of history. How sad is that. Well, it turns out that it didn’t matter how deep I was or for how long I was in the darkness, all I needed to do was cry out to Jesus. It took a rock bottom incident to make that happen (I’ve shared about it in earlier posts), but the only regret I have is not reaching rock bottom sooner than I did.
Sounds weird to say that doesn’t it – who really wants to get to rock bottom? Not anybody I know. But rock bottom is where I met Jesus for the first time in my entire life. It’s where I found out that He was real and had been waiting for me there. He’d been waiting because He knew it was going to be the only way. I was not going to be able to change my destructive way of living on my own. He knew it. I knew it. I have no reason to be in denial about it.
Even though some amazing miracles and breakthroughs started happening after surrendering my heart and giving up control of my life to Jesus at rock bottom, I used to think that I wanted to help people avoid rock bottom. There are different levels of it. Mine was significant for me, but it wasn’t as bad as others I’ve heard about. I honestly thought that helping others avoid it would be a good thing to do. But as I continue to grow stronger in my faith and in my sobriety — the more I am blessed to witness and experience miracle after miracle, I am seeing that people are not becoming as desperate as they need to be. It’s sad to see because at least for me, the choices I continued to make were very poor ones and I was living in absolute hell. I’ve been set free and I am so not enjoying watching others continue on that path. It literally breaks my heart. I’m grateful I surrendered! My way wasn’t working! I hope someone can see through this story that their own way is most likely not working for them either.
It took full surrender to God in order for Him to reach down and pull me out of the pit to save me. Surrender takes a huge daily effort on our part. We need to surrender every day. We’re human. It doesn’t come easy. We’ll never be perfect at it, but we can try every day and it really is doable. God sees the effort. I’ve been doing it (not perfectly) 24/7 since 2010 now. Life has been amazing. I’m ALIVE and more than well. I believe through my own experience that if we want to activate the hand of God in our lives, we need to give it all to Him. ALL OF IT.
We really, REALLY have to want to be made well. More than anything. And we have to be an active participant. That means a lot of hard and many times painful growing doing things we don’t want to do. It means losing things we are having a hard time letting go of. I know this because it’s what I had to do to get better. And, I am truly better today. I’ve been delivered from the severe depression, the isolation, the shame, the unforgiveness, the bitterness, the hurt, the abusive relationship, the alcohol abuse, you name it. I’ve been delivered from everything that was holding me back and being used to destroy my soul.
I have no regrets for my challenging new life. I see how God is using all the hard stuff for good. I have an incredible testimony that He has given me and I wouldn’t have it if I hadn’t gone through everything I’ve gone through. He has given me a divine purpose in life. A true reason to live. My desire is to be open and painfully vulnerable in sharing my story to help others. It’s hard to be vulnerable, it really can be painful and uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to me. I can’t keep the great things of God to myself. People need to know that He can help them too.
In just two months I’ll be celebrating five years of sobriety! That is such an incredible miracle in my life considering how I tried so many times to quit under my own power. I had suffered relapse after relapse. I abused alcohol for over 20 years. Once I reached rock bottom, God gave me the desire to seek Him with my whole heart. He gave me the power to quit drinking and the power to change everything about me. He took away the depression and the suicidal thoughts. I have not relapsed. I haven’t even come close — not one time. My sobriety is just one amazing ongoing miracle in my life. I have so much to write about, so many great things of God in my life to share, but this is it for now.
So that’s my story about when I was finally able to find Hope in the midst of my darkest day. It was life saving Hope — Jesus — my Rock at the bottom. It’s a day I will never ever regret. If you are where I used to be, I pray you will find Jesus waiting for you today. Whether we admit it or not, we are desperate people. That’s a good thing. So I want to encourage you to turn your desperation toward Jesus. And when you do, you will be starting a new and amazing journey upward.
I heard an encouraging message from my pastor this past Sunday and the theme of the message that I want to share with you is this: “Just when you thought all hope was gone — God sends a Savior” I thought my hope was gone. I thought it was too late for me, but my Savior came right on time. I believe your Savior will be right on time too. Actually He’s already there, He’s just waiting for you to call to Him with your whole heart.
Jesus is our only HOPE – the only Hope that never disappoints. May you also find His Hope — The Light — in your darkest days. God bless you and Merry Christmas.
Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)