Another post by one of our presenters for March 5th in Boise. Excited to learn from you ladies.
All my life people have both encouraged me to write this, and then later, begged me not to. It doesn’t matter; I was always going to write this. However, after I had a child, the details and the point of telling my story changed. No longer did I feel the need to go into graphic details of my sordid past. Instead, I find myself wanting, no needing, to tell my story of recovery, redemption, and fulfillment……ultimately, my story of hope. So, gory details aside… here is my story.
It’s like a dream. I close my eyes sometimes and vivid memories flash like pictures on an electronic frame. Sometimes I can’t grasp what my memory tells me, others, I feel as if those memories are actually recollections of a movie I watched a long time ago. I am not a participator, but rather a voyeur. I see what is happening, but I cannot come to terms with those pictures being me. They are some other girl; or not a person at all; some actress, with memorized lines and no real-life consequences. Surely that person is dead. Surely something terrible happened to her. Surely, positively, absolutely, that person is not me! My memories are as intangible as a dream. Often I can’t pull them from my brain on demand. At other times, they will pop into my head so suddenly and dramatically, they can be all but debilitating, paralyzing. Many memories are gone—lost to the world where details float around like bubbles. Somewhere in my brain are a million memories kept secret, protecting me from anguish. Unfortunately, so many positive memories are gone as well. There likely are portions of my brain which are permanently damaged due to years of substance abuse. Though I consider myself intelligent, I wonder what would my brain would be like without the barrage of misuse. Certainly my brain would be different in more ways than one had I gone down a different path, lived an alternate life, had revisionist memories. But I didn’t; and that’s okay.
It’s challenging to determine where this story begins. I’ve had so many life-defining moments in my past. I can’t articulate a specific, ‘this is the moment it all changed’ experience. It was more imperceptible than that; more gradual. It sounds so cliché, but it truly was this slippery slope where once I set foot on the edge, I just slid down. In many respects it was impossible to prevent. My parents have asked multiple times what they could have done differently, how they could have prevented this. My answer is, and always will be: “nothing.” There is absolutely nothing they could have done differently. There are plenty of things that I could have changed, but I was utterly unwilling. Also, it couldn’t have been, I couldn’t have been without those choices; so many choices.
It is impossible to describe the exquisite pain that comes from watching a loved one stray from the path. When someone you love dies, you have hope to see them again someday. When someone is “dead” spiritually speaking, you live with the fear that they may be lost to you forever. For many years I searched for a magic word that would somehow transform my sister. There must be some single act that would help her see the light and turn her into a new person. If I could just have the perfect conversation, then she would have clarity and change. This feeling was perpetuated by the shows I watched and books I read where everything could be resolved in 60 minutes or under 300 pages. I came to understand that ministering is unique to each situation. It is not one action but a multitude of actions over an indefinite period of time. The creation of a true relationship is inherent in ministering. While I thought that I was working to change my sister, I came to ultimately understand that I needed to change myself to be able to help her.
I didn’t come pre-packaged with all the skills that I needed to minister to my sister. I needed to develop a new sensitivity and ability to relate to her, even when she was living a life opposite of mine. I needed to learn where I would set my boundaries but all the time our situation required unconditional Christ-like love. The process of ministering to her actually changed me and made me a better person. It turned me toward the Lord, and sent me to my knees in my hours of anguish.
I finally learned that nothing I said could change my sister. She could only be changed by turning to the Lord, and that would happen in its own time and in its own way. I could minister to her, but only Christ’s atoning power would have the ability to heal her.
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