Intro – Finding Light in Darkness. From wanting to die to finding light in the darkness of life. How Christ saved me from drugs and alcohol and gave me a new beginning.
If someone would have told me two years ago that everyone has a purpose in life, I might have laughed or rolled my eyes. If I had a purpose, perhaps it was to be someone else’s life lesson.
Two years ago, I moved through my day numb and lost. Two years ago, I had no connection with anyone or anything. Two years ago, the only thing I wanted was to die.
Abused. Abandoned. Addicted.
I don’t have many fond memories of my childhood. In fact, for most of my life, I tried my best not to have any memories at all.
I remember bits and pieces: people I didn’t know coming to see my parents, an empty refrigerator, the sour smell of my dad’s breath, the random strangers who came into my room at night.
I remember the night I woke up to get a drink of water and found my parents asleep on the couch with empty bottles of alcohol and needles on the floor. Only they weren’t asleep.
I remember the EMTs that took them away from me on a stretcher. I remember the woman who told me to come with her because she was going to find me a safe place to stay. Most of all, I remember feeling very alone.
Instead of random strangers visiting my parents, I became the random stranger showing up at house after house as I was shuffled through the system.
I was never at any one house for long. I think a year was the longest I ever stayed in one place. I heard what my numerous foster parents said about me: I was too damaged, too broken, too rebellious.
I was a mix of shut down and explosive. One day, I wouldn’t speak a word to anyone and the next day I was tossing a glass across the room until it shattered into a million pieces.
I was too hard to connect to and I pushed too many people away they said.
For the next eight years, I continued to move from house to house and from family to family.
When I was 17, I decided I had enough and after the bus dropped me off at school, I kept on walking past the school building and into downtown. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do, but I knew I had to leave.
Now, being the child of addicted parents, it’s no surprise that the way I coped with grief and stress was to drink. I had my first drink of vodka when I was eight years when I decided to take a drink from one of the bottles left out on the countertop.
During my years in the foster care system, I would find ways to sneak alcohol in every house I was at. After I ran away, I continued to drink.
I needed alcohol to deal with the emptiness and the numbness that resided in me every day. I didn’t have parents, siblings, family, or friends.
I didn’t even have a place I could call home. Alcohol became the one thing in my life I could depend on.
Within days of running away, I found my first friend that I’d ever had in my life. Paul and I were sleeping under the same overpass one day when I offered him a swig of my beer and he offered me a white pill out of his pocket.
Before long, Paul introduced me to his friends, who took me under their wings. We spent the evenings high and drunk, unsure of what day it was and disconnected from the world.
A few months later, in what seemed like an instant replay of my childhood, I woke up to find Paul dead next to me from an overdose. Just like everyone else in my life, Paul had abandoned me and here I was alone again.
Self-Hate and Jesus’ Love
While most 18 year olds are entering adulthood full of excitement and hope for the future, I was lost and alone, abandoned by every person in my life.
Instead of college and jobs, my future seemed to be alcohol and heroin. Everyone I loved in my life had died and honestly, I was hoping to be next.
At least then, maybe I’d stop feeling so numb. I hated myself and I hated my life. If everyone had a purpose in life, then why was my life such a mess?
I don’t know how I ended up on the steps of a church one December evening. People have told me it was luck or fate, but I like to think of it as divine intervention.
I remember having my usual cocktail of beer and Oxycontin but I don’t remember walking to the church. I remember waking up in a nice room with a roaring fireplace, a blanket around me, and a plate of baked chicken, rice, and steamed broccoli in front of me. It was the first hot meal I’d had in months and it was delicious.
Pastor John was sitting next to me when I woke up. He offered me a shower, a change of clothes, and a place to sleep for the night. He was such a gentle soul and I think he was the first person in my life to speak to me like I was a human being.
I will never forget the verse he read to me. It was from Psalm 30:
I will extol thee, O Lord;Psalms 30
For thou hast lifted me up,
and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O Lord, my God,
I cried unto thee,
and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave:
thou hast kept me alive,
that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord,
O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment;
in his favor is life:
weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning.
My whole life seemed to be that night of weeping. I was ready for my morning joy.
Recovery and Redemption
The next morning, Pastor John brought me to a Christian rehab facility, where I spent several months detoxing from drugs and alcohol and learning new and healthier ways of coping with stress.
Pastor John continued to visit me at least once a week to check in on me and to teach me more about Jesus.
I had a lot to overcome – I quickly learned that when you stop drinking and using drugs, all of the trauma and pain in your life comes flooding back.
There were some days I didn’t think I could handle it. The pain of my childhood, the death of my parents, and years in foster care was crushing.
Each day, I recited the part of Psalm 30 that Pastor John read to me that first night in the church. “Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.”
After several months, I was discharged from inpatient rehab and Pastor John and my addictions team helped me to find a safe place to live and even found a way to pay for me to start taking classes at the local community college.
I also started attending weekly worship services at Pastor John’s church. After services, there were classes I could take to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus.
On Christmas morning, I was baptized by Pastor John in front of the Christian community that has become my new family.
Hope and Purpose
It has been a year since I first learned about Jesus and started my journey in sober living and as a disciple of Christ. I am happy to say that I have finally found my purpose.
Not only am I a child of the one triune God, but I have also been accepted in a social work program at my college. With Jesus’ help and the support of my new church community, I continue to recover from my addictions and to work towards my Bachelor’s of Social Work.
My dream is to earn my master’s degree and become a social worker for kids like me whose lives are torn apart by addiction.
I want to make sure that every child growing up with addicted parents knows that they are loved by Jesus and have a purpose. I want to give them the help they need to break the cycle of addiction in their family and not become another statistic.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
It is a new morning and in Jesus, I have found my joy. I found light in the darkness.
Finding Light in Darkness – By Patrick Bailey
Mind On Jesus