Out of Despair and Addiction

“I don’t remember exactly when it started, or how it got so out of control.  I’ve struggled with drug and alcohol abuse most of my adult life.  My life was rollercoasters of moderate responsibility followed by complete self-sabotage. I became a master of fixing my life just in the nick-of-time.  Life began by holding God in high regard. I was born into Catholicism. I remember the fear associated with that… I strongly believed hell was my only option as it would be impossible for me not to sin. That stuck with me. After my mother married, we began attending a Baptist church. My family appeared to be followers of God, but I don’t believe any of us truly knew what it meant to have a relationship with God as our family was dysfunctional at best and much of my adult trauma stemmed from the anger and separation within our family unit. I developed patterns of destructive behaviors and I learned to create even more distance between myself and God, minimizing him to merely an essence or a moral standard.  I lost my faith in the church after becoming pregnant at 17 and being labeled as an outcast. Drugs followed and became my center focus.

My life ran into dead end after dead end.  Meaning in my life was derived from successfully moving on from one crisis to another. I even lost my life briefly, only to wake up after 3 days in an unrecognizable physical state of being. The drugs had caused sepsis and my fear of being found out was greater than my fear of being evaluated. In turn, the drugs won and the blood infection nearly took me out of this world. When they didn’t, I left the hospital to return to the same world I had been lost in for so long.

Years later, I found myself a single mother of four, who had lost custody of her children due to an intervention by social services.  It was a wake-up call to say the least. I immediately found sobriety and treatment and a chance to get my head straight. But as soon as the judge awarded back custody of my children, I went and got high. My pride took hold and I lost sight of the importance of my family. Getting high was my way of telling the world I do what I want and I know what’s best for me. The wake-up call faded and I paid the price dearly.

Despair struck rapidly. All of my moral standards had gone out the window. Drugs fed my mind and the demons in my life plagued me. I never realized demons were real and they actually manifested into our physical reality but oh boy, do they ever! I became riddled with addiction, codependency, fear, anger and shame. I lost everything for the third time in my life. This time it included my prized possessions, keepsakes, my entire home, my dreams of starting over, my fake friends, my dysfunctional relationships, my sense of self, my entire belief system. Insanity took hold. I completely lost my mind. I found myself in my own personal hell. Voices tormented me leaving me in a constant state of terror. They isolated me by convincing me that everyone who I cared about was conspiring against me. I was convinced I was being manipulated and ridiculed by everyone.  The voices were so good at humiliating, belittling and harassing me. They would convince me of something then laugh as I fell for the manipulation telling me how stupid and gullible I was. It left me trusting nothing. I could not determine what was real or imaginary. My room was my prison created by my fear and delusions. The more time I spent alone, the greater the terror became. Fear was all I knew. I could not talk to anyone as I believed everything would be used against me. The police nearly brought me to the hospital after I called them on myself in a state of panic. My family was collecting evidence to have me committed to the hospital because my reality was so far gone.  Nothing anyone said or did would convince me that I was wrong.

I knew I was separate from the insanity. I knew that the voices were not in my head. But the desperation I felt only grew deeper because nobody understood my experience. I sought out anyone who could help me and I was led to my grandmother who had been a devout catholic my entire life. I told her some of my experience and she sent me on my way with a bottle of holy water, a dreamcatcher, and some words of wisdom. I was told to sprinkle the holy water behind my ears and around my house where I was hearing the voices.  I did this and I felt some relief for a couple of days. Then it was as though they came back even louder and more prevalent than before. I was so scared. I accepted I had finally lost my life and my mind. I remember sitting there in tears as I was doing some housework. I just wanted it all to stop. The cruel things the voices said all day and night, the torturous and devious things that went through my ears… I even recall the thought crossing my mind that if this was how the rest of my life would be, I would rather die. Although, a love for my family pushed that thought out as soon as it entered. So, I took that holy water and sprinkled it behind my ears again.  Then, atop my head. Then, a little more until I was dumping the entire contents of the bottle over my head and calling out “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!” and I thought “please, God please, just make it all stop.”

Immediately, I heard a voice.  “Put that cigarette out.” It was clearly in reference to the cigarette I had been smoking. In my mind I justified and protested. As I slowly went to take another drag, I heard that same voice “Put it out!”  I obeyed. I knew in that moment, as sure as I know the voice of my little girl saying mommy, that I had just heard the voice of God himself. He did not stop there. He spoke to me again saying that if I need something, just ask. He will do it for me. So, I asked God to please make the voices stop. He told me “God can do anything, Samantha. All you have to do is ask the right questions.” So I begged him to please make the voices silent. As I got up to walk outside, I heard a thundering voice echo through the night sky. “God has spoken!”  Silence followed. Sweet silence for the first time in months. But with that, so much more. I received a sudden influx of love, kindness, patience, understanding, compassion, grace, mercy and forgiveness. The most incredible calmness swept over me and I began to sob. These tears were huge and incredibly full of joy.  It was as though he washed away everything that was hurting and replaced it with complete love.

For weeks to follow, God gave me a very intensive crash course on life. He provided me lessons on family, responsibility, self-care, wisdom, health, nutrition, parenting and how to be a good human. He intervened in every facet of my life teaching me in a way I could understand and relate. He gave me unprecedented amounts of compassionate understanding and patience. He brought out all my strengths and highlighted them to me and helped me change lifelong habits almost instantaneously. He healed me. He did this from the inside out. He stripped me of everything not meant for serving him and he fulfilled me completely with his love. In one simple breath, he erased my entire history of pain and trauma, years of addictions and codependency. He took away all of my sense of identity and replaced it with loving kindness and grace. I never suffered with cravings or a desire to return to my previous way of life.  I finally gave myself over to God and he has taken my lost and broken self and made me completely new.

I speak to God daily now. Everything I am, I owe to Him. I am gaining so much wisdom and understanding of life. I am not even the same person. I perhaps look the same but nothing on the inside remains. My past was washed away. My deepest desires have completely changed. I live for His will. God told me that He is preparing me for doing his work. He himself has proclaimed that I am meant for something so much greater than the mess of a life that I had created for myself. He has also told me that he was never really gone. I had been the one to turn away from God; but he had still been there, holding my hand all the way, giving me subtle nudges and reminders that He was present. The problem is, we don’t often recognize it for what it is. God will not force himself upon us. He gave us free will to decide as we wish and included in that is whether or not we choose to receive God.  He waits. When we are ready, He is there with open arms.

I still have so much work to do in my life but for the first time I can make sense of it because I know he is the one pulling the reigns. I finally found my true identity with God. Every time I ask, I receive. I simply have to ask the right questions and do so with all of my heart wide open. My mental health is far better than it has ever been. Psychological warfare is nothing to joke about. However, the voices have been reduced to almost nothing. Now that God has given me the gift of discernment I know how to recognize them and I simply ask God to intervene. He does, every time. My family is beginning to heal. We are learning. It is a process but one that is very effective. Every time I struggle, God answers my call. Every time I fall, He lifts me up. Every time I make a mistake, he shows me a better way. He always ensures I take wisdom from every experience. He is preparing me for a life far greater than the one I have known and for one that encompasses His desires.  And for the first time in my life I hear him loud and clear.

I am not sure how I made it through life as long as I did. I stumbled through so much darkness, but he never turned away. We are not designed to live a life absent of the love of God. We will fail every time. But, God; he will pick us up, every time.”

—Samantha Cotten