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"I didn't care what happened to me anymore.."

Many people have asked me why I believe in what I do, how I can walk in blind faith, and where my internal joy comes from. These questions don't have a quick answer. I have been through many rough trials, beaten down by life, suffered at the hands of other people, and endured much pain and anguish in the consequences of my actions. I had lost the will to live and the ability to see any beauty in this world. I lost count of my overdoses after around 15-20 times. I was past the point of being embarrassed and ashamed of waking up to a room full of paramedics and police officers who had brought me back to life. There was no gratitude or thoughts of how I made my family feel. However, through all of that chaos, God was beside me the whole time. He literally lifted me out of my grave each and every time to be standing here today in front of all of you. My name is Daylene Spring Collier and this is my story.

I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 25th 1990. I had a very strong and caring mother who sacrificed her dreams to take care of my brother and I. She was always reliable and made sure that we always had what we needed and then some. My father was in the Navy and often overseas. He was never around much and they later divorced because of his infidelity. He moved across the country to Washington state and probably came to visit my brother and I a handful of times. I think this is around the time I felt a sense of true hurt, because when he would come to visit and then go to leave, I remember not wanting to let go of him and crying, begging for him to stay. My mom or my grandmother would hold me back and comfort me the best they knew how until he was, once again, long gone. 

Around age 6, my mom remarried my step-dad. He and his family welcomed us as their own. I have many fond memories through the years of us being together; camping trips, vacations, and family get-togethers. We lived in a small town called Roachdale where we attended church and stayed very involved. We were baptized as a family there when I was around the age of 13. 

I took my baptism very seriously. I knew at that time that I was Godś child even though I don't think I fully grasped what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. All I knew at that point was that I loved Jesus and I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. 

Through the next couple of years, things couldn’t have been better. I had hit my 10 year mark of ballet, moving up to being an advanced dancer, and learning how to teach other classes. My brother and I went to Hanging Rock Christian Camp in West Lebanon and my mom and dad were youth group leaders at one point. I even attended a christian convention in Savannah Georgia and joined my hometown youth group on a mission trip to Chicago Illinois. I felt like I was strong in my faith at this point in my life and doing what I thought was right. I just felt so pure.

It all came crashing down around me one day when my brother and I came home off the school bus. Our pastor was there and I didnt see my step-dad. He told my brother and I that our dad was sick and that he wasn't coming back. It all made sense at that point. The times they would argue, the nights we would wait on the front porch hoping he would come home, the times my mom took all of us to visit him at rehab. He had taken off for the last time and my mom knew she wasn't going to put us through any more hurt and false promises. She kicked him out for good and had our pastor there to help break the news to us. My step dad was struggling with addiction to crack cocaine and spiraled out of control. He stole from us, took the family vehicle, left my mom in deep debt, had the FBI search our premises because he was stealing electrical equipment from the union, and worst of all, he gave my brother and I more heartache over losing another father. He ended up going to prison and becoming a distant memory to me. 

My mom picked up the pieces and they got a divorce . Once we moved and got settled in another house, it all started to go downhill. Right after high school, I was given narcotic pain killers by someone who I trusted, and I really liked them. I wasn’t using them for pain as they were intended, but they were an emotional crutch. Plus, I trusted the person I was getting them from, so I didn’t think much of it. At this point, I thought I had it under control because I was taking pills casually.

My high school sweetheart proposed to me after graduation, and we got a place together on our own. Unbeknownst to me, he had an addiction to pills. I started finding evidence of drug use around the house, but wasn’t sure what I was seeing until I walked in on him after work one day. I was mad at first, but deep down inside I was curious. In light of my dad leaving us for drugs, I wanted to know what it was about them that could make somebody want to leave their family and everything they loved.

It wasn’t long before we were abusing pills on a daily basis together. After taking a random pregnancy test, I found out I was pregnant 3 months along. Due to complications in my pregnancy, I was prescribed Vicodin. Having a prescription made me feel good about continuing to use, because it was confirmation from a doctor that I needed the medication. Plus, I always thought addiction was for people doing meth or heroin, not for prescriptions. Nobody, including my doctor, had ever told me that I could become addicted or explained what that actually looked like.

My daughter was born on November 14, 2011. She was 9lbs 1oz 21 inches long. She was the first baby in Hendricks county to be born with a tooth! Her father and I were elated and so proud. Still, being a young new family, we needed help. So, my grandparents offered for us to move in with them until we could get on our feet. Doing pills hadn’t taken over our lives yet, but it had started to become a priority. My mood started to become unstable and we were using money from every paycheck to support our habit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was physically dependent on taking pills.

 My fiance worked and I stayed home taking care of our baby girl, while still struggling with an emerging opioid addiction. He wanted to prove that I had a problem, and so he challenged me to stop using for a day. So, I gave it a try and was surprised to discover how sick that I became. I continued to deny it until I was cut off of my narcotics by my doctor and reality sank in. I was mentally struggling with postpartum depression, a colicky baby, and now the effects of not having my pain meds. Withdrawals left me feeling physically sick and mentally so dark with a sense of impending doom. I didn’t have much emotional support at this time in my life, which left me feeling very alone.

Things took a drastic turn one horrific day, when my daughter stopped breathing. She was only three months old when this happened. I was getting her clothes together and preparing a bath for her while she was in her playpen. My grandma came to the bathroom and talked to me for no more than five minutes before going to get my daughter, so I could bathe her. All I remember is hearing my grandma scream that my child wasn't breathing. My first thought was that it was a sick joke because I could not comprehend the thought of it. I ran out to see her  holding my baby who was white as a ghost, not breathing, and bleeding from her nose. 

I screamed the most awful gut wrenching scream I've ever heard and fell to the floor, losing feeling in my legs. My fiance called 911 while my grandfather started CPR on her. Thankfully there was a detective right around the corner that heard the call to come in, and raced over to assist with CPR and life saving techniques. The detective had gotten her to breathe again and the ambulance showed up to take her to the hospital. She went to Peyton Manning children's hospital and received every test known to man to try and find out why she stopped breathing. 

They couldn't find a reason or explanation why it happened and the hospital diagnosed my daughter as a SIDS survivor. My grandmother used this time to talk to DCS and I'm not sure what all she said but after that conversation, I was told I had to sign over temporary custody to her. After that I felt like the enemy in my grandma's house and our relationship was never the same.

At this point my mental health deteriorated rapidly. My engagement fell apart because of the relational strain and I moved to Illinois with my mom and her boyfriend. It was there, I dove deeper into my addiction with pain pills. After a couple years of numbing myself and trying to forget my past, my mom and I packed up and moved out to Crawfordsville to get away from her boyfriend’s abuse. Once we moved, I found myself couch hopping from place to place. It got to a point where there wa

s no stable place for me to be and I didn’t know when I was going to eat next. I had lost all respect for myself during this time, willing to do whatever with whoever. I didn’t care what happened to me anymore.

But then I met my husband. I looked to him as someone who saved me from the streets. He took me in, took care of me, and got me off the pills. I thought he loved me at first, only to find out later that he was an abusive alcoholic. I stayed loyal to him and supported him trying to get help. When he stopped drinking I thought that the abuse would stop too. So, when he asked me to marry him, I said yes. Soon after that I found out that I was pregnant with our son. I knew this sealed the deal; I was going to marry the father of my son, and I just knew things would get better. 

He was born on April 7, 2016 at  8 lbs 7 ounces and 19 inches long. I was of course elated and just thought he was the most beautiful baby boy. I swore I was going to be a good mother and get parenting right this time. I was leaning on my own strength and my husbands to fulfill everything I'd dreamed of. 

That happiness was short-lived. First, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after my second pregnancy. 

Then, my husband went back to physically abusing me and I knew that I had to get my son out of that environment. I moved my son and I into a domestic abuse shelter. I worked so hard as a CNA and got a car and a nice little two bedroom apartment. I remember it being quite chaotic at this time, but every night after work getting to come home to my son made it worth it. I did really well for about a year until I was incarcerated for the first time for driving on a suspended license and fighting. 

I lost my apartment and my son was sent  to my grandmother's house with his sister. I got released after 45 days in jail and I was put on probation. Unfortunately, I was afraid of what my husband would do if I didn’t go back to him. So, intimidated, I showed up at his door. The beatings continued, the police were called several times to help me get out of the situation, and I ended up taking my son to my grandmothers quite a lot because I didn't want him to be around the violence. Well we ended up using drugs together and overdosing. The police that came to the scene knew we had a child so they called DCS and my son was taken out of my care. 

When this happened I just completely lost it for a while. I had failed at being a mother and if I couldn't have my children, I didn't want to live. Nothing but shame, sorrow, pain, and anger filled me. It hurt so badly to not have my children with me. I went back to the only thing I thought would dull the pain and take all feelings away. Drugs. Marijuana, pills, and alcohol weren't enough anymore. I was introduced to heroin and methamphetamine and they became my idols.

After going back to my husband, he and I  were arrested many times for possession, subject to house raids, and car searches. We still continued this cycle even though I was overdosing countless times, being shot at and chased, and had people trying to kill us. When my husband went to jail for a long stint I was drugged, raped, and homeless. The police never took my case seriously because I was known as a drug addict. They gave me the impression that somehow I deserved it. 

So I ran the streets losing all faith in humanity and I even had a thought like “why God”? On top of all the evil I had seen, all the sickness, and pain, my offender would also not face justice. 

One night I will never forget, I was distraught not knowing why I was even still here, why I couldn't just take the drug, fall asleep and never wake up. I questioned why God kept reviving me just to wake to the same hell I had been living. Then, right in the middle of using, it hit me. I wanted to stop, I wanted to get better, but I couldn't stop myself. If I had to be alive, I wanted to stop all of this sinful chaos. I cried out to Jesus begging Him to take this from me. I confessed that I couldn't do it myself and that I needed Him. He was the only one that never left my side, kept me alive, and let life get bad enough to the point where I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I needed Him. I had finally broken down to surrender to God. 

Months had passed and I was still actively using, but I was trying to wean myself off of everything like I had done for a time with pills. At first, I was determined and had hope, but I underestimated the power of meth and heroin. I didn’t see a turning point until I had my last DCS court hearing. The emotional pain from realizing what I had done and who I had become was too much to handle. I just wanted to become numb and not wake up again, so that night I got high. I knew I was taking too much, but I didn’t care, and I overdosed in the library parking lot. 

About a week after getting released from the hospital, I overdosed again. By this time, the police were over dealing with me, so I was shackled and escorted to the Benton County Jail. Going to jail set off a whole chain of events. I lost everything I owned and was served with papers from the courts, taking custody of my child. I also received  warrants in three other counties for possession and violating probation. I was totally alone.

This was God’s intervention. I was locked down and there was no chance of escaping my pain through drugs or any other source. I was stripped down to an orange jumpsuit, three meals a day, and a flat mat to sleep on. I threw myself in the bible after suffering the withdrawal effects and clung to Jesus. I prayed for the forgiveness I knew I wasn't worthy of receiving and the peace and acceptance to do my time. Through the thirteen months I was incarcerated, I learned how to fully rely on God for everything and trust in His will. Whatever was going to happen to me, I knew He was with me and I felt total peace and pure joy. There was no other explanation for being able to be so content in my situation and in a dark place like jail. 

I attended bible classes and study groups, and I even shared the gospel a few times. Even though I was in jail, I knew that my life was changing for the better and I owed it all to God. He picked me up out of my grave and gave me another chance. I had grown a beautiful relationship with the Lord and I wanted to continue. I had decided to give up all control and let God mold me the way He wanted to. After hearing about it from a friend, God put it on my heart to come to Through The Gate. So, I applied to enter the program while I was in jail.

About 7 months later, I arrived for intake. I was overjoyed to be there. Everything was so nice and clean and there was food on the shelves. After being in jail for 13 months, the little things really meant a lot to me. 

Not everyday was easy and coming out of my shell was a big challenge. Even just learning how to conversate with people was difficult, after having been isolated by my husband for so long. When I first got there, my social anxiety was terrible: it felt like somebody was sitting on my chest and I would panic. 

However, that has slowly began to change as I have been surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ that truly cared for me and my soul, to help me through. After going through abusive relationships, it has helped to be around people who don’t get angry or judge me for the things that I have done.

Looking back, I can clearly see how God orchestrated everything to bring me to where I am today, and I am beyond thankful. I embrace my struggle and the pain I went through. If it meant bringing me closer to God and having a testimony to help others, I would do it all over again. I give all the glory to God and pray for a lifetime of reaching the lost and bringing more people to Christ. 

I have learned more in the past 8 months about what it means to follow Jesus than I have in my whole life. I had been ashamed to go to God before, but I learned here that He wants me to come to Him at my worst time. I’ve gotten to know myself as a new creation in Him. 

The apologetics class answered a lot of questions in my mind and helped me be able to evangelize others. At Through The Gate, I realized that I was more selfish than what I thought I was. As a result, I have tried to do more for others: keeping other people’s thoughts and feelings in mind. Before coming here, I was prideful and thought ‘no one can tell me what to do’. But now I am more open to instruction because I actually do want to change. God has softened my heart and is removing my bitterness.

Now that I see how much God has done for me, I have become convicted by sin. In my past, I always had an excuse and a reason why my sin was ok, but now it feels like I’ve been awakened to the offense against God. I am more grateful now than I have ever been. And thanks to my counselor, the old days of grumbling and wearing my feelings on my face are becoming a distant memory.

For my life verse, I chose John 16:33, which says “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I love this verse because God is telling you that you will have trouble in this world, but you can still have hope because He has overcome all of it. Because of this, I have strength to get through anything.

In closing, I would like to encourage anyone considering getting help at Through The Gate, by saying just come as you are. I honestly didn’t think there were people who still cared without an ulterior motive, but here you will find your faith restored. The fulfillment of growing and watching other like-minded people grow is beautiful. And I just want to thank everyone here and at Through The Gate for everything they’ve done: spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. They have helped to save a life.

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