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Life was pointless and meaningless...

My childhood is filled with many good memories; people around me who tried to show me the right and Godly way to live. Despite that, there are also some not so good memories to go along with it. My mother and father got divorced when I was 7 years old and this took a deep toll on me. There were many instances where I needed both my mother and father, and felt let down. My shaky relationship with my father has deeply affected my view of men, and the whole world for that matter. I started believing that everyone would abandon me; that people wouldn’t show up when I needed them. 

I began chasing after my purpose in this life; constantly putting my identity in other people and things around me. I knew that there had to be something I was made for, but over time I started to question if my life really had any purpose at all. I wanted to be filled up and feel like I had worth in something so badly. Many spiritual battles consumed my life and took it over completely; beginning with depression and anxiety. My cousin was one of the only people I had to talk to about those things, so we got pretty close.

 However, at the end of his basic military training, I found out that he died from drinking too much water on the last hike he had to complete. When I heard of the news it absolutely was shocking to me and crushed my entire family; but I had to accept the fact that he was gone. I continued losing people who were very close to me that year, including my great grandmother, my great aunt, and my childhood babysitter. I had never really experienced loss before this, so it had an extreme effect on my life. Although I knew they were all saved, it didn't make the grief any lighter. When the pain didn’t pass, I started coping by making new friends.

I just wanted to be accepted and loved by people and feel like I mattered, because I had always been that person that never quite seemed to fit in. So, I started hanging out with people who weren't raised the same way I was and were allowed to do whatever they wanted. With my new friends, I began drinking, taking pills, doing LSD, and cocaine. A mixture of curiosity, peer pressure, and wanting a way to escape from the madness in my mind led to these choices. At age 15, I learned to master the art of deception and lies, to continue my drug addiction. It wasn’t long before suicidal tendencies, self harm, and addiction became the most relevant struggles in my life. 

I was excited to turn 16 for all the wrong reasons. Once I had my license, I would be able to get a job and have a car, which would enable me to continue my new lifestyle. Little did I know that being 16 was also going to be a tragic thing for me in ways I could have never imagined. One summer night, I had decided I was going to hang out with my best friend and this guy we had met, who was way older than us. He seemed cool, interesting, and was always very nice to me. He had invited us over to swim and drink. Of course we got drunk and were having a good time but as the night continued, things started to get weird. He began to ask me lots of questions about my sexuality, and about my virginity. I proceeded to tell him that I was in fact straight and a virgin. Disgustingly enough, I could tell this intrigued him.

At one point I believe I was drugged with some sort of date rape drug and the next thing I know I was blacking in and out and he was having sex with me. I was unable to speak, move, or barely comprehend what was happening: all I knew was that I was in pain. The next morning I woke up next to my offender, covered in blood, and I was very confused. I even told my best friend that I was scared and confused and that I thought I wasn't a virgin anymore, but that it wasn't willingly my choice to have this happen. She claimed that I must have been willing and that I shouldn’t dare say I was taken advantage of; after all, he was well liked by many and attractive. 

She went around the school telling people about the incident and saying that I was lying and had everyone questioning why I didn’t cry out for help, since she was there. This began the mockery of the sexual assault that I was victim to. It was embarrassing and I started believing it was my fault and maybe I did want to do it. I hadn’t told anyone else about the incident for a long while after it happened and by then, there was nothing that could be done. 

One person I told was a guy who I was dating and at first, he was a comfort to me. I had never been in a relationship before but he made it easy to trust him. Once I was in love with him, he became physically, emotionally, mentally, and even sexually abusive. He burnt me with a hot lighters, put a cigarette out on me, and tried to humiliate me in front of other people. I was hit, choked, cheated on, and raped by him. I didn’t know that a person could be raped by someone they were in a relationship until then. Yet, when I said I wanted to leave, he would threaten to kill himself. So, I stayed until he eventually left me. I was both relieved and crushed. Since I put my identity in him, I didn’t know who I was after that.

The path I was headed down was slowly but surely stripping me of every ounce of self worth I had, which led me to abusing substances more and more. I wanted to commit suicide, so I planned to overdose on pills.The weekend before I was going to commit suicide, my dad had asked me to go to church with him.

I figured it would be the last time I was going to see him before killing myself, so I agreed to go. The praise and worship started and all of a sudden the pastor got on the mic and said that if there was anybody who was struggling with the suicidal thoughts, to come up and get prayed for because he felt God put it on his heart to say that. Of course I did not want to go up at first, but I remember my dad looking over at me and grabbing my hand and I felt the Holy Spirit rush over me and it made me very emotional. 

Then the pastor proceeded to know specifics about my life and my situation that nobody else would’ve known. After going up for prayer, I was delivered from the suicidal spirit I had. Though that was not the point in time where I decided to fully surrender my life to God, it got the wheels turning. So, even though I stopped planning to end my life, I still didn’t care whether I lived or died. There were several occasions where I almost overdosed after that. 

By the time I was 18, life was pointless and meaningless to me. I was disgusted with who I had become. With this mindset, it became a regular thing to be mistreated, abused, and used by everyone around me. My friends even left me to die from an overdose on the side of the road one time, but even after the event, I continued to be friends with them all. This was normal to me.

I started using all sorts of other drugs on top of the ones I had already been using; including methamphetamine. I even unintentionally got hooked on fentanyl, causing neurological issues in my hands and legs. It was devastating to realize what I was doing to myself and I wanted to care, but mentally I just couldn’t. In my experience of being lost in this world, I have been homeless several times. I have been in many life or death situations due to my selfishness and addiction. I have been to jail three times in my life,  been in continuous abusive relationships, and experienced multiple other sexual assaults.

In the middle of all this, my mother had given me an ultimatum: either get help or she was kicking me out of her life. She wanted me to go to Through The Gate. Her and I both knew only a faith based rehab would help me at this point. I filled out the application but I was hesitant. I really wanted to go somewhere that was less time and where I had more freedom to do what I wanted. Even then, I remember praying for God to pave a way for me to go to rehab and give it 100%. Unfortunately, after receiving an acceptance into the program, I was arrested a third time for possession of methamphetamine amongst several other charges. Little did I know that going to jail was the answer to my prayers. This was the start of God working in my life in miraculous ways, to try and save me from myself and get my attention so I could fully surrender my life to Him.

I wanted to change so badly, but I was also scared to because I knew how hard it was going to be. My heart and soul were utterly broken and I was tired of being tired. I felt as if nobody understood what I was going through and that I was maybe too messed up to ever be okay again. I was scared nothing was going to heal the pain and hopelessness I felt. I felt like a lost cause, worthless and disposable.

The day I finally came to Through the Gate is a day I will never forget. It was a relief to know that I wasn't going to have to worry about where I was going to lay my head, how I was going to eat that day, or where I was even going to shower. Everyone welcomed me with open arms which felt weird at first because I had such extreme trust issues. I remember crying so much and being so thankful that God had kept me alive despite all my unfaithfulness to Him. I didn’t deserve anything good from God, but somehow he loved and protected me anyways.

In the past I have been diagnosed with borderline disorder tendencies, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and depression, and PTSD. At first these struggles were very obvious and consumed my life. Through lots of counseling, classes, and mentorship, I learned the best ways to deal with all of these issues I had faced my entire life. Taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ has been a tool I use everyday and has improved the way I handle situations drastically. 

I used to run with negative thoughts until I would completely spiral out of control and get suicidal. I struggled with anger issues, trust issues, and leading every decision with my emotions. I've learned while being here that our emotions can lie to us. Through the word of God, I have gained biblical methods that will help me throughout the rest of my life. God and his word brings about peace in ways I can’t begin to explain.

I first started to realize how much the program was working and how God was changing my heart on my first home visit for Christmas. I was extremely nervous of everything going terrible; but to my surprise it went better than I thought it would. Being here has changed my relationships with others, especially in my family. It seemed impossible to mend before coming here, but through scripture, I have everyday weapons to fight against the negative things of this world. I have been able to be an example of what it looks like to still have joy, after all the pain and suffering.

For the first time in my life, I feel hopeful. I feel peace and joy which is something I never thought I could feel again. I know that through Christ Jesus, I do have purpose in this life. I have learned that in fact none of us deserve anything but death, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, we can find life. We can find our true identity, which I think is something that we all desire to find. Scripture says, for whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for God will indeed preserve and find it.

Since going through the program, I do not need any mental health medication, which I was told I wouldn’t ever live a functioning life without. I have been completely healed from my neurological damage and freed from suicidal thoughts.

 I would like to thank all the staff at Through the Gate for teaching me how to apply God’s word to my life. I want to thank all the volunteers and my mentor, for always being so encouraging and kind. I would also like to thank my family for being so supportive of me, patient with me, and loving me unconditionally. I couldn’t have come this far without all of you and God has truly blessed me with amazing people to help me throughout this journey. The scripture from Proverbs 22:6 comes to mind where it says ¨train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it¨. This scripture has held true in my life and I'm forever thankful for being raised in the right way. I have finally made a full circle into coming back to my Christian faith.

The verse that most relates to my life now is Romans 8:28 which says “and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.” No matter what any of us face in this life, we can find hope in knowing that God can turn it around and use it for the better. I truly believe that people who have been through terrible things or done terrible things, can end up being such a beautiful testament of how God can take someone out of darkness and bring them to the light. 

All praise be to God for His amazing grace and unfailing love. My Heavenly Father has shown me that He is the one I can truly put my faith and trust in and that he will never abandon me nor forsake me. I am loved by Him, despite it all. I have finally found my true identity.

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