I was twelve years old when I first smoked pot. Suddenly, I was free. Free from anxiety and depression. Free from pressure. Free from pain.
I thought I’d found something that would make life better or at least easier; but instead, the addiction enslaved me. It turned my life and my family’s life into a living hell.
Addiction doesn’t just happen. No; it slithers its way into your life and then slowly begins to choke out the light until all you can see is darkness. All your hopes, dreams, and aspirations fade away. Life becomes an art of survival as you try to feed the darkness within.
Growing up, I knew I was loved. I had wonderful parents. But I had such emptiness inside, and I never knew how to express it. Drugs filled—or more like numbed—that emptiness in my heart and helped me function without all the pain. Drugs gave me a means to live.
At the age of fifteen, I began dating a boy I knew my parents disapproved of. So I kept it a secret. When he cheated on me, I was devastated. The pain in my heart was so great, I no longer wanted to live. I swallowed a bunch of pills and drank from my parents’ liquor cabinet.
A friend found me having a seizure on the kitchen floor. I was taken to the emergency room, where they pumped my stomach. My dad held my hand with tears rolling down his cheeks. I was so full of shame and embarrassment. When the doctors asked why I had taken so many pills, I responded, “I just wanted to sleep for a long time.” They sent me to a mental institution for my addiction, and that’s where the humiliation really began.
I was greeted by a boy my age who actually attended the same high school I did. “Who would have ever thought someone like you would end up in a place like this, with people like us?” His words still haunt me today.
To the outside world, I looked like I had it all together. I was the cheerleader, honor roll student, on the homecoming court, a member of the student council. But on the inside, I was falling apart. In the mental institution, I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication.
The meds made me so tired. I began skipping classes in my senior year so I could go back home and sleep. I had so many absences that the prospect of me not graduating became a scary reality. Fortunately, I did graduate and was accepted to the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. I planned to start in the fall.
A week before graduation, I took a trip with my parents to Minneapolis. I thought we were attending a convention for my dad’s business. Instead, my parents were dropping me off at the Hazelden Rehab Center. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to attend a twenty-eight-day program to overcome this addiction and then live in a halfway house for a couple of months before I entered college. I was angry and devastated to say the least.
I rebelled as best I could, hoping that I would be kicked out of the program. After a week, I was. They took to a Greyhound bus station where I headed home to Greensboro, North Carolina.
With no license, no relationship with my family, and no friends (they were all leaving for college), my dark days became darker. I began experimenting with more drugs to numb my ever-growing pain. I also found myself in an abusive relationship. There seemed to be no way out.
That’s when I began to pray. “God,” I cried, “please show me a way out. I’m too weak to leave this relationship. I’m too weak to stop using the drugs. I need Your help!”
The boy I was seeing was sentenced to almost four years in prison. Visiting him opened my eyes to the hurt in other people’s lives. Until that point, life had always been about me. I rarely thought of others. I wished I could ease their pain, but being broken myself, I was in no place to help anyone. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any steps to find the healing I needed.
The next three years were a blur. Drugs, alcohol, and sex clouded my mind and led me to make terrible choices. The consequences were horrific. I even lost a child due to cocaine use. After contemplating suicide every day for two years and being in constant trouble with the law, I entered a drug and alcohol rehab on February 21, 2002, with one plea: “God, who I am going into this place is not who I want to be when I leave!”
Desperate for change, I took off my mask of toughness, laid down my way of living, and for the first time, submitted to authority. While in rehab, I began to deal with emotions that I had stuffed inside of me for nine years. It took courage to face them, and it was painful. As I faced my past, I had nowhere to run…except to God. Turns out, He was exactly who I needed. He gave me the strength to work through my emotional issues and overcome the temptation of returning to my past addiction. Layer after layer, God pulled away the darkness.
Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Once I tasted how good God was, His power in me began to drive me. He was who I wanted, not a drug. His goodness enabled me to persevere through tough times of addiction.
A rabbi came to speak at our rehab center. During break, most of the patients went outside to smoke. I wanted to smoke too, but I couldn’t get out of the chair. It was as if God Himself had His hands on my shoulders. The rabbi made a beeline to where I was sitting. He grabbed my hands and prayed. I’m not sure what he said, but when I went back to my room, I fell asleep in total peace. I woke up feeling comfortable in my own skin for the first time. At that moment, I knew that no matter what happened in my life, I would be okay. I had never had that assurance before.
That day I recommitted my life to God, and I determined in my heart to know Him more every day. I also asked God to help me inspire people. I knew that would take a miracle. I was the girl too insecure to even raise her hand in class to ask a question.
When I came out of my room that evening, people said, “Erin, you look different. Your countenance has changed.” Sure enough, when I looked in the mirror, I no longer saw dark eyes. They were light and sparkly. There was no more darkness in or around me. There was only light.
That day began my journey of walking out of the pit of addiction where I had been imprisoned for years. Jesus rescued me and took me to higher ground where every chain of bondage—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—was broken. God healed me in a year from what would have taken most people their entire lives to find healing from addiction. I was free!
Now I was able to use my God-given passion and internal fire for an eternal purpose. I believe God gave me a wild, live-on-the-edge, dangerous side so that I would be courageous in my faith and further His kingdom. But the enemy had taken those attributes and, with my help, had used them to further his plan. Now, the passion that had once fueled my addiction began to fuel my faith. I moved from chasing the next high to chasing passionately after God. I was so hungry to know Him more. And God was faithful to teach me. I can’t say I did everything right, but I kept seeking after Jesus and the life I wanted. I never gave up.
My transformation process wasn’t easy, nor was it quick. It was also very lonely at times as I released my old way of life. I could no longer be around the same people if I wanted to stay clean. But God was faithful to send amazing people to help me in my transition from living for the world to living for God. People like Marty.
Marty opened up her heart and her home to me. She jumped right in the trenches with me, teaching and helping me become the woman God created me to be. She saw me as God sees me and reminded me constantly that I was worthy of His love.
Marty introduced me to Matt, a college ministry worship leader. I could listen to his voice for hours. Every time he sang, I was immediately brought to the feet of Jesus. I began to open up to Matt, and to my surprise, he didn’t run away! He extended nothing but grace and love. He inspired me to be a better person.
I had never met a guy who treated me with such gentleness. In fact, no guy had even opened a car door for me. One day I asked him, “What are you going to do next? Bring out a red carpet?” Sure enough, he did! The next time he picked me up, he laid out a red towel for me to walk on. Yes, he won my heart and my trust.
Although I was very interested in Matt, we didn’t start dating right away. I had made a commitment not to date for the first year of my being clean. I needed time to develop my relationship with Christ before I could have a healthy relationship with a man.
I was so happy when my one-year anniversary of being clean arrived. Matt and I officially began dating and within a year, we were married. We’ve been together now for twelve years and have four beautiful daughters we call our little world changers. Our family has lived a life of adventure in ministry.
If someone had told me all those years ago that I would be pastoring a church, running a nonprofit that ministers to women in strip clubs, and counseling people to overcome substance abuse, I would have fallen off my barstool laughing at them! But when God gets hold of a life, the possibilities are limitless.
I’m living proof!
by Erin Blair
Photo by Nik Shuliahin