A Place to Belong
The Story of Sheridan Correa

I grew up in a large, religious family—the seventh of nine children. At first glance, you’d think we had it all. My father was a successful businessman who provided us with a large, beautiful home. My mother stayed home and managed the household. They raised kids who excelled in music, academics, and sports. We attended church together regularly.

But we were dysfunctional. Dad worked long, hard hours and was often away from home. Mom stayed home and was responsible for raising all of us—a stressful job to be sure. Our home felt unstable, and toxic stress brewed all around us.

Periods of separation created a great divide in our family. When they’d split, some of us kids would go with Dad and the rest with Mom. I never knew where I belonged or which “team” I was supposed to be on.

It didn’t take long for feelings of inadequacy to surface. As one of many kids, I felt like a number rather than an individual. It’s remarkable how alone and unloved you can feel, even in your own family. As far as I knew, I mattered to no one, and I was ready for life to end by the fourth grade.

One day at recess, I rushed to the top of the monkey bars, fully intending to throw myself to the ground, break my neck, and end my misery. Tears streamed down my face as I prepared to jump. Before I could, however, teachers managed to get hold of me. They took me to the school psychologist, but nothing ever came of the incident other than an assessment.

I coped as best I could with the dark emotions brewing inside me for the next eight years. Every day, I put a smile on my face and performed. Performance and achievement were my jams. God forbid anyone would discover my imperfections or insecurities. I became a master at wearing a mask, and no one knew a frightened little girl was hiding within. Two very different people were living inside me, and not even I knew which one was the real me.

I graduated high school and set out to experience a happier and more stable life. I attended university on both music and athletic scholarships. I achieved great success for the first few years and was emotionally sound. And then I went off the rails.

Desperately seeking happiness, security, and a solution for my miserable life, I turned to men. Marriage seemed to be the next milestone of accomplishment. I was young, vulnerable, and immature when I said “I do” for the first time, and within months, the relationship ended in divorce.

My failed marriage only added to my pervasive sense of inadequacy. I felt great shame and entered a deep emotional and mental darkness. I had experienced the lows of depression before and had even seen counselors, so I had coping mechanisms, but this time, nothing helped.

I finally sought psychiatric help. I recounted my life and the inner turmoil I had felt since a child. I told the doctor of the violent mood swings, recurring thoughts of suicide, how fear ruled my life, and our family’s history of mental disease. Before I left that office, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Relief washed over me. I had always known something was “wrong” with me. Now I had the answer to all my problems. I eagerly accepted my diagnosis, along with numerous psych meds. There was hope for me after all.

I took my meds consistently and soon felt more stable. I returned to my comfort zones of performance and achievement, sure that my meds had fixed me for good. Three years later, I remarried. It didn’t take long for that marriage to unravel too.

I hadn’t felt loved as a child, so I didn’t know how to love others or myself, nor did I know how to receive love as an adult. A rejected, isolated little girl lived inside me, and until she was tended to, nothing would ever be right in my life. I had no idea how to help her, though, so I continued doing the only things I knew to do—perform, excel, achieve, and hide my brokenness.

For the next decade, I battled anxiety and severe depression. I experienced a short reprieve when I became a mom to two amazing little boys, but the cycle of hopelessness soon returned. I grew tired of trying to feel normal and be happy.

I called crisis hotlines, cycled in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and experimented with multiple psych medications. But nothing gave me lasting emotional and mental stability. Years of inner turmoil took their toll and began to manifest through my body: I experienced chronic debilitating pain. Old sports injuries were also now requiring surgeries.

I began using painkillers. At first, my use was legitimate, and I took them only as I needed them. But then I discovered that opioids numbed my emotional pain. I finally felt normal and could deal with life circumstances. And I liked it. Not only that, the constant emotional stress and all the voices in my head were gone.

Pain pills were controlling my inner monster. And although I knew I was developing an unhealthy dependence, I denied and ignored the problem.

My descent into addiction hell escalated after a traumatic motorcycle accident left me unable to walk for months. My injuries required major surgeries, and I experienced much pain. My addiction to opioids increased.

The next three years required the constant assistance of pills for me to tackle even the most mundane task. I began drinking daily as well, sometimes until I blacked out. Alcohol, drugs, and my sense of unworthiness were a deadly mixture. My mind became the darkest, scariest place I had ever known, and my memory was my worst enemy.

In the middle of this downward spiral, my husband filed for divorce and received temporary sole custody of our boys. I felt more rejected and abandoned than ever, and I became bitter and resentful.

With my identity as wife and mother stripped away, I felt I’d died, along with everybody I loved. If I wasn’t a mother and a wife, who was I? What reason did I have to live anymore?
Overwhelmed by those thoughts, I grabbed a month’s supply of muscle relaxers and washed them down with rubbing alcohol. But just like on that playground, my suicide attempt was unsuccessful. I was admitted to a psychiatric facility until I was stable.

Released from the hospital, I found myself homeless. I felt a weird camaraderie with all the other lost and broken people I encountered on the street. I deluded myself into thinking that I could help them.

It wasn’t long before I entered the world of hardcore drugs. Once I got a taste of that life, I turned completely away from my family, church, and community, and didn’t look back. I became an overachiever in addiction and crime. That worked…until it didn’t.

I was numb and ignorant of the damage I was doing to myself and the people I loved. My children were becoming memories that only haunted me.

I soon became a “frequent flyer” at the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, Arizona. At first, it was for minor things like shoplifting and outstanding warrants, but then came more severe crimes like criminal damage, domestic violence, and drug possession and sale charges.

After each arrest, I was confined to the psych ward. Emerging from my drug coma and facing the reality of my life was always more than I could bear. Knowing who and what I had become was terrifying.

Finally, stripped of everything, I hit rock bottom. Desperate to end the insanity and despite being in solitary confinement, I found a way to inflict serious harm. The guards, however, discovered my bloody self and placed me on suicide watch. Still, under their watchful eyes, I tried to end my life again, but to no avail.

I didn’t understand it then, but I now know God’s mercy was at work, and He was about to reveal Himself to me in the most beautiful way.

I had grown up hearing about God. But at the same time, I was taught to rely on my intellect and performance. I came from a long lineage of successful people; we didn’t need anyone’s help, not even God’s. I clung to the belief that I was in control and could achieve anything if I set my mind to it.

But in that ugly place, I finally had a life-changing revelation: I wasn’t in control of anything! My intellect, self-efforts, and awards couldn’t bring me happiness and stability, nor could they free me from my emotional and mental prison. I didn’t have a clue about how to manage life.

I was a homeless meth and heroin addict who had lost everything that mattered, including my freedom. It was time I moved aside and gave up the reins.

Once released to the jail’s general population, I began attending church and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. There, I learned that God was a loving and caring Father. This concept intrigued me, and I began to open my heart to Him.

New feelings, thoughts, and desires introduced themselves to me. They were foreign yet strangely familiar, and I felt I’d come home to where I always belonged. I found a new desire to live and love.

The morning I was to receive my prison plea, I knelt beside the jail toilet and surrendered my life to the care of God. “God, if You want to send me to prison, that’s okay. I’ll go wherever because I know You’re coming with me.”

Later that day, I learned that the state prosecutor had changed the plea deal. Instead of serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, I was sent to the Phoenix Rescue Mission. I would remain there for one year with three years’ probation. I entered the Mission’s gates wanting, willing, and ready for whatever God had in store.

I knew God was inviting me to trust Him, but it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. So I started studying His Word, the Bible. God lit a fire inside me for Himself, and as I learned more about Him, my mental illness, addictions, and hopelessness lost their holds on me. God began to change me from the inside out. I no longer felt like a counterfeit version of myself. I finally felt seen, heard, loved, and accepted.

But then, after seven months in the program, I was a witness and an accomplice to another person breaking the program’s rules. Initially, I didn’t think I would be affected because I wasn’t the one breaking the rules. But there were consequences, and I had a choice: either restart the program or defer to prison.

I stayed in the program, accepted the discipline (Hebrews 12:6), and learned from my mistake. Like David in Psalm 139:23–24, I asked the Lord to highlight anything preventing me from moving forward with Him.

The Lord soon revealed something critical—I needed a Savior. Although I had recognized my need for God, turned my life over to His care, learned lots of scripture, and even experienced a real-life change, I hadn’t come to know His Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior. I hadn’t accepted what He’d done for me on the cross. I was still relying on my good works.

My deceitful action at the Mission revealed the sinful nature I still carried. I needed to be born again in Christ to receive a new heart. I asked God to forgive me of my sin, and I put my faith in Jesus for salvation rather than my performance.

I reached out to God through His Son from that day forward, and He drew me close (James 4:8). In His presence, both I and that little girl living within me found freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17) as we journeyed through our traumas with His eyes of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

Healing came through understanding my worth. Knowing that God wanted to hang out with a super-sucky person like me changed everything. I had value now because I belonged to and was wanted by God, the Creator of the world. I could take off the mask and be my authentic self (Psalm 139:7–8) and still be loved.

The Lord got to work pruning me of my religious, performing, and conforming ways (Romans 12:2). He’s continually ridding me of the things that feed my independence and self-sufficiency. What a relief to know that I no longer have to rely on my limited strength, efforts, and achievements. I can stand tall in Christ. In His strength, I can do and overcome everything (Philippians 4:13).

I am five years into my recovery now. God’s love has given me a new life. All that was dead and lost has been restored (Ephesians 3:20). I now have a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), am free from addiction and mental illness, and have the courage and the resilience to face life without drugs.

Not only that, but the Lord has reconciled and restored me to my family and my two sons. He has also blessed me with a godly husband; we were married earlier this year. I am still amazed at the goodness of God and thankful that He was willing to patiently bring me home to Him, where I’ve always belonged.

You can belong to Him too. Right now, He is beckoning you to Him, where you’ll find peace, contentment, and rest. Don’t give up. There is hope. Jesus Christ can set even the most traumatized heart and mind free. And His arms are open to you today.

SHERIDAN CORREA is a biblical counselor who is trained in trauma-informed care. She’s a wife, mother of two teenage boys, singer, and avid runner who has been radically changed by Jesus. She joined the Victorious Living family in 2022 as social media manager.