Regaining life

Maybe it’s a life you take for granted – you have a home and safety, a job that takes care of your needs, and every night you come home to your children.  A life that’s been torn apart by abandonment and drugs takes none of that for granted. Moving from a life of homeless addiction to the life you have is gained in struggle, one hard step at a time. Struggle to overcome an addiction that eats at your bones and promises relief from your pain. Struggle to move from couch surfing and camping, to sleeping every night in the same bed at the Mission, to having your own bed to sleep in. Struggle to move from existing on the charity of others and odd jobs to supporting yourself. Struggle to move from signing your kids over to their stepmom for one more year to fighting for the right to have them in your life. 

A hero of mine named Shawna has battled as fiercely as anyone I’ve known to regain her life.  She came to the Mission in August of 2014, running to a place where she thought she could stay sober. A friend said, as she dropped her off at our front door, “Think about one of their programs. They might be able to help you.” It was that germ of an idea that helped prompt Shawna to join the Genesis Program. She says, looking back, she can see how God was working to bring her here. 

She was traumatized, highly anxious, afraid, jumpy, angry, blaming, questioning. Her failures were screaming at her so loud she couldn’t hear God’s whisper in her ear. As she began to feel a little safe she began to be able to hear God, “I love you. I believe in you. I have gifted you. You are mine.”

She walked with her Genesis counselor into the wreckage of the past. She grieved her losses, she recognized the lies the past was telling her, she learned to use tools that warned her of relapse and helped her make decisions. She was willing to do whatever it took to change her life - even trust again. She walked out stronger on the other side. She allowed herself to ask for help and DVR has been instrumental in her getting a small business started. Twenty months after she walked in our doors, she walked out. She walked out sober into her own place and her own business. She is working with OCS to get her girls counseling and to work towards reconciliation and reunification. She is co-leading a Genesis Change Group sponsored by Journey Underground Church. She is active in her Genesis aftercare group. 

Shawna says, “It’s hard to live alone. Recovery actually makes life harder – there is much more to take care of. I’m so busy taking care of all the stuff I didn’t take care of while I was using. But . . .  now there is joy in my life and reward. Because of watching my life, my sister and my best friend are getting sober. My sister just made 30 days sober today!”

What we have seen in Shawna’s life – her true beauty emerge from chaos and confusion – is reflected in her new business. I’ve seen some of her before and after pictures on a job and she is a genius at creating cleanliness, order and peace out of a mess. It’s what God did for her and what she delights in doing for others.

And it’s what God does for all of us. He takes the mess of our lives - our pride, our self-sufficiency, our arrogance, our brokenness and, if we let Him, He restores us to trust, sanity and humility. It’s that kind of love and redemption that draws us to God, but which none of us dare take for granted.

AUTHOR: MICHELLE HARPOLE, ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR, FAIRBANKS RESCUE MISSION