Some call it reaching rock bottom, but I see it as barren ground. It’s a place where life is frozen, or heated, or blown away, leaving only rocks and hardness. It’s a desperate place where nothing grows.
I sat down with the six women who are in the Genesis Recovery Program to talk with them about their “barren places” and their journey from there. They were hesitant at first and then the stories came, often in broken voices and through tears.
- I knew I would die or go to jail and my kids would be motherless if I continued on the same road.
- I was living in my car, committing passive-aggressive suicide. It was while I was in jail that I realized what could be worse than wanting to die: There were two women with me in jail who had caused deaths while they were drunk – women like myself – eerily similar to myself. Causing a death - that would be worse.
- I had 14 years of sobriety and then I got really sick – so sick I had no energy to do anything – including all of the things I did to stay sober – meetings, reading my Bible, going to church – all of it stopped. When I finally started feeling better I wanted to celebrate – and I did – with a bottle. Then a domestic dispute, jail, and divorce. My whole life, gone.
- I ran all the way to Alaska, but the streets are here too – and my grandpa is dying – and I have to find a way to see him again.
- Three years ago I had a whole, regular life then the man I’d been with for 10 years left and took everything and my mother committed suicide. In that vortex of pain I decided I was never going to love again. I spent two blind years in drugs and bad people. I tried to kill myself. I was living in my car and got a DUI and they took my car, so I came to the Mission. When I got here there was no light in me, none.
- This is my third attempt at the Genesis Program. Twice I couldn’t make it through the 10-day trial period. I’ve been isolated, bitter, mad, negative is my normal. I’ve thought I couldn’t come back, that alcohol had already killed me.
It takes courage to fight back from the barren places. It takes so much bravery and faith to hope again. But these women are fighters and they are beginning to see the good soil in their lives. As one of them said, “There’s something to plant in. Things can live in me now. I was dead before.” One woman can see that, “There are all different kinds of foliage.”
For some it’s as simple as having a warm safe place to sleep. That is not a small thing when you’ve spent 17 winters in a tent or tried to cope with the chaos and filth of druggie living or been afraid as a woman on the streets night after night after night.
For some it’s a newfound joy in living a life of faith. “I have hope of going to heaven now.” (She just got baptized and she knows that’s where her grandpa will be.) Or the difference that having Christian support can make in a person’s life. “I have a new beginning.” “I’m safe from myself. I feel like there is a future. My sons look at me differently.”
Then I asked them, “In this new soil, what green new things do you see sprouting up in your lives?”First of all, they are sober, some for over a year, some for a few weeks. It was new things that they mentioned: New strengths, new friendships, new ways of communicating, and new life happening. They talked about inner peace and “finally getting to meet the ‘me’ that’s been held prisoner.” They laughed about what they learned from Becki (Rebecca Miller, their Genesis counselor) “It’s OK to feel” and “Embrace the suck.” And they expressed how God has used Becki so much in their lives.
They talked about learning – those great big learning curves that all of us are hopefully journeying across. Learning to love ourselves the right way and accepting that it’s trust that allows us to love.
I hope, in these few paragraphs, I’ve been able to give you a sip of the life giving water these women imparted to me as they talked about their journey from the barrenness of addiction to the green fields of their recovery.
AUTHOR: Michelle Harpole