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I Won’t Let You Die
“I’d lost everything – my job my house, my family. I was out of control, unable to stop using drugs, and life was a nightmare. ‘Just let me die, God,’ I pleaded.”

Descent into addiction

I'd always felt that life had dealt me a raw deal. I grew up in Nova Scotia. My dad drank, and my three sisters and brother drank and used drugs. It was a chaotic home life, with lots of fighting and little love. I struggled with condemnation and rejection. Harsh words stung, leaving me feeling inadequate.

Lorna Vantassell

I wanted to get away from everything, including myself, so I numbed myself with drugs and drink. Early on, I experimented with marijuana, acid, pills—whatever I could get my hands on.

My brother dealt drugs and, by 13, I was dealing, too. We both got in trouble with the law. The RCMP regularly escorted me home for underage drinking and, at 18, I was charged with possession of narcotics.

School was better because, as a drug dealer, I was popular, but I wasn't good at schoolwork and I avoided doing anything I wasn't good at. I did poorly in school until I was 16. Then tragedy struck. My brother was killed by a car while fleeing from the police. His death devastated me. He had always wanted to see me graduate, so after his death I changed schools and began to apply myself.

In my early 20s, I moved to Toronto. By the time I was 35, I was taking cocaine and drinking heavily. The effects showed. Everything in my life fell apart. I lost weight and I couldn't sleep or eat. I had been in an abusive relationship for 13 years, and that relationship, too, was failing. I had been a functioning addict, but that changed as well. I was about to lose my job. At 37, my employer gave me a leave of absence to seek treatment but

I wasn't interested in dealing with the issues plaguing my life.

In the meantime, the company I worked for changed hands. With no job, I returned to Nova Scotia. I stayed off drugs for seven months, but soon started using again. I returned to Toronto and got a good job, but now I was on crack cocaine daily.

Things deteriorated quickly. I chose to seek help, and my new -employers gave me a leave of absence. . I sought treatment at The Salvation Army's Homestead female residential addictions facility. I even began attending church services, but a battle raged in me. Part of me wanted God and to get off drugs, but the addiction won again. In six months, I was back on drugs, I lost my apartment and I was on the verge of losing my job.

I knew the repercussions but I didn't care. Nothing mattered but getting high.

A different person

I hadn't always been that way. Until I was 12, I'd had a relationship with God and attended church but I stopped going when I started doing drugs. As things got worse, I thought God was punishing me. Now with life dissolving, my only prayer was for God to let me die so I could escape the hell I was in.

By 2007, I was on the streets. I'd lost my job, my home, everything I had cherished. Then one morning in October, it happened. I remember it was sunny and warm. I'd been doing drugs for four to five days. I was sick, shaking and sweating, and I just wanted to die. Then I sensed God respond to my pleas: "I'm not going to let you die until you become who I want you to be. You can stay in misery or surrender."

That moment instantly changed my attitude and thinking.

I returned to the Homestead, overcome with self-hatred at having relapsed. Seeking counselling, I went to the chaplain's office. There, Colonel Ann Copple told me about Jesus and how He had a better life for me. She encouraged me to give my life to Christ. We started to pray. Suddenly, something extraordinary happened. All my self-hate and frustration disappeared! Like a miracle, a burden lifted. I came out of the office a different person.

Getting my life back

I was ready for change. I registered at a treatment centre for trauma sufferers, and, through counselling, explored my beliefs and learned new ways of thinking. I also started to regularly attend Salvation Army churches, where I grew in my relationship with Christ.

My salvation was the turning point in my recovery and gave me the strength to move forward. I've now been free from addiction for a year and a half and I have no desire to go back to my former life. I attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous 12-step meetings and share my story with the people there. My dream is to become an addictions counsellor and seek a career in The Salvation Army. I hope to become an official member this year.

I've grown to love the Army and all it stands for. When I had nothing, they welcomed me with unconditional love. God gave me back my life through The Salvation Army and I want to give my life to the service of God through them.

Daina Doucet is a writer and editor based in Hamilton, Ontario. She edits The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's website, Christianity.ca.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, April 2009.

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