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Fighting Temptations
Desperate to feed her crack cocaine habit, Debbie abandoned the one thing she loved the most.

"One sip wouldn't hurt, would it?" On a hot summer's day I was helping a friend move, and cold beer was offered to quench our thirst. I had struggled with addiction in the past, but I had been through rehab. I figured I could control my drinking now. Wrong. One sip of beer quickly became a can of beer and then two. Things began to spiral downwards. That night I wound up drunk in a bar, drove a friend's car into a fence, was arrested by the police and charged with impaired driving.

Two uniformed ladies came to visit me in jail. I couldn't believe they still wanted anything to do with me … They loved me, no matter what.

At 3:00 a.m. I was released and got into a cab with the intention of returning home. Instead, I went to the bank machine to get money, met a friend and got high on crack cocaine. When I finally sobered up, I returned home to discover that I had left my one-year-old son alone for 15 hours. I had never left him alone before—not even for a few seconds. That day my life changed completely. I knew I couldn't continue in my own strength.

Like many teens from broken homes, I was stubborn and rebellious. In high school I skipped classes, went to wild drinking parties and smoked pot. This empty lifestyle made me feel like I was in control. My friends branded me one of the best drinkers in my group and, of course, I bragged about it.

At 15 I decided I could make it on my own. I left home, got a job and moved in with a friend. Tasting freedom for the first time, I worked and lived to party. When the money ran out, I took a job in a strip bar, first as a waitress then as a stripper. I drank heavily and smoked pot, but I was still able to pay my bills. I thought I had everything I needed in life.

Then I got involved in hard drugs. Crack cocaine became my drug of choice. By now my life was out of control. I had several relationships with men, became pregnant, had a little girl and gave her to my mother to raise.

At one point I met a man I thought was my knight in shining armour. He helped me clean up my life. I entered a detox centre in Oshawa, Ont., and started seeing a counsellor. When I became pregnant my relationship with my boyfriend soured and I left him. I gave birth to a beautiful boy and tried to be a responsible mom, but the addiction had its teeth in me. I always made sure my little boy was well cared for by babysitters when I went off to use drugs.

That's when I met The Salvation Army for the first time. Children from my housing complex were singing upbeat songs about Jesus. They had been to the vacation Bible school at the Bowmanville Salvation Army Community Church during March break. I called the pastors, Captains Doug and Miriam Stevens, and told them I wanted to help with the children. Miriam was apprehensive. She sensed that something was not quite right with my life, but she invited me to attend the Sunday school program with my son.

I joined the adult Bible study class and Miriam faithfully visited me in my home. I told her that I used to be a drug addict, but that I had left that life behind. I wasn't very convincing. We talked about Jesus, the Bible and church, and Miriam gave me the Jesus video. I watched it and prayed at the end of the movie, asking Jesus to come into my life. I felt like I was walking on air!

I tried for several months to live a Christian life, but couldn't give up using crack. Finally Miriam confronted me: When was I going to admit that I still had a drug problem? She helped me register for a ten-week rehabilitation program at the Toronto Homestead, a Salvation Army residence for women with chemical dependencies. The program dealt with every part of my being—body, mind and spirit. I came closer to God and vowed to live for Him. When I returned to Bowmanville, I felt like a new woman.

For three months things went well. But Miriam kept telling me that I needed to leave my old life completely behind. That meant giving up my drinking and drug-using friends. In August 2003 I learned that lesson the hard way. That was the night I relapsed and left my son alone. The Children's Aid Society took him into custody and I went to jail for 20 days.

Feeling dejected, I thought the link with my new church family was over. Imagine how surprised I was when two uniformed ladies from church came to visit me in jail. I couldn't believe they still wanted anything to do with me. They told me they loved me, no matter what.

I had relied too much on my own strength. I thought I was invincible, but I could do nothing without Jesus.

I knew I had to leave my old life behind once and for all. I was attending Alcoholics Anonymous, relapse prevention and parenting classes, but I needed to concentrate on my spiritual life as well. I had relied too much on my own strength. I thought I was invincible, but I could do nothing without Jesus. My church family accepted me back with open arms and, in the fall of 2003, I publicly dedicated my life to God during a morning service. My whole family came to witness the event.

My son is now living with his father and I have supervised visits with him once a week. I cannot believe that I sacrificed this precious little boy for my own selfish addictions and desires, but I had allowed the drugs to blind me to what matters most.

My life is slowly getting back on track. I have completed my high-school diploma and look forward to a bright future with Jesus by my side. If I am ever tempted to go back to that dreadful life of addiction, I remember 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. It promises that God will always provide a way out for me if I listen to His voice.

Some day I would like to work as an addictions counsellor. In the meantime I am growing in Christ by attending worship and Bible study. Last March I helped out at vacation Bible school and now I lead the Sacred Dance Group, which takes part in worship at my church. Captain Miriam and I often smile about this. God took dancing, something that was ungodly in my life, and transformed it into something beautiful for Him.

I thank my church family for accepting me, my pastors Captains Miriam and Doug for believing in me, the girls from Sunday school who introduced me to my new church home, Major Joy Rennick, Major Roberta Dalrymple and my counsellor, Brenda, from The Homestead. You have all been a wonderful part in my journey from death to life (see John 5:24). Above all, I want to thank Jesus, my Saviour, for dying for me, for His forgiveness and for giving me new life in Him. "I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

Debbie Elkins can be reached at

Originally published in Faith and Friends, August 2004.




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