by Lori Killian
I was born twelve years after my youngest brother, making me the youngest of four children and the only girl. My parents were thrilled to finally have a girl, and consequently I received a lot of attention and material blessings. My whole family made me feel very loved, with the exception of my oldest brother who molested me at a young age. He did not remain a part of family for long. His lifestyle of violence and drug abuse landed him in federal prison while I was still a young girl. Other than that, mine was a peaceful childhood.
Some of my earliest memories include attending church. My father, in keeping with his family tradition, raised us to be Lutheran. Therefore, I grew up learning Bible stories and believing in God. I attended a wonderful Christian school and always did well in my studies. My mother was a Sunday school teacher and my father was a deacon in the church. However, God was not mentioned much around our house. My parents often got drunk and my father was unfaithful to my mom. They divorced when I was eleven, and my world fell apart. I have not seen my father since the day he moved out of our house in 1973. My youngest brother was already married, and the remaining brother was living in political exile in Canada when my father left.
My mother was emotionally distraught. For several weeks she took strong tranquilizers and drank wine to kill her pain. The good news is that out of her pain my mother soon returned to the faith of her childhood and embraced Jesus as her Savior. This was great for her, but no one was aware of how deeply I was wounded. My life had changed completely. I had to move away from childhood friends, and overnight my mother and I became poor and alone.
I did not understand my mother’s change of faith. The only God that I knew was the one I had learned about in Sunday school, but my mother was experiencing a relationship with God that I could not comprehend. At this time, due to my mother’s conversion, we began to attend a different church. I was exposed to a different style of worship and many things were taught that were foreign to me. Instead of embracing this new and vibrant expression of faith, I turned far away from God.
As my mother drew closer to God, I felt that she was changing too much and we grew apart. My teenage years were full of much pain. I had no close friends and felt that no one understood me. I argued a lot with my mother, and our home life was full of strife and animosity.
At the age of fourteen I started a new school. I did not know any one there, and I felt very much like an outsider. I noticed another group of students who seemed different than the majority, and I began to hang out with them. When they offered me marijuana I took some. I began using drugs to fit in with this new group, but I also liked the effect of the drugs. Smoking marijuana, hash or PCP, made me feel good about myself. Whenever I was high, life felt right. I could escape my pain through drugs.
Soon I was using drugs every day, which meant that I was ignoring my school work and staying out late at night. My mother was very worried about me, but she didn’t know what to do. To keep myself supplied with drugs I was running with a much older crowd, and often older boys and men would take advantage of me. Once I was raped by a group of boys from my school. I was unable to tell anyone about my pain and the shame of the rape. For a very long time I shoved this pain deep inside until I almost lost my mind. I was finally able to talk about the rape with a girl who had become my friend. Although this friend and I did a lot of drugs together and committed crimes to buy the drugs, she was my closest confidant for many years. Unfortunately, she died of an overdose shortly after graduating from high school. Actually, I lost many friends to drugs, and many times I was close to death from drug overdoses myself. I believe that through my mother’s prayers, God had His hand on my life keeping me from death until I would surrender to Him.
I began my drug use with marijuana at age fourteen, but I quickly advanced to intravenous drug use. By the age of sixteen I was addicted to opium. To break that dependency I began to inject large amounts of cocaine. The intravenous use of cocaine quickly took over my life. I hardly ate or slept and I barely graduated from high school. I spent the summer before my senior year in a juvenile reform school because I was an habitual thief. The time in reform school helped me by breaking the pattern of drug use.
I was able to complete my studies, and soon after graduation I was working full time and living on my own. I continued using drugs, usually marijuana, PCP, cocaine and heroin, but I managed to keep working and maintain a place to live. On the outside it looked like I was doing alright by the world’s standards and expectations. It looked like I was building a career in graphic arts and having a good network of friends and fun activities. Very few people realized that I had a serious drug problem. To most people I looked like a fun loving, hard working, single lady who enjoyed getting high on the weekends. But I wasn’t really having fun anymore. I was lonely and had no direction in life. I was tired of just working to pay bills and get high. My relationships were shallow. I really wanted to be in love with someone and be loved by someone, but I didn’t know how to choose the right people for relationships. I was always in a bad relationship or just coming out of one.
I had lost all contact with my mother. It had been over ten years since I had seen her. Then things went from bad to worse. It was as though I just gave up even pretending to do the right thing. I started doing drugs, usually heroin and cocaine, every day again. I missed so much time at work that I lost my job, and then I couldn’t pay my rent. Soon I was arrested for buying drugs, and while I was in jail I lost my house. The next six years I was in and out of jail nine times for either buying or selling drugs, theft, or prostitution. My health was failing. I hardly ever ate or slept, so I was anorexic and delusional.
Due to the anorexia and constant drug use, my heart, liver and kidneys were shutting down. The doctors said I would not live past thirty-three years, and I really didn’t care if I lived or died. Thoughts of God and the hope of love and a life worth living were far removed from my consciousness. In this condition I found myself once again in jail.
The offer came to attend a church service being held inside the jail. I went, mostly just for something to do, and much to my surprise God met me there! I was not expecting anything special from the church service, but during the worship and preaching I began to sense God’s love. I was shocked that God would love me. I was so ashamed of what I was that I tried to push God away. But God just kept on revealing His love to me. I knew that what I was sensing was divine. Without being told I knew that what I was experiencing was a very real, very personal, and a divine revelation of God’s love for me.
At first, my shame caused me to respond to God by trying to hide or push Him away. I soon realized that I couldn’t do either. He insisted on loving me. His love was washing over me like ocean waves. I decided that I wanted His love, but I felt that my life was too much of a mess to come to Him. I told God so, I told Him that my life was a mess and that I couldn’t fix it. God responded to me by saying, “I know your life is a mess, and you’re right, you can’t fix it. But if you give it to Me, I’ll fix everything.” I quickly decided to give Him my life. I didn’t want it anymore, and I wanted to remain in this wonderful love. At the end of the service I went forward to make a public declaration of giving my life to God.
Twelve years ago I made that decision to give God my life, and He has been faithful to fix everything. God’s love has removed all of my shame. No longer do I feel like giving up on life; I have the sure hope of a life worth living. His wonderful Word has cleansed me and made me whole. He has given me a sound mind by changing my thinking and removing all fear. I now have very good health, and good relationships. I am very close with my mother, and it is a joy to worship God with her. My youngest brother is now also walking with Jesus. The changes that God has made in my life are remarkable. When people meet me for the first time, they are surprised to find out that I used to be a drug addict. This reversal is nothing but the miracle of God. Only He can change a life and make the unlovely feel loved. The changes came about in my life because I surrendered to God. I submitted to Him and learned His ways by reading His word and praying daily.
When I first got saved, I did not have anyone to tell me what to do, because I was in jail. But I would get up early and pray and read the Bible. I began to change slowly. I spent the first year of my life as a Christian in prison. When I went to court, the judge sentenced me to two years. Therefore I was moved from the jail to the prison. This move was good because there is a strong church inside the prison and many groups come to share Bible studies. I grew a lot in my faith through the different Bible study groups. I was baptized by the prison chaplain.
When I was released from prison, I realized that I still needed help. I wanted to keep growing in the Christian faith, but I had no place to go outside of the prison. I wanted to be part of a strong Christian community where I could continue to be discipled. Through prayer, I found a wonderful Christian program for women with a past in addictions. I completed this program a year later and went on to become an active member of a local church. I have been part of the same church for eleven years. I have helped in many areas of ministry, including children’s ministry, street evangelism, foreign missions, and for two years I served as the church janitor. Through my church I was able to attend Bible College. I graduated with honors four years ago.
Since that time I have learned a foreign language and spent many months serving in foreign and home missions. I have also earned an associate’s degree in education because I hope to teach overseas. Looking back, I am still amazed at how much God has done with my life. I am glad that my mother never stopped praying for me. I am glad that someone cared enough to come to that jail where I was and share the gospel. I am glad that I never looked back. It has not been an easy road. I’ve had to work hard to overcome a lifetime of bad habits, hurt, and shame. But all through the journey I’ve had the hope of a future worth living made real to me by the Holy Spirit, and a strong assurance of God’s love. It has been His power working in me to fulfill His glorious purpose. I am a life transformed by God’s amazing love; a trophy of His grace.
A lifetime of rebellion and drug abuse had left me feeling well beyond the reach of God's love. Then at the age of thirty-three when I realized that God did indeed love me and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, Jesus radically changed my entire life. I give Him all the glory for making something beautiful from the ash heap of my life.
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