……..and the rain was cold, driven by the wind howling through the dark, dirty alley, biting her skin, soaking her ill-fitting cloths. The shallow doorway provided little protection as she huddled, cold, wet and fragile, pulling her knees tightly against her chest for a bit of warmth, but more so for that tenuous feeling of protection.
Tess was only ten when her drug use started. Tess wasn’t her given name. Her mother named her Theresa, after Mother Theresa, but she rejected that for Tess instead. She either hated the formal ‘Theresa” or it was a way to rebel against her mother, or perhaps both. Moving to a new town, a new neighbourhood, new school, finding it hard to make friends – just not fitting in. Her mom had been in a bad car accident a few years back and was taking medication for pain and depression. Tess never accepted the move or the rejection from her schoolmates and started sneaking her mom’s prescription meds. They helped. Tess began to experience happiness in her otherwise miserable life. Her mom’s legal drugs soon weren’t enough and Tess worried about being found out. Other sources were easy to find. She started using consistently—taking a bunch of pills, smoking weed, and drinking a lot. She started to struggle with depression and started abusing herself with the drugs, cutting, bulimia, anorexia, and guys. She started acting out like your typical teenage drug addict, stealing and sneaking out at night, but it was all pointless to her happiness.
By age 13 she was living in a shelter. Child Welfare found her there and placed her in a foster home. As it turned out the “faster dad” was very abusive and his drug of choice was uppers, so she started doing a lot of coke, meth, and ecstasy those next three years. Those became her drugs of choice. At age 16 Tess ran away from the foster home. She doesn’t remember everything, or how she got where she was, but she never went back. At that point she didn’t have a “drug of choice” anymore—it was just whatever anybody had, whatever was in your hand.
Fast forward a few weeks to the wind, rain and alley. Tess hears a voice, it seems to be miles away, but a hand touches her shoulder. She raises her head slightly and through barely focusing eyes sees the outline of a policeman. The cop helps Tess to her feet, puts her in the cruiser and takes her to the station. Tess asks to use the washroom and that’s when she caught her reflection in the mirror and nearly jumped out of her skin. Her eyes were sunken in, she was black and blue, she had cuts all over…she didn’t recognize herself. She literally thought it was someone else in the bathroom with her, that’s how bad it was, and she was terrified—she now realized that she hadn’t looked herself in the eyes since she’d started getting high.
A Family Court Judge considered Juvenile Detention or a psychiatric program. She chose the program. Tess started treatment as an outpatient. She underwent treatment, she relapsed, she got arrested again, this time going to juvie, but her counsellor stayed with her, reassuring her he’d never give up on her. There she was: 16 years old, without any friends or family, and just wanting more than anything to overdose and die.
Tess cannot explain why, but that’s when she finally got on her knees and prayed. She isn’t sure if she actually said anything, and if she did she doesn’t remember it. But she got this overwhelming sense that even though her lawyer, her probation officer, her friends, and her family could all give up on her…God wouldn’t. So she wasn’t going to give up on herself.
Tess was not a religious person, but for the first time she felt like she actually had a chance. She finally figured out she was an alcoholic and a drug addict! She went back and finished her treatment and participated in a recovery program. Tess has been sober coming on two years.
Tess lost a lot of family and more friends than she can count to this disease of addiction. But at least she hasn’t lost herself. Sure, she’s had bad moments—nothing’s been easy, but recovery is the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
She recalls that night, the touch of the policeman, and the never give up attitude of her counsellor. She knows without a doubt that had she continued using, she wouldn’t be in trouble, not in jail—dead. Theresa goes to meetings regularly and works with her sponsors and sponsors other teens. She is only 18, she has a whole life in recovery ahead of her! But she’s “like, dude—what great stuff is going to happen next”?
The Holy Spirit moves in strange and mysterious ways, individually to each of us according to our personal circumstances and needs.
Other views are welcome.