Perhaps you've met a girl like Claudia. At 11, she was constantly worried about what others thought of her. The teasing at school left her feeling insecure and volatile. She was desperate to hang on to whatever friends she had. So when she and her friends were playing truth or dare in her friend's garage, Claudia didn't think twice about taking the dare: to steal three beers and a cigarette from inside the house.
For the first time in a long time, Claudia felt normal, carefree, and downright happy. She didn't even mind that the beer she drank left her retching and dazed. In fact, she kept consuming more. And more. Drugs and alcohol came to define the next 18 years of Claudia's life.
Living a double life
Claudia's first attempt at recovery happened at 14. A concerned friend had alerted her parents to Claudia's using and dealing marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol at her high school, so they sent her to a military boarding school for 2 years. Every indication was that Claudia thrived in this context. She was sober the whole time, she was getting therapy for her anger, and she accepted the Lord as her Savior. Unfortunately, more than anything, this experience taught her how to mask her issues and live a double life. Claudia didn't want to change yet.
Within months of returning home from boarding school, Claudia was back to drinking and smoking pot. At the same time, she became involved in her church youth group, held down steady jobs, and even got accepted to a Christian college. "I had masks for all of the different areas of my life—for the jobs I had, the people I partied with, the people at church, the people at school," she explains. "I had to wear a different mask for each one." By leading this convincing double life, Claudia felt like she could keep her dependencies and still lead a relatively normal life.
The only person really fooled by this act was Claudia. Soon, she was kicked out of school, homeless, and using harder drugs. On a whim she took a bus out to Denver where her patterns continued, with one new wrinkle: She became pregnant.
Up until this point, Claudia felt like her drug use was only destroying her life, but now it would be affecting her baby's too. While she was pregnant, she gave up alcohol, cocaine, and crystal meth. She felt drawn back to her faith, but instead of pursuing God, she went back to drugs and alcohol once her son was born. About two years later, she gave birth to a second son, married the children's father and moved back to her hometown, hoping to turn her life around.
New starts, old habits
Coming clean was messy. Claudia had a real desire at times to stay sober. She was surrounded by people willing to support her, and she was asking God for his help. Nevertheless, her darkest days were still ahead.
For the next eight years, she invested heavily in her family, her church . . . and her drug habit. "I volunteered for women's ministries, children's ministries—threw myself into the community volunteering for the school, helped run the moms' ministry, thinking that it would fix me, and it didn't."
Deeply frustrated with her double life, she battled addiction intensely, still getting high before going to church. The hypocrisy she felt about doing ministry while doing drugs was palpable, but the dependency was real. Claudia secretly took out credit cards in her husband's name, bounced checks, stole things, and blew tens of thousands of dollars on her cocaine addiction. Every relapse in her attempt to clean up only served to further erode her family's trust and patience.
In early 2006, Claudia had officially lost everything. She had no friends, no money, no respect, and no family who would speak to her, and it was all because of her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Yet in spite of everything it had cost her, she continued to be a slave to her habit. Claudia was outraged at God. "Why can't I stop? Why can't I stop? You aren't listening to me! I can't stop!" she'd yell.
After one such outburst, Claudia went home, lay down, and felt God tell her to call her pastor. When she did, her pastor requested that she come in and work through Neil T. Anderson's The Bondage Breaker. This was not the first time her pastor had offered help, but it was the first time she was truly receptive to his advice. Claudia was beginning to understand that she couldn't get sober on her own and that getting clean wouldn't be an easy process.
"We met for eight and a half hours to go through the book, and that was the catalyst for my getting sober," Claudia says. But she still had her work cut out for her.
The final straw
With the help of an accountability partner from her church, Claudia was sober for a month before she had one last relapse. At one of her 12-step meetings, she was confronted by a man she had never seen before, and who she'd never see again. He warned her, saying that people who continue to do drugs in spite of losing everything end up dead. "What are you going to do about that?" He continued, "Why don't you ask your four kids what they think you should do about that?"
"All of a sudden, it dawned on me that I didn't care about my kids," she admits. "I didn't care about my husband. I didn't care about myself—whether I lived or died. The only thing I cared about was that next drink, and that next drug, and that scared me."
With this new understanding that she'd been putting everything truly valuable at stake, Claudia went home, got on her knees, and asked God to help her. She flushed her cocaine down the toilet and called her 12-step sponsor for help.
Claudia has been sober ever since.
Claudia realized that although she didn't care what happened to her or her family, God had been protecting her all along. All four of her kids were born healthy; she survived alcohol poisoning and a cocaine overdose; God even preserved her marriage. In spite of her best efforts, Claudia could not ruin her own life. God's grace was stronger still.
According to Claudia, through the power of Christ, the 12-steps, her church, and God's amazing grace, she has stayed sober for the past eight years. Her family took her back, she made amends for the things she'd done, and she regained trust in her relationships. All of this became possible once God surpassed drugs as the most important thing in her life.
"You can be a Christian and not surrender," she says. "I was saved, but I was also in bondage."
She continues, "I want to give women hope who are sitting in the pews—they're already saved—but if they're in bondage to addictions, whether food, alcohol, sex, gambling, an eating disorder, or something else, there's hope."