I love that as I am learning to tell stories, and help people to tell their own stories, people like Susanna end up right in my path. Can I tell you a bit about Susanna?
Last week was a celebration for her. A year of being clean! “Clean” in Colorado can be interpreted in many ways, but we are specifically talking about marijuana here. She asked if I’d be willing to photograph her holding a sign, telling of the transformation that the grace of God has brought in her life. My favorite element about it is that NO ONE IS TOO FAR DOWN ANY PATH TO SEE GOD’S GRACE.
It is much more powerful to let someone share their own story, rather than me doing it for them. So, here’s what she shared on the day, via Facebook:
Today marks a pretty huge milestone for me. It’s scary for me to share about it on such a public forum because a lot of people have no clue why. But the Lord has done some absolutely incredible work in my life over the past year and I want to share it not only because I’m so in awe of the work that He’s done, but also because I hope that I can be an encouragement to others.
So here goes….
For the better part of my college career, I struggled with an addiction to marijuana but today marks one year without being high! I know there’s probably a lot of you out there who think that you can’t really be addicted to marijuana, at least not like you can be with a “hard drug” like meth or heroine. And sure, the physical effects of these drugs are a lot more extreme and are quick to get you hooked. Weed is not like that. It creeps in slowly, telling you that it’s not such a big deal. After all, it’s legal in quite a few places now and it’s even used for medical purposes. How bad could it really be? But, just like any other drug, the high diminishes over time and real life becomes far less interesting.
When I was sober, everything was dulled down. It’s hard to describe but everything felt fuzzy, almost fake, and I fell into a deep state of apathy. Before, I was someone who was motivated and busy all the time. I was watching my life go by instead of actually being a part of it. Smoking turned me into someone who did the bare minimum to get by but even that deteriorated – I failed a class my junior year of college. It was this experience, and also the realization that I couldn’t even sleep without being high, that made me think maybe I had a problem. I wasn’t about to give it up entirely but I tried to cut back. Instead of smoking three or more times a day, I tried to go down to just once a day. But as soon as I smoked once, I couldn’t let myself come down again.
Not being able to stop and realizing that I had a problem sent me into a cycle of depression. I hated how dull everything was when I was sober (including my own emotions) and I hated how I had no self control to stop myself from smoking. It wasn’t until I had to prepare to be drug-tested for my job at Disney World that I was able to give it up for a while. And, despite the fact that weed is legal in Colorado, being home made it easier because I was living with my parents and there was no way I was going to let them find out. But in the back of my mind, I was already thinking about finding a source once I moved to Florida.
The last time that I smoked, I was back in Elon for homecoming. I knew that I would smoke at least once or twice while I was there but I ended being high for the entire weekend. It had been about 2 months since I had last been high and I was finding that being high was what dulled everything down. Reunions with friends that should have been so sweet and happy were lackluster. Driving back (sober) after the weekend was over, I was so disappointed that I hadn’t been more lucid for the experience. I could only remember the big picture of what happened, while all of the details remained fuzzy. The fuzziness stayed with me after I got back to Florida. Even the strongest of emotions felt completely dull to me and I realized how I barely felt like myself anymore.
I’ve always been pretty confident in who I am so to feel like I was a stranger to myself was very jarring. I was at the end of my rope and the only thing that I could think to do was pray. There was a time once where I loved the Lord and I was doing my best to follow His will. But I had been running from that for so long because, at first, I thought I had figured everything out on my own and I didn’t need Him but then because I thought that I had become too broken and would never be able to change. Deciding to seek the Lord again, I didn’t have this big, “Ah ha!” moment where everything was suddenly back to normal. But I started to feel joy again during a time when it seemed impossible. And the Lord gave me hope through reminding me of His promises: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose,” – Romans 8:28. Most importantly though, for the first time in my life, He showed me that there’s no such thing as too far gone by pouring out His incredible gift of grace when I knew I was completley undeserving.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.
If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that this is absolutely true. Knowing Jesus not only saves you from death, but it brings new life. I’ve been reading through things that I wrote at this time last year and that alone has shown me how much I have changed. The Lord has healed me of many past hurts and has shown me His faithfulness as I continue to follow Him more deeply. Now I’m seeing how He not only makes me new but how He’s taking my brokenness and redeeming it for His glory. And, despite how much I have changed, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more like myself because I have found my identity in Christ.
If you’ve taken the time to read this, thank you. I hope that it encourages you, no matter what you’re going through. If you have any questions for me, even and especially if you disagree with me, feel free to send me a direct message. I’ve shared this story because I hope to encourage others or open a dialogue with people who may be struggling or have questions. Thanks for reading and thank you to Kathryn Bronn for the beautiful photo!
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5