Friday, February 1, 2008

Delivered from Drug Addiction and Depression (Michele Appelbaum)

1963 was an interesting year in history. The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove, and Surfin' U.S.A. were big in popular culture. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech. President Kennedy was assassinated. The Supreme Court decided once and for all to make prayer in public schools a crime. And I was born.

I grew up listening for airplanes flying by, always believing that each one was the Russian missile that would nuke me and end life in all parts of the civilized world. When it wasn't missiles, it was the fear of tornados or lightning, or maybe the Passover Angel of Death from The Ten Commandments. There was always something to be afraid of - accidents, illness, dismemberment. I didn't know how the end would come, but I was sure of two things - I was bad and God was going to punish me somehow. This was a pretty strange attitude for me to have, considering that I was raised without any organized religion. Well, my folks did drop me off along with my brother and sister at Sunday school at the local Lutheran church for a couple months when I was really young, but that doesn't count.

Perhaps that attitude wasn't so strange when you think about it. If I had been raised in an organized religion, I might have learned earlier that God is a loving, forgiving Father, not the thrower of lightning bolts that I imagined. Whatever the case, belief in God was never an issue for me. I always believed in God. I just had the mistaken impression that He was out to get me.

Despite my family and loving friends, I was always a lonely person inside. I always felt guilty about everyone's pain and suffering, thinking I must be responsible. Nothing in life satisfied me or filled up the emptiness inside of me. Highschool was rough. My friends and I all got into doing drugs. I started out with pot and drinking, then progressed to tranquilizers, sleeping pills, acid, speed, and trying out unknown medications for my friends. Guess you could say I was a risk taker. It's only by the grace of God that I'm alive. Even though drugs relieved my anxiety and boredom, I was very depressed through most of high school and just barely made it through. Throughout all that time, I wondered where God was and why He didn't seem to care that I was suffering. But I had a good friend who was my teacher in eighth grade. She took the time to talk to me on the phone almost every night, and see me most days after school. Knowing that she cared about me gave me the will to go on living.

In the Fall of my senior year of high school, I met Larry, the man I would marry. He was attending college, studying to become an electrical engineer. I was impressed with his intelligence and sense of humor and we fell deeply in love almost immediately. At first, we made plans to get married in August 1981 after I graduated, but later we decided to heed his parents' counsel and wait until he graduated from college.

That Spring, my two best friends met a man who was the proprietor of a Christian coffee house called The Rainbow's End. They were walking down Kingshighway on one side of the street when they heard music coming from a building on the other side of the street, so they crossed the four-lane road and approached the building.

This man came outside and met them and invited them inside. My friends had no idea who they were meeting; they were only interested in the music they heard; but they went inside with him. Once inside, this man and the other Christians who were there told them about the love and salvation of Jesus and they accepted the Lord that night. As an interesting sidebar, my friends had a large supply of black beauties (speed) with them, and that night, they flushed it all down the toilet.

The next Monday at school, they told me about their experience and I was angered by the whole thing. I was angry that they flushed all their speed. I was angry that they listened to a bunch of Jesus freaks. And I was angry about the prospect of losing my best drugging buddies (they now said they loved only Jesus and would never do drugs again).

For the next week, they told me over and over again about Jesus, God's love, and the Rainbow's End. That's all they talked about. At first, I was too angry to listen. Then I was mildly curious. Then I realized that I was dying to have this peace and joy they had! So I agreed to go with them to the Rainbow's End on March 6, 1981, the next Friday night (one of my usual party nights). That night I heard about the love of Jesus and my great need for His salvation. He had been knocking at my door loudly all week, and that night I opened the door and let Him in. Larry gave his life to Jesus several weeks later, due in small part to my constant witness.

We've been saved and walking with Jesus ever since (well, sort of) but you know how the world and spiritual powers can get you down. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but never denied and put away the drugs in my life. I was a drug addict back then and stayed on drugs until I got married in 1984. Larry got a job with IBM and we moved to Kingston, New York and suddenly drugs were nowhere to be found. This was not a problem for Larry who never got into drugs. But it majorly bummed me out. We didn't know anyone at first, and after a few months, we met a couple who ran a Christian ministry. I started working at their ministry and they invited us to their church. Larry and I got involved and we were happy growing in the Lord and serving Him until I fell into a very deep depression.

I went back to St. Louis in June of 1987 for a two week vacation, fell in with some old acquaintances, started doing drugs again, and to make a long story short, lost all of my joy completely. My depression got worse and worse until finally I started seeing a psychiatrist who put me on antidepressants and tranquilizers. I quit the ministry and found a job as a desktop publisher at a service bureau. I was no longer doing illegal drugs, but the prescribed drugs made me so drowsy that it was hard to do my work, so after a year, I quit.

During this time, all I wanted was to move back to St. Louis so we could be near our friends and family. I had gotten very close to Larry's mom and wanted to be able to spend more time with her. After two years of begging and pleading, we finally moved back and I quickly fell back into old habits. I thought moving back to my home town would solve all my problems and I would magically be happy again. WRONG!!! Things got worse. I went to a shrink and ended up in the hospital on more drugs than I can take time to list here. When one thing didn't work after a few weeks, we'd try another drug, then another. At one point, I was on as many as eight different psychoactive drugs. My depression got steadily worse and I attempted suicide two times, both resulting in getting my stomach pumped and being placed in the lock-up ward. In all, I went in the hospital nine times between 1991 and 1995.

I had friends who tried to get me to see that all the drugs were what was messing up my life, but I refused to listen. Drugs were comforting. Drugs were my friends. Besides, my doctor wouldn't prescribe anything that would hurt me, would he? But he didn't know that I took a lot of his prescriptions any way I wanted to - sometimes 4 or 6 tranquilizers at a time, just to get a buzz. I wrecked two cars, broke my ankle falling down the stairs, had to appear in court twice for various things I did, and almost drove Larry to divorcing me. Yes kiddies, drugs are fun! Don't listen to those uncool adults who tell you drugs will ruin your life!

To make a long story a little shorter, things were coming to a head in the Spring of 1996. By then, I had begun losing any sense of reality. I was cutting my arms all the time with razor blades. None of my friends could help me, and Larry was about to throw me out of the house. It was very difficult for them to watch what I was going through. They loved me and tried repeatedly to help me, but I was on a destruction course, eyes straight ahead, refusing to see the red flags all around me. I got two dime bags of pot from a friend of a friend, started smoking that every few hours and taking big doses of tranquilizers I'd saved up, and before I knew it, I was totally disconnected from any rational thought. I don't know how to describe what it was like to be out of my mind, though I was there for several weeks. Much of that time is blacked out and I don't even remember it. I have some strange entries in my journal which make no sense. I do remember that it was very scary and very painful, and I was in a raw panic much of the time from fear that I would never be able to return to reality.

Out of desperation, I began calling a couple of old friends from New York who are Christians. I felt that there was a wall in heaven and that God was blocking out my prayers, refusing to have anything to do with me. I cried out to the Lord and heard nothing. But I had the sense to ask my friends to pray for me. At one point, I called one friend and I was so messed up that I couldn't even tell her what to pray for. I was sick and weak, and just begged her, "Pray for me. Just pray"; That was all I could say.

A day or two after that, I was listening to Alanis Morissette on the stereo - that song, "All I Really Want"; and all of a sudden it occurred to me that all I really wanted was Jesus. It just clicked in my head finally that He could heal me, take away my depression, remove my craving for drugs, and give me my mind back. I didn't even have to pray - I just made a decision right then and there that all I wanted in life from that point on was Jesus. I got angry at the drugs and how low they had brought me, and I took all the pills in the house, all the pot, even Robitussin LiquiGels, and put them on the dining room table. Then I just opened up bottle after bottle and threw the contents against the dining room wall. All the while, I was screaming the words to Alanis' song. It felt great and it was very therapeutic. When I was done, I felt better than I had for years, despite the huge mess all around me. There were hundreds of pills and pill fragments everywhere.

Larry came home and I explained to him what was going on and he went away for a few days. I cleaned up the mess and ever since then, I've been a sane person. Of course, there's a little more to it than that, but basically, that was the day that God reached out and totally healed me. I haven't been depressed at all since then, and have never craved or wanted any drugs either. I haven't used any prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol since then. Only God is able to bring about a change of that magnitude. And when He touches your life like that, you know it was God. My life is a living testimony of His miracle working power!

But it's not just His miraculous powers that I want to tell you about, it's His loving care for each one of us. I did feel many times that He didn't care for me, or that He was even out to get me. But despite my feelings for Him, my lack of faith, my total abandonment of Him, He never walked away from me. As I look back, when things were really bad and I felt so alone, locked up in a back hospital ward, or cutting my arms up at 3:00 a.m., He was still there, carrying me. He wept for me and with me. He gave me friends and family who love me. He protected me from myself. And He waited for me to see that I was ruining my life trying to live it my way. He showed me that all I had to do was truly want to live life on His terms.

A friend shared this allegory with me. When we fall, we are like a little child who is laying on the ground. Our Father comes along and wants to pick us up, but He can't help us unless we lifts our arms up to Him, then he has somewhere to hold on to. If you are in the kind of place I was in, hurting, wondering why you feel so abandoned and alone, lift up your arms to the Father. He knows what you've been doing. He knows all the things you've done wrong. We deserve to be punished for disobeying Him, and continuing to seek our own will rather than His. But despite what we deserve, He didn't send His Son Jesus into the world to condemn us, but to save us. His peace, His joy, His love, will come to us when we accept His free gift of salvation. All we have to do is believe that Jesus died as a payment for our sins, and ask Him to come in to our hearts and give us a new life. It's just that simple. Religion will try to complicate things, creating many paths to God, all of which require hard effort on our part to achieve peace with God. But the Bible makes it clear that we can't do anything to earn God's approval. All we can do is trust in Jesus. Jesus did all the work for us.

I pray you've been blessed by my testimony. If it's touched you in a special way, please email me to let me know. I would love to have the opportunity to hear your story and pray for you!

Michele Appelbaum


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