18 Nov A Sense of Worth
It is Saturday night. Tricia leaves her peaceful home in Canton and makes the ride out to Grace Church where she greets first-time families heading into a service, with an open smile. Most would assume she has lived a normal, quiet life. Ask her about her life story, however, and you will discover a surprising history of trauma and addiction.
“I had been sexually molested at six, and again from ten to twelve and a half,” Tricia says. Meantime, her older brother started selling heroin secretly in the home, under her parents’ noses. “To make it easier on himself,” she says, “he thought it would be better when my parents were away to get me doing drugs so I wouldn’t squawk.”
At the time, Tricia was particularly vulnerable to the pressure. “[I felt] everybody else was more important than me. I was worth nothing. I really struggled with a lot of low, low self esteem,” she says, “so when I was 14 years old, he was annoying me to take a hit of a joint. Unfortunately, it was laced with PCP. I was hallucinating all night. That kind of started things.”
Tricia continued using hard drugs and alcohol from time to time. As she approached eighteen years old and her brother continued dealing drugs, the environment began to feel increasingly dangerous. “There were several episodes of violence that happened to me,” she says, “I love my parents, but they just didn’t know how to deal with it.” When she turned eighteen, she left home and moved in with her brother’s old roommate.
The two got married, but unfortunately, her new husband shared her brother’s obsession with drugs. “He was an addict and alcoholic. He was into all kinds of speed.” That made it harder for Tricia to give up drugs herself. “I dabbled in crystal meth” she says, “and a little bit of cocaine.” Still, Tricia felt her strongest addiction was not to the drugs, but to addicts themselves, as she chased the sense of worth she had long sought. “That’s what codependence is. I had to make them better for me to be worthy,” she says, “It was such a damaging relationship.”
She soon began attending a support group for families of addicts and continued there for a decade. “It taught me life skills I did not have, like boundaries,” she says. Finally, at 25, she decided it was time to give up drugs and alcohol altogether, and draw the line with her husband’s addiction. “You realize that you’re enabling them,” says Tricia. She had her husband move out and the two divorced.
With drugs out of the picture, Tricia was on a healthier path. Still she felt fragile. “I felt like I had two legs to stand on, but it was still easy to knock me over,” she says. She was still missing a sense of worth and confidence. After a year, Tricia found her way to a home Bible study with a group of patients from Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a faith-based, residential and short-term care organization for people who struggle with life-controlling problems like drugs and alcohol.
She sat in a tiny living room where nearly a dozen people shared their stories. “One after another,” she says, “they gave their eye-popping stories about how they’d survived drugs or their upbringings, which were pretty violent, to then become Christians (followers of Jesus).” Their stories resonated with Tricia, who shared a similar experience.
To hear that anyone could have a personal relationship with Jesus and have worth to God—even someone who had struggled with addiction—was a new concept for Tricia, despite growing up with religious parents. “We did not use Bibles or even refer to them,” says Tricia, “I really didn’t have any relationship or connection with God at all.” The topic had never come up at her other support group either, where she says, “You’re not allowed to talk about Jesus or God. You can’t name your higher power.” But by the end of that night, she knew that a personal relationship with God was exactly what was missing from her life. “That was the night,” she said. She decided to follow Jesus.
Suddenly, Tricia felt confident that she had worth and no matter what came her way, she could get through it with God. As she looks back at the course of her life, she says, “I didn’t really have any legs to stand on. Then, when I learned all the educational stuff, being in [my other support group], I felt like I had two legs to stand on. When I became a Christian, it’s like I’m on a 3-legged stool. There’s nothing that can knock me over. God holds me up!”
The assurance that washed over Tricia was noticeable. “I was apparently so radically different,” she says, “that this woman [from my support group] came up to me and said ‘I don’t know what’s different about you between last week and this week, but can I follow you around for awhile until I figure out what it is?'” She continues, “So I invited her back to the house. I told her what had happened the week before. At our kitchen table, she became a Christian.”
Tricia decided to share the good news with the brother who had led her down the path of drugs. “I was able to forgive him. We gifted him with a Bible and he would read the Bible all the time,” she says. Before her brother passed away from health complications, Tricia is happy to share that he had made the choice to follow Jesus.
Since then, she and her second husband, Nick, of thirty years, have been active on serving and church-planting teams. They have also continued to support Teen Challenge over the years and encourage their friends to support it too. “Teen Challenge was a very big impact on our lives,” she says, grateful to have begun a relationship with God that helped her find the sense of worth she had been searching for over so many years. Says Tricia, “God’s love and power made all the difference.”
Want to help Teen Challenge fund their newly-opened short-term support offices? You can partner with them through our Hope Project, donating here!