I might not be the typical person that submits their story to you, but I figured that maybe it could help even one other person out there. You came to speak to our Grade 11 class today and I sat in the crowd with everyone else. I might have been hard to pick out at first, but after looking around a bit you could have seen that I didn’t quite fit in. Not because I was odd, or alternative or anything along those lines, but rather because I am a young, first year teacher and look quite a bit like the students that surround me, but am quite a few years older. I know your message wasn’t directed to me, but it hit home with me and my journey. So, lets start back when I was in grade 11.
I was dating a boy at this time who had successfully convinced me that I was in love with him. Despite his physical, emotional, and sexual violence, he had convinced me that he was all I had in life. Through the struggle I dealt with, I had lost touch with my connection with God. Coming from a Catholic family, this was not an acceptable situation so I tried to hide it as best I could and continued to go to church every Sunday with my parents to keep them appeased. No one had any idea what I was going through. Since I had broken a promise I had made to myself and ended up having sex with this boy, I was complete convinced that I had to marry him, so I did everything in my power to show the people around me his positive attributes. Luckily, after a few months (9.5 to be exact) I came to the realization that he was not what I deserved. After all, everyone kept telling me how happy and pretty I was. Although I did not believe this or feel it. To deal with my pain and secrets I found myself drinking at a young age, thinking of suicide often, and escaping in the numbing pain of self harm. No one knew this. Not my best friends or my family.
One day, I decided it was too much and I took as many pills as I could find in the house. I thought I was home alone and I had left a note on the last page of my diary saying goodbye to my family and expressing everything I was feeling and that I couldn’t deal with it any more. Thinking I was making the world a better place by blowing out my candle. Right at the moment I closed my eyes to fall into eternal sleep (hopefully in my mind), my little sister walked into my room. She NEVER did this. But today was different. She strutted right into my room like she owned the place and I was LIVID! But instead of saying anything I just rolled over, waiting for the unending sleep. Instead, what I felt was tiny warm arms wrap around me and her whisper in my ear that she loved me and was happy I was her sister. I have NO idea what caused her to do this since just that morning we had gotten into a massive fight about what clothes belonged to who. And just as swiftly as she came in, she went back out and disappeared into her room. That note on the last page of my diary seared into my memory. How could I say goodbye to my baby sister?
Obviously, I burst into tears at such a warming and loving gesture that was completely unexpected. I ran straight to the bathroom and threw up for hours. I told my parents I must have had the flu but there was no cough or cold medicine left in the house (since I had just taken it all and was trying to get it out of my system now). They watched over me all night and kept tabs on my temperature. I started feeling better a day or two later. I started leaning on my family a bit more at this stage but it wasn’t enough to hold me up. I fell back into alcohol.
I somehow managed to make it through my grade 12 year and graduate. That summer, I stuck into the bar with my friend on a fake ID like I had so many times throughout the year. But this time was different. We met a boy and his friends and were dancing and having a great time. When it was time to go home, my friend and I started looking for a cab. He said they could drive us home and we thought “well we are together, why not!” So we jumped up into his big FORD truck and off we went. Her house was first so we dropped her off. I lived only 5 or 6 blocks away and gave him quick directions. When it came time to turn onto my street, he missed the turn. I told him that it was ok, we could take the back way, but he missed that turn too. Next thing I knew, I was at his apartment down town and he was pulling up in the alley. I didn’t know what to do. I was drunk and my heart was racing. I had never been in a situation like this before and it was the middle of winter so I knew running wasn’t an option if I didn’t want to freeze to death. He hadn’t done or said anything rude or mean so I figured, maybe I can just fall asleep on the couch or call a friend to come pick me up. So went into his house with him. That was the biggest mistake of my life.
Once we got into his house, he had a gun sitting on the coffee table and had drugs spread everywhere. I was TERRIFIED but didn’t want to show it. He picked up the gun and asked me if I had ever seen one before. Of course I hadn’t! I came from a solid, stereotypical Canadian catholic family. Guns were not part of my memories and were hardly part of my vocabulary. He pointed it at me “jokingly” (according to him) and told me to go upstairs. Now, let me tell you something. You may say to yourself “If that happened to me, I would kick him in the nuts and run” or “I would scream bloody murder until someone came and saved me” or a million other options I probably could have taken. But when a gun is 100% pointed in your face, none of those things enter your mind. You shut your mouth, and do exactly what you are told. So, I went upstairs.
I think you can assume what happened next. I said no, he said yes, I was drunk and talking and dancing with him at the bar which apparently means I “wanted” this. I did not. I did not want that at all. But it happened. Which just added to the pile of stress I was already dealing with.
A few weeks later, I moved away from home to another province to start University. This is where I was introduced to drugs. I found my escape in them. They made me feel happy and real and like I could do anything. MDMA was my particular drug of choice. The overwhelming utopia that is felt when that drug hits is like nothing I had ever felt before. I was finally feeling like who everyone told me I was. I felt like a pretty, happy girl. I felt unstoppable. And feeling this way is highly dangerous. By my second year of university, I was skipping class to get high in the mornings or was still high from the night before. After a while, I figured I was spending so much money on tuition so I might as well go to class. So, instead of stopping the drugs, I went to class high. I couldn’t even focus on the words the professor was saying because the pencil “felt so good” in my hands. But I felt ok. I felt like I could handle anything that was thrown at me. I kept it up for quite a while. One night, I went to bed, high again, embracing the softness of my dog and the warmth of my blankets.
I don’t know what changed the next morning. I still had a full gram that I could have done. But when I woke up that day, something HAD changed. I asked myself what I was doing with my life. Why was I doing this? I started to talk to my friends and they actually understood. It turns out, I wasn’t the only one that had a story like this. Not even in a prestigious university campus in a more difficult than average program. They helped me through it. My roommate at the time (who had NO idea what I was going through) asked me one morning if I would like to go to church with her. I laughed and said no. But ended up going anyways, just to see if I could find some glimmer of that young innocent girl left in me. Maybe going to something from my past, would bring it back somehow?
Well it did. She will never know this, but that is the day that I remember hearing Him again. I remember feeling the weight of his hands on my shoulders and having the loving guidance in my heart.
Knowing me personally, and knowing how I am, no one would EVER guess that I have a relationship with God and Jesus. But I do. I just don’t like to plaster it everywhere I go. It is my own, quite affair, because He is one of the few people on this planet that know what I have gone through. He knows my whole story, who I am, what I did, all my mistakes. But He loves me anyways. He reminded me that I wasn’t alone. And I believe He helped me in more way than one. I believe He was the reason my sister came in that day to give me a hug. I believe He is the reason I woke up in the morning and changed my life in the blink of an eye. I believe He is with me always, and loves me no matter what mistakes I have made. He helped me realized that other people have gone, are going through, or will go through difficult times. That doesn’t mean that you can shut down and block out the world. Yes, it helps. But it is important to remember everything is TEMPORARY. Even this life, we are only here a short while so make sure you make the best of it. If you don’t like something, change it. If you’re not into something or someone 100%, then walk away. He will always be by your side and will always hold you.
Today, when you gave the talk to our class, you helped me remember this. With the stresses of being a first year teacher, I was getting caught up in the mundane, day to day routine, and wasn’t leaving room for Jesus in it. So thank you for reminding me to take a breath, look around me, and say THANK YOU. To take the time and SEE my students for who they are. Thank you for reminding me how hard my life was in Grade 11 and I can’t keep assuming all these kids have it together. And thank you for showing me how to be there for them when they need it.