When I was five years old, I was left home alone at night. My parents were too busy with their own lives. I was left to watch and learn from my older brothers and sisters.  I remember my brother always getting in trouble. I cried when my Dad got out the belt even if I was the one who told on him.  I felt guilty for causing him pain even if he had hurt me first. I learned very quickly never to do the things he did.

At 16, I moved in with my sister. I started smoking cigarettes, drinking, smoking weed, and using ecstasy. It seemed to be a lot of fun at the time, it took my mind off of my weird family, and I made a lot of friends in the process.  By the time I was 18, I had begun smoking weed every day, drinking on the weekends, and also doing other drugs. I popped prescription pills during class
just to get me through the day.

I left for college thinking that life on my own would be much better, and if I wanted I could stop using any time.  By the end of my freshman year of college, I had smoked pot, taken ecstasy, opium, mushrooms, hash, coke, prescription medication, drinking almost all week and was very miserable. I had done well in school so I thought I could keep doing drugs and drinking and still keep my grades up.

After the first summer on my own I went back to school and was worse off than before. I was drinking every day, doing coke regularly, and taking Oxycontin once in a while, I was very depressed.

l didn’t see a point in living. I had no family to turn to because we didn’t communicate. I wasn’t doing well in school. I was holding everything inside and had no self-control. My
“friends” didn’t even want to hang out with me.  One night l remember being drunk, taking a double stack of ecstasy, doing coke, and driving around town smoking weed. I wanted to crash and die but I got pulled over by a police officer instead.

I thought for sure that this was the end of my partying. My parents were going to find out, the secret would come out and I could get some help.  But he let me go and said, “Have a nice night.” Still depressed, I got drunk and passed out at a friend’s house. It was 4:00 a.m. and I began vomiting in my sleep while I was on my back.  By the grace of God my friend had been up reading a book and came out to see what was going on. When she found me vomiting she pushed me over so I didn’t choke to death.

Still depressed, I ended up smoking crack with some friends of mine. Crack was the one thing that I told myself I’d never do. This was the lowest I had ever felt before. The only time I got
out of bed was to find weed and roll a blunt so I could go back to sleep. One day I just couldn’t stand it any more and I cried out to God, “Lord, my way isn’t working. I hurt way too much.
I just feel like dying. But there’s so much I haven’t done.  Please help me Lord before I hurt myself any more.”  Just then the phone rang and my sister heard the tone of my voice and asked, “What’s
wrong?’ I spilled the beans and two weeks later God brought me to Teen Challenge.

ln Philippians 4: 13 it says, ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Knowing this, God delivered me from drugs, alcohol, and depression. He’s restoring my family; he has given me a hope and a future. He has filled me with his joy and peace and helped me to graduate first phase after five long months.

Julie finished second phase in Nashville, Tennessee in January 2005.  She is currently enrolled in college in Minnesota. She has continued to do well.