Today, more than ever, there is a growing number of people who are bound in solitary prisons in their minds. They are held captive by vices that have come into their lives either through no fault of their own, by the hand of another, or by some of their choices. Some knowingly and some unknowingly are held by generational afflictions that continue throughout many generations without being overcome. We have seen an increase in drug use, mental and physical abuse, and a total moral discord in our nation. Yvonne is one of those statistics that is rising from the ashes of her prison walls and helping others as she reaches ever higher on her road to recovery.
The oldest of four girls, Yvonne grew up in an extremely troubled household. She was verbally abused, emotionally rejected, and sexually abused by a close family member who was a violent alcoholic. Being the oldest, she grew up fast and felt obligated to protect her younger siblings but was unable to.
School was not a place of refuge for Yvonne either. She was made fun of and bullied by her classmates because of her crooked front teeth. From the abuse at home and at school, she coped by staying to herself.
At nineteen, she married the first boy she dated in defiance of her parents and as a chance to leave behind her past. It turned out he was also physically abusive. He threatened to kill her on multiple occasions if she left, but she stayed for over three years in the relationship.
“I stayed until I realized he would kill me even if I stayed,” Yvonne remembered.
With the help of family, she was able to leave and go to another state. Eventually, she returned home, and he agreed to a divorce. For a time he created problems, but he finally found someone else and left her alone.
After the divorce, Yvonne transformed from a naive person with no opinion to the complete opposite. She became very opinionated, and only her way would do.
She remarried quickly to someone she felt was safe. Her new husband helped put her through college to become an accountant. A career he felt was profitable. Yvonne loved English and social work yet she ultimately followed his suggestion. She also had her teeth fixed which helped with her confidence, but she was still dealing with her emotional issues.
In the early 90’s Yvonne broke some vertebrae in her back and began having chronic pain. She was prescribed Hydrocodone and did well, only taking them for her pain along with her muscle relaxers and sleeping pills.
Her new family was wonderful. They accepted her as one of their own but Yvonne was broken and unhappy, and after 15 years she realized she had married for the wrong reasons. She had a brief affair then divorced again.
It was an amicable divorce, but she became overwhelmed with depression over another failed marriage and her past abuse. Her emotional state almost cost her her job. She began counseling to help with guilt over her marriages and her past abuse. From this, she concluded she hated being an accountant and finally quit her job.
“The only thing that got me through my accounting classes was my Criminal Justice minor classes,” she stated.
Yvonne did some temp work and started volunteering in a domestic violence thrift store where she enjoyed helping others. She found a job with an employment recruiter but after a short while it ended. An opportunity at the thrift store presented itself, and Yvonne stayed there for three years. One huge drawback was she now was without transportation because the car lease was through the recruiter. Yvonne’s relationship deteriorated with her stepdaughter from her second marriage because of not being able to visit. In spite of that, today, she has made amends with her stepdaughter and has a good relationship with her grandchildren.
Her tumultuous relationship with her mother was restored in the mid 90’s after she found out about her attempts to protect her as a child–which did not succeed. Unfortunately, Yvonne was devastated when her mother died only a few years later. Yvonne respected her mother’s decision not to fight cancer but felt abandoned again. She was angry over her mother’s choice to go in peace with Jesus instead of dealing with the hurts and burdens from the rough life she had lived as well.
Realizing she could numb her emotions she began to use pills consistently to get through the painful loss. She would use them then stop until the pain would become unbearable then start using them again. Her tendency to be a workaholic made it easier to be a pill abuser, but she never resorted to alcohol due to the bad memories from her youth.
She was still at the thrift store when her mother passed, and they made it clear that if she didn’t get grief counseling, she would lose her job. She went to the sessions to save her job and did well but knew she needed more. When she went back to counseling, she learned how to hide her problems instead of healing them.
Soon after her mother’s death she began living an alternative lifestyle and found she enjoyed humiliating men. She didn’t realize it all stemmed from unresolved issues from her past.
Yvonne doesn’t remember exactly when, but as a teen, she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She had a bad experience with her church over how they handled a touchy situation with the boyfriend that later became her first husband, so she left the church. She wanted nothing to do with organized religion and for around 30 years did not enter a church other than for weddings or funerals.
Next, she started a “New Age” journey and attended a modern religion universal church.
“I thought this is cool! God can be whoever we want him to be!” Yvonne said.
While watching the children’s class, she found it odd, after attending the church for a while, that no one ever mentioned the name of Jesus. Something deep within made her question what they were teaching.
“I knew enough about God’s Word that something wasn’t right,” Yvonne added.
She left the universal church and during this time she was dating Tim, an old friend from school.
Yvonne also recognized that her pill abuse could get out of hand. Moving back to West Virginia, the vet prescribed Valium for her cats to travel and they just sat on a shelf. She was only taking muscle relaxers and sleeping pills by this time, but she decided to take the Valium. She came to herself and said, “I can’t do this! Because what is next?”
She had opportunities at relatives houses to steal prescription pills but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Being a rule follower, the Ten Commandments would play in her head, and she just couldn’t do it. However, she didn’t feel abusing pills fell under those rules nor did taking them if they shared them with her.
Tim was looking for a church too and invited her to attend Horizons Church Buckhannon Campus.
“I walked in there with a low cut shirt,” Yvonne explained. “I had an attitude and was mouthy. You just knew I was broken. Pastor Dave never once told me to clean up my lifestyle because that was the exact thing that would have sent me running.”
Yvonne just kept going to church, and God started to clean up her life. Her heart began to soften, and God began a work in her to mend it.
After learning about tithing, they began to participate. Finances were in the red and Yvonne just knew they needed to start honoring God with their money. Amazingly things started to change.
“I told Tim, ‘I don’t know how it’s working, but I pay the tithe first and then the bills are paid. We were in the red but then less, and less and we were out!”
Through events at home with a young family friend, they both became aware of the Celebrate Recovery meetings at Horizons Church Lost Creek Campus. They attended in support of the friend but came to see it was beneficial for them and just kept going.
Most people think Celebrate Recovery is only for helping those on drugs or alcohol but don’t realize it is for anyone with hurts and habits that keep them in bondage.
“In January 2011,” Yvonne explained, “I said, ‘I’m not doing this [pills] anymore,’ and put it on my prayer card for the prayer team to pray over. I haven’t used them since. I had some Hydrocodone when I had my gallbladder out. I took them as prescribed–and that was it.”
Occasionally thoughts will cross her mind about using the pills to deal with emotions, but now Yvonne has the Holy Spirit working in her to help overcome it. Anger is also a way of coping with emotional pain, but she now finds it easier to get past it. There is still a struggle, but she is in a better place to work through it.
Tim and Yvonne attended CR weekly and were asked to volunteer and then move to lead small groups.
“I struggle with social anxiety so getting up on stage was not something I was interested in doing,” she said.
Eventually, Yvonne felt drawn to lead Celebrate Recovery at Horizons in Buckhannon. She approached Pastor David Cunningham and had his approval. Over the next six months, the slow process of starting the group began.
Yvonne took a step of faith, quit her job, and found her passion helping other broken people.
“I’m very grateful. I know this was not something I could do on my own,” Yvonne said.
“When I left my job, we didn’t have enough to pay our bills, and I didn’t know how we were going to do this.
“Then, Tim got a raise and then another raise. The two together added up to what I was making!”
Tim and Yvonne were married and baptized in August 2009. Yvonne rededicated her life to the Lord before their marriage, and even though she has not had a relationship with her father or two of her sisters for the last two years, she has come to terms with her past and has decided to move forward. She could have followed in her old patterns of emotional distress or thinking she had once again looked to a man for unconditional love, but she knew she had a choice.
“I could run like before, or I could honor my commitment and allow Jesus to walk me through it. I choose Jesus and my marriage.”
Tim and Yvonne are happily married, love each other unconditionally, and are fulfilled with their work as Campus Co-Ministry Leaders for Celebrate Recovery Horizons Buckhannon Campus. They both see it as a calling and know that they are now able, through their experiences and the power of the Holy Spirit, to help others who are in need of rising from the ashes in a safe place.
“I started out reading announcements as a volunteer at Horizons Lost Creek. After finishing a couple of step Studies, I wrote my testimony. The first few times I gave it, I looked like I had rug burn up my neck and covering my face due to anxiety. Each time it got a little easier, and now I’m more comfortable with it–partly because it’s my story. It is still a struggle every couple of weeks though when I get up on stage and teach a lesson but, God is faithful, and all things are possible with Him!”
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12 step program for anyone struggling with emotional hurts and hang-ups. Programs incorporate the teachings of Jesus and show participants His loving power allowing them to recover in a safe place. For more information on the Celebrate Recovery programs and locations, please visit www.celebraterecovery.com.
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