My name is Danielle, and I am a grateful believer in Jesus who suffered from the overuse of opioid medicine. The oldest of four siblings, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I was raised in a dysfunctional family, and my life was far from picture-perfect. I was baptized at the age of 1 and was in and out of church my entire life; however, I never attended on a regular basis and didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.
I also never had a healthy relationship with my father. My parents separated when I was young, and my father took off with me to Florida when I was about 3. I lived with him till I was about 5, but I always wanted to be with my mom. I don’t have any happy memories of living with my father—just memories of being left with a babysitter for days on end and waking up to a house filled with smoke from an alcoholic father leaving food in the oven. When I was about 5, a judge allowed me to go live with my mother. But I always wanted the loving relationship with a man that I never received from my father, and I looked in all the wrong places to get it.
In 11th grade, I met a guy who made me feel pretty, special, and important. He was older than me, and six months before graduation, I dropped out. Two months later I found out I was pregnant, and I knew my life would change forever. The baby’s father and I moved in together, but relationship problems increased. He was emotionally abusive. I then left him and went to college to earn my associate’s degree.
He wanted to obtain our son and had me arrested on false accusations. He thought if he had me arrested, they would remove our son from my care. He quickly learned that was not going to happen. During this time, I met the man who is now my husband. In 2005, during my C-section delivery of our middle child, I was introduced to prescription drugs. I loved the way they made me feel. I was always full of energy. I started using them occasionally after that.
In 2008 life took a sudden turn. I was involved in a life-threatening car accident that caused many injuries. Doctors told my family that I would probably be like a 2-year-old for the rest of my life. After time in a coma, and months of physical and occupational therapy, I made a nearly full recovery. There is a month of my life I don’t recall at all. But by God’s grace I recovered with only knee issues. God spared my life that night; his plan for me here on Earth was not complete.
Between 2008 and 2014 I had five additional knee surgeries and five rounds of IV medicine. My occasional use of pain medicine grew. Physicians started me on the lowest dose of pain medicine, and I recall quickly being increased to Oxycodone. I soon found myself taking 90-120 pills in just two weeks! This was not the Danielle I used to be. I was always worried about how I was going to get more pills. I would take money that was needed for bills, things for my children, even pawn items just to obtain more pills. I thank God I never got arrested for obtaining illegal pills.
In 2012 I lost my job, and I recall throwing my hands up and not knowing where to turn. My kids always wanted to go to church and I had every excuse not to go. I then saw a sign at Highlands Baptist for an Easter egg event. I attended with my children. The minute I walked into Highlands I was so welcomed, unlike any church I have ever attended. I went back that Sunday (Easter Sunday) and joined the church! I got re-baptized and got involved every way I could with church.
But I was still living a double life: I worked and went to church, always involved, yet I was overusing pills, always stressed with life’s demands. I put a smile on my face but was completely falling apart on the inside. I wish I could tell you that when I was re-baptized, God immediately took away the urge, the craving, and the withdrawals of not taking the pain medicine. However, that was not the case.
I kept hearing about Celebrate Recovery and was even asked to come one time by the ministry leader. One Friday I decided to go. Like many, I was scared, felt out of place, and did not think I had a problem. I was not one of “those people.” Yes, I was overusing pills, but I had real pain. I could use my pain to justify what I was doing. The Devil did all he could to make me think it was okay to overuse pills. But even though I felt like I was out of place, God pulled on my heart to keep coming back!
Shortly after attending, I contacted a pain management physician that I could trust. I told him I wanted off the pills but did not know how. I could not just stop without becoming terribly sick from withdrawals. He started me on Suboxone; at first, I thought, “What I am doing? I am taking one drug and replacing it for another!” However, the withdrawals and craving were real.
I entered CR not knowing what to expect. James 4:8 says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (NLT). The more I got into Celebrate Recovery, the closer my relationship with Christ grew. I am now more than proud to be one of “those people.”
CR is where I can be Danielle and not be judged for my imperfection. Jesus used CR to save my life. I have not taken pain medicine in 3 ½ years. I have the support of amazing friends and family through CR. God is amazing: I never wanted to go to church but am now a ministry leader at my local CR and a state rep for northeast Florida, using my story to fight the epidemic!