Hi, I’m Tiffany.
Below, I am going to introduce you to a bit of my story…the story of how God saved me.
The first version of my story is the one that I like to tell. I grew up half-wild in a small town, spending most of my time on the hundreds of acres of land that make up my grandparent’s property. I was the “smart one” in my family and regularly encouraged to become a doctor or lawyer so that I could support my parents. I talked…a lot, but I was well-behaved and obedient with a strong desire to succeed academically. I went to church on Easter and Christmas and whenever my parents made me. I graduated high school and went to a Christian college where I met my husband. I completed college at the top of my major, and got a good job, and we started our life together. Really, while all the things I just told you are true, the details are sadly lacking. I now know there are no degrees of honesty and my story is also this:
My parents were broken people well before they met and had me. But I won’t try to tell their stories here. By the end of elementary school, my parents were divorced. For many years, I denied that my parents’ divorce had a negative impact on me. But it did. In the classroom, I was a teacher’s dream, smart, quiet, and a strict rule follower, but on the playground, fighting and bullying became my primary method of dealing with boredom. All through school, I thrived on being the smartest because it was the only thing I felt good at; it was the thing that I could always count on keep me from having to admit that I was scared and hurting.
By 8, I had experienced several events that introduced me to sexuality in a way that left me filled with massive confusion and shame. These feelings were intensified when I found an inappropriate magazine in my dad’s room while cleaning. These events put me on the path to an addiction to pornography. My early teenage years were brutal. I went through puberty before my friends, resulting in a body I didn’t understand and attention from boys that made me feel even more dirty and confused. As sex became the most popular topic for my friends and peers, I forced my experiences into a deeper and deeper hole knowing that the things I’d seen, read, and done were wrong. In the midst of this, I started to hate my developing body for betraying me. What I remember the most about my early adolescence is shoving all the things I liked as far inside me as they would go and mirroring my friends and their likes and personalities. This desire to be liked eradicated my waning self-confidence, and I went from bully to victim. I squeaked through these years with a heavy darkness in my head and heart.
Ultimately, I spent this time believing the lies that I still struggle against today: I am not good. I am not loved. I am not worth anything.
It was during these dark years that I learned the art of talkative silence. I had a lot to say and I let everyone around me know it, but I couldn’t seem to break the silence of my pain. I honestly didn’t believe anyone wanted to hear it. Then, in high school, our local church hired a new youth pastor. He came into our lives and pushed my mom, siblings, and me out of our comfort zone and back into church life. I finally saw a glimpse of the Jesus I had heard about through my whole childhood. I started to believe that I was valued and important. I did see that Jesus is real, and at 16, I desperately wanted to be saved from hell. At 18, as a high school graduate on my way to a Christian college, the little bit of light I’d experienced during high school was quickly shadowed by something totally new to me: drug addiction.
My first semester at college, I met the man that would become my husband. We met within a few months of starting school and started off as friends. He was a city boy, and I was a country girl. He fascinated me, and I already had years of codependency on my parents, my friends, and the few boys I’d dated, to know that he was just perfect for me. He’d showed up at our college fresh out of rehab. Even though I’d grown up with alcoholics and marijuana-users, I had no concept of addiction. To me, it was normal for people around me to drink and get messed up. I’d always managed to stay sober, even though alcohol had a certain appeal to me, and I’d tested out my limits once or twice. But, this opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed. His history of heavy drug use coupled with his intellect and testimony drew me like a moth to a flame. I worked hard to balance college with a growing addiction to online gaming along with pornography. Our money went to buying expensive computers for gaming and investing in drugs and alcohol. After I graduated, we left Graceville and promised ourselves that we would do better at our next home and that we could start over because we were going somewhere else. We promised to go back to church, turn back to God, and to give up our alternative lifestyle. This promise to each other would be repeated like a liturgy for the next few years to make us feel better about the hole we were digging deeper and deeper around ourselves.
Several life events culminated together in the fifth to sixth year of our marriage that put us on a path to ultimate destruction. I was in so much pain emotionally that I couldn’t even maintain my carefully crafted codependency. I hated my job, resented my family, and wished constantly and desperately that something would change. I lived in a world of relentless manipulation; my husband and I were both experts at it by this point. As my marriage crumbled, those old comfortable lies echoed in my mind: I am not good. I am not loved. I am not worth anything.
In 2012, everything came crashing down. My husband and I had a fight, and I brought up divorce in a very weak moment. We’d fought hard for seven years to stay together, and here it was: the end. Part of me felt like I’d always been waiting for it. Another part of me was devastated because I couldn’t imagine life without him.
In our desperation, we decided to look into this program called Celebrate Recovery. After a few mishaps, both he and I got on board, and nothing has ever been the same.
During the program I realized this: I grew up knowing about God, came to believe that Jesus is real, and knowing that I needed Him for my salvation. Yet, I deliberately resisted His Lordship, attempted to question His existence, and ultimately stood at the door of complete atheism with my hand ready to knock. My intelligence was no longer just my every line of defense; it had become my god. And God has something to say about people like me in Isaiah 29:13-16, ‘“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Woe to those who go to great depths to hide theirs plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me?” Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing?”’
In 2012, God changed that; He changed me. He robbed me of all of my defenses, stripped me bare, and reminded me how to feel. He has shown me WONDER UPON WONDER. I found that I EARNESTLY BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS, THAT I MATTER TO HIM, AND THAT HE HAS THE POWER TO HELP ME RECOVER. And, now I know the truth: I am good. I am loved. I am WORTH everything to the God who created me. He gave His life to redeem mine, and because of Him, I can live free.
Now, I have been blessed with a sober and recovering husband, two beautiful daughters given to me at a time in my life when I can truly love them, and a CR family to help me every step of the way (even though I’m still not great at asking). I try to balance my feelings with my desire for logic and reason, and I try not to use my words as a weapon or to lie, but I still love to tell a good story.
I am beginning to believe Jesus when He shows me just how much He loves me. I have the knowledge that Christ wants to use the story He has given to me to help others, and I have the privilege to do so. Two and a half years ago if you had asked me, “Do you believe in God and do you believe He can help you?” I would have told you, “I don’t need Him.” Now, I know with all my heart that who I was, who I am, and who I am going to be are all in His control and have been from the beginning. I am beautiful, real, and valuable in His hands, because He is the potter and I am the clay.
Recently, I heard someone share a revelation they experienced, and like the veteran in recovery that shared their experience, I often asked God, “Why me? Why did all of this happen to me?” His answer, “Why not me?” Why. Not. Me. Because of all that pain, shame and guilt, I get to be this gloriously changed creature representing His grace, and as Romans 5:3-5 says, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
James 5:13 says: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” I pray and sing a song to my girls every day, and I feel the weight of what I’m trying to etch into their hearts and minds in my own. As I tell them, I tell myself, and I tell you: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. To Him we belong, we are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.” Because He loves me, I can share with you His story…my story. This is my song of praise.
This story is modeled after the testimony that I give at my local Celebrate Recovery’s a few times a year. While this version is condensed, I would be glad to dialogue with any of you that have questions or would like to know more. With love!