Mary Ann’s Story

Sometime around 1992 my world began to come apart at the seams. My marriage was in the pits and my teenage sons were getting out of control. They were using drugs and alcohol, failing in school and had become strangers to me. All I could think was, “How did I get to this place? Why was this happening to me?” I was selfish, depressed, angry and hopeless. The pity pot was where I made my home.

In 1992, I could not have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that the addiction that seemed to be destroying my sons’ lives would be the very thing that would save me, my marriage, and my family. In time I came to understand God would use addiction to open my eyes to Truth – His Truth….but this would take another six long years. God will get our attention one way or another. I had been ignoring His prompting in my life for years. Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:44. He was getting my attention now! I was so fearful that I could barely function and cried most of each day away. In my hopeless thoughts I saw only 3 possibilities: 1. My sons would die of an overdose. 2. They would kill themselves or someone else in a car accident. 3. They would end up in jail. You see, I had lost all hope that they would ever be free from addiction.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My Momma was Russian Orthodox and my Poppa was Lutheran. My older siblings and I were brought up in the Lutheran Church. We talked about God once in a while at home but “religion” and God were more of a tradition than anything else. For me, church, God and Jesus were separate from the “real” world. It all seemed more like a myth than fact. In church, I never heard about a “relationship with Jesus,” that I needed to be born again, or exactly what that meant. By the time I was married and had my sons, my church attendance had become less and less frequent. Around the time I was 35, I was dragging my family to church for Christmas and Easter just to “do the right thing.”

In 1991, my 81-year-old Pop was in the hospital and dying. After 3 days of being at his bedside and crying constantly, I was spent, exhausted and didn’t have anything more to give. My Momma and three sisters were in worse shape than me. I stepped out of his hospital room, slipped down on the floor, and cried out to God to help me be there for my Pop, to give me the strength that I didn’t have to get through this difficult time, and help me to do what needed to be done in the days ahead. Even though I wasn’t a believer at the time, I believe that God answered my prayer. As clear and instantaneous as a bell, I felt all my fear, anxiety and overwhelming grief lift from me. I stood up, went in to be with my Pop, and took charge of all that was going on at that time and even after his death. I believe that God answered my prayer because He was trying to get my attention to draw me to Himself. Unfortunately, I would need to go through many more trials until I finally surrendered my life to Him.

After my Poppa’s death, everything changed in my life. My parents were older immigrants from Ukraine. My Momma had very little education, spoke very little English, didn’t drive and couldn’t live alone. John and I sold our home, built onto her home, and moved our family in. I lost my home, my freedom, my privacy and basically became Momma’s “little girl” again. Our mother/daughter relationship deteriorated and became volatile. Within two years of moving in, John and Daniel were well on their way into the drug world and my marriage was hitting some all time lows.

By the time the fall of 1994 rolled around, I didn’t think things could be much worse, even though my younger son Daniel (16 at the time) was going into a 28 day secular rehab. A big sign welcomed us as we dropped him off; it read, “Expect a Miracle.” But no miracle was to be found there. Oh…God was definitely getting my attention! I knew I needed God in my life and that was just about all I knew at the time. A new friend of mine invited me to her church.

This church was warm and friendly. A small group of born-again believers took me “under their wings.” They didn’t know anything about addiction and couldn’t give me any help or direction in regard to it. What they did do was invite me to adult Sunday school, a Bible study, love me and pray for my family and me….oh how they prayed! I slowly began to see that the deep gaping hole in my heart could only be filled by God. I was beginning to understand what a relationship with Christ meant. Those “born again believers” were not some crazy Bible thumpers with daisies in their hands! I was learning and growing.

Ps. 40:2-3 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, He set my feet on a Rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

It wasn’t until March ,1998, when Daniel entered the Colony of Mercy and I began to attend chapel services  (Sunday evening, Wednesday evening TNT and, back at that time, Friday evening service) that I was really “hearing” what I needed to do to get right with God and ask Christ into my heart. I kept thinking I had to get my life right, clean my own act up so to speak before I could ask a righteous and Holy Savior into my heart. But Jerry Rusco’s booming voice kept ringing in my ears that there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation. There was nothing I could do change my life in my own will power. I needed to recognize my sinful, lost condition, confess, repent and accept Christ as my Savior….He would take care of the rest.

In my Bible studies I was learning so much about myself, marriage and about trusting God in the midst of trials. I was even learning something very profound…I was NOT in control…not of my marriage, not of my sons’ sobriety, and certainly not even of myself! Everything I read in God’s Word was telling me my problems began with me.  I needed to change my heart and my behavior and stop trying to change John, my sons, and everyone else. The book of Ephesians was having a great impact on my heart.
Eph. 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Instead of trying to change every one else, I was the one that needed to change.
Eph. 5:22-23 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Ouch! This one really cut to my heart! And also:
Malachi 2:15-16 Has not the LORD made them one? In the flesh and spirit they are his…”I hate the divorce” says the LORD God…
1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord); A  wife must not separate from her husband…

God was asking me to surrender everything to Him…my broken marriage, my broken family, my broken relationship with my Momma and my sons’ addiction.

Daniel graduated from the Colony of Mercy July 4th, 1998. I had high hopes. Within a month he was using again, out of control, and I was crushed. We had tickets to the Sight and Sound Theater to see “Noah” in October of 1998. While Daniel was in the Colony he insisted that we get tickets for the whole family. Once again I had high hopes. Surely this would “bring him to his senses and have an impact on our other son.” The day was filled with anxiety and tears until I sat down in the theater. When I left that theater…I left as a new creation in Christ! At the end of “Noah,” Christ descended from the “heavens” with His arms wide open. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I finally understood I could do nothing to clean up my heart, that was His job. I couldn’t “fix” my marriage and love my husband, but Christ could do it though me. My relationship with my Momma could be “fixed” by Christ alone. I couldn’t “fix” my sons; only Christ could save them, and they were in His loving hands. I finally “got it” – confessed, repented and accepted Jesus as my Savior. I would love to tell you God repaired all of it…instantly. But that isn’t the way it happened. First I was made a new creation in Christ. Second, my marriage was reborn in November, 1998. Daniel re-entered the Colony in August, 2000, and has been walking with the Lord in victory ever since. Just prior to my Momma’s death in 2002, we were able to make our peace with one another. Many unanswered prayers are still lifted up in faith.

God had tried many ways to get my attention….addiction got my attention and now all these years later, I’m grateful for it, because God has used it in a powerful way in the life on my family. God used all my junk and turned it into treasure for my good and His glory!
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
It might sound crazy to many, but I am grateful because without it I may never have come to know Jesus as my Savior and missed all His blessings for my family.

2 Cor. 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
This verse began to speak to my heart. I heard God saying to me, “Hey I didn’t save you to just sit up on a shelf and look pretty. I saved you so that you could touch the lives of others and comfort them the way I comforted you.”
I felt called to go back to college (Philadelphia Biblical University). I earned a bachelors degree in Bible and went on to earn a Master’s in Christian Counseling. God in His mercy and grace brought me back to America’s Keswick in 2005. I had always felt that part of my heart was still here. I started out as a volunteer with the Women’s Ministry and now serve as full-time staff as the intake coordinator for the Colony of Mercy. I have a heavy heart for the men lost in addiction and their families. Since my son went through the Colony, I have a special place in my heart for the Colony and the men that find their way to its door. It is a privilege and honor to be used by God in a small way in their road to recovery and freedom from addiction. I still have to pinch myself when I pull into the long Keswick drive…God really does give you the desires of your heart as you seek Him in obedience. And He isn’t done with me yet!

Eph. 3:20-21 To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.

Thus far….the Lord has brought me……..

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