Patrick: Welcome! To get us started, tell us a little about yourself…
Nancy: Hello, my name is Nancy Hallmark. I am a grateful, recovering addict. My recovery birthday is June 18, 2014. To give you a bit of background, growing up, we lived out in the country in a farmhouse just outside of Hopkinsville, KY. I had numerous godly influences in my life. My mother constantly studied the word and shared her knowledge of God’s word with me and my brother. Going to church was part of our regular routine, and at eight years old, I accepted Christ as my Savior. After high school graduation, I attended Western Kentucky University, where I graduated with a degree in General Studies, with a specialization in Special Education.
Patrick: Could you tell us about how you got mixed up in addiction?
Fast forward to my mid-thirties, I was married and having my first child. After my daughter was born, I began having major back problems. At this time, I had gone back to cosmetology school and was a certified nail technician. A large portion of my day was spent bent over doing pedicures. I was experiencing extreme pain in my lower back, at the same time dealing with the pressures and stresses of being a new mom. Anxiety and obsessive-compulsion seemed to take a toll on me physically. My x-rays showed bulging and degenerative disks in my lower back. The doctor prescribed me pain pills, muscle relaxers, and valium. I wanted to be a good mother and wife. These medications were helping me feel better. Once my body got use to them, I started needing more than prescribed. Years went by, and I was told that I would not be prescribed these medications anymore. At this point, I was addicted. Insanity came in. I would just buy them off the street, I told myself. I pawned jewelry. I lied to my husband about my income. I went from one doctor to the next, hoping someone would prescribe me the medications I “needed.” I isolated myself. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I knew I was losing control and started hating who I had become.
Patrick: Okay, wow! So did it get better from this point – or worse?
I knew that it was wrong, but I didn’t know how to stop. I thought I was a “functioning addict.” I felt I could not live and enjoy my life without having something to mask my pain, and I found that with my meds. I placed their use ahead of the welfare of my husband and daughter. Here I was, an addict. I don’t know if that’s how I viewed it at first. I thought addicts used needles, and lived on the streets, or in jail. My drugs did not come from a “dealer;” they came from my doctor.
Moving forward, I decided that I would close my nail business. Maybe my constant bending over was causing most of my back pain. At this time, the doctor I was currently seeing, wanted me to schedule an appointment at a pain clinic in Madisonville, KY. I especially remembering praying to God, that he knows how bad my pain is, and how unmanageable I had become. I asked God, Do I go to this pain clinic or not? God, I need a sign. In that amazing way God has of answering prayers, we had a snow and ice storm the night before I was scheduled to go the pain clinic. No one from the office called to re-schedule my appointment, so I insisted that my husband drive me to it. I remember praying to God on the way that, If you want me to get help with my addiction, then I need this clinic to be closed. We drove there in the snow and ice, only to find out that the clinic was CLOSED!!! The sign I needed.
So what did you do? Where did you turn?
At this point, I have no more pain pills, muscle relaxers and no valium. I have been taking these medications for four years. Detox was hard. Withdrawals, being sick, and horrible mood swings. I had to manage a lot of my pain with essential oils and hot baths. I prayed, God, help me get through this day. I begged God to please forgive me and help me. I began reading my Bible to find strength. I copied Bible verses and memorized them, saying them over and over in my head. Some of my favorite Scriptures I meditated on were:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares and anxiety on me because I care for you. Let go of your worries, stress, and struggles.”
Psalm 32:8 “ I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.”
Psalm 143:10 “Teach me to do your will for you are my God. May your good spirit lead me on level ground.”
Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, I will help you. I will strengthen you and help you.” (this is my favorite)
I started going to Celebrate Recovery, and weekly meetings at our church. I contacted a friend of mine who is a chiropractor to have an adjustment done on my back. Here’s a ‘God wink:’ He treated me for almost three months, three times a week for FREE ! Wow! But, God!!!!!
That’s truly amazing! Yes, God is good, isn’t He!? So that was it? Have you ever relapsed or struggled since then?
This time of inactivity was perfect for healing. You know the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy though. After 5 months of “clean time” then the enemy gets my mind thinking. Oh, I can do just one more pill. Well, one pill is never enough. It did not take long to join the enemies party. I remember feeling so guilty and ashamed. What’s wrong with me? The guilt and shame was causing me so much stress. I didn’t know then, what I know now. The enemy “snuck in” and I didn’t stop him at the onset. He loved me holding on to that guilt and shame. I knew I had to tell my husband, again, that I had relapsed. We were sitting on the back porch. I told him the truth, that I had taken some more pills. He was so humble and caring to me. He took me in his arms and assured me that he forgave me and promised he would always love me. That’s just who he is. I truly felt unconditional love. It was as though he was Jesus in the flesh at that moment.
We decided that day to find an NA/AA meeting, and for me to find a sponsor to work the twelve steps with. I made a decision that day that I was ready to surrender completely. I truly was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It was around 3 pm, as we were out searching for a meeting. Usually, the AA meeting place closed around 1:30, but that day someone happened to be there (Another God wink to me). This person informed me of all of the NA/AA places and times that were available. I attended my first NA meeting and found a sponsor that night. We started meeting together and working on the 12 steps. I found out about all of the character defects I have. Selfishness, self-pity, self-righteousness, fear etc. I thought I was a good person until I began working those steps with a sponsor, lol.
So how are you doing now?
On June 18th of this year, I celebrated five years of recovery. My fifth “birthday,” as those in recovery circles would call it. I feel happy, joyous, and free. Free from the bondage of alcohol, drugs, guilt, and shame. My marriage has been restored. My family can trust me. God has blessed my family immensely through our own obedience. We pray daily as a family. There is nothing sweeter than hearing my ten-year-old daughter praying her sweet prayers, saying how much she loves her family and Jesus. God’s blessings have expanded beyond my home and into my work.
Your work…? What do you mean by that?
I currently work in a long-term drug and alcohol treatment facility for women. My time there has taught me that addiction is a two-fold disease; a physical allergy, coupled with a mental obsession. While it is true that people do make the “initial” choice to engage in substance abuse, once the abuse becomes addiction, a person may be nearly powerless to stop this compulsive abuse without help. Their will power becomes impaired. Since I am the only case manager, I have in-person contact with all of the residents on a regular basis. This one-on-one time has allowed me to share how God’s love and grace has helped me deal with my addiction, and how it can help them do the same. I have seen residents at my work accepting Jesus into their hearts, and leaning on His power, to help them break the chains of their addiction.
As you’ve walked this long, tough journey – not just for yourself, but with other women – I’m sure you’ve grown to understand God. Can you share some of the things you’ve learned about how God’s love and power intersects with our struggles and addictions?
The blessings I see at my work, and in my own life, are confirmation that God can conquer all. I now walk with Jesus on a daily basis, beginning and ending every day spending time with Him. Through studying His word, I know where to find strength when I am weak. There is no power like the power of prayer. Without Him, I am nothing. He provides the love and guidance that only He knows how.
He keeps me vigilant in my recovery, reminding me to “stay in today,” and not to worry about yesterday or tomorrow. He gives me the strength and confidence to resist the enemy at the onset, so when the thoughts of you can’t do that, or that’s too hard come along, I can cast those thoughts aside. Praise God, for all He has done and all He has yet to do. I thank God I’m not where I used to be. I am seeking His will today. Those who trust the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Amen!! So, Nancy, what’s your advice to those of us who are still seeking victory?
It’s simple: I pray daily, all of the time actually, for His help. I thank Him for all He has done. I thank Him for loving me, and for having a good plan for my life. Today, He is no longer just my Savior,
He is Lord of my life.