The Bible Study Cure

The Bible Study Cure

Why, after three years of sobriety, was she still depressed?

Denise Allen

Tuesday morning, nine o’clock. I sat in my old jalopy in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church, nervously smoking a cigarette and watching a parade of well-dressed women disappear behind the doors, going to a Bible fellowship class I’d told my sister, Donna, I’d take.

Their makeup, their hair, their skirts and heels, everything about them seemed perfect. I looked at myself in the rearview mirror. No makeup. Messy ponytail. I’d worn my everyday clothes, jeans and a T-shirt.

I wanted to start the car and go right back home. Not just because I looked so different from them. It was more because if those women knew the way that I had once lived my life—knew who I really was—they would most likely bar the door.

Joining a Bible study wasn’t something that I had given much thought to before. That was my daddy’s department. He taught Bible history, and the Bible was his textbook. We went to church as a family but didn’t really talk about God otherwise. To me, the Bible was just another book.

And I wasn’t much of a reader, or a student. Not since the eighth grade, anyway.

That year I was friends with a group of girls who seemed nice at first. Then one day at lunch one girl asked me to dump her tray. “Take mine too,” another said. “And mine,” said another. Next thing I knew, I was staggering to the trash can, trying not to drop the half dozen trays piled high in my arms.

I dumped the trash and turned back to our table. The girls were gone. They had totally ditched me! I felt like such a reject.

A terrible emptiness opened up inside of me, a sense of utter desolation, like I was all alone in the world.

I’d always felt different from the other girls, and their rejection confirmed it. I started hanging out with a new crowd who accepted me for who I was.

“Here, try this,” one of them said, passing me a joint. I smoked it so that I would feel even more connected to them, to feel like I belonged. Pretty soon I was getting stoned or drunk (or both) every day with my new friends. Booze, weed, then in high school, crack and smack. My parents didn’t know what to do.

I stopped caring about anything except getting high, and escaping the sense of abandonment that encased me.

I managed to graduate high school, but after that I became lost in a downward spiral of addiction. At one point, I got clean and sober for a few years. I was diagnosed with depression and put on medication.

About two weeks after I started taking it, someone smoked a joint in front of me. “Can I have a hit?” I asked. And just like that, I relapsed.

I’d beg God for help and get clean for a couple of days only to be tempted into using again. The cycle went on for years. Sober. Relapse. Sober. Relapse.

I shudder to think what might have happened to me if I hadn’t gotten high and wrecked my car one day in 2003. Thank goodness I didn’t hit anyone. Somehow I wasn’t hurt, but I was put in jail for a couple of weeks.

One night, sitting in that cold, lonely cell I sensed rather than heard something tell me, I’m here. Or was it someone? Was God trying to get my attention? Lord, help me out of this, I prayed. Help me stay clean for good.

I knew if I went to rehab when I got released it would help my chances of staying out of prison...and, maybe, just maybe it would work.

So that’s where I went—a six-month treatment center. It was there that an anger at God flared in me. I couldn’t count how many times I’d asked for his help getting clean. Why had he let me suffer with this disease and remain a miserable failure all these years? Why had he let me down?

“Fine, have it your way!” I shouted one day. “I’m yours. All yours. Do what you want with me.”

Little did I understand it then, but that was the first time I really turned my life over to God’s care. And in that moment of surrender, the seed of my sobriety was planted.

I left rehab committed to my recovery like I had never been before. I found a 12-step meeting and kept going back day after day, month after month. I drew closer to my mom and my sister (I was so grateful that my addiction hadn’t destroyed our relationship). I just wished that my daddy had lived to see me like this.

It was partly in his memory that I started going to church. I even picked up the Bible. But I couldn’t get a handle on Scripture and didn’t make much headway.

All in all, though, my life was pretty much on track after three years of sobriety. So why did depression still haunt me? It wasn’t the utter desolation I had felt in eighth grade, rejected by my so-called friends. The antidepressant meds were helping.

But some days I felt so tired and hollow, it took everything I had to get out of bed and drag myself to my 12-step meeting.

I didn’t want to unload my problems on my sister—she had enough going on raising two little kids on her own after her divorce. But lately I’d noticed that she seemed less stressed. Happier. Hopeful. One day when we were talking on the phone I opened up. “It’s like I’m in a deep dark hole and I can’t climb out,” I said.

“When I feel overwhelmed, I recite Bible verses,” Donna said. “They remind me of God’s promises to us.”

So that’s what’s helping her, I thought. I’d never gotten very far with my Bible reading, certainly not enough to know verses by heart. “You mean you memorize verses and repeat them?” I asked, wanting to know more.

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