I’ve made a new friend and I want you to meet her. Her name is Staci McLean and she has the most brutiful (brutal and beautiful) life story! I met her in the pages of the book she wrote called ‘Soaring out of the darkness.’ After reading it I instinctively knew I had to meet her and that she was one of ‘our people.’ And I did… And she is!!!
This is a heartbreaking story of a childhood surrounded by brokenness, tension, family health issues, divorce, neglect, alcohol, grief and poverty which lead Staci as a 14 year old to have her first drink of alcohol, and she was hooked.
Staci’s story made me realise that every addict has a story of brokenness that begins far earlier than just their first experience of the substance.
“No one plans to become an addict. It’s not what I aspired to be.”
For Staci her brokenness ran deep and had many layers. Constantly disappointed by those she loved and the situation she was forced to live in, meant that she learned to be self-sufficient and only rely on herself from a young age.
"Winters in Christchurch are very cold. One winter my shoes had a huge hole in the sole. I did not have enough money to buy new shoes, so I fixed them with cardboard and duct tape. This lasted fine for a few weeks until it rained. Then the cardboard would turn to mush and I would have to replace it with a new piece of cut up cardboard box. It never occurred to be to ask Dad for new shoes. If I had, he would have found a way, but I did not feel as if I deserved things. I felt I had to be grateful that Dad had taken me in, because my Mum did not want me. If Dad decided he didn’t want me either,
I had nowhere to go, so I asked for nothing and told no one.”
Staci’s teenage experiences of alcohol and her subsequent relationship with boys made so much sense to me after reading about her childhood. On the outside it might have just looked like a typical rebellious teenager partying too hard, but understanding her story you can see it was a young woman desperately trying to ‘self-medicate’ the pain and brokenness of her childhood and current existence.
Of course her story continues on the downward spiral and Staci writes so poignantly about depression as her constant companion leading to suicidal thoughts and plans and finally to her rock bottom moment.
"One evening in the darkness of the night, I lay alone on the bathroom floor sobbing. I was so consumed with my emotional pain that it felt like my heart was literally breaking apart. In despair and drowning in feelings of hopelessness over my life and lack of control, I had reached a place where the anguish was swallowing me. The heart ache was overwhelming. The thought of continuing to live like this was unbearable.”
Regardless of each of our individual life stories, I think we can all relate on some level to the girl sobbing on the floor and the feelings and emotional pain that Staci so eloquently puts into words.
But what I love about Staci’s book and about her story is that this rock bottom moment is not the end of the story, actually it’s only halfway through the book!
"God heard my cry and met me that day on the floor next to the toilet. There was no bright shining light and no angel choir, but instead a small whisper of hope and a tiny glimpse of a different good future for me. That small, croaked prayer caused a shift in me. It was the planting of a tiny seed of the one thing I had never had before: hope."
I was captivated and inspired as I continued to read about her journey from addiction and hopelessness into freedom and healing with God. Staci writes so realistically about her experiences of God and church as an alcoholic, I found it so refreshing and actually was challenged and learnt a lot myself as a Christian, church go-er and leader.
"The ‘tick the box’ Christianity appealed to me. I wanted to get right with God and make amends for all my past sins. I wanted a list that I could work through, tick everything off the list and then I would be ok, forgiven and go to heaven. I thought if I spent an hour a day in prayer and study, went to every service and invited three people a week to church then God would find me worthy and I would get His approval. I missed the whole message of grace and underserved forgiveness."
I feel like we all need to be reminded of the whole message of grace and underserved forgiveness sometimes!
Staci finishes her book so beautifully as she writes about all those things - finding God not just religion, and about her honest journey to freedom through that grace and underserved forgiveness.
“Freedom is a gift from God and cannot be taken from us. My move into freedom was not a onetime thing; every day I choose to stay in that freedom and not go back."
I recommend that you read this book.
It is a hard easy read - hard because of the heartbreaking content, but easy because it passes my tired-Mama-concentration test. Reading stories like Staci's is important because it helps with our humanity and our perspective. We learn, empathise and grow respect for each other when we share our stories.
Staci thank you for writing this book and sharing your story with the world.
You are brave, resilient and inspiring.
You are my hero.
With love and courage,
xx Steph xx