Grace Brown

 

I was born in Blue Island and lived in Richton Park with my mother, father and brother.  My aunt, uncle, and three cousins lived a block away from our house and I was the baby of the family.  I was constantly being carried around to the point where my feet barely touched the ground.  My life was very good until I was five years old when my mother passed away.  She had been an alcoholic and she died from esophageal cancer.  My brother Michael, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, was 15 at the time.

 After my mom died, my dad started taking Michael and me to a Catholic church three to four times a week.  Michael was an altar boy and I went to bible school.  I never understood the concept of God at that age, but I really enjoyed the bible stories. After my mom died, my life was fairly normal thanks to my family making sure that not much had changed for us in our day-to-day lives.  However, when I was eight, my dad remarried.  We moved to Gurnee to live with my stepmother and her two daughters.

My stepmother was abusive to my brother and me in unimaginable ways.  She was manipulating my father to the point where I couldn’t even speak to him about the abuse.  I stopped trying to tell him about the abuse to protect his feelings.  The abuse and neglect lasted for years. It left me so emotionally damaged that I tried to take my own life when I was 15. After my father realized there was nothing he could do to help me he gave up and let my stepmom continue her ways.  She swiftly kicked me out and I went to live at my aunt and uncle’s house.   Things still didn’t get better for me emotionally and I started to become numb to the world.

At 19, I got engaged and moved to Kentucky to be with him.  For the first couple of years, I enjoyed my life. I worked at a pawn shop and excelled there and dong well in all areas of my life.  After I turned 21, I would go out like most 21 year olds.  We would go to bars on weekends and occasionally go to parties.  I enjoyed the “party scene” and loved to drink.  When I drank, I felt great and didn’t have as much anxiety.  My boyfriend started to work nights, but I still went to bars and hung out with friends without him.  Eventually I started getting beer on my way home from work and drink by myself.  Slowly a 6-pack after work turned into a 24-pack in one night.  I started having problems with my boyfriend, and I realized that he wasn’t the man I wanted to spend my life with.  While I cared for him, I never really loved him.  So I moved back home to Illinois. 

Almost immediately my family started to notice that I was drinking a lot, but they didn’t know how much.  At this point, I already had started to hide my habit.  Eventually beer turned into liquor and drinking only at night turned into drinking earlier and earlier.  When I was 24, my father was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and shortly after passed away.  I held his hand and sat by his side while he died.  It took 42 minutes for him to die after they took off him of oxygen. 

After this, I gave up trying to control my drinking. I started to drink all day everyday.  I would drink up to a gallon of vodka.  After a long time of making drinking my life, I could no longer handle being an alcoholic. I had already been to three rehabs and nothing seemed to help me stop drinking.  I began to have serious health problems because of it and mentally I was at the end of my rope.  This is the point that I, a person who did not believe in God, prayed for Him to save me from the life I had created for myself. 

 

Shortly after I called out to God, my aunt gave me the number for Tabitha House.  I called and spoke to Sandra Ezell, the program director. Sandra told me I would be accepted into the program after I detoxed in a 30-day rehab.  She referred me to the South Suburban Council on Alcoholism. That’s where I first learned that Tabitha House was a Christian-based program.  Being an atheist I didn’t believe that Tabitha House could help me. 

After I completed rehab I tried to find a sober house with no religious ties, but I couldn’t find a place.  Finally, after arguing with my aunt and telling her “I’m not going to stay with Jesus people” I agreed to go to the interview and was accepted into Tabitha House.  Sandra told me to go home to get my things and come back immediately.  On my way out, a man started asking me questions. He asked if I was going to enter Tabitha House, how old I was, and other questions.  That man was Dr. John Sullivan.  His kindness and interest in how I felt about going to a ministry while being an atheist intrigued me.  It wasn’t until later that I learned he was the founder of Restoration Ministries.  On our way home my aunt was ranting and raving about how she thought Tabitha House was an amazing place and that she thought that I would end up working for the ministry.  I told her she was crazy and laughed.  I moved into Tabitha House that night  and my life has not been the same since. 

After I had been living at Tabitha House for a while I realized God had answered my prayers to be saved and to be free from alcohol.  It happened during our morning devotions when we were reading Luke.  We came across the verse that changed everything for me -  Luke 5:18 – I’m sure you all know this verse.

 

“And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus and when he saw their faith he said  “man your sins are forgiven you”. 

This is the moment where I found Christ and God.  When I read this verse, I knew it had to be someone’s first hand-account of witnessing the desperation of the paralyzed man wanting to get to close to Jesus to be healed. Until this point, I thought the bible was filled with stories. But God met me in what I love to do most, reading.  He knew my heart and knew exactly how to reach me.  After that, I dedicated my life to Jesus and God. 

Through Jesus and Restoration Ministries, I finally have the life I wished for.  I am closer to my family than I ever have been.  They have always meant so much to me, but now I have the capacity to show them how much I care.  They have been nothing but supportive and they are happy that they have the “real Grace” with them now.  I have an amazing job as Store Manager of the Restoration Ministries’ Harvey Thrift Store and I love what I do.  I am also dating a wonderful man who I care for very much.  

I graduated from Tabitha House in April and I am still living there so I get the privilege to watch other woman get the help and support they need to so they have a new life in Christ. Watching these women grow and become who God wanted them to be is one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed.  I owe everything to this ministry and the people who helped me get where I am today.  I can say that I have been sober for a year and a half and it has been the best year and a half of my life.