By Ruth Ann Rigby
I love Mississippi—our state and our culture! I love that when I say I am from Mississippi, the response is usually, “You’re from the Bible belt.” I respond back with pride, “Yes, I am!”
I grew up in a Christian home, nurtured at First Baptist Jackson. Frank Pollard, Larry Black, Eva Hart—these were my Christian Mentors. My church home was also my refuge, my escape when things were not going so well at home. I could go there and be safe in the choir and other activities. This was my lifeline. One of my favorite scriptures is Joshua 1:9, “ Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your GOD will be with you wherever you go.”
My mother was one of my Christian mentors, but she was not one of my favorite people in my early years due to her alcoholism. When I was 18, we were able to get her help, and after that, our relationship totally changed for the better. We went from being strangers to really being mother and daughter.
My mother took responsibility for her problem with the help of a family intervention, friends and her higher power. I had extended family members who truly walked this journey with me—I would not have made it without their support. They, too, are my Christian mentors. You will be faced with many journeys in your life and you need to rely on your parents, your extended family members, friends, pastors, and other Christian mentors in your life. No matter what is going on in your life they can help you!
I never thought I was a survivor until someone pointed this out to me many years ago. My mother said to me, “You have used up nine of your nine lives.” This was a figure of speech around our home—but she was right. I have had not just one, but many life and death experiences. I have survived a rock climbing accident, scuba diving accident, horseback-riding accident, and several medical emergencies, just to name a few. They were all life changing in many ways, but the one that was the most life changing was my journey into recovery which allowed me to be happy, joyous, and free.
I was attacked one night at a gas station not a mile from my home. I didn’t realize that drug deals were going on there, and I was just filling up my truck on the way home. Then—BOOM—my life changed forever. I went on a downward spiral with this trauma, not realizing at the time how traumatized I was over the event.
Remember I told you that my mother was an alcoholic. Well, I also have that gene. I grew up saying that I would not become an alcoholic, but oh boy, was I wrong. Within six months, I was almost dead—until my husband and extended family members told me enough was enough.
This is where my life changed for the better. I went into treatment for six months. I was spiritually bankrupt, and didn’t know what would happen to me, until one day my counselor suggested that I hit my knees and, “Oh, by the way, when you are on your knees—PRAY.”
I had what we call a spiritual awakening in treatment. My life changed because I became willing and accepting—but more importantly, my relationship with God returned. He is a part of everything that I do today. I have morning and evening meditation with Him being the focus, and He has been on my recovery journey with me now for 18 years when this article goes to publication.
After treatment, I went back to school to be an alcohol and drug abuse counselor. I have been blessed to be able to work for some incredible facilities—St. Dominic Behavioral Health, Pine Grove Behavioral Health, and now Capstone Treatment Center, which is a Christian Treatment Center for adolescent and young adult males up to the age of 26. God has opened so many doors for me. I am able to do what I do with integrity and God’s Grace; it is what He wants me to do.
I am very active in my church at Broadmoor. The relationships I have built there are a huge factor in my spiritual health. Friends have walked beside me through the loss of my mother as well as other struggles. They have helped keep me grounded, accountable, and true to myself. And I have been able to give back to my church and my community. Together, we can make a difference and we must—because that is what we, as Believers, are called to do.