Mom’s Words Cut Deep Wounds
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Courtney says, “I just loved getting as high as I could. And yes, it numbed things and I definitely escaped reality.”
It seemed Courtney Willingham was destined to be a drug addict. Her parents, who were divorced, were addicts and partied constantly. She lived with her dad who, despite his addiction, made Courtney feel loved. That changed when he went to prison, and she moved in with her mother. Courtney, who was ten, says that’s when mental and physical abuse started.
Courtney shares, “And I'd be crying miss my dad, she would tell me that he doesn't love me, and that he's a drug addict, and that he is a loser. I didn't believe her, but it did upset me that she was trying to hurt me so bad. I guess I just felt unworthy to be loved.”
Depression and anxiety set in and from that arose a deep seeded anger, one Courtney would carry for years. In high school her outlets were pot, prescription drugs (like zanax), and fighting. By age 20, she’d been arrested twice for violence, once against her mom, another with a co-worker at the bar she worked. Even when she started working as a bartender, she couldn’t keep her anger in check.
Courtney recalls, “I would have these crazy mood swings from always being up and down and all over the place.”
Meanwhile, her search for love continued. For a while, she found it through stripping. Courtney shares, “I was definitely getting the validation that I didn't get growing up. I did feel worthy, I felt loved. I had great friends. I just thought I was living the life.”
That would end when Courtney got pregnant with her daughter at 21. Courtney would suffer more hardship and addiction. In the coming years she would be arrested and jailed for numerous crimes including possession, a DUI, and family violence. She’d endure an abusive marriage, divorce, and have another child, a son. She’d also become a heroin addict. Now she turned her anger and hatred toward herself.
Courtney says, “I felt like I was a horrible person. I felt so worthless. I felt like I couldn't be normal. I didn't know how to be sober.”
At 25, after getting out of an abusive marriage, she got off heroin and started seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed her as bi-polar and prescribed her medications to manage her symptoms and anxiety. Three months later, she relapsed. One day she was arrested when police found her in her parked car, unconscious from having a heroin overdose and her son in the backseat. She was charged with six felonies that included possession, a DUI, violating probation and child endangerment. She also lost custody of her children.
Courtney shares, “I felt so much shame, so much regret. I couldn't believe that I had become a heroin addict again. That I had gotten strung out again, that I had put my child in danger. The worst of the overdose and being in jail away from my children, the worst of it was definitely me losing them.”
Awaiting trial and in isolation because of Covid, Courtney had time to think about her life. She started reading daily devotions distributed throughout the jail. There was one that caught her attention. It was about the people Jesus chose to be with … people like her.
Courtney remembers, “And the Pharisees asked Jesus why he ate with such scum and why he, why did he hang out with sinners and tax collectors? And Jesus told them that it's gonna make me cry, that, um, the sick needed a doctor, that it wasn't the well that needed a doctor, so it just touched me because I had always been a sinner and I've always been sick in the head and just had a mess up mind and outlook towards life. So, I just knew that He had come for me. I remember just telling God, Jesus, I want something different. I need You to lead me. I need You to guide me. Please wash all the ugly out of me. I just finally, if I had a peace inside that I never felt before, and then when I'd feel Him in church and I would, I'd feel His presence. I just finally felt worthy. It felt good repenting and asking God to forgive me of all my sins. It felt good and like I was starting fresh and I was starting over.”
Facing two years in prison, Courtney spent the two months before her hearing drawing to God, and praying for a lighter sentence. At her trial, the judge dropped all the charges except for one that was reduced to a misdemeanor. Her probation was terminated, and she enrolled in a court-ordered, 19-month drug treatment program. While there, she says God delivered her from a 13-year drug addiction. Courtney says, “I thanked Him for taking me out of the circumstances I was in. I thanked Him for getting me sober. I had such favor with God. I got my kids back way faster than most DFCS cases. And then that was only God as well.”
She says that every area of her life was changed by God. Courtney recalls, “God, He also delivered me from anxiety, depression, anger. I am completely normal now. I am happy. I don't need any prescription pills. I don't need any medication. It's amazing to be normal...and just how He restores. He can restore your mind. He can restore your sanity, your happiness, your peace.”
Much of her healing came through forgiving those who hurt her, including her mother. Courtney says, “It releases the bitterness and the anger you had to those people. And you can finally live at peace.”
In 2022, Courtney married Chris and they have a beautiful life together. Courtney shares her journey of healing at women centers and churches declaring God’s power to turn any life around.
Courtney says, “Turn to God. Just to give your life to Jesus. That no matter what you're going through, how bad your life is, God can change it all. He is the restorer; He is the healer. Your doctor, He's your provider. He is everything.”
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