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High With Higher Standards

For years Monica lied to her parents about everything.  She didn’t want them to know she was a drug addict.

Monica says, “I was afraid.  I was afraid that, more than anything uh they would be so disappointed, heartbroken, hurt.  There was a lot of guilt.  I think I just felt like I was failing them.”

The daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, Monica was the youngest of three and grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Chicago.  

She says, “We had a wonderful, wonderful childhood.  My Grandma was really the backbone of our family.  And she was really the one who took care of me and raised me and taught me about God.”  

Monica was popular, and did well in school, gymnastics, music, and cheerleading.  But in her sophomore year she met a boy who was a drop-out and liked to party and get high.

She says, “I started using drugs.  So then I was all into a different path, you know, and I-I really wasn't able to have a clear mind and-and break away from this relationship because then all of a sudden I found myself getting stuck in it in a completely different dimension.”

She stayed in the relationship throughout high school and college, while keeping up her grades and working a full-time job.  But her boyfriend had become controlling and abusive, and she was afraid to leave him.

She explains, “While trying to figure out why I’m with this person in-in this horrible relationship, this person's using drugs.  So it's scary to try to escape this relationship, so I might as well use drugs with this person, so at least we have a common understanding in some way - some really sick way.”  

Monica dropped out of college, one class short of graduating.  In 1993, she got pregnant with her daughter, Nikki.  The same year, her boyfriend went to jail, bringing an end to the relationship.

She says, “I was no longer with her father and I had this newfound sense of freedom, this independence that I had not had in over ten years.  I was able to live my life and do the things that I wanted to do.”  

Monica was hopeful of the life that was ahead for her and Nikki.  She remained drug-free for a couple years, but after she got a job as a pharmacy tech, old habits returned.

She says, “I was surrounded by a lot of prescription medications that I knew I had access to, and whether it was stealing the drugs or forging prescriptions or whatever it was that I needed to do to-to get my fix.”

This was the first of many jobs Monica lost to drug addiction. She was in and out of treatment a dozen times.  She did manage to stay clean for three years, but in 2000, working at another pharmacy, she was back to writing prescriptions for herself.

She says, “At one point of my life I thought there was no hope for me.”

She was fired and lived in a hotel room with her daughter.  She recalls, “I found myself one day just waking up and being in my bed and crying and thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to have to live the rest of my life, every day for the rest of my life.’”

Finally, in March of 2006, Monica met Jeff hill, a former addict, through friends.  She says, “There was something in him that I saw.  It was something pure and sincere, and it was filled with hope.  So when he started talking about freedom in Christ, it was something that was so foreign to me, and in the beginning it was like hopeful yet fearful.

Monica started attending church with him and reading the Bible.

She says, “I was literally in tears at one point because it was like, ‘Why am I not understanding this?  Why am I not getting this?’  But I knew that there was something in there and I knew that I needed to just keep digging until it was my time to really understand.”

Three months later in church, Monica knew it was time to accept Jesus.

She says, “I just went up there and I just said, ‘Okay God, this is it.  This is my-my turn.  So here I am.’  And it wasn't like it was a light switch that went off, you know, and I went home and I was transformed in that instant.  But something started to change.  Jesus is a really serious thing.  Because I knew, you know, I knew God growing up and I knew about Jesus and the sacrifice and the crucifixion and the resurrection, and I knew all of those things in my head, but at this point I knew that I had a responsibility in my heart.   Also, at that time, I knew that I-I couldn’t have freedom and joy and happiness and fulfillment.  And I wouldn't be able to have that if I continued to use.”

Through God’s strength, Monica stopped using drugs and trusted the Lord to work in her life.

She says, “The biggest thing for me, at that time, was really carrying a lot of guilt and shame and condemnation because of all of the years that I was a single, drug-addicted mother, and what I had put my daughter through.  And I think at that time God was really working on my heart and really trying to get me to let go of some stuff.  It took a few years but it-it came.”

In 2009, Monica and Jeff married, blending their families.  Together they run Serenity Village, one of the largest faith-based recovery programs in Minnesota.  

She says, “I am a new person, I am a new creation, that it doesn't matter what I've done in the past, doesn't matter what I may have said or not said, that God's love for me is unconditional and eternal.  And that all of that is gone.  It’s forgotten.”

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