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Life Change Through Higher Love

“I had my storage key and I sometimes would just clench it, ‘cause I didn't know if I was going to make it that day,” says Eli Goodenough.  The key she held so closely would open the door to the ultimate escape – because behind it was a loaded gun.  

Eli continues, “Why the heck would I want to live?  I always internalized everything, so not only was I in complete torment all the time, but it was my fault and I'm never going to get it together.”  

From a young age, Eli was sexually abused by someone she knew.  But she blamed herself, and by age 9, she was battling thoughts of suicide.

She explains, “Even just playing with my dolls, having them kill themselves or go through abuse.  I had a lot of secrets.  I just had to grow up holding all that in.”  

By her teens she was cutting, addicted to drugs, and was hospitalized multiple times for anorexia.  

Eli says, “It was like the inside of me was just always screaming and I never had relief.  It was constant agony.”

Then at 16, she seemed to be turning a corner through counseling...until her mother died unexpectedly in her sleep.

Eli says, “Everyone was so worried about me dying.  She just died and, so I got left with all these things I didn't get to say.  Just regret.  All-consuming regret and shame.  I didn't know how to handle it.”  

After high school she moved to LA, and was doing whatever she could to get drugs.  Trying to get help, she tried rehab several times, but always relapsed, unable to find peace.

She shares, “I was always tense.  It's like if someone took a shotgun and just blew a hole through me, trying to stop bleeding, just this unrest.  I just couldn’t even image living any longer.”

So she got a gun and put it in a storage unit, waiting for the day she had the courage to turn it on herself.  But as much as she wanted to die, she knew what it would do to her family.

Eli explains, “Living was actually harder than killing myself.  I was constantly living just so I didn't hurt other people, but it was never for me.”

In her decade-long cycle of addiction and suicidal thoughts, Eli also contracted HIV.  She says, “It just left me completely baffled and feeling even more hopeless.”  

Then in 2012, Eli had a flashback to her childhood trauma, followed by a seizure.  She felt that, “My body can't stuff one more thing.  It's just exploding.  Like, ‘I'm done.’”  

The loaded gun called to her, so with key in hand, she went to the storage unit.  But something stopped her.

She thought, “If you're really going to do this right, you should go back, see your family, get some closure, really for them.”

Looking sickly and gaunt, she went to visit her dad and his girlfriend, Debbie, who begged her to go to rehab.

Eli remembers, “She was just weeping for me, and it was just profound.  And so I agreed.  I was like, ‘Man, okay, I can do 30 days for her, then I'll kill myself.’”

So they took her to Captive Hearts, a Christian rehab home.  There, Eli saw a familiar face.  It was Chaplain Judy Boen – a counselor she met ten years before.

Judy describes the reunion: “I said, ‘Eli?’  And she looked at me, and her face lit up, and she said, ‘Chaplain Judy?’  And I said, ‘I thought you were dead.’”

They’d met during Eli’s first attempt at rehab.  But Eli had bolted after only a few weeks, leaving behind a rumor that she’d committed suicide.  Judy had thought about her often.

Judy says, “Was I able to say enough about trying to lead her to Jesus that it made an impact that she could cry out to God.  I didn't know.”

Now, Judy had a second chance.  But it was clear Eli didn’t want to be there.

Judy explains, “So broken, so angry - Eli was to the point of self-destruction.  We were the last hope.”

So Judy and some other counselors took Eli to a prayer service at the Healing Rooms in Santa Maria.  

Eli says, “The pastor had a random word, and just began to cry.  He said, ‘Somebody here has been in such a dark place.  And the Lord is telling me He's healing you right now.  Don't take your life.’  That word opened the door.  I never felt so free and loved in my life.  I just accepted Jesus.  I completely surrendered to Him fully.  God didn't care about any of it.  My problems, like it just-it didn't even matter.”

Eli recovered from addiction and would no longer be haunted by suicidal thoughts.  She says God also healed her of HIV.

She says, “I always tell people, ‘God is a showoff.’  And He completely blew my mind.”

Judy shares, “What had been a tombstone for Eli, turned into a stepping stone for her future.  It just showed me what He can do for every one of us if we allow Him to do the work.”

Through Eli’s testimony, her bond with her family members has strengthened, and they have come to know more of Jesus Christ.  Eli is now married with two children, and as a musician and writer, she points others to Jesus.  

She says, “Every lie the enemy's told you: it's shameful, you're not good enough, you should die – all those horrible things, it's because you have a destiny.     If you're still alive, you're a miracle, and you just have to reach out to God, and He loves you and it's not a mistake you're watching this right now.  This is exactly for you.”

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