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"My Whole Heart Felt New”

Nicole Rentzel always had a natural talent for sports, growing up near Rock River in Janesville, Wisconsin she found a love for waterskiing at age nine, eventually becoming a national champion.

Nicole recalls, “I was the third person in the world to climb to the top of the 5 High Pyramid. As a young child, I was in a water ski team, and I excelled very well with that and that like made me who I was at that time in my life.”

Nicole faced many challenges achieving those heights of success. She was born with hearing loss that would get worse through the years. Then at six years old she was molested by a male babysitter. She told her parents, but they dismissed it as kids fooling around. It happened again by a friend’s brother when she was 12. This time, she said nothing.

Nicole remembers, “I felt useless and dirty and broken and by it not being resolved I kind of think that it made me feel like my needs weren't met and that my feelings were invalid. And it kind of made me shut off.”

By the time Nicole was 12 she was drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot.

Nicole shares, “It seemed to solve my problems. I seemed to feel good enough, invincible. I didn't think so much about the things that were going on. It was like I was pretending to be someone else.”

Also, during this time, she started wearing hearing aids and her classmates teased her relentlessly. Trying to hide her feelings of embarrassment and shame, she poured herself into waterskiing. Then, another of life’s challenges would take its toll when her parent’s divorce. Devastated, she quit skiing.

Nicole says, “I didn't know how to handle the feelings that I felt inside, and so I just turned to a bottle, continued to smoke cigarettes and thought that that was going to be the best for me.”

In college, Nicole partied and also began eating excessively and gained 30 pounds. To lose it, she started purging and eventually became bulimic.

Nicole recalls, “It relieved so much pressure and it started to like quiet those voices of never being good enough. I couldn't control my parents getting divorced, but I could control what I ate how I ate it, and when I did. If I threw up or if I just stayed away from food period.”

During her third year in college, she became pregnant by a guy she had been dating. At nine weeks her mom convinced her to have an abortion. She had no idea of the remorse that would quickly follow.

Nicole remembers, “I walked in one person and came out somebody completely different. That scarred me in more ways than I thought possible, and as soon as I came out I went into this depression.”

Soon after, she dropped out of college. She also started taking prescription pain meds. Then her boyfriend left. Unable to hold down a job because of her addiction, she turned to prostitution, stealing and panhandling to get her next fix.

Nicole shares, “I was a slave to drugs. I did absolutely anything and everything for drugs. It was like I worshipped drugs as though drugs were my god and whatever they demanded I gave.”

Over a period of five years, Nicole would go into nine rehabs, numerous psych wards, and serve several jail sentences, including felony drug charges and violating probation. In that time, she would also make three suicide attempts. By age 30, Nicole had no home, and was addicted to crack and meth.

Nicole remembers, “And I started to question, ‘Well, God, if you're real and I've tried to die and I've tried to do things to just end it, how come I'm still here. There has to be a purpose for all this pain.’”

Then in August 2015, lying on the floor in a dirty apartment with other drug users Nicole finally realized her life needed to change.

Nicole says, “And I remember laying there with like tears running down my eyes. I knew that I couldn't die, I didn't have a gun to kill myself and everything I had tried had run out. And so, I cried out to God and said, ‘You know what, I'm ready to change. I'll do whatever I can.’”

The next day, a neighbor who had given her food before, invited her to go to church with her. Nicole accepted the invitation.

Nicole shares, “Deep inside of me I knew that I deserved a better life, that I wasn't this bad person so there had to be something more to my life than just this.”

Within a week, Nicole moved to Muskegon, Michigan and enrolled in Teen Challenge. The very next day, she surrendered her heart to God and soon after was baptized.

Nicole shares, “I can tell you that my whole heart felt new, and that I felt lighter, like I had lost 50 pounds of garbage just all soaked to the bottom, and I floated up.”

Nicole went on to graduate from Teen Challenge and says over time God broke every addiction in her life.

Nicole says, “God healed me of drug addiction, bulimia, self-destructive behaviors, self-hatred, anger.  I truly feel like I was able to heal that little girl inside of me that never had that love and acceptance.”

Today Nicole has a good steady job at a local factory and is even a homeowner. She has a message for anyone struggling with addictions and the pain of abuse.

Nicole shares, “Give your life to God because He loves you unconditionally. You don't have to do anything for it. There's hope no matter what you have gone through you can be forgiven and you can change. And God will help you.”

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