Louise is disciplined and faithful in her relationship with the Lord. She reads her Bible every day and keeps a list of things she is grateful for—a practice that brings her joy. The kids at Anna Ogden Hall call her, “Grandma Louise.” She says, “I love to help people, give advice—do what I can to make their lives easier.” Though she has never had children of her own, she has found a family through the children and moms she lives with at Anna Ogden Hall and through the relationships she is building at her church. Bottom line, she has learned that purpose and meaning come from simple faith, loving others, and following Christ. But it was a long road to arrive at this place.
Louise grew up on a family farm on Mount Spokane. Her parents worked hard to survive and provide for a family with six girls. Louise remembers hard work and physical labor as constant and grueling, and to her, the Christian faith seemed to be more about fear and obligation than grace. Both her parents had survived childhood trauma, and her father's workaholism played a role in how he coped with his past and raised his children. In an attempt to protect his girls from the dysfunction of their extended family, Louise’s father tried to keep the girls away from much of the outside world. They went to church and school, but even going to church took a back seat to keeping up with the demands of the family’s livelihood.
“Growing up, there was just so much work. And my dad was extremely strict and way over-protective…We went to school and came home.” Stemming from their own childhoods, her parents didn’t know how to show affection. "To say, ‘I love you,’ that was just not part of my life. I think I was 30 years old when I remember my dad hugging me for the first time.”
From Overprotected to Unprotected
At the age of sixteen, Louise left home to get away from what she saw as a strict, overbearing environment and turned to drugs and alcohol. She was in and out of jail, homeless off and on, and in 1996, she even stayed at Anna Ogden Hall for a short time. She managed to get clean, reconnect with her parents and stay sober for 18 years. She worked hard, held a job and created a decent life for herself, but Louise now realizes she was avoiding a lot of pain by stuffing it deep under the surface. Before she could fully grasp how much God loves her and how much meaning and purpose her life could hold through Christ, she had to begin to look at that pain. Like it or not, it would demand her attention.
Towards the end of her eighteen years of sobriety, grief and loss overwhelmed her and magnified her struggle with her own self-worth. “My dad had already passed away….My mom ended up with Alzheimer’s disease and in a nursing home. I had been my mother’s caregiver at that time. At that point, I just felt like I really had nothing to live for. I don’t have any children... I just really didn’t know where I was going to go, what I was going to do. I relapsed into heroin and started doing meth. I did that for three years.”
The consequences of relapse were swift and severe. “Everything goes bad so fast, it’s not even funny— it goes so fast. I had a home, I had two vehicles, and I had acquired all that by myself…I had done in-home care and usually worked two jobs. I had come a long way in those 18 years.”
Louise soon understood that relapse and jail time at 60 years of age were very different than when she was in her twenties. “I had to make a decision. Do I stay in turmoil, or do I walk away?” She chose to walk away.
Louise first sought out American Behavioral Health Systems (ABHS), a center for mental health, addiction and detox care. She was able to stay for 90 days but still didn’t feel ready to go back home. She feared she didn’t have the support to stay sober. So, she applied to Women's Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall. "I knew I had to completely depend on God because there was no other way.”
What does dependence on God look like?
As part of UGM Recovery, participants are invited to think about what purpose God has given them in life. Louise was stumped by this question. “Everybody kept asking me what I thought my purpose in life is. I thought, ‘I do not have a purpose.’ There was this blank. I mean, nothing there.”
Many of us want to do great things for a God who loves us. It can be easy to think pleasing Him looks like an important career or being a perfect person who has it all together, but God slowly answered the question of purpose for Louise in a clear, simple way. Louise explains that for her, purpose means “to follow Him and stay with Him…”
Her first reaction was that this answer was too simple: “He could have told me that a long time ago!” But, Louise says, this was a real turning point in trusting Him with her life.
Her relationships and ability to connect with people have changed drastically as a result.
“It’s night and day. I didn’t like meeting new people, it wasn’t really my thing. I just liked being by myself. But [I am learning] to take risks to meet new people through the church. I have a mentor… and it has taught me that I can trust people.” She says battling addiction and experiencing real recovery wouldn’t be possible without the grace God gives us.
“Knowing that God has got your back…that it doesn’t matter if you stumble a little bit. He is going to love you no matter what. So, I think feeling that love, that no human can do—I feel that is the difference. When you feel, and you see what he’s done, there is nothing like that. There is nothing else that can take that place.”
Louise has started a new job at Christ Kitchen in Spokane. During her time at Anna Ogden Hall, she helped with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and spent as much time in the kitchen as she could. When she found out about an opportunity at Christ Kitchen, she knew she wanted to work there.
“I love the Christian environment, that everyone there is Christian. I could not think of a better place to work, and they do so much for women.” As far as her understanding of her own self-worth is concerned, she says she now knows she’s worthy of love and care, and that her purpose right now is simply to follow the Lord.
Louise has changed from the inside out. Read more stories of life change. Download the free e-book below.