Archive: Coni

The Story of a Seeker

Seven years ago—when I was 17—I was with the “in crowd” in high school. But things didn’t move fast enough for me. I was bored and looking for something that was more exciting. As the pressures of school grew, and the uncertainties of what lay ahead increased, my social drinking habit turned into an everyday crutch.

I remember one morning pulling myself out of bed. I took a few steps, and then suddenly my body started to tremble. It wouldn’t stop until I had that first drink. I reached into the cupboard but it was bare. I couldn’t even find a drop in my “stash” places. I turned the apartment inside out like a wild animal. The need became like a fire spreading through my whole body.

I ran out of the apartment and knocked on the other tenants’ doors, begging for some booze. Finally I called a friend on the phone. He brought half a fifth of liquor. I drank it to steady my nerves, and it lasted until I got to my “second home,” a bar. A so-called friend came over and sat down by me and said, “Coni, you can’t live without it.” These heavy words made me realize I was an alcoholic.

My mental processes started to fall apart, and my body looked more like the body of a 40-year-old woman than a 22-year-old girl. I decided to ask my parents if I could move back home after being away for four years. They said it was o.k.—on the condition that I wouldn’t drink and that I would get a full-time job. I agreed.

Things were going all right until the third day. Then I had my first taste of withdrawals. I just could not go through with it, so I ran to my only comforter, the bottle. I went on a two-week trip with the bottle and then returned home. I couldn’t see any way out. So I downed 14 thorazines (pills). Somehow I lived through it and after four days of recovering, my father hit me with one of his lectures. I remember only one sentence: “Get out of this house, Tramp.”

I really wanted help. So I decided to visit a “headshrinker” once a week. After three weeks the doctor and I agreed that we were getting nowhere. I knew that I couldn’t go on like this, so I committed myself to a state hospital as a “manic-depressive alcoholic.”

I spent the first month in solitary confinement. During this time I went through the most agonizing changes as my body and mind were trying to function without alcohol.

During my second month I was able to live in the ward like a human with other patients. They were mostly there because of drugs. I became friends with Greg. He had pleaded insanity in court after being “hassled” for possession of dangerous drugs. After being released, he was allowed to come back and visit me. He always brought “pot” (marijuana). I shared it with fellow patients. One day Greg brought a surprise for me—a tab of “acid” (LSD).

I decided to take it. An hour passed and nothing happened. So I went to a birthday party for three wards at which I was supposed to be master of ceremonies. When I was reading off the names of people who were getting birthday presents, I suddenly became speechless. Everything became distorted and I started seeing beautiful rays of many colors. That was my first taste of acid—but not my last.

Shortly after my release I decided to go out and really try to find myself. I moved to a section of town where the hippies and beatniks lived. I thought this would be a place where I could really do, say, and think like I wanted—be myself. After moving into a nice, but old, apartment, I discovered that I was living in an area occupied by criminals, junkies (dope addicts), and prostitutes. But as long as I had my “acid” I wasn’t worried.

It wasn’t too long before I found myself in a reeking, filthy house, surrounded by about 15 guys with a pile of white, powder—methedrine. They called it “speed.” They asked me if I wanted a “hit” and I found myself sitting with my sleeve pulled up. I was pumping my arm with a closed fist and a dirty rag tied tightly around my upper arm. The needle pierced my skin—it missed the vein and hit the muscle. It stung like 12 wasps had converged upon my arm at the same time! Before I knew it, my body was filled with the most titillating sensation. I bounded out the door—overflowing with new life.

“Speed” became my love, the only thing I wanted around. Soon my apartment was open to anyone.

After being “high” for 14 days without rest I “split” to California. After two weeks I returned and found my apartment filled with “speed freaks,” (methedrine addicts). Across the room a pair of dark eyes met mine—it was Shane.

Somebody told me he was married. I also learned that he was the biggest dealer in Portland, the sole supplier for pushers and street dealers. He started coming to my apartment to “do his thing.” Shane gave me two large “hits” for letting him use my apartment. From then on my soul belonged to the dealer.

As my escapade with “speed” continued, I began to lose contact with reality. Once I sat for four days staring into space. I couldn’t move or speak. I spent 24 hours on my stomach in a house, paranoid, thinking that the “pigs” were outside my door and windows look-in. One day I hid myself in a closet, standing on my head for a half hour. Twice I took an overdose of “reds” (second pills). But always I survived.

Shane moved to the coast and I had to look for another contact. In order to get drugs, stealing, cheating and lying were necessary. Twice I attempted to kill. I lived in smelly, cockroach-infested rooms. I slept in hallways, porches, and rooftops of apartments. I experienced barbiturate poisoning, desoxin poisoning, mass hallucinations and “freak outs.” I turned into an animal. I couldn’t reason, think, understand, read, or speak except for making noises.

I didn’t take drugs to find myself or to find God, just to get away from facing the fact that I was trapped.

In January I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I didn’t have any reason to live. So I took two bottles of yellow jackets (pills). Shane found me and took me to the hospital. For four days they tried to keep me alive. My heart stopped beating but it started again.

Shane came and got me at the hospital. He took me to a motel where he said I could stay. But a soon as he left, I went out t “score” again. I was going to make it. I wanted to die and that was all. So I got some more barbiturates and decided to “mainline” them, which would kill me for sure.

I was walking around in the snow with this dope in my pocket, looking for a place where I could “shoot up.”

Then Shane found me. He had come back to the motel and found me gone. He knew what I was going to do so he went out looking for me. Having no other place to take me, Shane took me to my parents.

By that time I had extensive brain damage. My mental processes were all messed up. I could hardly even talk. The state gave my parents two weeks to make a choice: either they would hire a 24-hour-a-day nurse to take care of me or commit me to a hospital.

The only person I wanted to see was Margaret Hansell. She had been my closest friend in high school. She and her husband, Bill, were working with a Christian organization in California. It had been three years since we had seen each other. My parents were pretty desperate so they contacted Margaret and Bill, who invited me to come and live with them.

In early February I arrived at Bill’s and Margaret’s apartment. After 15 hours of sleep and some food, Margaret and I sat down to talk. I pulled up my sleeve to show her what had happened since I last saw her. Both my arms were covered by meshy yellow and black bruises. My veins had collapsed from “shooting up” heroin.

The sight was too much for Margaret. She burst into tears and she told me that I didn’t have to go through all that. She said that God had a much better life for me if I would just take it.

Then I thought, here comes the big pitch about Christianity! My mind was made up that Margaret and Bill weren’t going to preach Christianity to me. When I heard the word “Christian,” I thought of church, rules, confinement, and authority, which turned me off. I threw the whole thing out before they could even tell me about it. I told her that I’d been to church and had tried it. I said Christianity might be fine for them, but it wasn’t for me.

What she said then caught me off guard. She replied that Christianity isn’t a religion—it’s a Person, Jesus Christ.

So I listened for the next 20 minutes as Margaret shared with me about her personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This was new to me. I thought God was distant and inaccessible. But Margaret talked as if she knew God … as if He were close to her.

The next day I spent trying to put the puzzle in my mind together. Margaret had given me a small pamphlet which told about God’s love for the world. But it also said that we are separated from His love and need to come back to Him. The pamphlet told the story of Jesus Christ who was the Son of God and who had actually come to this earth to bring us back into relationship with Him.

On the fourth day, Friday, Margaret asked me to go with her and Bill to another meeting. I wanted to stay home and it took a lot of convincing to assure them it would be safe to leave me alone for the evening.

After they left I went to the phone to make a long distance call to Shane. But as I passed the hall mirror, a strange thing happened. I expected to see the ugly reflection I had seen before—my eyes with deep circles under them, and my body scrawny and sickly. But what shook me up more than ever was what I saw inside me. It stood out at first glance. Even after leaving the mirror I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

What I saw in myself was utter despair. I realized that I needed help. I was desperate, so I picked up the pamphlet Margaret had given me.

I wondered whether I felt this way because God wasn’t part of my life. He seemed to make a difference to those other kids I’d met recently—and certainly to Margaret and Bill! They had the most beautiful marriage.

But I didn’t want to jump into anything. So I checked every verse in the pamphlet with a Bible. Near the end was a verse from Revelation where Christ was saying, “Listen, I stand at the door of your life and knock. If any man will hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

After I read this verse, my feelings came bursting out. I said, “Jesus, they call You God. They say You can change people’s lives. Right now I can’t dig life. Living in this rotten world is a bummer. All I can think about is nodding out forever. But for some outrageous reason, life wants me anyway. I’ve tried to end it three times but every time I came through.

“I don’t believe in anything and I don’t have anything. And since I am cursed to life I want a reason to live. I’ve hit bottom and can’t seem to get out.

“Christ, You said that if I ask You into my life You will give me something worth living for. So now, Christ, please come into my life. I want You as my Savior and God. I want a meaningful life and most of all peace of mind.”

The first thing I felt was a deep sense of forgiveness–like everything I’d done before didn’t count anymore.

Within the next few weeks one thing stood out—I lost my appetite for drugs. Two months later I began to see deeper results: reality began to replace fantasy. I felt a new inner strength which enabled me to face life in a way I never had before. Self-concern began to win over self-destruction. For the first time in my life I could move unselfishly.

Christ became real to me—not just as something Margaret talked about, but in my own life. The amazing thing was that all this happened without any conscious effort on my part. I wasn’t making it happen—it just was. (Reprinted from Good News, 1970 ).


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