Mercy for an Addict

I grew up in a wonderful Christian home, the youngest of four children. I remember going to church and participating in any and every activity our church offered. Our daily family life focused on faith. My parents taught us how to pray and read the Bible and to try our best to walk the way Jesus did.

But from as far back as I can remember, I was attracted to the world. My desires were for what was exciting and popular and for what drew attention to me. I started partying in high school, seeking acceptance from my peers. That only grew worse as I went off to college, trying anything that came my way.

I was fearless with drugs and alcohol and jumped from man to man to fill the emptiness those things created. After college I began a successful sales career. Making lots of money at a young age, I spent it on things that would create happiness for a short time. But eventually the emptiness returned.

Drugs had such a suffocating hold over me, I was convinced my fate had been sealed.

At 25 I tried Vicodin, which my doctor prescribed for some pain. I loved it! My feelings of being bored, unfulfilled, and misplaced disappeared. But eventually I needed more and more of it to fill the void.

After eight years it became a full-time job to achieve the high. I visited walk-in clinics, emergency rooms, and a rotation of about 15 doctors to supply my habit, taking close to 60 pills each day to numb the vacancy in my heart.

In 2004 a doctor finally caught me and was going to send me to prison. I pleaded my case, and instead he sent me to my first secular rehab. There I met people who did heroin. Within a week of my release, I was shooting it into my veins and begging for more. After three weeks I was introduced to crack cocaine, and what was left of my life completely fell apart.

I couldn’t stop. Drugs had such a suffocating hold over me, I was convinced my fate had been sealed.

On January 16, 2006, I was homeless and jobless, doing whatever I had to do to get my drugs. My parents didn’t know if I was dead or alive. I was 90 pounds and dying. Then, for no deserved reason at all, God touched my life.

I saw no bright light. I heard no voice. I didn’t get down on my knees and pray, though I know my parents had been doing so for years. But I was touched and changed right there in my dirty hotel room. One minute I was lost and empty; the next minute I was filled with a peace I had never known. I didn’t yet know it was God, but I knew something had changed. God gave me the strength to call my mother, who came and got me.

Over the next year and a half I began seeking this God who had pulled me out of my darkness. I read God’s Word and built a relationship with him through prayer. I knew that staying close to God was the answer, not just for my drug addiction but for my life.

Today, several years later, God has led me to Arusha, Tanzania, where I’ve started a nonprofit that creates jobs for poverty-stricken women and educates their children. I am also blessed to visit many churches and tell this story, God’s story, of God’s great faithfulness.

God accomplishes the impossible. He continues to move in my life and achieve things I could never do alone. I am amazed by God’s grace and mercy for a hopeless, drug-addicted sinner. God sent his Son to die for me and rise again so that I too can live in “newness of life” and share God’s love for this world (1 Tim. 1:16).

About the Author

Jennifer Vander Galien started Shining a Light ( to help poverty-stricken women in Tanzania become self-supporting through making beautiful hand-beaded leather sandals, which are then sold in the U.S. The nonprofit also provides a classroom and material for the local preschool so the women’s children may get a head start on their education.

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Thanks so much for sharing this. I think a lot more people will connect with pieces of this than one would expect. I too found revelation in a dirty hotel room. And while it may not be a literal dirty hotel room for everyone, that place of misery, shame, and loneliness is always the destination of the sin that masters us.

Thanks be to God that He chooses to reach into our prisons of despair when we have intentionally shut every window to His light.

I have heard Jennifer give her powerful testimony in person. And the sandals that Shining a Light makes are incredibly beautiful! Highly recommend having Jennifer come to your church or civic organization. She is changing lives!! Thank you, Jennifer, for giving your life to Jesus! You fill me with hope that every family member of mine that has wandered from God will come home. God bless you!!