Editor's note: This article is from the recent "Homefolks: Faith" special section.
Deidre Wilson isn’t afraid to talk about her past. It is a past that includes alcoholism, drug abuse and even jail time.
That is definitely her past now as Wilson is about to celebrate seven years clean and sober, and she uses her life experience to help others struggling with addiction.
“My perspective now is that I really had mental illness,” Wilson said. “When I was a teen and we acted up, you were just a bad kid. I started drinking in high school, and I was an alcoholic until I was 27.”
It was at that time she advanced from alcohol to cocaine. Wilson was in a place where she thought that drugs healed her from alcoholism.
“I thought cocaine was the solution,” she said. “The first time I tried cocaine, I looked down and realized I had the same beer sitting there for hours. That’s how my brain was working. Crack and cocaine made me more functional.”
Before she kicked her addiction, meth had creeped into her life and became her drug of choice. During her life on alcohol and drugs, she also went through several relationships.
“I was looking for love in all the wrong places, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I wanted to fill that emptiness,” she said. “I went through a few bad guys. I was manic and would just meet a guy and move to Georgia with him. Then I would figure out if they were a good guy later. That’s not normal stuff that people do.”
Wilson spent about a year of her life in jail, with that time being from several different arrests.
“I was using every day, and I was miserable,” she said. “I had never used drugs at home; it had always been when I lived in other places. But I found drugs here after I went to jail and made all kinds of connections. Then it got worse.”
Wilson grew up as a Southern Baptist. The religion of her childhood left her feeling worthless to God. A feeling of never being good enough was heavy.
“I looked at people at church, and they didn’t ever smile. They were never having any fun,” she said. “I joke all the time that I’m a recovering Southern Baptist. I know that is offensive to some people, but I’m sober now, and I have a relationship with God.”
It was in recovery that Wilson had a spiritual awakening. She credited the 12 Steps for helping with that awakening. She also said several authors, specifically Richard Rohr, helped her to find her way back to God.
“I realized that I had nothing,” she said. “That’s when I knew that you do not have to be any certain way for God. God started orchestrating things in my life to where here I am today and everything is so good.”
Wilson attended 12 Step meetings at River of Living Water United Methodist Church before starting to attend the church. The late Dr. Tom Camp served as her Sunday school teacher and she credited him for helping her to see God in a different light.
“He would talk about how some people took the Bible literally and some people didn’t. He said that was okay,” she said. “Questions were allowed. I had never experienced that at church. I became a more progressive Christian, and I knew God was better than what I had known my entire life.”
Wilson now uses her life experience to help others struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. As a case worker, she is able to connect people with the help they need.
“I’m a miracle,” she said. “And I love to share that with others so it might help them in some way.”