The writer at age 23, left, and 31, right.
The writer at age 23, left, and 31, right.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

Mine is a story of love. It is a testament to the unconditional, immense, constantly seeking love of God. It pays tribute to how God will wait, ever so patiently, for us to come to him, even if it takes years or a lifetime. I truly believe that the longer we pretend that we don’t need God, the worse the state of our being will become. Of course, some people are not even aware that God exists. That’s where my story begins, in the fog of atheism and the arrogance of youth.

I always remember feeling bad. I can’t really find a better way to explain it. This underlying feeling of malaise. A discontent that would never fully go away. I had no real reason for feeling this way, it seemed. I grew up in a loving family with two wonderful parents, both college educated but neither one particularly religious in a formal sense. Organized religion seemed more like a novelty or something very far away and esoteric to me as I was growing up. I never really gave it much thought.

My parents always made me feel like I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to see that fact for myself. My problems started in high school. I started hanging out with the “bad kids” and got into drugs and alcohol. My parents saw what was coming and tried to prevent my downfall, but I rebelled. I started changing schools and plummeting into a deep dark depression that would carry me downstream for 15 years of my life.

The first time I attempted suicide, I was only 13 and in such a tormented place. I was cutting my body with razors every day and desperately wanted to die so that my suffering would end. There were so many days when I couldn’t even get out of bed.

I continued down this road of drug addiction and criminal activity, which ultimately led to multiple felony convictions as well as jail time. When I look at my mug shot from that time, I see the hollow eyes and so much pain. I was consumed with self-hate. Drowning in my sorrow, I had lost all hope. At this point in my life, I really believed that there was no God, and we were all here by accident. I believed in evolution and had no patience to listen to those “crazy” religious people about humans having a “soul.” Christians particularly used to disgust me and I thought they were all ignorant and believed in magical thinking. I never gave the thought of God or anything like that any time, not ever. I engaged in occult practices and was very promiscuous. It was a miserable existence. I truly was like the walking dead.

As the years went on, the consequences of my drug use became more severe. Everyone in my life had finally conceded that I was beyond reproach, remorse, or possibly even rescue. There were two points I remember vividly during that time. In the worst part of it, during my years of active drug addiction, I saw demons surrounding me one night in my motel room. I didn’t know it at the time, but it seems to me now that I was seeing straight into hell, looking at the fate of my own soul in a most disturbing way. I will never forget what I saw.

Moving all around the country, homeless at times, I was trying to find that perfect city, where all my problems would magically go away. Obviously, the part that I was failing to realize was that I was the problem. I followed myself everywhere I went. It was the same story, on what seemed to be a perpetual cycle of pain and misery. It’s hard to really describe the intensity of the physical, mental and spiritual pain of this time in my life. It was a living hell and I never thought I would escape it.

When I was 24, my life would change forever. I received a phone call that would set me on a path to meet God. It would be my earthly mother who God would use to reach me. The mother who refused to abort me at her doctor’s request back in 1985, risking her own life to give me mine. This heroic woman, who had loved me all my life, had finally come to a point where even she doubted God’s goodness. For so many years, she had prayed for me. She had always held out hope that one day, I would be saved. Year after year, it never came. She was at the point of giving up. I seemed like a lost cause and everyone else had given up hope. God, in his wisdom, knew that my mom needed something direct and supernatural to reach her. It seemed that my mother had more of a connection with God then I ever realized.

I was in Michigan at the time and she called me from Florida. I’ll never forget the sound of her voice. She was absolutely hysterical. I thought that my dad had been killed in Iraq or something equally as horrible had happened. I couldn’t understand what she was saying to me. She could barely breathe and she was sobbing. I told her that I was going to hang up on her and then call her back in a minute after she calmed down. She was emotionally out of control.

I did so, and when I called her back she said the words that I will never forget: “It’s all real, Meagan. It’s all real!” I said “What’s real mom?!” She said, “Jesus, angels, heaven. It’s all real!” She then started telling me how she saw an angel, or something like one, in her car, a bright blinding light. She received a message that I was going to be OK. Then she sensed the word “Pentecost” three times. 

It seems God had come crashing into human existence this day and changed the course of our lives forever.

When I heard my mom’s voice and I heard the words that she spoke, I instantly believed that God was real. It’s like the song “Amazing Grace” says: “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”

I had never heard of this strange word, Pentecost, and neither had my mom. So, I went straight to the computer to Google a definition which I read to her on the phone. This was the beginning of my journey. God had called me out of the darkness. Now, I would need to find out where God was. This process would take me six years. After I was baptized in a Protestant church, I was given a Bible and I started to read it. I was still living a life of drug addiction and promiscuity. I knew intellectually that Jesus was real, but I didn’t feel him yet. The people in that congregation were so wonderful to me and helped me so much, but something was still missing. I had “accepted” him as my Lord and Savior, which basically meant me saying the words, but I never felt any different. Nothing changed. I had the desire to amend my life and turn from my sinful ways, but I just didn’t have the strength to do it on my own. I needed supernatural strength to help me. 

I ended up having two children who were removed from my care by child protective services because of my drug addiction and poor parenting. One was adopted at birth and the other went to live with my parents. I put myself in a methadone program which I would stay in for five years, using it as a legal way to stay high. Eventually I would detox after my second child was born addicted to methadone and was taken from me. I continued this path of self-destruction. God was someone so far away, so hard to reach, even though the thought of him was always in the back of my mind. Ultimately, my addiction took me to the darkest depths of homelessness and the daily use of heroin. I couldn’t stop. I was headed straight for death.

I ended up pregnant with my third child and this time, I was homeless in San Francisco. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told God, “Just leave me alone! I never want to talk to you again!” I was so angry at God and I was blaming him for all my bad decisions. Some time went on and, thankfully, God did not respect my request.

After the despair of being without God set in, I recanted my previous position and called out to God again. I said, “I need to know where you are! Show me where you are, God! If you don’t, I cannot live anymore!” I had been contemplating suicide and God answered me just in time. I walked in to a Protestant church in the city and asked them to help me. They were so kind and put me up in a hotel for the night. I was given a phone list of all the local shelters in the area and The Missionaries of Charity homeless shelter for pregnant women — called Queen of Peace — was the first listing on the page. I called them and the mother superior said that they had a bed for me and that I should come now. I went right away. Every day, at 3 o’clock, we would pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet with the sisters and I would spend extra time with them. They were so intriguing to me. I knew about their intense vow of poverty and was struck by their unshakable joy. They radiated happiness and love. I wondered how you could have nothing materially speaking, and be so happy. I had always thought that if I could just get enough of this or that, I would finally be happy. Of course, happiness never came that way. I could tell that what I was witnessing was authentic and that these nuns were genuine. And more than anything else, when they spoke about Jesus, I could tell that they actually knew him. They were talking about someone they knew personally. This was so different from what I had experienced before. I knew that this was real. Finally, I took one of the sisters aside and I told her, “Whatever you have, I want it. Tell me about the Catholic Church.”

Ultimately, I went through RCIA in a residential treatment program in San Francisco and was accepted into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, 2015. I had my son Judah while in this yearlong in-patient program and graduated with glowing reports. It was to be the first thing I ever finished in my life. The state of California awarded me sole custody of my baby. I was reunited with my parents after all that time away. My life was beginning to change.

After receiving the Eucharist, I noticed I was changing; permanently, internally, spiritually, intellectually and morally. I started to think and feel differently. I was becoming a new person, literally experiencing a rebirth. I quit smoking cigarettes after 15 years of heavy use and I no longer needed my rescue inhaler and asthma medication. I stopped taking my antidepressants because I felt like I no longer needed them. Food had been my first drug of choice and I used it to cope with my stress. I had been obese for most of my life. My weight was one of the biggest problems that I had given up on trying to fix, but after the vigil, I was finally able to lose all the extra weight I had been carrying around my whole life. I lost 80 pounds and no longer had painful joints from walking. I could walk up the stairs and not be out of breath. I never again drank alcohol or used drugs and to this day I have no desire to. In fact, the thought of my previous sins is repugnant to me. Nothing can compare to the love that I was feeling from God and every other earthly pleasure I had experienced up until this point didn’t come close. I started thinking more about others than myself. The thoughts I had about continuing some of my sins began to quickly vanish. I began not only to follow all the teachings of the church, but to fall deeply in love with them. Jesus was real to me. He became the object of my desire and the true love of my life. He is reallym truly present in the Eucharist. Without him, physically present within me, I could not have conquered these demons that had tormented me all my life. I had tried every way you can imagine for so many years. I really had found the answer. The thing I had been longing for my whole life, I had found. Jesus was my Lord, my Savior, and my friend. I have never felt lonely again and to this day, that sense of him being in the room with me has not left.

I was told that we are all called to be great saints. I began to have this incredible desire to be holy and started going to daily Mass, regular confession and began passionately to study the faith. I committed myself to a life of chastity and obedience. I obtained the grace I needed to make my first confession. Going over all the years of my life, all the horrible sins, I confessed them all. It took me some time to read all three pages front and back to my priest. After he absolved me of my sins, I knew that something supernatural had taken place. God had not only forgiven me through this loving, holy man; God had taken my sins away. I really felt that the only way that God remembered me was the way I am now. Now I understood why Jesus instituted the sacrament of confession. To hear the words of absolution was one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given. Now I could begin to forgive myself. I truly was a new creation. 

Mother Angelica was the most important teacher that I had at this point. I would watch all her episodes on YouTube and allowed her to help form my spirituality from heaven. I loved her style of defending the church and I wanted to be just like her. I became dedicated to defending Holy Mother Church and everything she proclaims. I started reading about the lives of the saints and realized that they were quickly becoming my ideal.

Quite often, people will open up to me about their personal struggles and ask me questions about the faith. I can see God using me to draw others to himself. This brings me such joy. Specifically, he wants all to know and believe in the real presence, that he is truly, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. That he founded a church, and he is waiting for all of his children to come to him.

I always say, “If you knew me before, and know me now, you could come to no other conclusion other than the Eucharist is real. Everything the Roman Catholic Church proclaims is true.”

My life is filled with a peace I cannot explain. After witnessing the transformation in my life, my father went back to confession after being away from the Church for 40 years. I sponsored my mother through RCIA and she was accepted into the church at an Easter Vigil. After so many years of trying many different treatments and doctors, with little success, my mom became convinced that the sacraments of the church were real. Once she witnessed my transformation, she said to me, “I want what you have.” I knew exactly how she felt. The ripple effect has begun.

Life is still hard at times, but looking back, the contrast is astounding. I know now how the Missionaries of Charity felt. I know Jesus. I know him personally. He is always close to me. I know he loves me. I also know that he has a big job for me and I have a lot of work to do. My job will be to use my story and the proof of my person to proclaim the truth of the Eucharist and all the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Specifically, I would like to reach drug addicts, homeless people and the ones who seem like they are too far gone to be helped. I remember how it felt to be invisible and to feel almost subhuman and abandoned by everyone.

I’m involved with three different ministries in Portland that involve street evangelization. It is such a joy to be able to share my story of redemption with others and to show them how much they are loved and cherished by God. I tell people not to be afraid of confession. I tell them that no sin they have ever committed is too big for God to forgive. He is just waiting for them to ask.

There are many different treatments available for addiction and all of them miss the mark. What all of us are searching for is God, and we will never be satisfied until we find God. You can find God and that is in the Blessed Sacrament. He is waiting for you there. My life is proof of that fact.

I now live in my own house and I drive a car. My parents finally could help me and my children. They support me while I’m going to college. It is such a great gift. I have such an appreciation for these things that so many take for granted. The daughter who was taken from me and went to go live with my parents has been reunited with me. I am now her legal guardian. Her two-year-old brother, the little baby who I was pregnant with in San Francisco, is with me as well. My first son was adopted by a loving family and I hope one day to meet him. I’m also in college working toward a degree in psychology. I want to be a psychologist who specializes in addiction counseling. I also want to obtain a degree in Catholic theology to bring the two together. I want to be used as an instrument to bring souls to Christ. The truth is found in the Catholic Church. I not only believe this, I know it. I know it because I’ve lived it.

Jesus saved me from a life of torment and, I think, an eternity in hell. Now, I want nothing more than to serve him. I want to be like the leper who came back to thank him. I so much relate to St. Mary Magdalene, the sinful women who loved our Lord so much. I am like the servant who was forgiven the much higher debt by the master, and in turn burns with love for him.

Now, the work begins. With a joyous heart, I look forward to the years that are to come in this life as well as the life eternal. Most of all, I’m waiting for the day when I will get to meet my Jesus face to face and hopefully hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.”

The writer is a member of Holy Rosary Parish in Portland.