With this column, The Evangelist concludes its ‘I need mercy’ series for the Year of Mercy. The year-long series highlighted personal experiences of mercy by people from across the Diocese, from bishops to laypeople, adults to teenagers. Read previous installments in the series under “Specials” (click on “Year of Mercy”) at www.evangelist.org.The end of the Year of Mercy will be marked in the Albany Diocese by the closing of holy doors at several sites and at Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with a special Mass Nov. 13, 5 p.m. Learn more at www.rcda.org.
With this column, The Evangelist concludes its ‘I need mercy’ series for the Year of Mercy. The year-long series highlighted personal experiences of mercy by people from across the Diocese, from bishops to laypeople, adults to teenagers. Read previous installments in the series under “Specials” (click on “Year of Mercy”) at www.evangelist.org.
The end of the Year of Mercy will be marked in the Albany Diocese by the closing of holy doors at several sites and at Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with a special Mass Nov. 13, 5 p.m. Learn more at www.rcda.org.
(Editor's note: The author's last name has been withheld for privacy reasons.)

It was God's mercy that carried me through years of darkness, pain, addiction and brokenness, so it is an honor to share my testimony. May all the glory be to God!

After multiple years of being passed around from foster home to foster home, my sister and I were finally adopted by my mother's parents. I missed my mom when she would leave after a visit, confused by her behavior. I begged my aunt to take me away from the fighting and drinking that happened so often. My mom took me to church on Sundays, where I felt happy, but that didn't last long as she, too, would leave for home.

I prayed to disappear, but I remained. I became angry in my powerlessness, and any hope I once had was gone. I swore I'd never be like them, but I didn't know any other way.

I was 15 years old when my grandmother had me emancipated because, she said, "You're crazy." Two weeks later, hitchhiking to town, I met my first husband. Although a stranger, he was familiar in many ways. I'd seen his kind of jealousy and drunken beatings in my own family.

After six months of marriage and three hospital stays, I called home for help and was told, "You made your bed; now you lie in it." But I was surprised to then hear the voice of my distant uncle, who was visiting from West Virginia, come over the receiver. He asked where I was and, within a half-hour, he showed up and carried me out. I never looked back.

I went on to graduate high school with little recollection beyond being a class clown, thanks to the courage that alcohol and pills were now giving me. As I searched for ways to fit in, places to belong and people to love me, I met another man -- besides my second husband at the time. I got pregnant and was deserted. Six months later, pregnant and alone, I was served with divorce papers, plummeting my insecurities and fears to an all-time low.

After reuniting with my daughter's father, we eventually got married. I struggled to be a wife and mother after giving my middle baby up for adoption at birth. I watched other families while trying to imitate them, but the rage and shame were so deep inside of me that pretending didn't last long before I would disappear, abandoning my family yet again.

My daughter was 10 years old when the news came that I was having another baby. I was petrified. Still struggling with addiction, I tried everything in my power to stop and stay put, but the day came when the force became too strong to fight off. Devastating my daughter, her father and our five-month-old baby girl, not to mention the extended family, I left for town on an errand, not realizing that would be my last day ever to return home.

I fell into addiction and became homeless on the streets of Schenectady for seven years. Feeding an addiction took me to despicable places. The guilt, shame, self-hatred and self-condemnation wanted me dead.

Toward the end, the suffering got unbearable; I was living like an animal. I was strangled in a vehicle, gasping and twisting my body trying to get air. I thought, "It's over. I don't have to live like this anymore." I glanced down at the fancy leather shoes of the person assaulting me and I surrendered my life, closing my eyes. I no longer needed to fight.

That moment of unconsciousness was a place of indescribable peace and safety! Then a cell phone rang on the floor of the car, startling the man. His hands flew off my throat. He kicked me out of the passenger-side door, blurred vision from broken blood vessels in my eyes making it difficult to crawl into the nearest bushes.

For a brief moment, I knew it was God who saved me, but I continued on in addiction for another couple of arduous years, getting beaten, being incarcerated, squatting in abandoned buildings for shelter, stealing, starving and weighing in at about 90 pounds.

How and why was I still alive when others around me were dying? I thought they were the "lucky ones." I was tired and scared to death -- scared to live and scared to die. At this point, I had broken all the rules, with no hope of ever being anything.

I started to pray -- believing I didn't deserve to be helped, but praying anyway. I told others on the streets that I was praying to get out of there. This was nothing new, for we all talked about leaving someday and shared dreams about seeing our kids again, which, for many, never came true.

But, two months later, my prayers were answered. The person I'd been calling for help finally came. He was reluctant, due to the many times I'd begged him for help in the past just to turn around and rob him.

He said something was different this time. He'd woken up hours after we spoke and said he had a gnawing thought he couldn't shake: "If I don't go get her now, she will die out there." At 3 a.m. that morning, he found me and took me somewhere safe.

I said goodbye to the drugs and streets that night, eight years ago. The person God used as an instrument of His mercy in my life remains in my heart always. Once a year, in the month of October, we meet for a meal to celebrate how merciful our Father's love is -- so undeserved, yet constant.

I never did get what I deserved. Rather, God gave me what He deserves: love and forgiveness.

I no longer beat myself up for the past. I have a personal, intimate relationship with a merciful Father whose son, our Lord Jesus, took the final whipping for us on the cross, asking, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

That is the same mercy that saved a wretch like me!

I thank God every day for restoring me to sanity and giving me another chance to be a great mom! The Lord has taken my mess and turned it into His message of hope and forgiveness that I now share with others in prisons through the Residents Encounter Christ (REC) ministry, as well as in 12-step programs.

With God's help, I make a conscious effort to have mercy in my life. When my mind wants to judge, condemn, compare, get cocky and feel superior over anyone, I immediately acknowledge: "There but for the grace of God go I."