Mary Gibbs: “I finally admitted utter defeat”
The little girl slipped quietly in behind the woman primping at the bathroom counter. Without warning, the child grabbed the make-up compact. The woman’s face froze instantly in horror! “Don’t touch that!” she screamed. The compact flew from the tiny hands, strewing a white powder in its path.
“I yelled at her because that was all the cocaine I had!” explains Mary Gibbs, reconstructing that hard moment from 1995. “I was so angry! My five-year-old cried and ran to her room. There I was on the bathroom floor, trying desperately to retrieve those little grams of cocaine!”
Mary’s voice is strained, yet tinged with the echo of utter honesty. It is a still Saturday morning at the Denver ARC. Slight, dark-haired, 37, focused, Mary tells of the life circumstances which led her here in 1996.
She details a chaotic childhood. The oldest of six children from a single-parent household in North Platte, NB (each child had a different father), she began drinking alcohol and using drugs at age 12.
Married at 16–“a very abusive relationship”–Mary relates that on her wedding night “my husband and I got drunk and had a hit of acid–that was the first time he struck me. All of the women in my family were abused. We didn’t talk about it–it was just something you lived with.” At 24, she was divorced–“By then I would routinely do a half hit of acid, half a gram of mushrooms, a line of crank, and have a bottle of whiskey.”
Over the succeeding years, Mary resided with various members of her extended family. “I didn’t work because I remained too drunk.” Although troubled by her reaction when her daughter spilled the cocaine, it was a later incident with her son, 15, that finally got her attention.
“I came home to find he had torn the house up searching for my vodka. We began to fight. He was holding me up against the wall, choking me, demanding that I give him the bottle. Then something snapped–it hit me that I didn’t want to raise my daughter this way! I didn’t want to be fighting with her over a bottle of vodka when she was fifteen!
“Then on New Year’s Day, 1996, I was thrown in jail again–my eighth DWI!” Determined to get help, Mary inquired at the local Salvation Army corps and was referred to the Denver, CO, ARC. Halfway through the six-month program, however, she considered leaving. “My counselor said I was not being honest in working the fifth step (of AA). She made me so angry! I told her: ‘You don’t know me! How can you judge me?’
“That evening I was outside walking about, trying hard not to cry, when I spotted a yellow post-it note blowing across a field. Grabbing it up, I noticed on it a small poem, ‘Let Go and Let God.’ ”
Reading the poem, Mary sat down in the field and sobbed. “I thought: ‘That’s what my counselor has been telling me–that I need to be honest, let go of the heavy stuff, and let God take it.’ I began praying–I finally admitted utter defeat, and, at that moment, turned my life and will over to God.
“When I finished, I stood up, strikingly aware that the hurt and the hate were lifted. Now the world appeared so much brighter! I couldn’t wait to see what God would do next! I buried myself in my program and graduated, and God didn’t stop there–he kept working in my life. I have five years sobriety today!
“There is so much I learned in The Salvation Army program that I still use. One very important thing is this: whenever I come up against some hard difficulty, I say, ‘God I don’t have a clue; please show me what to do.’ And the answer always comes.”