The Girl Who Wouldn’t DieApril 12th, 2017 | in Health and Healing | 0
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die
Taking her last chance to live
By: Marianne Jones
When Linda Stewardson shared her story of abuse, addiction, and recovery with a class in the Child and Youth Worker Program at Confederation College, in Thunder Bay, one student came up to speak with her privately afterwards. The young woman told Linda that she had been planning to commit suicide that evening, but changed her mind after hearing Linda’s story.
On another occasion, after Linda was interviewed at church, a man approached her to say, “I’ve never been to church before. I’m struggling with addictions. You inspired me to keep going.”
Linda has that effect on people. Since receiving the Courage to Come Back Award in 2004 from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, she has told her story hundreds of times to social agencies, a women’s prison, church groups, a provincial conference for Child and Youth Workers, on CBC Radio, and 100 Huntley Street.
Linda’s effectiveness as a speaker comes from the pain and triumph of her life experiences. When she first came to Crossroads Centre, a recovery home, in Thunder Bay in 1998, she knew that it was her last chance to live.
After an abusive childhood, 50 suicide attempts, and a life of addiction on the streets of Toronto, she had been in and out of recovery homes and hospital emergency rooms in the city so many times that most people had given up on her.
The supervisor at a detox centre advised Linda that she needed to get away from Toronto or she wouldn’t survive. Linda felt a pull towards Thunder Bay and a new start.
In Thunder Bay, Linda was able to overcome her addiction to substances, but she still felt dead inside. She wondered what the point of sobriety was if she continued to be so unhappy.
One Sunday, she slipped into Redwood Park Alliance Church and sat in the back row. There, she encountered God calling her to give up running and fighting.
“I had an overwhelming awareness that if I walked away again, I was going to die,” she remembers.
At that moment, Linda surrendered her life to God and experienced a love and relief from pain that was totally new to her. She continued to attend Redwood Alliance, where she found help and support through understanding friends and the Celebrate Recovery program held at the church.
In 2002, Linda married and began volunteering for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“I had always felt like a burden on society. I hadn’t known I had anything to give until I started volunteering,” she said. Her volunteer work led to an invitation to speak on behalf of the United Way to a roomful of provincial government employees.
Her ten-minute speech was greeted with a standing ovation, which led to a flood of speaking invitations and media interviews. After hearing her, many people asked her to put her life story in book form.
They got their wish when Word Alive Press published The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and launched it at the Women’s Journey of Faith Conference in Saskatoon in 2015.
There, as Linda was signing copies, a young woman approached hesitantly. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Thank you for writing this.” Struggling for words, she shared that she had experienced severe abuse in her life as well, but often people didn’t want to hear about it.
Linda hugged her and talked with her for a long while, encouraging her. After the young woman left, Linda said, “That’s why I do this.”
Linda and her husband, Frank, have opted for a simple lifestyle so that Linda can devote her time to their two adopted sons, Matthew and Brayden, and to share her story with others, especially those who struggle with abuse and addiction.
Despite her horrific beginnings, Linda now radiates joy and gratitude to the God who rescued her.
“I am a blessed woman,” she says. “My life overflows with love.”
The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die shows that there is no pain too great or darkness too deep for God’s love to transform. Available from amazon.ca, goodreads.com or your local Christian bookstore
Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
All kinds of losses produce grief—loss of jobs, homes, friendships, health, divorce, and death—and we are often unprepared for it.
“This is a book born out of the experience of the comfort of the triune God in a loss I never could have imagined. Cancer and death happen to other people, not to me, I had thought, mostly subconsciously. This immersion into the depth of disease and death was an immersion into humanity, into its fallen, broken, dying state, into the desolation of the loss of the emotional centre of my life. But above all, in the economy of God’s grace, it has been a fresh immersion into Him. Recovery is always a process, and it is ongoing. In this book, I tell my story merely because I hope it will be a means for you to find comfort in a God who is there, there for you, there to comfort, there to redeem even the worst of losses. There, never to let you go. There because you matter...”
Rev. Dr. Ross Hastings is an associate professor at Regent College, and has served churches in Canada for twenty years, including eleven years as the lead pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in White Rock, BC.
Applicable to all who go through loss, this book will also offer skills for pastors, pastors-in-training, and friends seeking to offer comfort to grieving people. It is available from amazon.ca and wipfandstock.com.
• From a Bottle to a Bible – Healing from lifelong trauma
• Becoming a Beacon in the Darkness - How a church family can be a sanctuary of hope and help for people suffering from mental illness
• Hope Shatters the Darkness - Choosing to seek help and support for your mental illness in Christian community
Marianne Jones is an award-winning poet and author of several books; her work has also appeared in numerous magazines and other publications.more stories by Marianne Jones