The Road to Recovery - The Rest of My Story with Heather Simco
Heather Simco tells the story of her journey through recovery to sobriety in Jesus.
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C3 that i am not gene obviously my name is heather i am pastor gene's wife i take care of a lot of the administration here at this church with some wonderful help those of you volunteering and my office staff is invaluable to what we get done here so i'm here today we get to hit the pause button on our series called the rest of the story and i'm going to be telling you the rest of my story uh the rest of the story is where we have been diving into the details of the bible looking at what it says not what we think it says or what we wanted to say but every once in a while gene needs a break and i get voluntold to be up here so if there's a guest speaker it means it's his time off to rest relax regroup and dive back into the rest of the story because let me tell you it is very complicated so i'm glad i don't have two bible study questions for that mine are they're not there we're going to share our testimonies on wednesday so that's it bible study is bring your story anyway today i will be telling you the rest of my story and i get to celebrate a very special anniversary with you today and it is not a typical anniversary not everyone has this type of anniversary but it is my sober anniversary yesterday marked eight years of my salvation day and my sober day thank you and today i'm going to share with you the miracle of how that happened and how i am still here today and when we talk about church family i want you to know that those of you who who have decided to participate in what you're doing here you are so much more than members you are family and that is what has made the difference for me and my journey and hopefully will make the difference for you and yours so i've said my story before but uh the one thing about getting sober is certain things start occurring to you over time and god starts revealing different parts of your past that you may not have been able to look at very clearly beforehand and so there's some extra details in this version of my story that i haven't had the opportunity to share with you today so i'm going to start somewhere at the beginning and it is going to be my baptism story where long long time ago uh we met our original pastor and i had never been baptized and so i met the pastor and said hey so do you think i should get baptized and he goes you go pray about it like somehow i'm absolved from needing to be baptized to be saved know either you're special you're good um so i go home and i pray about it now little secret if someone says i'm gonna pray about it that means no so i asked the pastor then i'm like can you pray about whether i should stop drinking or not he goes i'll pray about it for you and then i realized what that meant and was like really you could have just told me no but anyway nice little inside secret for you guys um anyway so i had never been baptized as a kid we were ceos we call those christian easter only christians so we had easter a couple weeks ago and if some people aren't here that's why they're ceos christian easter only and so that was me as a child until about seven or so and then i stopped going to church so here we are again and pastor says go pray about it and so i go home get in my car the next day now i had programmed the message those of you who have siriusxm i was like wow this is so positive i can't believe this didn't realize it was a christian radio station um set to number three which is even funnier and so i'm listening to it i turn my car on the minute i turn it on the song redeem starts immediately now if you haven't heard that song i implore you please go listen to it you'll understand why i cried immediately so i'm driving down the road the next song comes on the dj says you know we don't normally play secular music but this one's a real special one from rascal flatts he's been recently saved and he wants to share his song and it's called changed and it starts to say i came up out of the water and i was like okay god i get the message you said yes get baptized all right fine so i should have pulled the car over with how hard i was crying but i am a very persistent suburb person and decided to keep going where i was going so it was still work in progress all right so i got baptized but unfortunately i didn't necessarily know what it meant to be baptized and decided to get drunk that night to celebrate my baptism what else do you do after you get baptized go back to all your old ways immediately so i went and realized what i needed to do and i got baptized again the next year more soberly than the first time so since then i've been at this church for about 10 years and it has been a roller coaster to say the least as life usually is and many of us carry our scars on the outside depending on what our past looks like mine are on the inside which are sometimes harder to heal than the outside wounds i was taught to put on a mask from a very very young age and i carried it until i was an adult and i know most of us are taught to put on that face make sure everything's okay and don't let anyone on the inside and that was my mo my entire life is just putting on that version of myself and not letting anyone in keeping them at a distance so they couldn't get to know the real me so today we are real church real people and so how can i expect you to take off your mask if i can't take it off myself i know being a pastor's wife comes with certain expectations it's generally a combination of three women that i have summarized we've got june cleaver mother teresa and wonder woman i am not all three of those put together although i try sometimes but some i'm not even remotely close to however those of you who know me wonder woman is generally the person i identify with the most mostly because i like to beat boys up for a living which i've been doing since i was a little kid and then did with gene professionally for quite some time that'll come later on in my story so today i'm going to break down those expectations for you and let my guard down and let you know who i am myself and so i'm going to start furthering my story my childhood i grew up in california and i'll get to how in the world i got to naples florida later on from san jose california so i was born and raised in california my parents were teenagers 16 and 19 when they had me they were married didn't work obviously obvious reasons and from that point on my dad got custody of me and we were bouncing around from house to house with my aunts and cousins for a very long time until i was about four years old and we lived with my grandparents my dad meets girl next door marries her within a year and so the rest of my story is very much that of the cinderella story stepmother half brothers cleaning watch the movie if you don't know it fill in the details that's my childhood so by my teenage years now having this stepmother situation i had to put on a version of ourselves we wanted presented to everyone else versus who i was inside even lying and saying she was my real mom there was a lot of just lies my entire life that i had to present as a truth and by the time i hit my teenage years it wore on me so hard that i turned to my first drug of choice which was food because i was a goody two shoes i was a nerd didn't have access to any of the other stuff just yet and so i opened the cabinets and went on the seafood diet if i saw it i eat it and so i went from being athletic to addicted to food in less than three months time between my freshman and sophomore year and since then i have been struggling with my addiction whatever form it has come in now by 17 we decided to go visit new york because you're wondering okay i moved to new york how in the world did i get here part of my story and how i get to florida my stepmother was from new york and we had some family members out there who said hey come to a wedding now the leaves are changing mid-october if you've been in the northeast it's hard not to fall in love with the area quick note about california visit don't stay it's beautiful just from experience anyway moving forward so new york we fell in love and something told me heather this is going to be your new home at that time i didn't realize it was god telling me that i needed to move we went back home i applied to certain colleges both in california and new york so i could have stayed in california but that nagging feeling inside said you know you really need to move to new york and so two dogs a u-haul truck an suv and two younger brothers motel sixth across country i don't recommend that if you want to do it once in your life do it young because i'm never doing that again moved cross-country and settled into new york and it didn't take long until i moved out as i said cinderella's story my ticket out was getting good grades and getting into college that was how i knew how to move forward with the goals i had in my life and get out of the childhood house that i was living in and so at 17 i was on my own defended myself no car no driver's license a few hundred dollars in my pocket and had to work as many jobs as possible just to get myself through college so at that point i met jean's sister and she says hey come meet my brother and i go hey it's nice to meet you and it was love at first sight at that point but it would take about a year or so until we started dating other circumstances kept us apart but since then we have been together ever since and we'll be celebrating our 20-year wedding anniversary this summer thank you yes those of you married a long time yes and a saint for dealing with my ups and downs in the story i'm about to tell you and so both of us had a lot in common we both were out on our own as teenagers and we had love at first sight but also a love and a drive to prove everyone in our childhood wrong of what they thought we were and so we began to seek out everything in the world to make us successful and prove those wrong and in that sense we actually started out very humbly we actually looking back on it we realized that we experienced homelessness part of getting sober and looking back at your past we slept on the office floor we bounced from couch to couch until we finally had our own apartment and growing up i really thought that i had broken a lot of those chains in my life and i didn't realize that it was god who was lighting me throughout all of this and so we finally get our first apartment together yay right we save up and it's in poughkeepsie new york in a very very very bad neighborhood where there are gunshots at night and drug dealers downstairs it was not a good situation at all whatsoever and so most of what i thought was looking back and looking at alcoholism is that if you give someone home you think ah that's gonna solve that person's alcoholism because they have a home no the more i had the more i drink and so at this point in time i was young enough that it was just fun time college time we went out enjoyed life and that is until one night there was a snowstorm on new year's eve and i don't have an off button and i was drinking we got in a fight gene decided to leave and my alcoholism brought me to the point where i thought he was gone and so i decided to pardon me swallow a bottle of benadryl while he was out and was walking and ran into somebody who told them go back to your girl and he's like no no i gotta walk this off and he insisted and told gene go back home and before he left because gene has to know everyone's name whatever the circumstance and says what's your name angel his name was angel we both realized this story later on and can't believe that looking back how god had been watching me my entire life even then so gene gets back home i'm taken to the er in an ambulance the whole procedure charcoal overdose psycheval a priest came in to read me my rights i had no idea what was going on and um the thing about that is it's kind of hard to bring the gospel to someone who isn't mentally there yet and so i looking back i understand it now the the dire need of knowing jesus before you hit the end of your road but luckily god said nope you have more work to do and so we pulled up our bootstraps got going and kept moving forward i finished college we built our business i graduated became a seventh grade school teacher in a very small town and then we eventually bought a house got a dog had a baby all the normal things now when i say i broke chains in my family's life i'm the first one in several generations to even make it through high school without getting pregnant and so to do all of these things in the typical order my mantra in life is doing the opposite of everyone around me because if i just do opposite i'm going to be better off than they were and so that worked until it stopped working and i did stop drinking long enough to have a healthy baby girl who is now way taller than me um so again i didn't realize i had the disease of alcoholism at the time and so after putting it down for a period of time the one thing about this disease is it tells you lies that you believe wholeheartedly and i thought hey i put it down for four years i can control it and so i picked it back up again and the more that i drank the more successful we became and the more successful we became the more i drink i drink good times bad times i didn't even need an excuse anymore and what ended up happening is the more money i made the more it enabled me to actually stay in my disease i just kept building a bigger cage for myself and then surrounding myself around people who weren't as bad as me well i didn't do that and i didn't do that and you kind of start building a hierarchy around you of those people who will either allow you to stay in that habit or who you can excuse yourself to stay in that habit and so that success led us to building a brazilian jiu jitsu gym mma that's like i said we beat a boys for a living the one woman thing that was really fun so i retired from teaching and then built the business to the point where we had 400 members and three locations and so we sold the business and moved to sunny naples and now gene cried because he's from new york and he said where am i going to get my pizza and so now he is on a pizza tour those of you who are very close to him and are following him on his food reviews you can't eat your food until he takes a picture of it and so he has finally solved the where am i going to get my pizza in florida i've lived in new york my entire life and so we have solved that problem needless to say and so we sold our business move down here again i knew for whatever reason we weren't believers just yet but god was driving me here that gut feeling that led me to new york that now led me to naples was just saying we just have to be down here so we packed two weeks later filled the truck up i'm very good at packing by the way filled it up to the brim very good at tetris so we packed it drove and settled in to build our empire and semi-retire unfortunately within a month of moving down here i was rear-ended and ended up with nerve damage that kept me from doing what i love to do beating boys up for a living and at that point god took away everything on paper that i thought made me me i had a master's degree a teacher successful business everything i wanted i could get there was just everything in the world i'm my resume's way too long for someone my age because i just i had to prove everyone wrong and god was like yeah nope i'm taking that away from you and had to make me realize who i was inside not what the world was making me as me i had to get into who god made me to be and so after that being in naples florida is very easy to get alcohol you can go get eyeliner and wine at the same store or 7-eleven it is not like that in new york you actually have to work really hard and so i'm a very creative person and continued to go to the i have to go to the grocery store i have to go to the grocery store you just went i forgot something and um so the issue with the disease is it just even if you want to stop drinking you just can't and i found myself successful semi-retired and still suicidal in paradise and i couldn't understand how someone who had all of their means taken care of couldn't stop which made me stay in my disease longer because the stereotype of what that looks like didn't look like me i have two cars i have a house i have a kid i'm married i have this i have that it doesn't discriminate it doesn't care what your bank account says it doesn't care what marriage license you have how many kids you have what cars you have it really doesn't care it does not discriminate and so unfortunately because of those stereotypes i didn't think that i was eligible for being someone who had an addiction so we move into our new neighborhood and we're in suburbia now new york there were no street lights or sidewalks so those of you from upstate new york know it was a bit of culture talk coming from california i'm like where are the street lights and sidewalks how do we trick or treat this is weird and um so we move into suburbia where kids are knocking on the door leave it to beaver situation and gina and i are both kind of like what do we do major culture shock and so i thought gene needed help he really has to get help surviving suburbia so i figured hey let's go see a therapist we have health insurance and so i google a therapist we go we go together and then she uh says hey heather i think i need to start seeing you separately i'm like okay fine we're going to talk about gene figure out this game plan and how to get him fixed yeah no she says heather so do you think you have an alcohol problem i said no i have a consumption problem if i can control my drinking like i control eating ice cream i'll be just fine and that was the last time i ever went to see her so yeah and so then instead we went to church because we both realized we needed faith and where do you get community but in church and so we googled a lot and what was amazing about the way that god works is we googled a few places tried to go and every time we tried to go to a different place something happened either we got sick there was some kind of roadblock and finally finally we ended up here at c3 and it was like i was home again and it was there that i met sober women for the first time in a fellowship group and in my mind i was like who you don't see that out loud they were happy first of all that was weird you're smiling and praising the fact that you're sober like i am now like how in the world she's so happy like we can talk later it's okay um but it was those women that i knew to go to when i couldn't stop and so it was in that church and with that pastor at the particular time that i knew who to go to because i again the more i had the more i drank and it just was in that awful cycle of lying to myself and that suicidal mindset of if i just off myself it's going to make things better than the hurt that i'm putting this person through in life that's the disease of alcoholism and so i didn't know what to do i i was just i kept disappointing now a pastor i'm going to hell that's it it's over um all the people who love me now and i was put in leadership and i just i couldn't reconcile this situation until finally after going to meetings in years and years i had finally disappointed everyone around me again and i came home gene wouldn't talk to me and i finally i couldn't sleep that night and it was april 30th 2014 eight years ago that it was the middle of the night and i finally instead of that key my willpower i thought every key that had broken the cycle of those chains before was gonna work and it didn't and god said you know what i'm your final key can you please just use me so i got on my knees put my face on my fake hardwood floor and asked for help and it was at that moment god finally said all right get back up and he took that compulsion away from drinking and i've not had that compulsion to pick up a drink in eight years as a result but let me tell you asking for help in this alcoholic is the hardest thing i've ever had to do i'm an i got it person i was self-sufficient raising myself since about 14 years old and those of you who know me i'm an i got it person and thank god for the church family who comes in and says no no heather i've got it and i've had to rebuild my life ever since working on my sobriety i have a fellowship but i also have a family and for me they're two sides of the same coin and at that point having been semi-retired my own boss making my own rules i had to rebuild my life and learn how to just do basic things again like show up on time anywhere and so i got a part-time job at kate spade so again my resume looks really funny until i fill in the gaps and so here i am in a high school job with a bunch of teenagers just learning how to show up and and do life again and it was just a very humbling experience to go from having such a successful business to working alongside teenage girls who were in college and telling me what to do like who are you to tell me i'm like a humble stick okay um so although it was a hard pill to swallow it was just very important to rebuild my life and then i got another full-time job and have been rebuilding myself but the journey of recovery is not just putting down the substance it is emotional sobriety and i shared last time the f word fear and that is a driving factor in really whether you have addiction or not when that fear gets inside of you you know it's your flesh driving you into whatever sin it is that is your vice and we identify in recovery as restless irritable and discontent and so if i'm angry or something is turning me around inside and i don't feel the holy spirit peace inside of me something's wrong and i have to take that self-inventory and so a couple years ago really hit me like a anvil honestly is why in the world at six years sober am i restless irritable and discontent i haven't picked up a drink i don't even want to drink what is the matter with me i put down the drink but i picked up my first drug of choice food you can't get pulled over and get a dui for eating a cheeseburger that doesn't happen so again i justified another addiction because it wasn't as bad as drinking and so i had to go back and deal with my original drug of choice of food and i had to work on getting what i call food sober and i had to work on turning that vice over and turning it over to god the same way i did with my drinking and that is exactly what god does for us he gives us the helper the holy spirit inside of us to help us grow and change over time it's gradual thank goodness i don't think i could do it all over night and our motto here is come as you are but there's a second part to that saying that we don't put on those cards don't stay as you are it's a continued sanctification that continued growth in your faith toward christ that for this addict i can turn literally anything into an addiction and you can laugh if i'm at staples more than i'm in my office i have a problem you'll be like heather get yourself to a meeting do we need to pray because you're at staples more than i find you at the church office that's not good if i'm at the gym more than my job i've turned the gym into an addiction i can literally turn anything into an addiction and so that is what the insurance policy is of this church family of people who know me who have let know me because i took that mask off say huh heather you really need to work on that and not get mad at them for telling me that i need to work on it because that's another thing i work on and um really working on that because we call it same route different branch and so we have to be very careful that that trip to staples that gym addiction doesn't get to the point where that's not enough and i go back to my alcoholism and so that's why it's so important to continue working on and whether like i said whether you're an addict or not whatever vice it is that you're working on it's continued growth progress not perfection and letting us in is your church family to help you walk through life whatever it is that you're working through because we're here for and now that we have the holy spirit inside of us jesus in us he can do that heavy lifting because that spiritual lifting is heavier than any barbell you can pick up because that is the one thing that will [ __ ] you and take you out and so here with our church family in galatians 6 1-9 it summarizes it better than i ever could dear brothers and sisters if another believer is ever come by sin you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path and be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself share each other's burdens and in this way obey the law of christ if you think you are too important to help someone you are only fooling yourself you are not that important pay careful attention to your own work for then it will get the satisfaction of a job well done and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else for we are each responsible for our own conduct those who are taught the word of god to provide for their teachers sharing all the good things with them don't be misled you cannot mock the justice of god you will always harvest what you plan those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature but those who live in peace who live to please the spirit will harvest everlasting life from spirit so let's not get tired of doing what is good and at just the right time we will reap a harvest a blessing if we don't give up therefore whenever we have the opportunity we should do good to everyone especially those in the family of faith and so now that i've told you my story i'm going to pivot a little bit and explain to you our cafe upstairs the mission and our passion and purpose behind it because we have lived it we've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with that it's its own non-profit but the main purpose of it is to get those up and out of recovery like i said i had to go to kate spade and start all over again a lot of people in these paths come from different all different walks of life and their wreckage of their past looks very different but we all start at the same spot getting sober and sometimes getting a job saying hey i just got sober yesterday can i get a job they're like yeah no um is very difficult in trying to pick up the pieces of your life once you put down the drink and we are providing a truly judgment free zone upstairs for people to come in and build their resume to learn how to do something to build their skills we'll teach them how to write their resume we will get them up and on their feet and give them that purpose and gap that bridge from putting down the drink and putting their lives back together and stitching it because if you don't fill in that gap they have no reason to not go back to the drink you have to move forward appropriately and that gap after working and meeting with so many community partners said bravo c3 that is exactly what this community needs is that gap because it's one thing to get and stay sober but another to build your life enough that you have enough to stand on your own two feet and be able to find that purpose in life so that you don't have that now so you understand alcoholism it is a disease but the worse the person's life is the harder it is for them to not justify going back to it so that's why that gap is so important and why we're so passionate about it is because we have lived it and most importantly right now what's so amazing in god's timing in the opening of the cafe post covid is if you're not familiar with the disease it's a progressive disease even when you put the drink down as a mental illness that progresses and so what happens is in covid the addiction being progressive with the recent shutdown caused a level of isolation worldwide that we have not seen in our lifetime it put everyone on semi-retirement at the same time it kind of like a reset button for the entire world but what that did for anyone with mental health or an addiction is it progressed what would have normally taken 10 years in two so if you're looking around you and seeing people like whoa they weren't that bad what happened that's what happened in two years what that's why when i sent me retired that's what happened to me it progressed because i didn't have to show up to work anymore generally going through life holds that back for most people and so what happened is in two years it progressed everyone 10 years so pastors pray for them because the amount of individuals that they're dealing with having coming out of this isolation and their addiction is on a heightened measure we have not seen before and so there's no time like the present in having this cafe up and running it's not just to make money for the coffee it is to give people purpose to find their purpose to get themselves back up and into society and in order to do that and embark on their own road to recovery we need your help as well it is volunteer base we want everyone in there to help make coffee even if you don't know how carolee's got manuals we're working on it um buy a cup you know serve a cup serve wherever you can it's monday through fridays but the main purpose of it is to help our community and those prevent them from homelessness give them the tools that they need to get back on their feet and we're doing a lot of case management and but we can't do it if we as a family aren't there to pick those other people up just like i said in galatians we're here to help them it's not our job to judge it's our job to love them back to life because it was loving it's loving them back to life you all loved me back to life because i did not love myself i still have a hard time loving myself but to feel that feeling that church family and fellowship gives me and i know those of you who are here understand what that feels like here it's very different it's not just a church it is truly family and one like i've never experienced before and so in rebuilding your life and rebuilding their lives i know what that feels like which is why that passion is so important and so in philippians again i can't say it any better than god have the attitude of christ if there is any encouragement from belonging to christ any comfort from his love any fellowship together in the spirit are your hearts tender and compassionate they make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly to each other loving one another and working together with one mind and purpose don't be selfish don't try to impress others be humble thinking of others better than yourselves don't look out only for your own interest but take an interest in others too you must have the same attitude that christ jesus had though he was god he did not think of equality with god as something to cling to instead he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being when he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to god and died a criminal's death on cross therefore god elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all names that this that is the name of jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth under the earth and every tongue declared that christ jesus christ is lord to the glory of god the father so i want to invite you to join in our purpose to love our neighbors and those in need who truly need a judgment-free zone to get back on their feet again even if it's your own feet if you have fallen and you need help getting back up please we're handing you a life preserver i didn't take it at first i was like no no i got it i'd rather drown i know how to swim and i wouldn't let anyone in until i almost did drown everyone's like just take the life preserver and thank god i did because i would not be standing here before you and you know what if no one else tells you this today jesus loves you and that was something that i heard one of the first times in church i'd never heard before jesus loves you and guess what we love you too we are family like you have never had before and i know from experience it just it's something it i can't even articulate it it's just so amazing the miracle that has been this church in my life in our life and you are not alone at all you don't have to walk in the dark anymore whatever you're struggling with we are here for you and so with that i'd like to welcome you to join our family join us in the cafe and join us in helping our neighbors and one another get back on our feet work towards progress not perfection and a continued love that is christ not only to ourselves but to our neighbors and be a family unlike any other thanks god bless